Sonic Youth fans know that every spin of a SY record is an engagement in hero worship. Their sound and style has virtually revolutionized alternative rock since their inception in 1981. And not only has Sonic Youth inspired countless bands and forays into experimental noise, they are relentlessly cool: chick ripping on bass, an apocalyptic drummer and two guitarists ranked in Rolling Stones’ “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” To boot, they’re a critic’s darling.
It’s this reputation that keeps them from obscurity as an experimental rock band. And as idols, they command the pop sphere of alternative music. From this acclaim, frontman Thurston Moore has achieved the most recognition.
But when Moore is not fronting the still-alive and well band, he has his share of creative outlets: running Ecstatic Peace records, contributing to music publications and making more music.
Last week, Moore released his second solo album, entitled “Trees Outside the Academy” (Ecstatic Peace). As anyone would expect, the material sounds a lot like Sonic Youth, but with a heavier reliance on folk instrumentation. For instance, a violin mimicking feedback opens the album on “Frozen Gtr.”
Akin to folk-punk, most of the album sounds like Sonic Youth gone (slightly) acoustic. While this is not anything new, it is Moore’s most committed departure from rock.
Interestingly enough, the most successful songs on “Trees Outside the Academy” are also the most conventional – “The Shape is in a Trance,” “Honest James” and “Never Day.” It may be a point to stop and question the nature and limitations of folk and rock.
But even the album’s indulgences don’t come at too great a cost. The two most evident are “Free Noise Among Friends,” an aimless track of analog noise, and “Thurston@13,” where he, at, you guessed it, 13 years old, recorded random noises, from rubber band snaps to Lysol sprays.
An excerpt from “Thurston@13”:
What you’re about to hear. Something extraordinary. Very extraordinary at that – thus-wise. It is me banging a pencil against the table. (Taps pencil on table). There.
These tracks may not work for repeated listens, but if we look to the record for experimental concepts or an indulgence in hero worship, there may be value to it. Can Moore do wrong?
If the listener thinks it is mindless indulgence, the obvious question seems to be this: is this record evidence that Moore feels imprisoned in his sound?
No matter the case, “Trees Outside the Academy” has its share of quality work meriting a listen. Throughout, the intricacies of his guitar work, usually overshadowed by distortion, become clear and impressive. And if you ever wondered what this god of experimental noise could sound like acoustic, Friday’s show will be a perfect opportunity.
Thurston Moore will be playing at Rock and Roll Hotel (1353 H St. N.E. Sept. 28 at 9:30 p.m. with Christina Carter. Tickets are on sale now for $15.