Moore still has it after all these years.
(Photo: Lucy McLachlan)
It only took two verses of “Cease Fire,” a clarion call rallying against America’s pro-gun culture, for Thurston Moore and his quasi-supergroup of friends to get warmed up as they blazed through tight riffage at an increasingly alarming rate. Time stood still as Moore guided the group into the outer edges of noise before an abrupt and unexpected ending. Its those kind of forays into the unknown that have kept Moore, and his audience, on their toes for so many years.
Much hoopla has been made over Sonic Youth’s bitter breakup and it’s hard to believe that we’re only six years removed from it. Never a band to rest on their laurels, all four members of Sonic Youth have kept busy with their own miscellaneous side and solo projects since. Moore resurfaced as Chelsea Light Moving, his first band since the split, but settled down into the more familiar Thurston Moore Group. However, don’t confuse it for a solo project, as the band were an equally functioning team.
Former Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe were an unsurprisingly tight combo. Shelley is, of course, well-versed in Moore’s every move and noisenik technique and did a masterful job of controlling the dynamics of the group, sometimes bringing things to a low tom drone while occasionally launching into a frantic hi-hat shuffle. Googe is no stranger to noise attacks as well, having held down the low-end for Kevin Shield’s maelstrom of guitars, and with Moore’s group it was no different. Her powerful bass playing, fully in sync with Shelley, provided the springboard for Moore and lead guitarist James Sedwards, another legendary player in the UK noise rock scene, to catapult their full-on guitar assaults into the cosmos without losing sight of the song’s core.
Moore himself was in fine form, his group’s latest album, Rock ‘n’ Roll Consciousness, perhaps their strongest effort yet as it recalls the loud-soft dynamic, the slow and mighty build up before unleashing a wave of fury, that Sonic Youth fully embraced in their latter day albums. Appropriately, it made up a good majority of the night’s setlist. “Turn On” was matched with a burning feedback jam, while “Cusp”’s marching rhythm evolved into a more demented Bo Diddley-esque strum and continually grew to apocalyptic levels of guitar fuckery.
It’s was a glorious racket and, more importantly, it looked absolutely effortless as Moore and Sedwards glided up and down their guitar necks. Sedwards easily ramped up the controlled mayhem, his solos swung between brilliant whammy filled smashes of out of control notes and Fripp-esque guitar dramatics. Wisely letting Sedwards take the majority of leads, Moore was free to explore the rhythmic possibilities of his songs. Moore and Sedwards frequently flanked both sides of the stage, like messengers of noise, Sedwards with his aforementioned solos and Moore with chunky riffage mixed with elegant picking patterns and chiming harmonics.
Taiwan Housing Project opened the show with a chaotic set that recalled both Lydia Lunch and Thurston’s own music. Perhaps the only band with a member dedicated to backing singing and rhythmically banging along on a tea kettle, their set was tense and short, barely lasting twenty-five minutes. Singer Kilynn Lunsford, decked out in what looked like a torn up wedding dress, gave a high energy performance that matched the band’s messy stew of guitar feedback.
A effortless push and pull between calm and chaos, Moore still has it after all these years. His playing was dynamic and powerful, in classic Thurston form, as he stretched out an encore of “Ono Soul” into a thrilling 10 minute drone. While Sonic Youth may be out of the game completely, Moore and his group’s amped up performance at The Sinclair acted as a testament to their everlasting belief in the power of rock ‘n’ roll.