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The Bark Haze - Total Joke Era

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Artist: The Bark Haze

Album: Total Joke Era

Label: Important

Review date: Jun. 11, 2007

Sonic Youth’s guitarists may not have invented their guitar sound – honorable and history-minded men that they are, neither Thurston Moore nor Lee Ranaldo have ever hidden the fact that they’re plowing a row first dug by Rhys Chatham and deepened by Glenn Branca – but they sure do own it. Just blindfold your friends and put on any rock-rooted electric guitar music with unusual turnings and open-ended melodies, and what do you get? They’ll name SY as either the perpetrator or an influence.

But it must also be acknowledged that the sound owns them. Even when they’re taking a busman’s holiday pursuing improvisational ventures, Moore or Ranaldo’s playing guitar playing rarely ventures far from that established vocabulary. Take this record as an example. Its two tracks, which run for 35 minutes and change, are the product of some unpremeditated basement jamming by Moore and a man named Gown, a guitarist who has also worked of late with Christina Carter. Gown doesn’t really play in a Sonic Youth style; his melodic excursions imply some awareness of ’60s psychedelic exotica, and his sonar-like rhythmic input seems less the result of any stylistic expression than it is the product of Gown’s close attention to the music’s moment-to-moment needs. But Moore’s shimmering resonance and liberally bent sustained tones are so immediately recognizable that it’s impossible to keep the name of his other band out of one’s head. Which isn’t to say anything bad about the music; if you like the first three SYR EPs, or think there can’t be enough of the spacey stuff from “Diamond Sea,” then this record is made for you. The music unfolds like a well-kept road in a thick forest; you might not know exactly what you’re going to see, but you’ve got a pretty good idea what to expect, and nothing’s going to throw you off course.

By Bill Meyer

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