Review Summary: An excellent release from the Sonic Youth guitarist.
Thurston Moore is a great musician. Known for his work as Sonic Youth axe-man and vocalist, it’s common to think that he would finally break out and do something of his own while still faithful to his main band. Thurston’s guitar style is novel, his approach to his instrument is a world of swirling feedback and crazy tunings. Physic Hearts is a solo effort with Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth member) drumming. Many people ask, “how does this compare to Sonic Youth releases?”. Well the album is more acoustic-oriented which is something unusual for Thurston (he’s experimented with acoustics before but not for a whole album). Acoustics are used in interesting ways while still experimenting with tunings and are used as a background instrument.
To be more specific, the song “Physic Hearts” is mostly only two chords playing over Thurston’s hollow-sounding voice. This isn’t musically exhilarating but the main point of the song is Thurston’s singing which is more rhythmical talking than anything. His lyrics tell a story and seem intentionally shallow but none the less work well. Another example of acoustics is when there would be an acoustic line but also the same line on an electric playing at the same time. This is something that a typical Thurston wouldn’t do as his guitar partner Lee Ranaldo would just blast on away with him on two electrics. It adds another dynamic to the album and definitely another side of the man.
Steve’s drumming is very solid, the same as it usually would be on any Sonic Youth release except his drumming is highlighted a bit more since they seem better mixed. His drum sound on most Sonic Youth releases would sound small and his snare would usually sound like someone hitting a phonebook with the eraser end of a pencil.
To continue with the Sonic Youth comparisons, the songs are extra melodic and are rich with creamy melody lines. It would be obvious by now this isn’t on par with such highlight Youth releases such as Sister or the indie classic Daydream Nation but this release is improved from minor Sonic Youth albums. Physic Hearts is a lot more melodious than what Thurston is used to but keeps a sweet noisy, quirky sound that he has made himself known for. It is aggressive yes and contains heavier-than-normal passages stringed throughout the songs but as an overall piece, it is harmonious and smooth sounding. It is fair to say there is not a dud on the LP in fact the only low point of the album is the dragging “Elegy For All The Dead Rock Stars”. A song that can be perfectly listenable until it keeps going on and on until the point where it simply gets boring and aggravating.
In conclusion, this album is simply brilliant. It is melodically sweet while still pertaining to an eccentric sound and has some catchy and memorable guitar lines. Steve’s drumming is sounding great and really adds a background to it. Upon first look one would think this is an experimental album considering the artist and his will to experiment but amazingly, this is accessible and easy to listen to. Essential to Sonic Youth fans and Thurston Moore fans.