I approach this review with trepidation. Tackling work by an artist like Lee Ranaldo, who is such an integral part of Sonic Youth’s expansive legacy, is no mean feat; and less so because of his own extensive back catalogue as a solo artist (Between The Times and the Tides is Ranaldo’s 9th solo LP).
It is heartening, then, to learn that Ranaldo is not in the business of self-referencing or playing up to the past; Between The Times and the Tides is ostensibly a rock album, listenable as it is intriguing. At times it strays into “this-is-music-by-the-guy-from-Sonic-Youth” territory (i.e. Waiting On A Dream) but with Ranaldo’s distinctive style this is nigh-on unavoidable. Ranaldo doesn’t linger on covered ground, however: acoustic-led Off The Wall, with its boy/girl vocals lightly breezes into brooding Xtina As I Knew Her, with Lee’s wailing lead guitar competently supported by Steve Shelley’s dirgey tub thumping. More driving rock with Angles, albeit with the introduction of a funk organ which lends this otherwise structurally formulaic song an experimental air. You could say this sums up the essence of the album: Ranaldo’s rock sensibility being augmented with jazz and country (particularly prevalent on Hammer Blows), as well as his trademark experimental flourishes on the guitar.
Between The Times and the Tides is a far cry from Ranaldo’s early work; the set-up and structure is simple, but the execution is damn near perfect. According to Ranaldo, the album is down to his group of “amazing friends who stopped by to play and sing”, including old lags Steve Shelley and Bob Bert. “Songs can go a million different ways,” he writes in the liner notes, “I hope you like where they ended up.” We sure do, Lee.
Words: Joseph Coward