Over and Out

It’s not the easiest thing to go out on a high note, just ask George Constanza. Seinfeld managed it. So did the Sopranos, come to think of it. Some just drag it out too long. The lifestyle and money too good to turn down after syndication kicks in perhaps. Joseph Heller was once told by a reported that he hadn’t written anything since that was as good as Catch-22, to which he responded “who has?”

It’s even trickier for musicians to do so – very few go into sessions with a definitive “this will be the last time” approach, some call it a day following poor reception to a bad album and others leave this mortal coil with their last recorded output barley touching their former dizzying heights.

Were Dylan to meet Elvis tomorrow, for example, I doubt it could be said that he’d left a great final record in Triplicate. At The Drive In and Refused almost managed it – but then they got back together and managed to slap their legacy in the face with a bloody great fish.

I go these lengths to point out that a good final album isn’t all that common as a build up, of course, to sharing my list of Ten Great Final Albums. Displayed below in no particular order but with two qualifying criteria: ‘only’ albums (Jeff Buckley’s Grace for example) don’t count and nothing posthumously released is eligible.

Nirvana – In Utero

Originally it was going to be called I Hate Myself and I Want To Die as a joke. Cobain’s piss take of how he was so often portrayed as “this pissy, complaining, freaked-out schizophrenic who wants to kill himself all the time.” In an attempt to distance themselves from the overwhelming popularity of Nevermind and sheer off the sound of Vig’s production that – despite loving it at the time – Cobain would slate publicly as too commercial, Nirvana recorded In Utero with Steve Albini.

As raw and uncompromising an album as a major like Geffen would allow. There’s a lot of talk and mumbling about how the label insisted on having it remixed and polished by Scott Litt (known at the time for work with REM and The Replacements) but the band had already approached Albini to remix it but the producer refused – claiming he’d recorded exactly the ‘fuck you’ ablum Kurt had asked for and wouldn’t released the master tapes to be remixed by someone else. After much back and forth he relented and Scott Litt and Andy Wallace were allowed to work on some of the songs.

In Utero ranks as my favourite Nirvana album and would certainly feature high on my all-time list. ‘Serve the Servants’, ‘Scentless Apprentice’, ‘Heart Shaped Box’, ‘Dumb’…. it’s not only stuffed full of killer tunes but the whole album feels so intense and powerful. The only thing that bugs me about it is that it still showed so much more potential for what was to never come. As a final album, though, it takes some beating.

Chances of a follow-up: None. Well, the surviving members of Nirvana could cut some new material with a different vocalist but then they’d probably chose someone crap like a former Beatle and call it something else entirely.

Sonic Youth – The Eternal

Boy does it pain me to talk about Sonic Youth having a final album. However, The Eternal, released in 2009 and their 15th studio album – is Sonic Youth’s final studio album. To quote from a previous post about them, Sonic Youth were one of the greatest things to blow my ears apart, literally; I’m convinced that the hearing in my right ear has never been the same since I was close to front row and very close to intimate with Thurston Moore’s amps as they performed Daydream Nation in its entirety at Camden’s Round House.

Listening to SY for the first time was like getting a key to a room full of ‘next-level music’. It was music that didn’t give a fuck – pure punk in that respect yet somehow effortlessly cool. No regard for standard tuning. No regard for form and traditional structure. No regard for anything but the feel. And it all made sense. Explosive and experimental guitars that powered through songs that always managed to feel both on the brink of collapse yet tight and in control. A three-decades long career stuffed with ground-breaking work based on the guitar work of Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore with vocals from both along those of bass player Kim Gordon. And then, suddenly, it was over as the divorce of Gordon and Moore collapsed amidst rumours of mid-life crisis infidelity on the part of Moore. Their latest album The Eternal very quickly became their final album.

In many ways, even down to the title, it’s a fitting final album. It contains some of their finest songs and showed that, more than 25 years on from their debut EP, they were still evolving and making great music. Songs like ‘Sacred Tricksters’, ‘What We Know’ and ‘Anti-Orgasm’ sit among their best and the album, for all it’s sonic experimentation and guitar freak-outs, is one of their most consistent and accessible as though, no-longer on a major label, they were interested in as many people as possible getting into their songs.

Chances of a follow-up: Very very slim. While drummer Steve Shelley has worked on projects with both Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, the acrimonious dissolution of Moore and Kim Gordon’s marriage points to Sonic Youth as wrapped up.

Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland

Given the sheer amount of posthumous compilations of ‘previously unreleased’ recordings or ‘intended next albums’ you’d think that Jimi Hendrix spent more time in the studio than he did anything else. However, there were only three studio albums released in his lifetime (all recorded with The Jimi Hendrix experience and released within an 18 month period).

Jimi’s final studio album Elecrtic Ladyland is a stone-cold classic. A double album that contains pure gold. Take Hendrix’ reinvention of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ which was so good it overwhelmed Dylan himself, take ‘Crosstown Traffic’, take ‘House Burning Down’ or take the 15 minute long jam of ‘Voodoo Chile’ with Steve Winwood’s organ whirling away – which itself led into what is easily one of the greatest songs ever put to tape: Voodoo Child (Slight Return). Apparently – the Experience returned to the studio the next day to find cameras rolling for a documentary, rather than try and repeat the magic of the previous night’s jam session, they improvised it on the spot and a monster was born:

Chances of a follow-up: got a shovel?

Band of Susans – Here Comes Success

Band of Susans I got into far too late – some 20 years after they called it a day. Born out of the same New York noise rock scene that gave us Sonic Youth but with a more layered, complex sound that saw them draw comparisons to shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine woven into an experimental mix. The original lineup had three women named Susan and always had just as many guitarists. In their ten year life as a band, with fairly fluid lineups around the three Susans (which eventually became just the one, Susan Stenger) they put out five stonking albums of guitar-centric music that was markedly different to the field in which they were often lumped but never really found as wide an audience as they deserved.

Here Comes Sucess – complete with sarcastic title – is arguably their finest work and one of the best records I’ve discovered in the last year or so. Nine songs that all kick around the seven minute mark. All slow burning, hypnotic worlds that revolve around Stenger’s bass lines with intricate and explosive guitar workouts.

Chances of a follow-up: All members are still active in music in one way or another but given how little attention was paid to the band, their split or – if the low level of monthly listens the band receive on Spotify is any indication – their back catalogue, I’d say none.

Elliott Smith – Figure 8

If I can bring myself to do so there will be a wider-scoping post on Elliott Smith. However…. there was supposed to be a double album. Something to do with record contract obligations with DreamWorks. Smith had graduated to the major label after the success of Either/Or and his exposure via the Goodwill Hunting soundtrack. But he also fell into depression. Following on from Figure 8, Smith went through a troubled period of addiction, paranoia and all kinds of trouble before cleaning up. He had a clearer state of mind, sessions were underway with a good number of tracks recorded and mixed. However, Smith died on October 21, 2003 at the age of 34 from two stab wounds to the chest (which was reported as suicide but officially left open with the question of homicide). As such Figure 8 remains his final recorded statement and it’s a beauty.

Full of lush production,  pop-like song structures that wear their Beatles influence on their sleeve and pretty much every instrument played by Smith, Figure 8 contains some of Elliott’s finest songs from ‘Son of Sam’ to ‘Everything Means Nothing to Me’, ‘Easy Way Out’, ‘Pretty Mary K’… A real loss.

 

Chances of a follow-up: soon to be released on St. Peter’s Gates Records.

REM – Collapse Into Now

How do you bow out in style? REM’s the closest any act has gotten to following the Seinfeld route of stopping at the top before things go south. Well, if we ignore Around The Sun that is.  Guitarist Peter Buck has said that, as the band entered the studio to record “We got together, and Michael said, ‘I think you guys will understand. I need to be away from this for a long time.’ And I said, ‘How about forever?’ Michael looked at Mike, and Mike said, ‘Sounds right to me.’ That’s how it was decided.”

Collapse Into Now is a great final album, it’s nothing but strength. Following the all-out single-focus return to form of Accelerate, REM’s final album paints with every brush at their disposal – it has the odd effect of listening to a new album as a greatest hits. All of these songs are new yet there are echoes of their finest work across each. I’ve written a full post on this one before so won’t repeat myself but will point out that I still consistently pull Collapse Into Now off the shelves and don’t skip a single track. ‘Discoverer’, ‘All The Best’, ‘Mine Smell Like Honey’, ‘Oh  My Heart’… all gold. Perhaps, most likely probably, because they knew it was their last, the band put their all into this and created a final body of songs they could be proud of. I’m just glad they didn’t decide to call it a day after Around The Sun.

Chances of a follow-up: I mean…. you can never say never, right. Not while all members are still alive and well and engaged musically in some form… there’s group projects and meetings for the ongoing ‘business’ side of REM’s catalogue but I, sadly, don’t see it happening. I don’t think they have anything to prove and if their hearts aren’t in it…

The Replacements – All Shook Down

The Replacements were already kind of over before All Shook Down. It was supposed to be a Paul Westerberg solo album but before recording could get underway his management talked him into making one last Replacements album from the material.

As such All Shook Down features a few session musicians but not to the point of it not being a Replacements record – there are no additional guitarists or bass players listed so it’s a safe bet to assume that Paul Westerberg and Slim Dunlap handled guitar parts with bass either missing from some songs or handled by Westerberg when Tommy Stinson wasn’t about (Westerberg’s solo albums often did away with bass altogether). Perhaps as a side effect of the material’s original intention, it’s one of the most consistent Replacements albums recorded without a single foray into ‘Lay It Down Clown’ territory.

The album is full of strong songs and I’m sure that if such a solidly great album come sooner in their career they would’ve finally secured the attention / success they deserved. As it is, this collection of tunes such as ‘Merry Go Round’, ‘Sadly Beautiful’, ‘When it Began’ and ‘Someone Take The Wheel’ makes for a fantastic swansong.

Chances of a follow-up: unlikely. Original guitarist Bob Stinson died in 1995, replacement Slim Dunlap suffered a severe stroke in 2012 and could not take part in the reunion shows while drummer Chris Mars has given up on music to focus on his art. The well-deserved lap of honour tours that followed the reunion in 2012 of Westerberg and Stinson yielded an aborted attempt at recording new material with the old ‘just didn’t feel right’ results.

The White Stripes – Icky Thump

Ah the White Stripes… while I’ve got no real time in Jack White these days, there’s no denying that The White Stripes generated a great deal of catchy and solid tunes in their 14 year career together. The tour behind their last album, Icky Thump, was called short in 2007 after Meg began suffering acute anxiety. Quits were called by the duo as a band in 2011 after a period of inactivity.

Oddly, Icky Thump is not only the last White Stripes album but also my favourite. I love the title track, the hook of ‘300 M.P.H Torrential Outpour Blues’, the daftness of ‘Rag and Bone’ and stomp of ‘You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do as You’re Told)’. ‘Conquest’ aside, there’s not a song on Icky Thump I don’t enjoy. For my money it’s the strongest entry in their catalogue, a leap on from the already great Get Behind Me Satan and Elephant and I was really hoping they’d continue that trajectory. Ho hum.

Chances of a follow-up: Meh. Jack seems too busy being all kinds of a muppet and Meg… where is Meg?

Nick Drake – Pink Moon

Another career and life cut far too short and another on this list with only three albums left behind. Nick Drake died at just 26 – an overdose of antidepressants that was ruled suicide. He disliked both performing live and giving interviews which helped keep him so under the radar that his albums barely registered during his lifetime; not one of them sold more than 5,000 copies while he still drew breath. His three albums are beautiful, minimal yet deeply affecting records of tender melody and soul that I never tire of and ‘River Man’, ‘Time Has Told Me’ and ‘Place To Be’ would certainly be in the long and short lists of my favourite songs.

There’s no video footage of Nick Drake as an adult – only still photographs. It wasn’t until his albums were released in a box set – Fruit Tree – some five years after his death that the music world began to pay attention. To the point that Drake’s final album – Pink Moon – would be included in Rolling Stones’ list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: “Drake recorded his last album in a couple of nights, delivered the tapes to Island Records and checked himself into a psychiatric ward. If the music were as dark as the lyrics, it might be unlistenable. But Drake’s soothing vocals and unadorned acoustic picking make Moon unfold with supernatural tenderness.”

Chances of a follow-up: I’m running out of pithy comments about resurrection..

Pink Floyd – The Division Bell

Two quotes:

“Pink Floyd is a spent force creatively.” Roger Waters
“Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.” The Dude, or His Dudeness … Duder … or El Duderino, if, you know, you’re not into the whole brevity thing.

Man it’s a good thing nobody cares what Roger Waters says as much as he thinks they do. Don’t get me wrong, A Momentary Lapse of Concentration isn’t a great album by any measure but it paved the way forward for a Pink Floyd without that knobhead ordering people around and dictating dreary songs about soldiers and Thatcher. 1994’s Division Bell, though, is a fucking awesome album and ranks in my Top 3 Pink Floyd albums on any day of the week.

Without the legal problems that surrounded the recording of its predecessor, The Division Bell sessions were relaxed and songs were born out of lengthy jams and improvisations with music predominantly coming from Gilmour and Richard Wright – the album would feature his first lead vocal since DSOTM. Which is fitting as The Division Bell, for all its then contemporary touches, is the closest the band had come to sounding like ‘classic’ Floyd since before The Wall. Every time I slip this one into the CD player I find something else to love. The opening trio of songs is unimpeachable, ‘Marooned’ is a great tune, ‘Coming Back to Life’, ‘A Great Day for Freedom’, ‘Lost for Words’ are spot on and underpinned by Gilmour at his finest in terms of both voice and the fluidity and beauty of his playing. Oh, and in ‘High Hopes’ they had the perfect final Pink Floyd song.

Chances of a follow-up: Nah…  While Nick Mason doesn’t consider the band broken up David (never Dave) Gilmour seems content with the odd solo album and colossal tour playing the usual Floyd-heavy quota of tunes to keep him in comfortable retirement. Richard Wright left us in 2008 and Roger Waters has yet to raise sufficient moneys to fund the removal of his head from his own rectum where it’s been stuck since the early 80’s.

 

Tracks: Tunic (Song for Karen)

Dreaming, dreaming of how it’s supposed to be
But now this tunic’s spinning – around my arms and knees
I feel like I’m disappearing – getting smaller every day
But when I open my mouth to sing – I’m bigger in every way

I’ve mentioned before how huge Sonic Youth are/were for me. Every now and then I still get bummed when I realise that I won’t hear ‘new’ material from them again. That being said it’s not as though there’s a shortage of songs to listen to; 15 studio albums, 9 SYR instalments and a number of post-dissolve releases trickling through.

It’s close-to impossible for me to choose a favourite Sonic Youth album but when it comes to an individual song it’s always Tunic (Song for Karen). I can’t recall my first hearing of it – I have some idea it involved something being smoked – but I know I was instantly hooked.

Yes; it’s a song about Karen Carpenter. Kim Gordon has said ‘I was trying to put myself into Karen’s body. It was like she had so little control over her life, like a teenager – they have so little control over what’s happening to them that one way they can get it is through what they eat or don’t. Also I think she lost her identity, it got smaller and smaller.’ In the instrumental breakdown in the middle of the song Kim and J. Mascis are singing Carpenters songs  – it’s buried deep in the mix but on the demo version (included in the 2005 Deluxe Edition) you can hear this more clearly.

The music certainly carries a dark edge appropriate to its subject matter but it’s pure hook and driving rhythm pinned down with guitar squeal. The collapse in the mid section, pulled out by the re-start of the drums and rhythm, is heaven to my ears.

 

2015 Between Covers

I’m never able to do these things at the expected time. There’s the whole ‘being busy’ thing (working, writing my own fiction and fitting that around living etc) and the fact that I like to think about these lists a bit. That and whittling it down this year was tough.

I read a lot in 2015. Old, new, fiction and non, printed and, upon occasion, kindle. I bought a lot of books and I was fortunate enough to be sent some wonderful, eye-opening fiction (and non) to review as well.

As such the list includes two non-new titles as they were still among the best books I read last year, they were new to me and, well, it’s my blog.

So, in no particular order; my 10 Best Reads of 2015.

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New

It’s always a good year for literature when Louis de Bernières drops a ‘big’ novel. The The Dust That Falls From Dreams is set in a locale all the more local than his previous such tomes yet contains so much warmth, humour, emotion and dazzling prose as to render its authorship and excellence unquestioned. That this is the start of another trilogy from Louis de Bernières can only be great news.

Not the start of a trilogy but the start of a series, Snowblind is the first Dark Iceland novel to be translated into English and published by Orenda Books. With Nordic-Noir fast becoming a genre of choice for me, this gripping thriller delivered on every page and, as mentioned in my review, is remarkably confident and powerful for a début. A genuine hook of a plot, superbly evoked setting and a real shake-up of the ‘locked-room’ approach.

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes may well have been picked up out of amusement at the “He’s back, and he’s Fuhrious” tagline but once I picked it up and glanced over the blurb I was already hooked. Yes, it’s never going to be as 100% funny as it could have been thanks to the ever-lasting horror that the central-figure’s real-life counterpart committed but it does have a lot of genuinely funny moments, realises that the initial joke could become old fast and develops into a biting and dark satire that does leave you wondering just how far-fetched the “it wasn’t all bad” belief actually is. Having met some people since and heard them use just that line in relation to the likes of Mussolini, perhaps not that far after all.

Another book with some well-timed questions this year was The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto. The second novel to feature police investigator Anna Fekete (I still need to read the first), this is a great novel with a real slow-burning plot that builds momentum as its many sub-plots weave together in a masterful manner. Everything about The Defenceless – from its characters and narration and its brilliant reveal – is top-tier stuff but it’s the central story of Sammi, the Pakistani refugee who resorts to increasingly desperate measures to avoid deportation that will linger long after the final page has been turned.

It’s known that I’m a sucker for historical fiction (and even non-fiction) that deals with World War 2. The first of two on this list that deals with such an era is James Ellroy’s Perfidia. Again, lifted off the bookshop table out of curiosity at the cover and promptly taken to the till following the blurb, this was my introduction to Ellroy (I was unaware of his authorship of LA Confidential and the Black Dahlia) and it’s one hell of a place to start. A huge novel in terms of both scope and intricacy and detail. It’s an intense and all-consuming read and I genuinely felt immersed Ellroy’s 1940’s Los Angeles. In theory this is the start of a trilogy, that will link to his previous novels to form a sort of ‘history of America’ and I can’t wait for the next, though I may jump forward and read them in published, rather than intended chronological, order.

I suppose, technically, there’s three books that deal with this era of history…. Part of How To Be Brave by Louise Beech is the story of Colin – lost at sea after his merchant navy ship was sunk by a torpedo. The other ‘part’ deals with the diagnosis of nine-year-old Rose with Type 1 diabetes and how her and her mother come to terms with the changes this will have on their lives while – as Colin fights to stay alive – they fight to save their relationship as mother and daughter. The story lines intertwine in a wonderful and poetic manner, the characters are all genuine and warm and – I’ve said it before and I’ve said it to others since; Louise Beech  vividly evokes the sensations of panic and dread that accompany being a parent when a child falls ill and perfectly captures the feeling of isolation from the rest of the world that occurs at such times, wrapped in an all-consuming love for your child. As a parent of a young child with a voracious appetite for books that already rivals mine, so much of this book stayed with me that it had to round out the new fiction element of the list.

Less-New

I still cannot believe I took so long to get to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (the third WW2 book of the year’s list). Annoyed that I’d missed out on this undeniable classic yet at the same time so glad that I’m now familiar with the hilarity of Yossarian (the moaning epidemic at the briefing before the Avignon mission cost me a mouthful of coffee) and this bitingly funny satirical swipe at the futility and ridiculous bureaucracy of a bloated army-at-war.

Strangely enough the other non-new book that sits in this list ticks the same boxes as above but is set in the First World War. An extremely important and well-regarded (though tragically unfinished) book, The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek is an immense read in terms of both size, scope and enjoyment. Again, mixing both slapstick and satire to deliver both a swipe at the pointless futility of conflict and war, the discipline of the Austrian army and the Austro-Hungarian empire itself. With Josef Švejk, Hašek created an iconic character and I can only wonder – were the book to have reached completion before illness took its author – whether the imbicility of Švejk would’ve reached ever-new heights or be denounced as feigned (though where’s the fun in that). A quick glance at the already cracked and well-read spine of my copy (an inspired birthdaygift from my wife) will show just how devoured The Good Soldier Švejk was at the tail of last year.

Non-Fiction

Given that I touched on it plenty in fiction, I don’t think I touched the Second World War in non-fiction during 2015.

I’ve long been fascinated by Russia. That mysterious country that’s had such an impact on my life via the Cold War (I won’t go into that here) and has delivered some of my favourite writers (nobody can touch The Master and Margarita). I’ve been looking for a way in to understanding more of the country and this year found just that with A Journey Into Russia by Jens Mühling. A compelling account of Mühling’s journey from Moscow into the depths of Siberia in search of the last Old Believer living in reclusion, this book delivers many fascinating explorations of stories that are almost too strange to be true (from the new Jesus preaching to his believers in their private paradise to the priest who still preaches in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone and via the surreal supremacists-as-Slavs encounter)  in its attempt to discover and understand the soul of Russia.

There’s no way that, as a Sonic Youth fan, my list wouldn’t include Kim Gordan’s Girl In A Band. Yes; there are times when the full-disclosure element of the break down of indie’s golden couple makes for unpleasant reading (perhaps even more so as a fan as it makes you start to question the substance of recent songs) but the telling of Kim’s journey from art student to alt-rock pioneer and back to art (not that she ever left) makes for a revealing and fascinating read and the insights into Sonic Youth songs make for essential reading.

As for 2016… there’s already a few contenders and definite entries (keep an eye out for my entry on the Jihadi; A Love Story blogtour)  and when you throw in the fact that Bruce Springsteen has revealed his auto-biography is to be published at the tail-end of the year… it’s been a great start to what’s undoubtedly going to be a good year of reading ahead for sure.

Girl In A Band

IMG_4834When Girl In A Band was released earlier this year I didn’t rush out and buy it. In fact, it was my wife that added this one to the collection and got to it first.

It’s safe to say that going in to this book I had mixed feelings. On the one hand; I love Sonic Youth and was anxious to gobble down more insights into the band, its working process and its body of work. On the other; Kim and Thurston’s split meant not only the end of Sonic Youth but a shift in focus whenever the band or either of them were mentioned in print. As such all press surrounding the release of Girl In A Band – including the excerpts printed in various publications – seemed heavier on that matter than the music.

It’s also safe to say that coming away from this book I have mixed feelings.

This is a memoir, after all. Says it right there in the title: Girl In A Band: A Memoir. So not an auto-biog in the traditional linear sense nor a “making of the album” type book. Further ‘nor’ is it a My Time In Sonic Youth book. No; it’s Kim Gordon’s memoir and to expect it to be solely on SY would be rude and demeaning as Ms Gordon’s life revolves around a whole lot more.

Gordon writes movingly about her early life and family – the terror inflicted upon her by her older brother and the greater terrors unleashed by his illness – and finding her way in the art world and path into music.

All that being said, though, Sonic Youth is/was a big part of Kim’s life and so does get plenty of page time too. Gordon is remarkably frank about her limited singing abilities – explaining that she asked Kim Deal to sing the harmonies on Little Trouble Girl as she, well, couldn’t – and offers insights into the writing / recording of many of SY’s tunes including my own favourite Tunic (Song for Karen).

There’s also plenty of revelations about life with the band – touring with Neil Young and its pitfalls, Kurt Cobain (a gentle yet tortured and manic soul here) and enough to suggest that Kim Gordon and Courtney Love don’t exchange Christmas Cards.

For all of the above I loved this book and would happily read it again.

Though as it’s a memoir and a recent one at that, the dissolution of Kim and Thurston’s marriage hangs heavy over the book. Hindsight often gets a few words in on recollections of earlier times and then there’s the break-up itself. It’s dealt with in, again, a remarkably frank manner – the discovery of text messages / emails from the Other Woman, attempts at counselling and repairing the marriage and, throughout, Kim’s own devastation.

It’s hard reading. Perhaps, to me, because the two had previously been more private about their relationship. When the announcement of their separation was made it was very quiet and via their label. In a world where celebrity couples can’t walk the dog alone without speculation appearing across the internet that their relationship is on the skids, it was a welcome relief for private matters to remain just that.

But then, as mentioned, this is her memoir and its her right to use the medium to set her version on the record, perhaps so as to never need do so again. It’s a little uncomfortable to read given just how open and forthright the sordid details of Thurston’s betrayal and the abrupt collapse of their marriage are laid bare – as though, perhaps, the disclosure was a little too full.

Nonetheless, Girl In A Band is a compelling read.

For a Youth Probably Now Past

I’ve been remiss in writing here. I’ve not been remiss in listening to music.

A little while ago I heard the stream of the new, self-titled, album by Chelsea Light Moving. I’ve listened to it a couple of times subsequently though I’ve yet to order up the vinyl. Something is stopping me. Tugging at me. Suggesting it might even be treacherous to do so…

Chelsea Light Moving (CLM) is the new band for Thurston Moore. He of Sonic Youth. I do own all of Mr Moore’s previous solo albums – at least the three that are readily available and not of the pure-noise variety. I even have Demolished Thoughts on vinyl – beautiful double coloured vinyl at that. But those were solo albums not ‘new band’ albums. It’s not that CLM is bad. Not at all, really, for a first effort. It bristles with all the energy that you’d expect of Thurston’s thrashier additions to an SY album and makes more noise than he ever does on his own. At least in song-mode.For the problem I have when listening to CLM is that this is as pretty clear indication as you’ll ever get that Sonic Youth should now be referred to in the past tense.sonic youth

Given that the indie-rock world was thrown upside down by the news that Thurston and Kim Gordon recently announced that their marriage was over, it shouldn’t really be a surprise. Given that that they’ve been together and put out more music than any of their contemporaries, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Given that they recently parted ways with their long-term label Geffen (their going Major was one of the things that smoothed the way for Nirvana and many others to do so) and released The Immortal on an indie label as a one-time-only thing, it shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s not really a surprise. It is, though, a bloody big shame.

It’s hard to write about Sonic Youth and their music. Whenever I write about music I’m mindful of the quote that likens doing so to ‘dancing about architecture’. With such an analogy writing about Sonic Youth and their music is nigh on impossible. Others have tried, they’ve done so better than I ever could.

To me though, Sonic Youth were one of the greatest things to blow my ears apart, literally; I’m convinced that the hearing in my right ear has never been the same since I was close to front row and very close to intimate with Thurston Moore’s amps as they performed Daydream Nation in its entirety at Camden’s Round House. Listening to SY for the first time was like getting a key to a room full of ‘next-level music’. It was music that didn’t give a fuck – pure punk in that respect yet somehow effortlessly cool. No regard for tuning. No regard for form and traditional structure. No regard for anything but the feel. And it all made sense. Nobody else has been able to make music that’s so chaotic and deconstructive while still in complete control and ridiculously tight. Watching Thurston and Lee Ranaldo playing together was like watching music’s mad scientists create. And playing prepared guitar with a screwdriver? Forget it. Absolutely amazing.

It is a shame, and here’s more than a few reasons why: