Lee Ranaldo: Between the Times and the Tides
Shattered into pieces, your eyes ask “What for?”
These days I’m all alone out in the middle of the world
These days I’m trying to tell myself you’re just some other girl
"Off the Wall," Lee Ranaldo
It was around noon on Sunday, October 16th, 2011, and I was in the lobby of the Denver Marriott Tech Center. Jennifer Atocha broke the news. Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore had separated after 27 years of marriage and 16 awesome full-length albums with their band, Sonic Youth:
Honestly, I was more surprised to learn that Kim and Thurston were splitting up. But maybe that says more about me and my views on marriage. I had done my share of wondering about the band. How many more albums like The Eternal could they possibly have in them? What did they have left to accomplish after 30 years as Sonic Youth? And the saddest question of all: How much longer could the fun last?
I’m not the fan who stopped listening after Daydream Nation or who only enjoyed Dirty and Goo. I got in at Dirty and Goo, went backwards from there, devoured Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, fell for one album after the next. Washing Machine, A Thousand Leaves, the strange and dark NYC Ghosts and Flowers, Murray Street, Sonic Nurse, Rather Ripped: Each new album surpassed my expectations, took its place as my absolute favorite. I loved Sonic Youth, unconditionally. I still do, of course. During those times when I saw them perform live, I felt they were the only band that mattered. If Sonic Youth was the last band in the world, the world would still be full.
While Kim and Thurston shared the bulk of the vocal duties, it was always Lee Ranaldo’s songs that hit me hardest. “In the Kingdom #19,” “Pipeline/Kill Time,” “Eric’s Trip,” “Hey Joni,” “Mote,” “Wish Fulfillment,” “Karen Coltrane.” These songs shot straight to my heart. They were somehow gentler, more human, bigger than anything else.
On November 28, 2011, in an interesting discussion with Matthew Perpetua of Rolling Stone, Lee Ranaldo explained that Sonic Youth would be taking time off, but expressed his optimism for the future.
We've been together way longer than any of us ever imagined would happen and it's been for the most part an incredibly pleasurable ride. There's still a lot of stuff we're going to continue to do. There's tons and tons of archival projects and things like that that are still going on, so there are so many ways in which we are tied to each other for the future both musically and in other ways. I'm just happy right now to let the future take its course and I guess I'm kind of thankful that I've got this other project that kind of came about on its own.
Lee Ranaldo’s album, Between the Times and the Tides, will be released by Matador Records on March 20, and will include contributions from Nels Cline, John Medeski, Alan Licht, Steve Shelley, Jim O’Rourke, and Bob Bert. I’ve listened to the album’s first single, “Off the Wall,” about 23 times in a row now. The band will open for M. Ward at Webster Hall on May 11. I’ll be there.