Glacial is the latest side project of Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo, who’s joined by guitarist David Watson and drummer Tony Buck. These drone-rock journeymen spent several days between 2003 and 2005 recording their four-track debut LP, On Jones Beach, which their label, Three Lobed Recordings, heralded as the culmination of “three men at the top of their craft.” What it really is, though, is a ginormous waste of an hour.
The majority of that squandered time is the 48-minute title track, a piece stacked so tall with inadequacies it overshadows the remaining three cuts (which, even alone, sound inconsequential). As a former stoner and life-long pro wrestling fan, I can safely say I’ve never wasted as much time on either activity as I did on with several spins of this “epic,” waiting for the promised epiphany. Instead, I found only minor, frustrating glimmers of hope: the minimalist guitar like bullets tapping together at 35:00, or the mutilated screech of bagpipes that ebbed and flowed like murky saltwater.
The remaining 4o-ish minutes were most tedious. “On Jones Beach” is intrinsically a musical abyss, where enthusiasm is crushed under the weight of overwrought technical displays, like the uninspired crackle of the guitar at 41:00 or the nerve-wracking guitar hiss at 32:00. But the most lethal contributing factor is these seasoned vets pushing the notion that they’re on to something pivotal, as if they’re rewriting the very definition of dissonance. Really, they come off as amateurs forging bad rip-offs of already bland and overindulgent Sonic Youth songs.
Maybe I just don’t get it. Or maybe there’s just nothing to get, nothing that’s substantial enough to offer any inherent value or even some lesson about the ups and downs of true, groundbreaking experimentation. The only thing to be found is three men adorning themselves in protective, atonal armor, wearing their brightly colored and plentiful laurels into a losing battle against their own failing sensibilities. If this is the music of men at the peak of their drone pyramid, then I will happily spin nothing but Carley Rae Jepsen for the remainder of my days.
Essential Tracks: N/A