Lee Ranaldo

Dirty Windows

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Although Lee Ranaldo is an underrated singer and songwriter -- songs like "Mote" and "Eric's Trip" are among Sonic Youth's best work -- his solo records have never really explored this side of his musical personality. The limited-edition 1998 release Dirty Windows is his least song-oriented project yet, being a collection of pieces recorded between 1991 and 1997, featuring Ranaldo reading poetry over unobtrusive musical backgrounds. Ranaldo's poetry is no worse than that of any middle-aged artist heavily influenced by the beat generation writers, but, unfortunately, it's not much better either. Ranaldo flits between scenes of lower Manhattan and that other rock & roll favorite, life on the tour bus, but while his images are often striking, they don't often add up to much. The music, which features guest appearances by Epic Soundtracks of Swell Maps and Michael Morley of the Dead C, as well as Ranaldo's Sonic Youth compatriots, is far more interesting, alternating languid, almost pretty soundscapes with brief passages that could shatter glass from a hundred yards. The packaging, including a 45-page booklet of poetry and photos, is simply beautiful.

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