When Sonic Youth broke up in 2011 I was kind of bummed out that I would never get a chance to see them perform a proper show. I did catch them play a very short set at the Capitol Hill Block Party in 2009, but I also had to contend with a crowd that was speed drinking all afternoon. Thankfully the members of Sonic Youth are still writing new music – either alone, or with new bands. Earlier this month Thurston Moore’s new group Chelsea Light Moving played at the Sala Rossa to a crowd that was buzzing with excitement. In fact, one man was so excited that he couldn’t hold back his yelps – which sounded like a siren mixed with a dog howl – as he stood waiting for the band to start.
The show kicked off with “Frank O’Hara Hit,” and was followed by most of the songs on the band’s new self-titled album which came out earlier this year. The songs were all perfectly played, and didn’t stray too much from the album.
To my surprise Thurston Moore’s between-song banter is what made the show so entertaining. From his polite request for the man to stop making that terrible yelping sound, to the badass nicknames he thought up for his band members, to a story about how he is addicted to fancy chocolates, the audience was always left giggling.
At one point they did experience some technical difficulties, but with all the intentional distortion, no one would have been able to tell had they not invited the sound guy on stage.
As a nice nod to the punk rock band Pussy Riot, and the struggles they’ve experience the last couple of years, Thurston Moore dedicated their most trashy, Sonic Youth sounding song “Burroughs” to the band. With the re-occurring lyric, “too fucking bad,” the song perfectly spoke to the what Pussy Riot represents.
The audience also got a very early taste of songs from the band’s new album, which will apparently be released sometime in 2014. Thurston jokingly described their new music as thunk, a joke which continued throughout the performance when he said the new album might be called Thunk Rock, and that we should all just call him Thunk. One new song they performed called “The Ecstasy” borrows lyrics from John Donne’s poem of the same name – which seemed like a perfect nod to Thurston Moore’s second job as a teacher of poetry at Naropa University. The new songs they performed sound a bit more punk rock than the material on their self-titled album. The shift in sound is exciting, and dare I say, reminiscent of Sonic Youth.
I may not have come to terms with the fact that Sonic Youth has disbanded, but thankfully Thurston Moore has found a new band to fill the void. Chelsea Light Moving is proof that noise rock is still alive, and like a fine wine, some musicians just get better with age.
By Stephanie Cram