Trees Outside the Academy – Thurston Moore
What do you do with a perfectly listenable, perfectly disposable record from an icon? The simple answer? Listen to it; then dispose of it. Thurston Moore's second official solo record isn't a dud, but it doesn't shimmer-glimmer with greatness either. There's plenty to like, but little to love, which wouldn't be a condemnation of there weren't so much Thurston out there to go gaga over. But since there is, this not-so-bad record quickly becomes unnecessary.
All that's not to say that there's no fun to be had on Trees Outside the Academy. The mellowed (read: virtually skronk-free) set brings Moore’s subtler settings to the fore, usually to good effect. Decorated with Samara Lubelski’s violins, it’s a primarily acoustic effort so inviting that you’re tempted to call it intimate, despite the fact that Thurston’s not revealing anything pretty personal here—just hollow talk of lasting love and lasting friendships soft-sung from his usual, distant perch. Still, the whisper of a jam on "Silver>Blue" is good stuff, the over-extended instrumental intro to "Honest James" twins up the acoustic guitars nicely, "Fri/end" is almost catchy enough to be pure pop, and "Never Light" falls just this side of blissed-out.J. Mascis sporadically screeches in to pop a noise blister and rawk proper, which he does mightly on the album's best and worst track, "Wonderful Witches." Riding in on Steve Shelley's snap-crack-poppin' drums, "Wonderful Witches" knocks the dusty faux-glimmer off an album mostly full of softies. Thurston's strident acoustic and J.'s tell-me-it's-1993 electric mesh almost perfectly, and it's all just off-normal enough to work—until you hit the chorus. "I'm not superstitious, / but I may be loosing my mind / cuz I just met these Wonderful Witches / who seem to have captured time," Thurston spits. It's cheap, spooky proggery—ass-clownery of the lowest order—and easily the album's most frustrating track.
Thurston Moore hits it dead-on more often than not, and this record's full of almost-theres. All of which is a bloviator's way to say, Trees Outside the Academy is a pleasant enough footnote, but not much more.