M. Ward + Lee Ranaldo Band | Concert preview
The silver Sonic Youth guitar slinger opens up for retro pop man M. Ward.
Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon get the attention, but it’s amazing how much “the Sonic Youth sound” materializes when just Lee Ranaldo’s shimmering strums lie over Steve Shelley’s pounding tom-toms. One might expect a solo Lee Ranaldo record to be some beatnik street hassle or John Cage–ian shards. He is the most artistically trained, the most old New York. But, no! The 56-year-old has delivered the best extracurricular work yet from the Sonic Youth crew, and the poppiest take on the band’s inimitable formula.
His latest, Between the Times and the Tides, slots nicely between the silvery Murray Street and the clean-noise jamming of Sonic Nurse. He’s even singing about girls! And not junkie runaways. Like, sweet love songs. Go figure.
Always a sort of de facto rhythm player, Ranaldo needs an unhinged foil. On the record, Nels Cline fills in wonderfully for Moore, laying screaming squiggles on “Xtina As I Knew Her” and “Angles.” With Shelley on board, live too, it’s just about Sonic Youth with Lee doing all the singing. With the future of his main gig in doubt, that’s the best we can hope for when Ranaldo opens for M. Ward.
Speaking of “Him,” let’s blame Zooey Deschanel. “She” pops up twice on Ward’s newest, A Wasteland Companion, and hangs a pink Disney cloud over Ward’s Technicolor cowboy pop. He smells more like an actor now, post She & Him, especially on “Crawl After You.” His voice melts over warm echo and fake patina. He’s aiming for Fleetwood Mac and getting Fleetwood Cheese. Still, the 38-year-old remains one of our best stylists of American song, and he’s blissfully Deschanelless on this tour.