SirTheory’s Treatise on Life

(opinions on just about anything)

Thurston Moore – Trees Outside The Academy


Thurston Moore has been in the business a long time. He is best known for being the innovative guitarist behind Sonic Youth. However, he also does his own solo albums from time to time. Well “from time to time” might be a bit deceiving. He has a whole slew of solo albums, but most of them are experimental noise (or, depending on your perspective, boring noise) projects and not actual verse-and-chorus songs. In fact, prior to Trees Outside The Academy, Thurston Moore had only one vocal solo album, the singularly amazing Psychic Hearts. Of course, his best known material is with Sonic Youth and, really, even if that was all we got we’d be pretty happy. But these Moore solo discs are icing on the cake.

Those who are familiar with Sonic Youth and who have heard Psychic Hearts will probably find themselves blinking when they listen to Trees Outside The Academy. Psychic Hearts wasn’t really a big departure from Sonic Youth. It has many songs that would be on an equal level as the top quarter of Sonic Youth songs. Yet along comes Trees Outside The Academy and does the most variant thing I’ve heard from Thurston.

The general tone of the album isn’t too far from Murray Street: laid back songs complimented by Thurston’s lazy drawl. What really separates the album from anything previously heard from Thurston is how it is all acoustic. It is amazing how it is both intimately familiar yet so alien at the same time. The other big difference is the liberal use of a string orchestra to give rich texture to the songs. They add an unexpected slickness to the album.

At a few points there are deliciously non-Kim Gordon female back-up vocals which make the album sound like a less simplified The Evens. (The Evens are the acoustic side project of that dude from Fugazi.) Kim Gordon is generally pretty awesome in the context of Sonic Youth, however, it is great to hear Thurston sing with just a really good female singer. Every time I hear it it is refreshing.

It all works fairly well and I would enjoy hearing more acoustic stuff from Thurston. However, the total lack of the trademark buzzing of his electric guitar prowess makes the album feel somewhat empty. It would have come across a lot better if there were specific points in some of the songs where he worked some of his crazy electric riffs into a bridge. What he does here is good and works, but it feels incomplete. (To be fair, there are electric guitars here and there, but they lack any real edge. They’re just there.)

In the end the album, incomplete though it may feel, is a very noteworthy album in the Thurston Moore/Sonic Youth catalog. It is the first album from Thrston to dabble so completely in acoustics and it has to be viewed as a success. It will not end up being as compelling of a listen as much of his electric work, however. But it should please fans as it goes it a new direction.


August 8, 2007 - Posted by | Music

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