October 9, 2013
Lee Ranaldo And The Dust
Last Night On Earth
“Lecce, Leaving,” the first song off of Last Night On Earth begins with the fuzzed out downstroke of an open tuned guitar accompanied with a maraca shake and snare hit that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Deerhunter record. Coming in fresh to this record, an opening like that grabbed me instantaneously because its’s something I’ve never heard from Lee Ranaldo before. The problem is is that I still won’t hear that from him because as quickly as it begins it abruptly transforms into familiar Ranaldo territory that he hasn’t really strayed from while in, and since parting with Sonic Youth. Don’t get me wrong here, this is still a good song, one of the best on the record in my opinion, but it sounds like it could have been a leftover track from 2012’s “Between The Times And Tides,” a record that Lee himself has said didn’t really work. It’s strange to complain about but I can’t help but to wonder what the song would have been if he kept going with those two opening chords. Oh well.
Last Night On Earth isn’t much of a step forward. It covers the same ground while being all over the map. A song like “Key/Hole” is a good example of why this misses it’s mark for me. It comes on like scraps of different songs pieced together with no chance to form any lasting cohesive feeling. While it too is a “good” song, it’s not good enough to really get up inside yr head and last. Most of these songs don’t leave any real impression with you afterwards and unfortunately just feel forgettable. What a bummer.
With the Sonic Youth camp all doing their own things now one would expect each member to really explore on their own what they maybe weren’t able to do within the bands famous democracy. That’s why we have Thurston Moore playing Germs covers in Chelsea Light Moving and Kim Gordon making art damaged free noise in Body/Head. I expected more from Lee honestly. Considering he’s been putting out experimental noise records and looped sound collages under his own name since the early 90’s I wasn’t shocked to hear him going down a more traditionally structured rock path now but a song like “Home Chds” becomes more like background music when he starts to sing. I come away from a lot these songs feeling that they should’ve been instrumentals. “Blackt Out,” the 12 minute closer is where I hear everything click in place. There’s no strained melody, just droning, reverb soaked guitar and the free beats of Steve Shelley. It’s classic Lee and it works for me because it references earlier work of his like “Disappearer” or “Mote” and doesn’t sound re-hashed or forced.
I keep looking to my left half expecting Mr. Ranaldo to be approaching silently from the shadows with pair of pliers and a blowtorch in hand for punk kids with opinions and too much time on their hands but alas, I’m alone. Look, it’s not a bad record but it’s not a very good one either. No matter though. Some of these songs will still work live when they’re layered with white noise and cigarette smoke and sometimes that’s all it takes.
Party on Lee!
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