The most immediately enjoyable thing about Demolished Thoughts is that when it starts, for the first twenty seconds or so of the unimpeachably excellent “Benediction,"before the strings and the vocals come in, when it's still just a gently played acoustic guitar, you almost can't help but hear it as a full-band Sonic Youth song. You can hear drums, you can hear the howling bits of feedback, the thundering low-end, even a counter melody. It would, in this imaginary state anyway, fit perfectly on Daydream Nation. There is much more to enjoy, too, though, even for those of us who haven't trained our brains to hear phantom Sonic Youth songs at every turn.
Demolished Thoughts is Thurston Moore's third proper full-length as a solo artist, and it's been an interesting succession of albums, spaced out over more than 15 years. 1995's Psychic Hearts is among the most underrated works in the alt/indie/whatever universe, an uncharacteristically peppy, polished and well-produced collection of hard-hitting, statement-making rock music. Trees Outside the Academy from 2007 is likewise underrated, never quite getting the recognition it deserves for its laid-back, almost folk-rock-leaning highlights. On Demolished Thoughts, Moore has scaled things back considerably, enlisting none other than Beck to lend his production skills to an album built around acoustic guitar, vocals and some fairly simple string arrangements that are nevertheless crucial to the overall vibe.
If you'll remember, it's a style Beck has some experience with: there are obvious parallels to his borderline landmark 2002 breakup album Sea Change, in that it too was a pristine, straightforward batch of songs from an artist previously known for something far more challenging and abrasive. Thurston's still Thurston, though, so we're not exactly getting simple folk songs here—guitar patterns, as in “Mina Loy"or “January"repeat endlessly to dizzying effect, and a handful of songs proudly take their time, stretching out past the five-minute mark.
For the most part, Demolished Thoughts makes a point of not reaching out to grab you—with the exception of the relatively upbeat “Circulation,"these songs are slow, languid affairs content drifting off into the background. It's curious, too, how even the vocals, all breathy and hushed throughout, seem intent on not taking the focus off the careful, delicate arrangements. But the real joy here, which is buried beneath the obviously, classically gorgeous outer layer, comes during those brief moments when Moore subverts the very notion of “obviously, classically gorgeous."He does so with the occasional unexpected, eyebrow-raising note, of course, but also with his lyrics. Right there alongside all the legitimately sweet stuff, there's all sorts of craziness going on, too—”thunder demons"stealing halos, possible alien encounters, etc. It's a lot to take in, but only if you decide to. From afar or up close, Demolished Thoughts works equally well.