Sonic Youth co-founder Lee Ranaldo plays tonight at Gabe’s

Lee Ranaldo takes the stage in Barcelona, Spain. — photo by Rosario López

Lee Ranaldo and the Dust

Gabes – October 17 at 9 p.m. ($15)

Lee Ranaldo has a lot of history with ‘loud music’ fans, beginning with his 30-odd years as a member of Sonic Youth. Starting in the downtown New York No Wave scene and rising to near-pop star status, Sonic Youth were heroes of indie rock to many, long after that genre description ceased to have any meaning beyond a marketing label. Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon may have been the front line of Sonic Youth, but Ranaldo’s guitar and compositional contributions are every bit as crucial to their sound and the band’s remarkably long run as a relevant force in popular music.

His new album Last Night On Earth sounds very little like Sonic Youth, and that’s a good thing. Ranaldo has returned to a more conventional brand of songwriting; you can hear more of his pre-noise roots than in any of his other solo works. Ranaldo has always expressed an admiration for the Grateful Dead, and the Dust’s lush, tuneful rock sound carries definite echoes of the ’70s rock sound.

But, being Lee Ranaldo, he hasn’t relaxed into stoner jam band shtick. He isn’t afraid to write a pretty song, but when he stretches out for a long instrumental solo/jam, the sound draws strength both from the Dead’s open-ended explorations and Sonic Youth’s concern with the fractally distressed surface of pure sound.

So the Dust (featuring Sonic Youth’s drummer Steve Shelley along with Alan Licht and Tim Lüntzel) are both more accessible and just as adventurous as Sonic Youth. And if you show up at Gabe’s tonight, you can expect the sort of exciting, compelling show that only long time touring vets can pull off.

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