MANHATTAN, NY—On Sunday, March 3, Chelsea Light Moving kicked off their U.S. tour with a performance at NYC’s Other Music. The Thurston Moore side-project was in fine form, showcasing a number of songs from their eponymous debut. Anyone with the pre-conceived notion that the quartet is nothing more than some cheap Sonic Youth knockoff was disabused of such idiocy. This band dwells in even heavier territory and, although experimental, rarely engage in the meandering fuzz overloads of Moore’s regular gig. Their sound is more contained, which at times echoes The Stooges and Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut album.
Backing up Moore is guitarist Keith Wood (founding member of Hush Arbors), bassist and occasional violinist Samara Lubelski (Jackie-O Motherfucker), and drummer John Moloney (Sunburned Hand Of Man). Each are accomplished musicians in their own right, and they distinctly influence the band’s sound. Collectively, they add a murky assonance that provides the perfect backdrop for Moore’s urban street poetry.
This particular Sunday found the group in good spirits. Thurston told the audience of a past Massachusetts show, “Bostoners hate New Yorkers, you know? But hate is cool.” He asked the crowd what their favorite records were of 2012. One girl mentioned Between The Times And The Tide from Sonic Youth’s “other” guitarist, Lee Ranaldo. “Really? I mean, it’s good, but you’re being nice,” he replied, absolutely deadpan. They launched into “Burroughs,” a blatant homage to the late Beat author: “Hey Billy, the price of dope is high. Hey Billy, the writing’s in the sky.” The band pummeled ahead, spinning hypnotic soundscapes blanketed in fuzz and punctuated by powerful blasts of feedback. Moore displayed his talents on guitar, conjuring up a ton of raw aggression, and the fans nodded in unison.
As the show progressed, I got the sense that Chelsea Light Moving couldn’t have come from anywhere else, as there’s something wholly New York about them. “Groovy And Linda” describes a late ‘60s East Village commune, whose idealism was shattered by a string of ghastly murders. “Frank O’Hara Hit” chronicles the early morning hours of July 24, 1966, when the writer was struck and killed by a dune buggy. The band essentially serves as an apocalyptic tribute to the city that gave it birth.
After rupturing eardrums for nearly an hour, the set concluded with a raucous version of “Empires Of Time,” for Roky Erickson. But the excitement didn’t end there. Upon leaving the venue, I witnessed two men fighting in the street. Were they performance artists interpreting CLM’s gritty post-rock or just folks unwittingly providing an appropriate ending to the show? Was life imitating art or art imitating life? Either way, it was a night to remember.
Chelsea Light Moving are still on their current tour, which includes a return to New York on April 5 for a show at the Bowery Ballroom. Their self-titled debut is available now. For tickets to their April 5 gig, go to boweryballroom.com.