October 14th, 2013 12:30pm
Try To Define Love Any Way We Can
The most interesting thing about the three principle songwriters of Sonic Youth splitting off to do their own thing is hearing their personal aesthetics and skill sets in isolation, and having that inform the way I hear the music they made as a group. It’s also intriguing to hear what they do when left to their own devices at this point in their career, and how the three picked very different paths – Thurston being more or less creatively stagnant yet obviously invigorated by playing with a stripped-down punkish band, Kim going for an ultra-arty record bordering on primal scream therapy, and Lee going off to put his own spin on folk rock without a care in the world as to whether anyone thinks it’s cool. But while I think some people look at what Lee is doing as being regressive or retro, he’s actually the one of the three who is pushing what Sonic Youth was doing over the past decade or so in another direction. There isn’t much on his second album with The Dust, Last Night on Earth, that is far off from where Sonic Youth were on A Thousand Leaves or Murray Street.
I really do wish that “Key-Hole” could’ve been a Sonic Youth song. It’s actually sort of surprising that it’s not – maybe it’s the particular type of dramatic tension and release, maybe it’s because Steve Shelley is on drums, maybe it’s because the guitar interplay isn’t far off from what Thurston would’ve done around Lee’s parts. But I can also hear the things that probably wouldn’t have made it into a Sonic Youth piece – there are elements of “classic rock” that I think would’ve been roughed up a bit more to keep it from seeming too traditional. But I’m glad that it wasn’t – I like that it’s clean and groovy, I love when it slips into these gorgeous, tranquil sections. The song drifts along, then seems to get picked up on gusts and waves. The emotion of it follows suit, but the core of it is that mellow drift, and Lee singing a couplet in the middle that rings very true: “Let’s make the best of a bad situation / try to define love any way we can.”
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