Between The Times And The Tides

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“Songs can go a million ways” states Lee Ranaldo in the liner notes for his new album Between The Times and The Tides.  With a line-up including Sonic Youth partner in crime Steve Shelley and additional help from musical Zelig Jim O’Rourke (himself once part of the Sonic Youth set up) Ranaldo tries to demonstrate this from the off. The opener “Waiting On A Dream” kicks off the album in fine style, with a Bob Mould-esque vocal backed by an incessant chord progression articulating the paranoia of the lyrics - “I know the secrets that you need/You know exactly what I mean.”  Indeed, the reference to Bob Mould is apt in the sense that, in part, the album is reminiscent of Copper Blue-era Sugar with its mixture of electric and semi-acoustic textures. “Xtina As I Knew Her” carries on this trend, opening with swirling organ courtesy of John Medeski and continues the sense of mystery and paranoia that is prevalent on aspects of the album. Other album highlights include the driving rock (not in the Top Gear sense of the phrase) of “Angles” where Ranaldo is assisted by co-vocalist Kathy Liesen and clever use of Farfisa; “Stranded” which takes the form of an earnest acoustic ballad with authentic use of Nels Cline’s lap steel and “Fire Island” wherein a musical battle between countrified Byrdsian rock and guitar histrionics is fought. The album concludes with “Tomorrow Never Comes”, which begins as a kind of pastiche of “Tomorrow Never Knows”, incorporating a mock-Ringo drum loop over which Ranaldo plaintively states “Don’t be deceived cuz everyone you meet/Is on their own, a long long way from home” and leaves the album on a strangely downbeat note. Between The Times and Tides is effectively a solid but undeniably slight album. When it’s good it’s pretty damn good (“Working On A Dream” for example) but when it’s not, it’s just forgettable (witness the disposal semi-acoustic power pop of “Off The Wall” and the acoustic banality of “Hammer Blows”). It’s certainly not the musically creative opus that demonstrates that “songs can go a million different ways” but is a pleasing way to spend 48 minutes.