Lee Ranaldo // Between The Times & The Tides // March 26 // Matador
The way I see it, if you like Sonic Youth, we have a good chance to get along. If you don’t know who they are I might call you a twat and throw a toaster at you. During three decades of activity Sonic Youth have done everything. They were underground rebels, innovators, major label stars and a cult band. There was a certain romance to their story, they always sounded like the wet alleys of downtown New York. It’s only fitting then that their break up came not from them deciding to call it quits or artistic differences. The family duo of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon announced their plans for divorce which ended up divorcing one of the greatest rock bands this planet has ever seen. Since then we had Moore release some of his usual acoustic oriented music and now Lee Ranaldo is releasing his new album. An album that could easily be a Sonic Youth album.
Ranaldo has never been the one to shy away from the familiar formula on his solo albums and his latest release Between The Times & The Tides is no different. The music on here sounds like it could’ve been on any of Sonic Youth’s noughties’ releases. That also means that there is a distinct lack of experimentation and seeing as this LP mirrors Ranaldo’s main band in both songwriting and aesthetic, it feels like someone trying to recreate the magic that can’t be recaptured, rather than trying to branch out, try new things and start building his own solo career. Ranaldo feels happy being in Moore/Gordon shadow even when they are nowhere near his record.
Sure, while Between The Times & The Tides makes me facepalm with tracks like Xtina As I Knew Her which sum up everything that was wrong about Sonic Youth, Ranaldo is not dealing with purely writing the next logical Sonic Youth album. Between The Times & The Tides is pop, but it doesn’t open itself up easily. On one side it’s the album that could be called an easy one to get into which is not something one would usually say about Sonic Youth related material. On the other hand Ranaldo is toning down the familiar and boring formula even further until it starts sounding borderline MOR. Noughties were never the best decade for Sonic Youth, it’s disappointing to see that this is where Ranaldo is picking up. The added pop edge seems forced as the record doesn’t really pack anything that could be called a hook, his lyrics still feel like stream of consciousness rants and has more cliched lines than your average Demi Lovato song. What it does is combining the familiar sound with classical pop songwriting. The closer Tomorrow Never Comes references The Beatles’ career highlight Tomorrow Never Knows not only in its title but in the drumbeat and backward guitar sounds. It’s a first time that someone from such an influential band as Sonic Youth is ripping off someone else so clearly. Maybe it’s a sign to stop.
There’s nothing overly offensive about Lee Ranaldo’s new record other than how mediocre and derivative it is. It’s clear that Ranaldo did not want the band to split up as his new LP tries to recapture the lost magic that just can’t be recaptured by just him alone. It has been a long time since anyone from Sonic Youth played with their pop influences without any experimentation whatsoever. It’s only a shame that on Between The Times & The Tides Ranaldo feels old and jaded in the worst way possible. Let it go man, the journey is over.