Post Sonic Youth, Lee Ranaldo sets out on his own, with a little help from his friends.
In the wake of Sonic Youth’s hiatus following the demise of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordons’ marriage, Lee Ranaldo hasn’t been sitting around on his laurels wondering what to do with his new found free time. Instead, perhaps using up some of the material that Sonic Youth aren’t going to, his solo record Between The Times And The Tides is set to arrive via the excellent Matador Records on March 19th, produced by trusted Sonic Youth producer Steve Agnello, with guitars from Nels Cline of Wilco, drums from Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley and jazz musicians John Medeski and Alan Licht lending a hand too, it’s a pretty star studded cast.
Solo projects often have the unfortunate effect of becoming a watered down version of the band the artist was once in – see Jerry Cantrell’s Boggy Depot or Billy Corgan’s woeful The Future Embrace – or else are just so removed they don’t tend to work all that well, cue Eddie Vedder’s Ukulele Songs. Between The Times And The Tides fits somewhere between these two categories. The guitars are very Sonic Youth, as you’d expect, but where Sonic Youth are more disjointed, leaning on a dirty note here and there, Ranaldo tends to opt for the more in key, the safer sounding. The experimental nature that he thrives on when teamed up with Thurston Moore is missing here. And lyrically, there’s little edge, with rhyming patterns too obvious and subject matter a little too tried and tested.
But here the criticism ends. Over ten songs, Ranaldo ably demonstrates why he’s managed to sustain a career at the fore of alternative music for over thirty years. Blending longer sustained riffs with well constructed chord patterns that flirt with the softer moments of his former day job, he’s created something not only interesting to listen to, but extremely engaging too. The arrangements follow the more conventional structures that Sonic Youth have made a career of ignoring, it’s an easier listen than you’d expect. Or maybe even want. But whereas Thurston has gone entirely the other way with his solo material, choosing an acoustic direction that steps away from the huge noise Sonic Youth have pioneered, you get the impression that maybe Between The Times And The Tides contains a fair bit of the album Sonic Youth never got to make. It even features Steve Shelley on drums, so it’s fifty per cent Sonic Youth before you even get chance to hear it. And that’s no bad thing.
Between The Tides And The Times is released by Matador Records on March 19th.
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