Watching Thurston Moore caterwaul around on stage, climbing on amps to get just the right angle for a certain feedback out of his pickups, even this far into his career, it seems like a different person than the man who wrote this album. Maybe it was.
It was certainly another aspect of Moore that was inspired to work and put together Trees Outside The Academy, his first true solo outing in a dozen years or so, though that statistic is arguable, if you count an experimental improvised release and semi-regular releases in a jazz trio which he essentially commanded. Regardless of how long it took Moore to do this, it sounds like it came out just the way he wanted it to.
And despite an incredible unwillingness to term Trees Outside an “intelligent” album, with the false implication that his previous work isn’t, that’s really what he’s put out here. Most of Trees Outside is Moore as singer- songwriter, relatively calm. Even in his rougher tracks, like the Pumpkinsy punk song “Wonderful Witches+Language Meanies,” his voice barely strains over a clear throat. That sort of serenity actually pulls things down a bit—there are many points on the record where you want Moore to burst out, but he never does. He is a little constrained by the aloofness and precision of his style to really come through in the spoken-singing when it’s needed.
Instead, Moore puts a lot into his guitar work here, and his ability to not only manufacture tunefulness out of a racket of distortion, but also his talent in arranging it over acoustic guitar and strings. It’s pretty impressive. The bridge of “Silver > Blue” beautifully interweaves several rhythm figures and a satisfying melody line that is some of the most contented music Moore’s ever put his name on. Need more examples? See “Never Day,” “Frozen Gtr,” “Off Work,” all essentially working around this concept of melding acoustic guitar with strings and bringing in an evil, tinny tone that would sound like utter trash if anyone but Moore tried it.
Even though there’s always been a songwriter quality to Moore, this may not be where anyone expected the noise-rock hero to end up, not that he’s ended, obviously. But here it is—a unique singer-songwriter solo record, as presented by Thurston Moore’s more contemplative half. Or quarter, or eighth…