When Thurston Moore wandered on stage buttoned top to bottom in a Paddington Bear coat, shaking his bangs, one hand full of loose-leaf paper he exuded all the swagger of a teen about to read his poetry at a high school talent show. Thurston Moore is 53 years old.
But this is nothing new. Moore is the eternal escaped prep-school student, rumpled button down, Hermann Hesse in back pocket, who somehow stumbled his way onto the lower east side and through a street corner puddle that happened to be the fountain of youth. Benjamin Button, as portrayed by Beck.
His backing band consists of a drummer, an acoustic guitarist, a harpist and a violin player. He acknowledges them and introduces them but plays for us, and, during the majority of the show, does not consult them.
His voice and playing are as impervious to age as his hair and wardrobe. His abilities as a guitarist are immense, but on acoustic guitars, both six and twelve string, he chooses textures and picks individual notes sparingly.
The songs, fresh ones from his new Demolished Thoughts LP and deeper cuts from
the Sonic Youth canon '95's Psychic Hearts, all trade in the same fumbling romantic notions, bottomless longing, and wanna-be Romeos and Juliets of rock n' roll high school.
Grape stained escape, an immortal kiss,
Free jazz hotel, sweet now girl whispers
"Orchard Street," Demolished Thoughts
High school poetry is, by definition, bad. Naive at its best, pretentious at its worst. It's embarrassing because of what you, as an adult, know now. High school poetry is written by people who think they know everything but really know nothing.
But on Demolished Thoughts, and at 53, Moore continues to trade in the same tropes introduced in high school poetry, never stopping to consider that Grape stained escape, an immortal kiss, Free jazz hotel, sweet now girl whispers is maybe a little silly sounding.
It's hard to believe that someone as talented and creative as Thurston Moore could continue to write this way, unflinchingly. But maybe that's just it?
What we do know (or believe) is that he's earnest, and that is a large part of his power. These new songs work, and in a way are nostalgia-proof, because Moore doesn't appear to have outgrown the dreamy past, instead choosing to continue to live those good old days, in song and self. No break in character. A total preservation.
Maybe that's also part of his appeal, that he doesn't second guess. He goes with his heart and gut, and chooses innocence over the flip-side of head, ration and maturity that can make high school poetry so cringy in hindsight.
Behind the band a loop of super 8 films played. First a group of girls dancing in an empty bar, the camera swaying over but locked at hip height, then a girl in a long coat at the shoreline, then a blank sea, then Thurston laying in a field with an acoustic guitar. Then back to girls in the bar, and so on. A very PG teen fantasy inside a fantasy and the possibilities in a guitar. As if real life Thurston at The Goat Farm was saying: "See these women, see how I make the women dance and shake their hips? They never stop dancing! See what I can do with this squalling guitar? See younger me day-dreaming about that exact same thing while playing in a sunny field. Oh, the glorious possibilities!" It's all very subtle. Cock rock for coffee shops. And if you don't think so, to drive this point home, Moore ends one of the last songs of the night taking off his guitar and waving it around, theremin-like, reigning in and then releasing, live sculpting the wall of noise. Dreamy.
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