By Emily Votaw
There is something optimistic about Thurston Moore’s latest release, “The Best Day.” This doesn’t mean that Moore has anything too mind-blowingly new or interesting to offer fans on “The Best Day,” but he does have a couple of pretty melodies to pass along. And who in their right mind could turn away a pleasant little bit of guitar noodling?
Since Moore’s parting with long-time wife, bandmate and super babe Kim Gordon in 2011, there has been a bit of a sour glow around many of the things that Moore has done, much of it heaped upon the involved individuals by the media. Although Moore’s affair, or at least the way that he ended his marriage with Gordon, isn’t something to be proud of, even his detractors can’t deny that 2011’s “Demolished Thoughts” brought out some of Moore’s more accomplished guitar needling and weird melody-making to date.
“The Best Day” might be a sunny, optimistic older sibling to “Demolished Thoughts.” If that’s so, it makes sense that you can give the album a number of listens and still feel like a stranger to it every time you press play. Although “Demolished Thoughts” was a good record, much like most of Moore’s work, it lacked any type of sonic staying power. You hear it once, you hear it a million times, your life is the same either way. You don’t need Moore, but it’s sort of fun to listen to whatever the heck he’s noodling on that guitar.
Opener “Speak to the Wild” is jam-packed with pseudo-eerie chiming effects and weak attempts to use peripheral sounds to spice up what little is going on. Within seconds the track breaks out into Moore’s trademark grungy guitar, throttling an uneven tune that should ring interesting but instead manages to float by almost unnoticed.
That is what is so alarming about Moore’s discography: it should be interesting. A man who has spent the entirety of his professional career as an indie rock legend should have written an interesting song by now. Yet, it’s hard to name even one.
The album’s namesake track certainly is one of the highlights of the record. It feels optimistic, even in the way that the percussion is slightly revved up in comparison to the other tracks that listeners are exposed to up to that point on the record. There is some more traditional rock ’n’ roll guitar throttling going on here, but it sounds neither kind nor abrasive. Instead it falls in between the cracks, barely making an impression at all.
“Vocabularies” begins with some sampled sounds – maybe? Moore could be pulling some crazy guitar experimental stuff on listeners that only makes them think that they’re hearing some pseudo-natural sound, like birds in the trees instead of the cascading of his fingers down a fret board. The song quickly breaks into Moore’s highly recognizable “this should be cool because I am a great guitarist but I am not playing in a technically proficient way” malarkey.
Was Moore looking to create elevator music? Admittedly, it would be a pretty hip elevator that played Thurston Moore for clientele going up or going down.
Deeper record cut “Grace Lake” takes a page from the wisdom of the great Meat Puppets, an entire melody depending on the integrity of a bit of needling at a couple of guitar strings. The Meats made that work, largely because of the incredibly skilled and sincere musicians in the band.
And a good drummer.
And a good bassist.
Maybe what is missing from Moore’s presentation is a solid rhythm section, something that “The Best Day” is lacking to an alarming degree. Sure, this whistle-y, wispy way of creating melody by messing around on a standard guitar in a nontraditional way is cool and all, Thurston, but how about if you back that up with a solid rhythm section?