In fronting one of the most well-respected indie rock bands of all time, Thurston Moore has assured his place forever in the collective critical consciousness, but it’s been a while since Sonic Youth were in their prime. They’re still an outstanding band, and I don’t mean this as a knock, they’re just quite a few years removed from their masterpiece-making period. It would be easy to fear then that Moore’s solo projects would prove to be retreads of his other band’s work – attempts to recapture the magic. Though 1995’s Psychic Hearts was marked by “Catholic Block” stomps and noisy instrumentals, even that did it in a way that remained fresh. However with Trees Outside the Academy, and with this effort, Moore has used his solo moniker to make more quiet, contemplative efforts.
Demolished Thoughts is a pretty striking title for an album, and though it might be apt to describe the feedback-laden explorations of his other work, or some of the more schizophrenic moments of his earlier work, it doesn’t seem to fit here. More than anything, Moore has produced a coherent work, and that much can’t really be said about his earlier solo records. “Benediction” sets the tone early with its floating violin lines (provided by returning collaborator Samara Lubelski) and the light thump of an upright bass. It’s not the setting that many imagine when they picture a song penned by Thurston Moore, but it would’ve fit nicely next to tracks like “Silver>Blue” from his previous album.
This mellower mode – mellower even, than Trees Outside the Academy – remains throughout this album. While some might complain that it renders the album a bit homogenous, it definitely has salutary effects as well. Trees’ main flaw was a lack of focus. The great songs were great, but it was a bit jarring to move from bashers like “Wonderful Witches” to the lilting wistfulness of tracks like “Honest James.” And that’s not to mention obvious throwaways like “Free Noise Among Friends” and “Thurston @ 13.” Here we are treated to a complete product, that works well in the right mindset. The lyrics are outstanding, particularly on “Blood Never Lies” and “Space,” as acoustic songs should be. In the right headspace, this really becomes an outstanding album. It just takes getting into it a bit. This is music for when you’re ready to be quiet and contemplative.
Much was made last year of Beck’s producing this effort, and even if it’s not entirely due to his influence, there are some similarities to be drawn between bits of Beck’s work and this album. Beck’s earnest seriousness that he found in Sea Change is definitely contained herein as well. Though Demolished Thoughts isn’t as essentially tied to the emotional experience of a breakup, it still manages to evoke similar emotions through its long instrumental passages, such as the one that opens “January.” Though Moore’s lyrics are a bit more obtuse, this could just as easily soundtrack a breakup as Sea Change could.