If asked in 1996, in the wake of Beck’s Odelay and Sonic Youth’s Washing Machine, to imagine what a Hansen-produced Thurston Moore album would sound like, once I had been intravenously rehydrated for the fluids lost to manic salivation, my blood would likely have diluted enough for my brain to hemorrhage at the sonic possibilities such a union threw-up. So considering the level of excitement this pairing conjures, it would be easy to make the mistake of assuming this album’s title was a disclaimer for the relatively sedate, expectation-confounding record that Demolished Thoughts actually is. (The title is in fact a reference to a lyric from Washington, D.C., Dischord-affiliated hardcore band The Faith, and the name of a side project containing Thurston, J Mascis, Don Fleming and Andrew WK. In case you were wondering, there’s no mistaking the noise they make.)
As widespread availability of opening track “Benediction” has recently attested, Demolished Thoughts sets out its stall in following fairly closely Thurston’s previous outing Trees Outside The Academy, rather than returning to the at-turns frenetic & laconic Psychic Hearts mold. Trees Outside The Academy, whose much discussed inclusion of acoustic numbers was meant to herald a softer sound, turned out to be nothing of the sort, thundering along with the momentum of Steve Shelly’s trademark maraca-bashing beats. Thurston has on this occasion however eschewed Steve and percussion altogether, (apart from the odd muted kettle drum for dramatic effect) resulting in an album that, during it’s more Sonic Youthy excursions into the instrumental-unknown, sounds as though it is struggling to retain a shape inside its membrane of a container.
Beck, drawing upon experience from Mutations and Sea Change, and the exquisite arrangements of Dad David Campbell, and the production of Nigel Godrich has replicated the lush, economical cushioning of these two records for Thurston’s trademark strumming and dotty fretboard explorations, cosseting it amid a swirling multilayered wind of strings that drags along the trail that the guitar blazes. “Benediction,” while being chosen as the flagship track to scout-out attention, and a practically perfect example of an opener is almost this album’s red-headed stepchild. It’s strings are a little too perfect, bordering on cheesy, and apart from the note he hits at the end of the “hold your lover down” line, actually not really very Thurston at all. Second track “Blood Never Lies” takes its time in arriving as it establishes itself with a film-score style sound, but when it does it reveals itself to be the most disarmingly lovely thing in this album’s 46 minutes. “Circulation” is the most redolent of Moore’s day job, and plows unrelentingly and unapologetically into that territory while wrapped in a sort of grandiose production (think Smashing Pumpkins’ “Disarm”) that eventually tornadoes away from Moore’s guitar, bleeding into the fore, swamping and eventually overtaking everything, and in this, is the most glowing example of Hansen’s talents on show.
If asked in 1996, in the wake of Beck’s Odelay and Sonic Youth’s Washing Machine, to imagine what a Hansen-produced Thurston Moore album would sound like, my inklings might possibly have been more exhilarating than Demolished Thoughts ultimately is. This is probably owing to either the inability of Hansen and Moore to deliver on the promise their collaboration makes, or perhaps more realistically their reluctance to kowtow to it. Either way, it’s resulted in a fairly austere, decidedly ‘Sunday Night’ sort of a record, which I suppose is better than salivating yourself to dehydration and hemorrhage, but a cozy sort of coma just the same.
Beck – Sea Change
Thurston Moore – Trees Outside The Academy
The Kingsbury Manx – Aztec Discipline
Stream: Thurston Moore – “Benediction”