Friday, March 16, 2012

Lee Ranaldo - Between The Times and the Tides review

It has always astounded many of my friends that I have no love for Sonic Youth but I find their records willfully unlistenable and annoying. Not to say I hate it all but I've tried to like them every way I can: I've heard all the seminal works, seen them live three times and occasionally go back and just listen to them to see that my mind hasn't changed. Call me a charlatan, call me douchebag - I just don't like Sonic Youth. However, when I do listen to them I tend to like the Lee Ranaldo stuff more and I will always have time for him because he produced the first (and greatest) You Am I records (including the long out of print ep Coprolalia which is fucking killer).

Anyhow, a buddy of mine came round a couple of nights ago and implored me to give Between The Times and the Tides a listen. I'm glad that I did because it's actually a great album filled with great pop tunes and slightly off kilter epics that are immediately engaging and endearing. The record sounds incredibly intimate and straight forward with little concession for the expected SY freak outs. Sure, the songs resemble Ranaldo's work in Sonic Youth but if anything, the record veers closer to the aforementioned You Am I and REM. Seriously, check out Shouts - even though it contains a Kim Gordon-esque spoken word monologue in its break down, Ranaldo echoes Micheal Stipe's vocal timbre throughout the song (particularly as one of the vocal hooks is Texarkana's "Catch me if I fall.")

Off the wall sails on some perfect melodies while the angular rock of Angles may have inspired its name. The stripped back acoustic musings of Hammer Blows and Stranded are stand outside the larger rock aesthetic but are both beautiful and revealing that maybe Ranaldo isn't the strongest lyricist in the world. Strangely, that really doesn't affect the enjoyment of the record as the record cruises in an effervescent fever of goodwill and passion - it's just one of those records that's impossible not to like.

The best song here is the sprawling Xtina As I Knew Her, which (ironically for me) probably is closest thing to Sonic Youth here. It rumbles along on a spaced out riff and Steve Shelley's excellent drumming and is beautifully imperfect, moving and anchored by a great chorus. Also of note, Wilco's Nels Cline features on many of the songs so there is some great guitar interplay between him and Ranaldo. There is a lot to love on this record and it may force me to go back and re-visit Sonic Youth once more - I mean, seriously, what is my problem? Recommended.



  1. Great review, JH. You make me want to (re-)attempt SY (or at least Lee Ranaldo). Alas, like you, I have no love for Sonic Youth but not for lack of trying. "Dirty Boots" is a cracker of a track but apart from that these guys do nothing for me. I thought I was alone so thank you for giving me company in the Douchebag and Charlatan Society.

    I am quite enjoying Jim White, btw. His voice reminds me of Dean Wareham which I love.


  2. I don't know about you but it has been a hard road being a SY denier in my music circles. Saying I don't like Sonic Youth is like saying I like to kick puppies when no one is looking...

  3. As much as I want to say you're both puppy-kickers, my new evolved (EVOL, geddit??) self will now just say I'm proud of you both for taking baby steps into the murky SY waters. I can appreciate they're not for all, well kind of...
    On a side note, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore's daughter is now is an uber hipster band. This makes me feel a: old, and b: creeped out because I had a major teenage crush on Thurston Moore. My teenage self is now in conflict with having a crush on an old dad.