Each member of Sonic Youth has had his or her own solo or side projects going since the ’90s, each one forking in a completely different direction than the next, with often extreme results. Lee Ranaldo has had his share of solo, experimental releases, while Kim Gordon had her Free Kitten project, in addition to a collaboration with DJ Olive released on the band’s own SYR imprint. Steve Shelley, though never having put out a true solo album, played with Cat Power and Two Dollar Guitar, in addition to having started Smells Like Records. Thurston Moore, however, is the only one to have a solo “pop” record to his credit, 1995’s Psychic Hearts, an album that still isn’t necessarily radio friendly, but acts as an interesting and accessible bridge between Sonic Youth’s Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star and Washing Machine albums.
As the third part of a new wave of SY-related reissues on Geffen, it’s wonderful to see Psychic Hearts back in the spotlight. One of the best albums to be released from the SY camp in the entire decade (and that includes full-band efforts), it’s no wonder why we’re finally beginning to look back at this thing as a classic. While there are no extra tracks on this release like there are on the reissue of Sonic Youth’s debut EP, the album is longer than 60 minutes as it is, rendering any extra material over-indulgent.
What Moore presented on Psychic Hearts is a characteristically abrasive, yet extremely song-oriented collection, and one that holds up so well after all this time, that one certainly must wonder how Geffen ever let this go out of print in the first place. Nonetheless, it’s back, and we’re treated to the chugging skronk-rock of “Queen Bee and Her Pals,” the very Sonic Youth-like “Ono Soul” (which had an accompanying video I remember seeing as a teenager and being weirded out, man) and the profanity laced pop of the title track.
There are discordant moments, like “Pretty Bad,” which juxtaposes acoustic plucking and heavy doom chugs, and instrumental workouts like the transitional “Blues from Beyond the Grave.” Even so, these tracks are placed alongside fairly straightforward punk rockers like “Patti Smith Math Scratch” or odd pop numbers like “Feathers,” in which Moore dispenses wisdom in verses like “I have been told/camels are gold.”
Thurston Moore didn’t really put out any other records that sound like Psychic Hearts, which is a shame really—it’s damn good. Still, that it’s one of a kind makes it just a little more special, and having been deprived of its presence will, hopefully, make Sonic Youth fans realize what they’ve been missing out on.
Sonic Youth – Washing Machine
Royal Trux – Thank You
Helium – The Dirt of Luck
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.