Album review: Thurston Moore – By the Fire

With the nights getting longer and colder, the heat of Thurston Moore’s By The Fire blasting through my headphones is just what I need. The Sonic Youth veteran has produced an album capable of transporting us for an hour and twenty minutes to a world of surreal electric distortion.

Consisting of only nine songs, Moore’s seventh solo album is like a film for the listeners who just crave thick, ever-changing guitar jams that go on forever; free jazz for the psychedelic rockers. Moore describes these nine works as ‘love songs in a time where creativity is our dignity, our remonstration against the forces of oppression’.

Taking that description, creativity is certainly Moore’s dignity, with the 16-minute piece ‘Locomotives’ sounding like one long, eclectic experimentation. The first ten minutes is a completely distorted build, exuding with reverb and delay, which then transitions to softly sung lyrics about peace (bit cliché, but we enjoy the vibes), and finally finishes with a masterful guitar jam filled with satisfyingly crisp solos.

Moore’s love songs, whether they be romantic, platonic, or on the subject of life’s poisons (I’m looking at the opening song ‘Hashish’), are executed by a superb line-up of musicians. Bassist Debbie Googe (My Bloody Valentine and Primal Scream), fellow Sonic Youthian Steve Shelley, and Moore’s frequent collaborator James Sedwards all make up the perfect crew to pull off this alternative showcase.

Despite only a handful of the songs including vocals, By The Fire is certainly not the Classic FM background music you listen to whilst studying, nor does it particularly fit the Miles Davis record you put on for your dinner party – or maybe it does – you might have particularly awesome dinner parties?

By The Fire is an album that needs to be blasted out and appreciated, whether this is with a glass of red wine at two in the morning, or looking out of a misty window on the bus on the way to work. It will fulfil all your angsty needs.

By The Fire is out now via Daydream Library Series


This article was first published in the October 2020 issue of SNACK magazine. You can read the full magazine below on your smartphone, tablet, or pc.

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