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First Listen: Chelsea Light Moving, 'Chelsea Light Moving'

Chelsea Light Moving's self-titled debut comes out March 5.
Carlos van Hijfte
Courtesy of the artist
Chelsea Light Moving's self-titled debut comes out March 5.

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In the chorus to Chelsea Light Moving's "Heavenmetal," Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore offers a moment of uplift to set the tone for his new band's self-titled debut: "Be a warrior — love life." But from there, Moore and his new bandmates set out to pulverize and polarize.

Even at the apex of Sonic Youth's popularity — back when the already-venerated art-noise band was enjoying the career Kurt Cobain had hoped to emulate — Thurston Moore delighted in confounding expectations, not to mention just plain confounding. And Chelsea Light Moving is, true to form, a collection of sharp left turns: "Alighted" rages and rampages and squeals for nearly eight minutes, "Lip" sounds like a 20-year-old grunge demo, "Mohawk" unleashes peals of guitar over a full-on poetry reading, and "Communist Eyes" closes the proceedings with two and a half minutes of blistering old-school punk.

It's tempting to view Chelsea Light Moving as a low-stakes act of liberation following the indefinite hiatus of Sonic Youth after 30 years — and, by extension, Moore's separation from longtime wife and bandmate Kim Gordon, though the two continue to work together musically. But Thurston Moore has always been free to pursue musical whims like the ones he chases here, whether that means making graceful solo albums like 2011's Demolished Thoughts or unleashing last fall's bonkers collaboration with Gordon and Yoko Ono.

Loose but jagged, playful but menacing, the music of Chelsea Light Moving (named, incidentally, for an actual moving company run by Philip Glass and Steve Reich) still finds room for glimmers of beauty. And, even when a given song devolves into an absolute shambles — heck, especially when a given song devolves into an absolute shambles — Chelsea Light Moving (out March 5) maintains Moore's enviable capacity to charm as he confuses.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
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