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Thurston Moore: The Best Day (Album Review)

Thurston Moore’s last two albums served, as so many solo efforts for rock frontmen do, as outlets for him to explore his quieter side. But aside from a couple of 12-string acoustic drone meditations, The Best Day, his first outing since Sonic Youth went on indefinite hiatus in 2011, finds him playing energized, accessible guitar rock that retains many elements of SY’s inimitable sprawl. His crack backup band—composed of SY drummer Steve Shelley, My Bloody Valentine’s Debbie Googe on bass, and second guitarist James Sedwards—is too hard-driving to tolerate Moore’s tiresome experimental drone tendencies for very long, so even on the long songs, of which there are, characteristically, several, the proceedings rarely grow ponderous. Even the 11-minute “Forevermore” aims more for “hard-hitting” than “hypnotic”; the guitar licks are meaty, propulsive, never aimless. The title track is particularly punchy, booking along on sharp-edged riffs, with Moore coming out from under his bangs to sing about “the man with the lust for life.” He takes his newfound swagger a little too far on the all-attitude, no-melody “Detonation,” but overall The Best Day is just the right amount of confident.

As is typical with Moore, the vocal melodies on The Best Day are mostly afterthoughts that usually just blithely follow the guitar parts. Fortunately, this weakness is minimized by the fact that most of the riffs, rendered via a pristinely engineered dual-guitar attack, are excellent. Sedwards is a superb sparring partner for Moore, pushing him toward some of his more classic rock-oriented playing in recent memory on “The Best Day” and “Germs Burn.” But Sedwards and Moore have more than one trick up their collective sleeve, as evidenced by the opening tour de force, “Speak to the Wild,” what with its thudding guitar interspersed with synchronized harmonics, and especially the instrumental “Grace Lake,” which runs through an array of riffage, from sun-splashed, quick-note plucking that sounds like it could have been on the Meat Puppets’ second album to heavy power chording. It’s clear from these invigorating workouts that a midlife crisis and the breakup of both his marriage and band did nothing to rob Moore of his way with the fretboard.