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Album Review
Chelsea Light Moving

Chelsea Light Moving
by Chelsea Light Moving


Review Date
15th April 2013
Reviewed by
Chris Familton

In the wake of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon’s marriage split the members of Sonic Youth have (as always) been delving into a plethora of other musical collaborations and projects while their day job is on haitus. Lee Ranaldo released an excellent solo album last year that saw him venturing into fairly safe indie rock territory and Moore also released a new solo LP that was also a long way from the noisier end of the Sonic Youth spectrum. Now he has quickly followed that up with the debut album from his new band Chelsea Light Moving which features members of Sunburned Hand of the Man and Hush Arbors.

From the opening chords of the first track ‘Heavenmetal’ there is a sense of familiarity that comes from Moore’s guitar and then his voice that tells us this is him in rock song mode. The Pavement-esque swing of the song and those beat poet imagery lyrics ease the listener into the album though it is to some extent the calm before the storm. By the middle of ‘Sleeping Where I Fall’ the guitars have hit choppy water, muddy distortion washes over the instruments and it sounds like Sonic Youth at their most feral and rocking.

In many ways this record feels like a regression for Moore. There are a number of moments where the songs revert to a primitive crunch and grind. ‘Alighted’ does that but mirrors the dirt and noise with some crystalline guitar strumming and cymbals before it all dissolves into a buzzing nuclear meltdown wig-out, out of which emerges a completely different sounding song for the final 30 seconds. ‘Groovy and Linda’ takes a different approach by utilising woozy guitars that dip and change shape constantly. They build up a motorik head of steam before morphing into a garage rock/hardcore hybrid finale. It works exceptionally well by shapeshifting and evolving over a space of minutes without resorting to traditional song structures.

From there things start to go a little awry. ‘Lip’ is a throwaway teenage strop of a song that sounds like it came out of a practice room jam without having the chance to be worked into something more substantive. ‘Mohawk’ comes off like a derivative take on a Velvet Underground song with its droning strings and Moore’s Lou Reed voiceover. It takes ‘Frank O’Hara Hit’ to redeem those misfires by steering the album back to the quiet/loud template that it established early on. The tension is built through the guitars, lifting the song into some mildly chaotic dissonance before returning to its key repeating riff. It emphasises Moore’s ability to craft and control the dynamics of a song, even when the standard guitar rock format has been so thoroughly used and abused over the decades.

While a good portion of Chelsea Light Moving will satisfy most Sonic Youth fans and appeal to those who appreciate 80s and 90s alt/underground rock there is a lingering feeling that it’s a record comprised of a handful of great songs surrounded by some average filler material. An excellent EP this would make but as a full length album it lacks enough depth and quality to make it anything more than an interesting aside to Moore’s recent solo LPs or more importantly his work as part of Sonic Youth.


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