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Lee Ranaldo and the Dust - Last Night On Earth 2LP
Includes mp3 download of album.
As Sonic Youth's members explored their individual careers during the band's hiatus, it was fascinating to hear their projects develop. Between the Times and the Tides allowed Lee Ranaldo's more pastoral, mystical side to flourish, and it's in even fuller flower on Last Night on Earth. This is also the debut of Ranaldo's group the Dust, and while two of the group's key players, Alan Licht and Steve Shelley, appeared on his previous album, these songs feel like the work of a full-fledged band. Ranaldo and company sound more confident; where he tried a little bit of everything on Between the Times and the Tides, here he and his band concentrate on expansive songs filled with shimmering melodies and epic solos. "Lecce, Leaving" begins the album by defining this approach, with quickly shifting tempos and subtly changing moods that flow over elaborate buildups and breakdowns before drifting to a close; "The Rising Tide"'s psychedelia is so expansive that it flirts with acid rock. It was always assumed that Thurston Moore was Sonic Youth's main classic rock fan, but Ranaldo's solo work also shows an affinity for the sounds of the '60s and '70s. "Key/Hole"'s sweet, breezy melody could be avant-garde soft rock as it moves from tender to tempestuous, while the lyrics' clever parallel rhyming structure is a reminder of what an accomplished songwriter Ranaldo is. Throughout Last Night on Earth, he and the Dust achieve an alchemy where experimental rock, classic rock, and even hints of prog sound made for each other. All of this is especially true of "Ambulancer," one of the album's more urgent tracks. While its searing guitar work has roots in Ranaldo's Sonic Youth days, its acoustic flourishes feel more modern as well as timeless. Last Night on Earth leaves room for a few tangents, such as the pretty chamber pop vignette "Late Descent #2," that end up heightening the album's rainy-day moodiness. If possible, these songs have even more of a feeling of moving on and letting go than Ranaldo's debut did; the 12-minute album closer "Blackt Out" is at once mournful and exhilarated as it ponders being freed from a longtime lover. An album in the old-school sense, with expansive tracks and detours that still add up to a cohesive whole, Last Night on Earth offers more proof that Ranaldo's music is just as satisfying, if not more so, on its own as it was as part of one of alternative rock's supergroups.