When news emerged in late 2011 that Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore—the forever-young first couple of indie rock—would separate, their band of the last 30 years, Sonic Youth, soon went on indefinite hold. Despite the workhorse output and touring schedule of the band, from its New York infancy through its major-label tenure, no new dates or recordings surfaced.
But it soon became clear that the chasm had become a catalyst: In the last 18 months, Gordon has released a sterling string of broken-signal singles and albums with guitarist Bill Nace as Body/Head. Drummer Steve Shelley has launched a new record label, and guitarist Lee Ranaldo is busy preparing his second itinerant singer-songwriter album since the split. Moore, of course, has always been prolific, issuing noise platters and assembling one-off collaborations as though he were stockpiling a college application with extracurricular activities. Since the split, he's actually slowed and focused, touring with a quartet under his own name to support 2011's beautiful Demolished Thoughts before folding that unit into a new band under the handle Chelsea Light Moving. Supported by powerful drummer John Moloney, guitarist Keith Wood and multi-instrumentalist Samara Lubelski, Moore sounds re-energized on the band's forthcoming debut. During "Burroughs," he italicizes his voice amid a malevolent punk chug, shouting and howling as though punk's about to break yet again. Opener "Heavenmetal" includes some of his most inspired singing in years, with a dose of soul adding vulnerability to his elliptical imagery. After the 2011 split, Moore—and every member of Sonic Youth, for that matter—could have retreated into early retirement, or at least awaited a hefty reunion payday. But their distinct, tenacious pursuits of new aims only reaffirm the power of the original unit. With Talk Normal and Delicate Steve. —Grayson Currin