Thurston Moore ‘Rock N Roll Consciousness’

“Rock N Roll Consciousness” is that rare artifact – a virtuoso guitar album that it’s actually cool to own
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Well, who’d have thought it? It seems that when we thought all those NYC Art Noise Radicals were listening to Husker Du, The Velvet Underground and gobbling up amphetamines, they were actually grooving to The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and munching on peyote. Who knew?

Fans of Sonic Youth’s incendiary guitar stylings need not worry. Mr Moore hasn’t quite slipped on a tie-dye and a matching headband yet. Even at its most pastoral, all the tracks on “Rock N Roll Consciousness” feel as if, at any moment they could spiral into an atonal squall of noise. It’s that edge that keeps this album just far enough away from the coffee table – a little less fuzz and intensity and this could easily have been nothing more than dinner party music for the Black Flag generation.

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Moore has wisely retained the services of Steve Shelley on drums, who along with My Bloody Valentine’s Debbie Googe on bass and James Sedwards on guitar, adds a real urgency to this material. Producer Paul Epworth (yep, the man behind albums by Adele and Coldplay…) manages to contain the mania and although these tunes aren’t a radio friendly length, extraneous guitar noodling and off piste wanderings are kept to a minimum. This is as focused as “Marquee Moon”. The Television comparison may be lazy, but it’s valid – “Turn On” starts off as a slightly sinister, jangly guitar motif, but it twists and turns through a classic Sonic Youth vocal section, tension, release and then a guitar solo that Tom Verlaine wishes he’d played. It couldn’t be any shorter than ten minutes long, so it isn’t.  

It’s a weirdly, bi-coastal album. The guitar stylings could only come from New York, but the lyrical content is pure California. “She is the future, And a prophetess, Also oracle, Spaced out in timelessness” is verse one of the opening tune “Exalted”. We’re a long way from “Kill Yr Idols” here, kids. Moore’s sprechgesang approach manages to dovetail the spiritual with the carnal quite nicely, although when the vocal appears after the best part of eight minutes on that opening track, it seems to be a bit of an afterthought. Only album closer “Aphrodite” sees the quality control dip. Googe and Shelley groove relentlessly, but other than that, it just seems like an excuse for a bit of guitar abuse.

This album could easily have been just a self-indulgent vanity project. A post punk equivalent of those eighties albums by a never-ending parade of pointy guitar toting, metal guitar shredders, racing through their scales and modes in a bewildering and strangely pointless fashion. This is not that. “Rock N Roll Consciousness” is that rare artifact – a virtuoso guitar album that it’s actually cool to own.  

“Rock N Roll Consciousness” is out now via Ecstatic Peace