Agitated Atmosphere: Thurston Moore & John Moloney: Caught on Tape - Full Bleed

Agitated Atmosphere, Album Reviews
02/06/2015
Justin Spicer

As major labels continue to exist behind the times, artists and labels with little capital and lesser reputations are producing some of the most innovative, interesting, and inspiring music. Whether it’s creating a new niche in digital technology or looking to once obsolete formats, Agitated Atmosphere hopes to pull back the curtain on a wealth of sights and sound from luminaries such as Thurston Moore and John Moloney.The Out Door supposes that Kim Gordon has had the far more adventurous and experimentally successful career post Sonic Youth. It’s hard to disagree with Is It My Body showcasing her witty writings (and the forthcoming Girl in a Band displaying her realism) and her work with Bill Nace as Body/Head being a loud skronk embraced by Matador.

Meanwhile, the male members of SY have gone on to dabble in more “accessible” forms of popular music, often involving Steve Shelley because they know no other drummer capable of maintaining that Youth vibe--even as Ranaldo and Moore seem to be running from it. It speaks to a bigger divorce in the band’s aesthetic: the males, seemingly happy to still be bros that aren’t as edgy and the fiercely independent woman out of the mopped shadow.

It’s likely Thurston Moore’s latest effort, The Best Day, didn’t turn your head. Or if it did, it was more out of curiosity as to how this once-aggressive lad has settled into London post-divorce, only to find a more restrained version of the noise that populated 30-odd years of his career. To those who turned their noses because Gordon has indeed upped the ante, they should kneel before the alter of Sunburned Hand of the Man’s John Moloney.

Full Bleed is the latest collaboration between Moore and Moloney (collectively known as Caught on Tape as a colon afterthought), and it serves to bring Moore back into the frenzied fold. It’s abrasive, angry and abusive of topical pop matters. Yet it maintains the warmth and rhythm of Moore’s recent output even while tempering a need to present anything reminiscent of recognizable melody. That is not to signify some atonal mess, but those angular, nonsensical notions of where a song isn’t supposed to go returns to Moore’s recorded repertoire. He’s been saving them for live audiences and trust me when I say most of us will never be privy to those raw moments – nor should we. But when we get one on record as flush with emotion and malpractice as Full Bleed, it makes us want to nick a vein and get in on the action.

But let’s return to the dichotomy of form versus function that underlines Moloney and Moore’s work. Where recent Moore output has put the focus on concentration and expanded sound, Full Bleed is equally focused and expansive without the need of added bodies. These two get a lot of noise out of each other with Moloney’s heavy Bonham hands clubbing at the drums with primordial Sabbath. Moore rarely touches upon any previous trodden ground. There are moments he seems to slip into those halcyon Sonic Youth days (“Dispute” most recognizably) – those he laments in romantic screeds toward a New York that no longer exists – but he wisely backs out of them without faltering into the robotic routine he’s developing as a touring pop musician.

Hopefully, most fans aren’t separating themselves into Moore and Gordon camps or keeping a "cool" score. But it's hard not to see the division that is spilling out into each’s work and associations. But if there’s a chance for both to mend some fences and rediscover an artistic middle ground, Moore has finally offered a duct taped olive branch thanks to the driving force of Moloney. Full Bleed finds that part of Moore that has been slumbering after the dissolution of his marriage and his biggest band, awoken with an abrupt blast.

Justin Spicer is an editor and journalist who writes for Tiny Mix Tapes and Ad Hoc among others. You can find him on Twitter.

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