Thurston Moore moves on

Demolition man
By DANIEL BROCKMAN  |  January 25, 2012
KOOL THINGS Despite Sonic Youth’s name and Thurston Moore and company’s propensity for aural chaos and adolescent giddiness, they never seemed young. 
When Thurston Moore takes the stage at Somerville Theatre on Tuesday, he will no doubt stroll through the wispy cloud-spires of last summer's Beck-produced solo effort, Demolished Thoughts (Matador). The record, a plaintive and earnest missive, string-laden and swooning with a romantic acoustic lilt, was a departure from the electric squall that Moore made his name with in Sonic Youth. And no doubt, with Sonic Youth being on indefinite hiatus following their mid-October bombshell announcement that Moore and Kim Gordon are splitting up, there will be some fans in Tuesday's seated crowd that would prefer a solid explanation from Moore in the place of a set of mournful and elegiac tuneage.

Moore, of course, owes no such explanation. His work with Sonic Youth speaks for itself: not only the band's 16 albums in 30 years, but the way that they spent every second of those three decades restlessly scouring through emerging sounds and forging relationships that would sprout into spidery growths in almost every burgeoning subgenre or scene. Sonic Youth were, in large part, a tie that held the slippery mass of '80s/'90s underground post-punk musical culture in place — if that mass has held shape long enough to have hardened to the point where Thurston and Co. are no longer needed to hold it together, it doesn't make the band's ambiguous tapering off anymore palatable. Doubly so since the band's sudden dissolution is tied to the announcement of Moore and Gordon's separation after 27 years of marriage.

Putting aside the disillusionment inherent in the Moore/Gordon split, a world-makes-no-sense breakup on par with Tipper and Al (or, more accurately, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon), it is still impossible to understate the importance of the couple's relationship: how it was crucial not only to the mythology of the band itself, but to '90s indie rock's sense of maturity.

After all, despite Sonic Youth's name and their propensity for aural chaos and adolescent giddiness, they never seemed young, partly because their music and curatorial attitude was always so informed and high-minded. But behind it all was the way that Moore and Gordon — and their stable and egalitarian relationship — towered over the band's zany art-damaged antics. Sonic Youth were always grounded by the free-spirit wisdom that Moore and Gordon's relationship exuded — and through the decades, that proved to be somewhat timeless.

As Sonic Youth moved on in years, Moore came into his role as an elder statesman of post-punk rock culture. He has long been the interview guy in rock-docs, calmly pontificating or sharing a late-'70s anecdote in front of his towering vinyl collection in the study of his Northampton home. It is possible, however, that Moore and the band began considering the possibility that this stable indie presence could not run on forever.

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