When: Tue., May 22, 7:30 p.m. 2012
Though he came up in New York's art-punk underground with his Sonic Youth bandmate Thurston Moore and has a long history of making noisy, experimental solo records, Lee Ranaldo has always been the member of the band who contributed the most straightforwardly melodic songs—and the only one who could reliably carry a tune with his voice. A sticker on his latest solo record, Between the Times and the Tides (Matador), calls it his "first rock album," and that's fair enough: outside Sonic Youth, he's improvised with free-jazz drummer William Hooker (among others), played in Alan Licht's Text of Light, and released heaps of material dominated by feedback, loops, and spoken word. Joined by a star-studded band that includes Steve Shelley on drums, John Medeski on keyboards, and both Licht and Nels Cline on guitars, Ranaldo makes comfortably conventional rock-pop, apparently drawing on influences that include R.E.M., Blue Oyster Cult, and Neil Young. His tunes in Sonic Youth were palate cleansers at worst, and at their best they brought a sense of anthemic power and orderly structure to the band's albums—but without Sonic Youth's noise, speed, and chaos to provide contrast, ten straight Ranaldo songs feel like too many. It doesn't help that his lyrics occasionally sound like a page ripped from a high school journal—in "Stranded" he sings, "If a cloud is in your eye / I'll remove it from the sky." With any luck his live show will have more bite and less midtempo aimlessness; he's joined by Licht, Shelley, and bassist Irwin Menken, who also plays on the record. —Peter Margasak M. Ward headlines.