Saturday, February 11, 2012

Song of the day

"Off The Wall", by Lee Ranaldo.

The evidence is mounting. First, Thurston Moore releases a solo album that, unlike previous dispatches, isn't experimental wotsit but rather sounds like Sonic Youth Unplugged crossed with, say, Beck's "Sea Change" album. Then, Kim and Thurston announce one of the least expected splits in showbiz history (at least, from this distance). Then, if I recall correctly, Kim says she's working with some other folks (although she's done that before).

Now, we have a Lee Ranaldo solo album, this time not a collection of locked grooves and/or etched vinyl, but what promises to be an actual collection of songs.

If Sonic Youth haven't split, they are pulling off a reasonable approximation.

Maybe Lee's album is not all like this song. But my hopes are high. A lot of my favourite SY songs bear his hallmarks. And you can hear those at the start of this song. The more surprising thing is how, as the song goes along, it morphs into what might be the best song REM weren't able to come up with in the last, say, 25 years of their own distinguished career. Heck, Ranaldo is even sounding like Michael Stipe.

Which is interesting. The two bands must have been in some ways in orbit around each other for much of their careers. I wonder how much either of them might at times have wanted to be the other. (The trajectories of the two bands were quite different, but parallels are certainly there. Both peaked in about 1986. Both lasted a similar time (again, assuming).)

The legacy of the last few SY albums is curious. Any one of them is as listenable as any of their crowning eighties / early nineties albums. And yet, because they came later, they will probably never command the same reverence. Which is not to say Sonic Youth were ever just treading water.

It's weird to be old enough to have lived through the entire cradle-to-grave stories of two long-lived, significant bands. I suppose people older than myself had that sense about The Beatles (who got through it all, don't forget, in less than a decade; imagine that).

Excuse the scattered nature of these thoughts. It's Saturday morning. Just enjoy the song.