March 23, 2012
Review: Lee Ranaldo – ‘Between the Times and the Tides’
Lee Ranaldo – Between the Times and the Tides
When the separation of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon — Sonic Youth’s parental couple — was announced last October, it effectively spelt the end for the group, who immediately declared an indefinite hiatus. Guitarist Lee Ranaldo has been the first to take advantage of newfound free time, continuing a solo career that has so far seen the Long Island native swing from spoken word pieces (East Jesus), to collections of experimental noise-ambience (Clouds, 2008’s Maelstrom From Drift).
His latest effort, Between The Times And The Tides, finds Ranaldo attempting his first ‘orthodox’ song-based album as a solo artist — getting into the studio to do some hard guitar graft, and working through 10 tracks of what he describes as “simple stringed things” in the process.
Opener ‘Waiting On A Dream’ pairs a reworked ‘Paint It Black’ riff with a latter-day REM chorus melody, introducing Ranaldo’s new loose-and-live sound that’s a mile from the atonal dissonance of prior solo efforts. It appears his desire to get these tracks down in a form akin to spontaneous live performance is the driving force behind Between The Times And The Tides, and it’s a technique that proves successful in the main, most notably on the menacing Neil Young & Crazy Horse lurch of ‘Xtina As I Knew Her’, an impulsive rocker complete with rambling guitar solos and one-chord mantras reminiscent of Young and his band at their most doggedly resolute.
‘Angels’ picks up the intensity and pace with some solid six-string work and touches of swirling Hammond from keys player John Medeski, before ‘Hammer Blows’ sees Ranaldo take his acoustic out the case for a touching closer to what would be the LP’s side one; a somewhat introspective requiem that finds its subject admitting “we talked about your sanity/but not about your vanity” before delivering a forlorn solo of vocal wails.
As much as it is a solo effort, Between the Times and the Tides is greatly embellished by a supporting cast of Ranaldo’s musical cohorts. Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley – on sticks duty throughout – and Jim O’Rourke nail down the driving heartland rock of ‘Lost’ and the staccato bass of ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ respectively, while wife Leah Singer (aptly) contributes some vocals over ‘Shouts’’ melodic guitar work.
‘Stranded’ is another acoustic ballad, albeit a slightly bland one that doesn’t quite pack the same lyrical punch as its closest sibling ‘Hammer Blows’. In fact, its ‘Stranded’ that underlines Between The Times And The Tides’ main failing: that, despite the occasional brighter moment, on the whole Ranaldo’s song writing falls slightly flat, lacking the sharp observational lyrics and exciting guitar interplay his time spent alongside Moore et al would produce on a consistent basis. One who is closer to 60 than 50 would usually be forgiven for such discrepancies, yet as a founding member of one of this world’s most kinetically brilliant rock bands, Lee Ranaldo must be judged on the expectations that this brings. In that respect, Between The Times And The Tides disappoints, regardless of its displays of inoffensive and largely attractive rock.
Read this review in context over at THE STOOL PIGEON