It’s a late start at Whelan’s, with doors not opening until 8.45, and the main act not on stage until 10, although they do play a set which lasts until an unheard of 11.30. Are we bending the rules here? Have Caught On Tape brought normal Stateside gig schedules across the Atlantic with them? What are all those disco dancers going to do while they’re waiting for the stage to clear?
Caught On Tape is the live collaboration between Thurston Moore (late of Sonic Youth) and drummer John Moloney (of Sunburned Hand Of Man). They have put out one live album, of sound desk recordings, and are also one-half of Moore’s new band Chelsea Light Moving, along with Samara Lubelski, who has played violin on Moore’s last two solo LPs (Demolished Thoughts and Trees Outside The Academy) on bass, and Keith Wood, who records under the aegis Hush Arbors, on guitar. The combo has an eponymously titled album due in March.
Proceedings begin with Moore unnecessarily establishing his impeccable indie credentials by having a pop at Led Zeppelin, whose Physical Graffiti is the sound desk choice of interval music. Of course hearing early Wire and Fall singles meant you consigned your Zep LPs to rot in your mother’s basement, Thurston. You are that kind of guy, and to intimate anything otherwise would be betrayal and heresy.
Although billed in advance as ‘pure improvisation’, the concert actually contains a fair share of songs, with recognisable melodies, alternated with freeform feedback workouts. It seems a stretch to call it a ‘jam’, since although both musicians work extremely well and intuitively together, one is playing a percussive instrument, the other a melodic/harmonic instrument, so it’s not like Moore has to worry about stepping on anyone else’s toes or keeping out of their way – attuning himself to another guitar player, for instance. He can pretty much do as he likes here, and does. Moloney, not given much opportunity for soloing, follows his lead.
A goodly proportion of what they play has a Sonic Youth feel, in its tonal shifts and chord progressions (and noise). But it’s all done on one guitar, instead of two plus bass, so it’s interesting to hear in this less cluttered, pared down presentation. Those unconventional open tunings, pioneered by Sonic Youth, although innovative and idiosyncratic, can also prove limiting over time, however. Moore is in talkative humour, interspersing the show with anecdotes. The weirdest shout-out of the evening, on a par with Bob Dylan’s referencing Alicia Keys in ‘Thunder On The Mountain’, goes to recently deceased Irish poet Dennis O’Driscoll, whom Thurston claims to be a great admirer of.
An enjoyable gig then and it is good to see Moore keeping his hand in with some new accomplices. It whets the appetite for that Chelsea Light Moving album and also serves notice that Thurston is off the leash, both sonically and martially.