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The Daily Tar Heel

Music Review: Lee Ranaldo & The Dust

Lee Ranaldo & The Dust
Last Night on Earth

Lee Ranaldo — former guitarist, singer and songwriter for Sonic Youth — has always been associated with his tense, bizarrely-tuned guitar playing. But ever since the band’s hiatus, Ranaldo has been creating much more straightforward rock ‘n’ roll. Last Night on Earth continues this trend, as Ranaldo and his accompanying band The Dust pay tribute to bands such as The Grateful Dead with long jams and laid-back tracks.

Although Ranaldo may have ditched the alternate tunings and warped feedback, his knack for musical experimentation is still keen. Throughout the nine-track album, Ranaldo continues to keep us guessing. “Key/Hole” features a distortion-fueled intro, while the title track opens with only an acoustic guitar. And even though “Late Descent #2” is the shortest track by far, it might be the most experimental. In the song, a harpsichord and acoustic guitar play off each other, not much differently than how Ranaldo and Thurston Moore’s guitars would coalesce throughout Sonic Youth’s storied career.

But that’s where the similarities between Last Night on Earth and Sonic Youth end. This time around, Ranaldo incorporates much more straightforward harmonies. Each song on the album features an easily digestible chorus. Furthermore, he ditches his Sonic Youth-era monotone bark for a much more in-tune, less aggressive singing style. On many of the tracks, Ranaldo’s voice bears an eerie resemblance to R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe.

Last Night on Earth is a prime example of how band members should approach solo records. Ranaldo manages to incorporate aspects of what made his past music so successful, while seeking out new influences to make an album that feels fresh.

James Stramm

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