Anyone expecting Sonic Youth’s greatest hits would have been sorely disappointed, but David North finds Thurston Moore’s celebration of The Mersey Sound captivating regardless.
“Thurston Moore-More-More, how d’yeah like it, how d’yeah like it?!”
It was a chant that didn’t go down particularly well, and certainly didn’t score me any high-fives or too-sweets of gratification from my nearby gig-goers. In fact, it didn’t actually happen and was not based on any true events. I’ve just clearly been watching too much Fargo.
The perils of going on a first date with Thurston Moore; Do I wear my Sonic Youth Washing Machine t-shirt? That might be a bit cliché, and everybody else will surely be wearing Sonic Youth t-shirts. Is that a good thing though? Didn’t I buy a Sonic Youth t-shirt for moments just like this? Will Thurston be expecting people to wear Sonic Youth t-shirts? Will he mind? Will he appreciate it? Am I over thinking it? It’s not every day you get to make a first impression to a bona fide modern day guitar hero and alternative music champion.
Long story short – I didn’t wear the Sonic Youth t-shirt. Others did. The hopefuls who were wishing for a Sonic Youth greatest hits orama-athon were unlikely to be fully appeased – too expectant were we to hear Thurston and his band rattle off Goo’s Dirty Boots, Dirty’s Purr, and the spectacularly moody, heart-rending interpretation of Superstar.
This gig was never about that. It was a culmination and celebration of 50 summers of love; 50 years since the publication of The Mersey Sound by Liverpool poets Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten. It was a chance for Thurston to glance a nod of appreciation towards poetry, art, culture, heritage – especially that of Merseyside.
And for us, the lucky few hundred in the audience, a chance to hear Thurston read some of those poems, like Henri‘s captivating Tonight at Noon, before breaking into his now infamous noise rock sound, soaking St George’s Hall‘s awe inspiring, beautiful Concert Room in decades of passion and craft mastery.
Songs included Speak to the Wild from his 2014 album The Best Day, and a few from his latest offering, Rock N Roll Consciousness, including Exalted and Smoke of Dreams. It was patient, it was absorbing, it was loud, it was sonic.
Ahhh – Sonic Youth – now I get it!
Support came from Mugstar. There was no singing and very little in the way of vocals – just the odd grunt, groan, moan and tone from Pete Smyth. But when you can play the heck out of your instruments with almost other-worldly precision and synchronicity like Mugstar can, there really are no words needed.
Imagine Scottish post-rockers Mogwai, and you’ve got an idea. You could create a wonderfully messy pick ‘n’ mix of sounds that seem to inspire the band, from Melvins, Ride, and Built to Spill, to the shoe-gazing of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine.
I suspect Mugstar‘s influences spread far and wide, because you don’t get that good by listening to the bare minimum. Their music was unapologetically loud, heavily psychedelic and psychedelically heavy, pure and honest (not to be confused with Pure and Simple by Popstars winners, Hear’Say).
They’re the sort of band that would have made me want to grow my hair long when I was younger. You watch them and resort back to that time you promised yourself you were going to buy a guitar or set of drums. They remind you of why the support slot even exists; I’m excited to explore Mugstar.
Images by Lucy McLachlan