Sonic Youth guitarist bares all but it’s nothing special.
5.4 / 10.0
Even though Lee Ranaldo’s voice bares an undeniable resemblance to that of Michael Stipe’s of R.E.M., I’m not going to address it beyond this opening. Although a few similar tonal aspects can be identified, they are vastly overshadowed by the dull lyrical content and trite compositions that make up Between the Times and Tides. My first reaction after listening to the latest release from Sonic Youth guitarist and songwriter Lee Ranaldo, was, “who let this album out into the public without being produced.” I’ll admit that I’m not a huge Sonic Youth fan, and the most I understand about them and lead singer Thurston Moore is that noise is king. I get it; that’s cool. You’re trying to be real edgy and artsy with your violent punk ways and let’s admit it, who doesn’t love some good noise rock (especially those band names). But noise rock or grunge (or whatever Sonic Youth claim to be) are not holier than good studio production. The opening guitar riff to “Waiting On A Dream” sounds like a half-baked demo that was plucked out at 2AM in front of a glowing laptop screen, and “Fire Island” could have been written by high-schoolers. The extent of the songwriting comes off a little underdeveloped and immature at moments.
Unfortunately, the music is the strength of Between the Times and Tides. Lee’s lyrics range anywhere from cliche to boring but pretty much always remain amateurish. “Shouts,” which I assume is an interpretation of a protest (Occupy maybe), features noncommittal and vague lines as “Everybody’s shouting / There’s shots out on the streets / I can’t hear the words they’re saying / Could these be the sacred stories?” Hold on, Lee, can you explain that one to me? It sounds like he’s trying to be straightforward, but no part makes any sense! Not to mention the spoken word section of the song is an unnecessary melodrama that you might have found in a late ’90s emo track. It’s too bad Ranaldo didn’t just slap some broadcast samples over the music because the guitar writing on this one is actually quite lovely.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but I can’t escape the idea that Lee is just riding the coattails of his previous, more successful outfit and didn’t see the harm with phoning this one in. In the words of Michael Stipe “I think I saw you try / But that was just a dream.” Ok, I lied. I brought up the Stipe comparison again, but they really do sound alike.