The ubiquity of Thurston Moore’s presence on the alternative music scene over the last thirty years is such that it’s almost a surprise that The Best Day is only his fourth solo album. That’s not to say that Moore hasn’t been busy since Sonic Youth disbanded – quite the contrary; with a slew of collaborations and live tours, Moore is also a perennial presence on practically every rockumentary ever made.
He has always had a canny knack for surrounding himself with stellar collaborators, and co-conspirators on this outing are Nought’s James Sedwards on guitar, My Bloody Valentine bassist Deb Googe, and Sonic Youth sticksman Steve Shelley. With this full band complement, The Best Day shares more in common with Moore’s Chelsea Light Moving project than the restrained acoustic leanings of 2011’s Demolished Thoughts, or even Psychic Hearts’ initial forays into new wave punk poetry.
Where Chelsea Light Moving’s 2013 self-titled record was a vehicle to channel Moore’s love of Beat poetry, more overtly literary in its lyrical content, The Best Day is more like a refined version of Moore’s and drummer John Moloney’s freeform improvisational material under the Caught On Tape banner from the same period. Here he has an equally fine foil in Sedwards, their guitar lines encircling one another to the point of coalescence on the album’s protracted hypnotic passages. He and Moore echo Keith Levine in the metallic clangs and chimes of ‘Speak To The Wild’, opening the album with a track that comes close to the ten minute mark then following it with one that exceeds it.
The repetitive guitar riffs of ‘Forevermore’ flourish into myriad noise layers just as the bass suddenly uproots from its deep anchor pulse to become the overt driving force of the song after the midway point. It moves from one plane of sonic existence to the next, shifting in power and then pulling back, a constant surge-and-restrain motion. Songs are lengthy, but becoming embedded in the folds of the band’s extended workouts is the album’s chief pleasure. Moore’s and Sedward’s prowess on their instruments mean that that the subtle inflections and deviations from the root of a riff provide a constant source of invention and discovery.
The guitarists take a more pared back approach as ‘Vocabularies’ opens with a suffocated squeal of steel, flesh and fret. The 12-string meanders around various melodic twists and turns, at times precise picking, at others power chord riffing. ‘The Best Day’, in comparison, is scuzzy rock’n’roll; ‘70s spit, grime and glam according to New York Dolls. Moore announces himself on ‘Detonation’ with a rising Lydon-esque snarl of “Clandestinity”, before the shade of Iggy takes over and the guitars perform their dissonant dance. ‘Germs Burn’ features the same clipped, concise lyrics in the punk poetry vein of Chelsea light Moving’s ‘Lip’, each barked line both a standalone punctuation and part of a larger image (”Long night/Negative light/Start a fire/Stop a fight”) until the vocals take a back seat to let the two guitars scour the album to a close.
Despite being a Moore solo outing, The Best Day feels more like the sum of its parts, a band effort in the true sense, with Sedwards particularly adding depth and texture to Moore’s atypical guitar style. Seemingly rudimentary rock songs are spiked with intertwining layers and pitching tempos, elongated and trance-like at one juncture and proto-punk at the next. Moore will no doubt change things up again on his next venture; the style of The Best Day may prove too conventional to hold his attention in light of his restless post-SY experimentations. Until that day, though, this album will do nicely, and we can all revel with Moore in its glorious entanglement of guitars.