Last Night On Earth
The best thing about the Sonic Youth hiatus has been the chance for Lee Ranaldo to step out and have a platform. He is even, somewhat nobly I gather, finding work for SY drummer Steve Shelley. A wise choice of course because Shelley is great and seems to be of a similar get-on-with-it non-showman demeanour to Ranaldo.
If Ranaldo was the George Harrison of that group – a silly, overly obvious conclusion to draw, but shorthand for the fact that it might have seemed he struggled to shoehorn songs into albums spearheaded by the band’s songwriting couple and when he did they were often the remarkable gems; the near-enough to stand outs – then he’s certainly enjoying his time now pouring out his All Things Must Pass across last year’s brilliant Between The Times And The Tides and now this swift follow-up.
Billed this time as working with a band, The Dust, Shelley is still on board to drive the lovely moments of the songs (in his usual no frills way) and to keep some semblance of a pulse behind the breakdown/wig-out moments. And Ranaldo is still that reluctant frontman, singing, playing guitar, offering songs – perhaps relishing the moments where the extended jams turn and nod in the direction of dissonance.
While there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the songwriting – in terms of there being not a lot actually being said – Ranaldo’s new album takes what was great about Between The Times And The Tides (good vibes, strong playing, a return to the post-grunge more straight-ahead/less art-wank power of good Sonic Youth material) and adds in hints and glimmers of his improvising background, of a love of the elongated jam-band form (a la Grateful Dead). It’s also a nice companion to the last Dinosaur Jr record.
The best thing about the Sonic Youth hiatus has been Lee Ranaldo’s records, his approach, and the chance – finally – after toiling away at the guitar for so long to shine. To really shine. To have people on board with his choices, aware of his music. Expectant even.
This record might bore a few people, might not convert any new fans but I love it. I fucking love it. I really fucking love it.