I'm sure most people reading this know that, along with Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo is one of the co-founders of Sonic Youth. The individuals in that group were always getting involved with side projects and now, with the Gordon-Moore marriage coming to an end and Sonic Youth on an indefinite hiatus, Ranaldo has seen fit to release his first album of songs as a solo artist. It's not his first release under his own name; that was 25 years ago with the album From Here to Infinity, which famously consisted of a locked groove on every track on the vinyl so you had to get up and advance the needle to the next track yourself, otherwise the song would play forever. In fact there have been all manner of albums and EPs and art gallery installations credited to him since then, but I think it is safe to assume that most of Lee's more accessible rock songs ended up on Sonic Youth records.

Between the Times and Tides is based around those type of songs, and the band that Lee has assembled features a lot of his frequent musical collaborators. The rhythm section is mostly Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley on drums, with Irwin Menken and occasional SY member Jim O'Rourke sharing bass duties, although interestingly their original drummer Bob Bert (also of Pussy Galore) gets a credit on percussion. Guitar duties are shared between Lee and the considerable talents of Alan Licht, who frequently works with Lee in his Text of Light project, and Wilco's Nels Cline.

Given that information you might think this album would sound very like Sonic Youth. However, much like Thurston Moore's recent Demolished Thoughts, it has enough of its own character to distinguish it from the output of the parent group. To me it sounds that there is a huge influence from what used to be known as the Paisley Underground; the bunch of LA-based bands like Green on Red and the Dream Syndicate that mixed psychedelia and guitar interplay in early '80s. Those bands were indebted to the Byrds and the opening notes and the swirling guitars of 'Waiting on a Dream' recall that legendary band before turning into an epic rock song that could have fitted on to any of the recent Sonic Youth records.
'Off The Wall' was the first track to be released from this album and it surprised people with its straightforward pop approach, but it's not a one-off and the breezy, jangly 'Lost' equals it in terms of catchiness.

The album is very varied though. 'Hammer Blows' has some great acoustic guitar playing and is basically a left-field blues song whilst 'Fire Island (Phases)' sounds a bit too close to the Grateful Dead for my liking, and 'Stranded' is another acoustic piece, which is a straightforward reflective love song. 
Those fans expecting Lee to produce some epic, poetic songs for this debut will find some solace in 'Xtina As I Knew Her', which is the longest piece here and features some lovely entwining guitars. Lee has always painted vivid pictures with his lyrics and here he evokes a girl from his past through snapshots of their time together. 
'Angles' is the strongest of the uptempo songs, which takes the jangly pop of 'Off The Wall' and mangles it. The guitars get clever without being overly noisy and it is basically a driving rock song with a Nels Cline and Lee Ranaldo wig-out in the middle.
 'Shouts' has an experimental edge, it is a slow burning piece which recalls some of Lee's gentler melodic work with Sonic Youth, and Leah Singer, Lee's wife and frequent collaborator, adds some dramatic spoken word as the music swells up. The album begins with an obvious Byrds reference and ends with a deliberate nod to the Beatles. Tomorrow Never Comes owes a debt to Tomorrow Never Knows, especially underlined by Steve Shelley's drum breaks and a big Nels Cline freak out to finish off.

This is a strong solid rock album that warrants repeated listens. It has enough familiarity for Sonic Youth fans to latch on to, but it also has plenty of surprises. If you were expecting an angry, experimental record in the aftermath of that group's demise you will disappointed, because Lee Ranaldo has produced something that embraces his new solo status with an exuberance few would have predicted.