Does this new solo album by the giant of the New York scene (he’s still 1.98m tall!), now living in London, give his fans the opportunity to rejoice? One thing’s for sure, they won’t be shortchanged, since By the Fire totals 88 minutes.
With the same sidekicks for some time now – British guitarist James Sedwards, My Bloody Valentine bassist Debbie Googe, Negativland’s hacker Jon Leidecker and, on drums, alternately Jem Doulton and Steve Shelley – he continues in the vein of Sonic Youth, mixing more accessible alterna-rock with more experimental musical research. Four of the nine pieces on the programme are longer than ten minutes, one of them lasting nearly 18. These are the ones with the best moments, because they’re more developed and explore less frequented territories. Nevertheless, the result is uneven, and some pieces, “Siren” and “They Believe in Love (When They Look at You)” in particular, where the process seemed to be more laborious, even fastidious because it relies so much on repetition, annoyed me quite a bit. The more ambitious “Breath”, “Locomotives”, and “Venus” seemed to me more interesting and conclusive, and bring their share of satisfaction, although fans will probably appreciate the shorter, more rocking pieces more.