Sonic Youth: Classic or Dud/S&D?

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
I distinctly remember some fairly recent SY discussion, but the archives reveal no CoD thread so here goes. My opinion? Well, to be honest, I've only heard Daydream Nation but the delirious greatness of that album is enough for me to proclaim them as undeniably classic. Any other band that can produce an album full of "anthems in a vacuum" that shimmer, melt and reform with riffs and melodies that crawl out of nightmare guitar-torture chasms gets my vote. What the hell, why not a SY Search and Destroy, too?

Mitch Lastnamewithheld, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Classic ever since Daydream Nation. Though I'm hardly ever in the right mood to play their stuff when I do I binge on it like crack. Search: Sister/Dirty/Goo/NYC Ghosts & Flowers.

scott, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

'Experimental Jet Set' I like too, but a large part of its appeal is in the way it smoulders along and then dramatically explodes and then repeats the trick. This is fine but music that's based around drama tends not to stand up to repeated playing, given that dramatic (and the same can be said for comedic) effectiveness is dependant on not knowing what's about to happen next. In other words I don't think drama or comedy should ever be the dominant qualities in a piece of music. Haven't found that problem with any of their other albums though.

scott, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Am I the only person that thinks Daydream Nation is pretention, overblown, overbearing and about 20 minutes too long? It's one of my least favourite SY albums. My opinion (and filter that through my dronerock beautiful-noisenik arse) is:

Search: Bad Moon Rising, Evol (****), Sister (***** - if I had another star, it would get 6 stars, it is that classic!!!), Goo, and about 15 to 20 minutes of Dirty

Destroy: Daydream Nation, the rest of Dirty and everything else that followed up until about NYC Ghosts & Flowers, which basically scrapes by with a ***

I do actually *love* a great deal of Sonic Youth's eirie, spacey, alien, wonky, warped, blissful music. However, also DESTROY: the *entire* NYC Sonic Youth Cult Of Art and all the pretentious jazzwankers who hang out at the Cooler wishing they could be Lee Renaldo. You're not. Now shave off the chin-rag and go home.

Oh, GAWD, why didn't I think of Sonic Youth back in the "Love the band, hate the image" thread?

masonic boom, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Am I the only person that thinks Daydream Nation is pretention, overblown, overbearing and about 20 minutes too long?

No, it's a sentiment I've seen expressed a fair bit, but I'd disagree with it myself.

On Sonic Youth, I'm pretty much a spouter of the conventional indie- rock wisdom. Evol/Sister/Daydream Nation : five star classic. Dirty/Goo : grand poppier stuff but with loss experimental edge. Post- Dirty: good bits very good but the more self-consciously experimental bits don't rock enough to match up to the pop stuff. Pre-Evol: interesting, but don't listen to it that much.

Richard Tunnicliffe, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

No, Kate you're not - your description of DN is spot-on. AND I agree with you on 'Sister' - definitely the best - Schizophrenia, Catholic Block, Pipeline/Kill Time, and especially Cotton Crown and White Cross are fantastic. It seems like their whole sound, vision and attitood all came together in such a sharp focus on this album. EVOL nearly gets there, but afterwards DN blurs it out too much.

The other album I REALLY like is 'Dirty'. SY diehards may not agree, and it does feel like a step towards the 'mainstream', which is what I really like about it, I guess. Search for "Theresa's Sound World", but it's all great.

I lost interest after Dirty - I always intend to pick up some of the 90's albums cheap, and never do.

Destroy : Bad Moon Rising and the awful Death Valley '69.

Dr. C, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Death Valley 69? Oh come ON! Classic! Utter classic! A duet between two of the most TUNELESS singers of our time! Thurston Moore *and* Lydia Lunch! Come on! I'd like to see Nick Cave and Kylie do some of *that*! years ahead of its time!

masonic boom, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

the thing about sonic youth is, all their records only have one really great song, and the rest are kind of, well, ok. but this doesn't stop their records being ace.

daydream nation was the last good record though, goo was ok, but i think their time was over by 90. i like all that confusion=sex era stuff though, although i figure i'd like it more without kim gordon's voice on there...

gareth, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

"all the pretentious jazzwankers who hang out at the Cooler wishing they could be Lee Renaldo" = totally totally me (except obviously when I'm wishing I cd be Tamzin Outhwaite or whatever), yet I never "got round" to buying any of their "experimental 90s albs" till the NYC art-wank Ono/Olivieros cover versions compilation. Which = grate, btw.

"NYC Sonic Youth Cult Of Art": to be fair, this shd be "Cult of the NYC Sonic Youth Cult Of Art", cuz to them — as opposed to their disciples? — it's like "Madonna, George Maciunas, Meat Puppets? it's all rock'n'roll to me"

mark s, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

The problem is that the newer work is treated as poor because it has nothing *new* to say, or rather, little new to say. The problem is that the newer work is in many respects superior, just slightly so, and so all the old SY hands yawn and act blase. If you were just discovering SY, and got Thousand Leaves, say, first (I'll leave out NYG&F because I consider it a fairly atrocious attempt to "dumb down" back to their fanbase) or Washing Machine, or even Experimental Jet Set Trash, now wouldn't you consider THAT yer favorite album? Because Experimental Jet Set is mine, for just that reason. Sister comes a close second. Best song is The Sprawl from DN though, which has uniquely good lyrics (as does most of DN, actually) and this incredible emotional resonance with me.

If anyonae but SY had produced Silver Sessions, they would have been brilliant. As it is, avoid them. DV69 is indeed great, with Lunch at the height of her spotty powers.

Sterling Clover, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

SY one of those bands which in popfascist mode I always thought should put out a best-of which would become their best album, but that they never would do this. Then they did, and it's not as good as some of their proper albums. Curses foiled again!

They're the worlds most overground underground band, bless 'em. Classic I suppose. Daydream Nation is great precisely because the sprawl dilutes the attitude until wimps like me don't want to slap them any more. For the 'real thing' I'd take Bad Moon Rising just for "Brave Men Run (In My Family)". EVOL and Sister are good, yeah yeah, never actually listen to them though. After DN they almost turn into a singles band for a bit - "Dirty Boots" is mainstream and ace, "Kool Thing" is apalling, "100%" and "Youth Against Fascism" are the brilliant sound of them trying SO HARD to sell out, and then they didn't manage it and I've kind of lost track now.

Tom, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

See, Tom, that's what I liked about Goo, even though it was *slated* by many "old skool SY fans" of the time. It was the sound of them *trying* desperately to sell out, but still not quite getting it right, and in the process, they created something which was very pop, yet at the same time very twisted and not quite right. Dirty saw them trying to "do grunge" which, even though they helped invent the genre, had already turned into something inherantly uninteresting in the hands of the Pearl Sham MTV massive.

masonic boom, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

This thread is so depressing for me because I am thee person who can't separate Sonic Youth's image from their music and I thought maybe some smart person would be able to explain to me what's going on there, why isn't it OK for smarmy bourgeois people to make dark experimental music (ok maybe they're not even but I'm *talking* image). It makes me feel like I must be bitter or something not to get them and I'm sure that if I heard someone else do their music I'd be much more compassionate. Am I against community? I ask, because they are the sine qua non community band. This is my first problem.

I like songs like 'Silver Rocket' but the fact is, I don't believe Sonic Youth. Don't they make the kind of music you should be driven to by DESPERATION? And does anyone really believe they are desperate?

Maryann, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Search - Daydream Nation Destroy: The rest

hmmm, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Not quite a classic because I rarely (maybe once a year, if that) ever want to listen to them, but I do agree with that first post that when I start listening to them I get momentarily hooked, as if I just bought Washing Machine (which I still love, though no one else seems to) after hearing the radio edit of "Diamond Sea" back in, '95 was it? I was a late-comer but I went back and bought the reissued back catalog, and back then I liked the old stuff way better because I was indie rock and the old stuff is always better. Especially if it was on SST, which I kind of hate now, but anyway...Recent listening has caused me to reasses their output, which I will now organize in Search and Destroy fashion:

Search: "Brave Men Run", Daydream Nation, "Dirty Boots", Dirty, Washing Machine

Destroy: most of EVOL and Goo (to me, both the epitome of generic indie rock of their respective eras), Lydia Lunch, Lee's vox

larms, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

They peaked with Goo and have never been as good. WHy are they still around? SHouldn't they have gon e the way of the Pixies? Gad I hate when an Idea gets old.

-- Mike Hanley, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Despite all the disappointments since, SY were one of the few bands that really rocked my world in the mid eighties. But Daydream Nation was the beginning of the end, and I was always mildly irritated by the indie hordes who went out and bought that LP, never to realise that the 2 *classic* SY LPs were Evol & Sister. How about the Whitey Album, by Ciccone Youth (from 86? 87?) - There are some great tunes on there too (G-Force; Into the Groovey; ...). Or was I the only person who bought that LP?

Anybody seen SY live recently? I last saw them in the mid 90s and they were remarkably good ... Couldn't believe the number of people who walked out on them during the prolonged squalls of white noise & feedback. And does anyone remember the South Bank Show that was split between Daydream Nation era SY, & Spillane era John Zorn - Now *that* was entertainment ... I'm still pissed off at myself for taping over it 14 years ago.

BTW, who was their greatest drummer? Bob Bert or Steve Shelley?

I.M.Belong, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

ICA show 1982, Bert's last — he was, er, "re-auditioning" for his own job (and in fact failed the audition) — was the GREATEST SHOW I HAVE EVER SEEN EVER: like watching (and hearing) the entire matter of the universe transform its total geometry (er, which obviously I saw on John Craven's Newsround a few weeks before, so can compare, ahem). SS is obviously the more Buddy Miles- ish drummer they always wanted, but I think he makes things too easy for them.

mark s, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Used to enjoy Ciccone Youth hugely but it got lost.

If I'm anything to go by, the indie hordes knew full well that EVOL and Sister were meant to be "the *classic*" albums and avoided them for just that reason. How punky of us.

Tom, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Maryanne- DESPERATION?!?!? Where did you get that from? Since when was avante guarde art noise dronerock the sound of desperation? More like the sound of the bourgousie (I cannot spell that word) escaping their upper middle class Connecticut trust fund roots. (Not that I hold that against them or anything...)

Or is this a continuation of the fallacy that punke rocke somehow equals the GENUINE WORKING CLASS MOVEMENT OF THE PEOPLE?

The most cutting edge music comes not from desperation, but from boredom. A good deal of Sonic Youth- like the two movements they helped inspire (shoegazing in the UK and grunge in the US) - had far less to do with desperation, than longing for transcendance from boredom.

And oh yes, Ciccone Youth kick ass. Especially the video- which I bet really was recorded in one of those Boardwalk "Star In Your Own Video!" type places so common in the late 80s...

masonic boom, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Being a unbearded Brit I've no idea abt the insufferability or otherwise of "all the pretentious jazzwankers who hang out at the Cooler wishing they could be Lee Renaldo" but one of the (many) things I like abt SY is that they're musicians who remain enthusiasts/collectors/propagandists - people like US, sorf of. Example: the Sonny Sharrock name-dropping on the 'Master-Dik' ep led me to search out some Sharrock albs ('Guitar' and 'Ask The Ages') that are now amongst my favourite recs - thanks Thurston! An INCLUSIVE dream of non-cool hipsterdom.

SEARCH: I'm ever-so undiscriminating abt my SY recs - like 'em all, pretty much - but I'd put in a special word for Lee Ranaldo's contributions: the group's leading experimentalist turns out to be their most conventionally romantic/moving songwriter! And I dig his singing more than Thurston or Kim's.

DESTROY: If pushed, the first alb and ' Washing Machine', the latter a sort of compromise between the pseudo-blues of 'Experimental Jet Set' (their most underrated alb) and the post-rock sprawl of 'Thousand Leaves'. And much as I like some of his discs, am puzzled as to why Jim O'Rourke has now become the fifth member of SY, and playing bass of all things. Saying that I'm looking forward to the upcoming SY/JO 'modern classical' gig at the RFH - just to see HOW they go abt it, if nothing else - and I've read somewhere that on the night they're going to be joined by John Zorn and Anthony Braxton - can this be true?

Andrew L, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Ah, Sonic Youth. Remind me to throttle people who say that the newest albums are the best. This includes the bandmembers themselves. I see Sterling's point, but I still think the later stuff is, generally speaking, one huge load of 'eh.' I freely proclaim both _DN_ and to a lesser extent _Goo_ as being the period where they got everything right -- the earlier stuff is scattershot and I'd rather listen to the Swans anyway, the later stuff is either bad pop/rock or coasting on myths in order to top up the pension funds and support the kids. Also, based on the bands Thurston signed to DGC, he's got a phenomenonally tin ear. Cell and St. Johnny, I ask you.

I tend to think that when it came to fried, weird punk/Krautrock/whatever music, Trumans Water's first few albums make for better listening these days than the bulk of SY's material. Feels fresher, somehow.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Ciccone Youth sounds like an italian pornstar

hmm, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

hmmm@hmmmmm.com sounds like a fake e-mail :P

I never got into Sonic Youth because I hated all the people I knew who liked them, and because I hated what little I heard from them. I've heard a bit more lately, and file them firmly in the category of bands whose appeal I can understand, but that I'm still not very interested in. The guitar "wash" is so lethargic and half-assed, without any real intensity. Maybe I'll appreciate them when I'm thirty. Maybe it's one of those things where "you just had to be there". Maybe not.

Dave M., Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

dud, i've never heard a song i liked. they always seem to lack something, they get the cool sounds and forget the tune, get the tune and sing like cows, etc...also they make teeny-bopper videos even though they are all like 73. destroy lee renaldo's poetry notebook.

keith, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Masonic Boom - thanks for your reply. Good response. I can definitely see that the romantic idea of art as the expression of suffering is largely discredited. I think this is why Sonic Youth make me anxious; if I don't like them, does this mean that I'm maladjusted?

But do you really think Sonic Youth even seem bored? Most of their songs sound like they're supposed to be 'intense' and those that reflect a kind of ennui, such as Teenage Riot, seem just as contrived as their contrived intensity. There's no foothold - they always seem to be able to maintain control - in fact, they seem to have to maintain control even when they DON'T want to. Therefore, no possibility of identification with them. Too closed. Agree with Dave M. above.

Maryann, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Silver Session! I love that album.

Kodanshi, Thursday, 7 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

people should use the html capacities of this board more creatively. bring on the blinking rainbow text and embedded midi files.

ethan, Thursday, 7 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

scene from a new year's party:

"have you ever been listening to _washing machine_ and felt you were in the presence of a superior being?"

"when i was 17, man, all the time."

i feel only pity for all those who do not believe and more for those who are too cool to still believe.

sundar subramanian, Friday, 8 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Key phrase: "when i was 17, man, all the time."

When I was 17, playing Sister would result in the feeling of being in the presence of a higher power. So how can something like Washing Machine affect me?

masonic boom, Friday, 8 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

A Thousand Leaves is heaven's doorbell. Granted, not everyone's into doorbells...

Wesley, Sunday, 10 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Tuneless bunch of Duds. Their abominable and embarrassing set at ATP2000 was one of the worst I've ever had the pleasure to witness.

the pinefox, Sunday, 10 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

because it's just beautiful, kate. the melodies are heavenly, the guitars come together so gently and then explode, the sentiments are so sweet, lee ranaldo actually comes through every time. it doesn't sound at all like a rehash of sister to me. and that's just it, say what you will, sy have made an effort to say something new with every record, especially compared to any other band. sure, i meant the irony -- sy pretty much traffic in adolescent thrills. but what else is rock music good for?

make no mistake, they redefined the guitar. they didn't simply dumb down branca for rock audiences (which someone could argue the velvets did re lamonte young), they added their own signature with new prepared guitar textures and tunings and ecstatic dissonant climaxes. they went from the post-pil jamming on the first ep to the mix of hardcore punk and no wave and dark noise on the first album to the industrial grind/shimmer of bad moon rising to the blissful intimate genderfuck of evol (generic??? want to argue that case?) to the rock-from-another-planet of sister. vocals and lyrics added a twisted but relevant dimension. and that's just the 80s.

ignoring daydream nation, which i've discussed elsewhere (read that thread, kate?), they continued to signify when they went mainstream. despite their numerous obvious errors, they continued to make inspiring work. dirty is not at all a watering down of any of their ideas. the instrumental breaks are constructed entirely differently than in their other work. the noise is used entirely in the service of abrasive, challenging songs. and how it is used! they have continued to display moments of genius in their post- washing machine work. they have unfortunately released a glut of product in recent years, only some of it as exciting as their best work. yet to simply dismiss the band, as it has become fashionable to do in indie circles (cf smiths backlash in uk), is just absurd. the best parts of goodbye 20th century are truly great.

pinefox: if it was anything like their montreal set last summer, it must have been divine. could you explain exactly what you dislike about public enemy, sonic youth, and iron maiden? anything beyond "tunelessness?" i am genuinely curious. i'm not even sure that tunefulness is the primary appeal of "to here knows when" or even "suffer little children."

sundar subramanian, Sunday, 10 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I'm glad Sundar drunkenly stepped in and said something I had been thinking about, but which I hadn't put in a form I wanted to post. In the Sonic Youth I've heard I hear them doing different things, album to album, and usually doing them well, so it irks me slightly to hear so many people cut off the band's output after whatever point.

Josh, Monday, 11 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Yes, I know there may be difficulties in parsing that. Try.

Josh, Monday, 11 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

On second thought, it's a beautiful piece of prose.

Josh, Monday, 11 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

two years pass...
I'm currently listening to Experimental Jet Set for the first time in years. It's the first Sonic Youth record I ever heard -- the first song I ever heard was "Bull in the Heather" -- and it sounds so beautiful right now. I love that there are so many quiet moments on this record -- but pretty stuff, not pretentious spoken word or nothin'. Thurston even plays an acoustic on the first track! AMG gives it two stars -- underrated, I say.

jaymc (jaymc), Monday, 22 September 2003 03:01 (nineteen years ago) link

I just wish that album didn't have "Bull in the Heather" as a lead single. Really always rubbed me the wrong way, one of Kim Gordon's worst moments. And trust me, she's had plenty of great ones! But the way she delivers the chorus...really eh.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 22 September 2003 03:10 (nineteen years ago) link

Hey, as long as this is coming up again, I've become more and more convinced that the first ep is due for a critical reappraisal, especially since its influences are much more "now" than they were when it came out. Fantastic sound, Kim is restrained, cool tension and release. If they put it out today, it'd get filed under post-rock for sure. It doesn't redefine guitar rock, like what came next, but it sounds awfully good these days and really deserves a re-release.

dlp9001, Monday, 22 September 2003 03:18 (nineteen years ago) link

yeah, it's really crazy that the self-titled EP got left behind in the whole onslaught of DGC reissues in the 90's...I remember them talking a few years ago about the idea of re-releasing it on Smells Like, but that never came to be. it's a pretty good record, kind of different from where the went w/ Confusion Is Sex, and I still can't get over the fact that Ferris Beuller's parking attendant played the drums.

Al (sitcom), Monday, 22 September 2003 05:07 (nineteen years ago) link

DN was my fave for several years, but lately I've been listening mostly to Dirty, which rocks like a muthaf@&#$^.

o. nate (onate), Monday, 22 September 2003 12:51 (nineteen years ago) link

Experimental Jet Set is way underrated; it's my favorite album of theirs after Sister. I like the first 3-4 songs on Daydream Nation, but then I always turn it off.

My Sonic Youth Top Five:

1. Sister
2. Bad Moon Rising
3. "Kool Thing" (only really great if you read the Kim Gordon profile of LL Cool J for Spin, which inspired it)
4. Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star
5. Goodbye 20th Century

I'm actually shocked nobody brought up that last one, whether pro or con. I think it's fantastic, really beautiful in parts and really ugly/beautiful in others. Much better than any "regular" album they've put out since Goo.

Phil Freeman (Phil Freeman), Monday, 22 September 2003 12:58 (nineteen years ago) link

hmm, I'm surprised by the lack of love for 'Murray Street', which IMO is their best post-Sister album..

Oh and Phil, do you know where I can find that LL profile?

Fabrice (Fabfunk), Monday, 22 September 2003 13:00 (nineteen years ago) link

Wish I did. Run a Google search; maybe some psycho SY fan has scanned it.

Phil Freeman (Phil Freeman), Monday, 22 September 2003 13:41 (nineteen years ago) link

i usually start DN at side two, and then play side three
"Hey Joni" would have to be one of my favourite songs, and it used to be at the bedinning of side three

george gosset (gegoss), Monday, 22 September 2003 15:19 (nineteen years ago) link

Fabrice- there is plenty of love for 'murray street' (i do think its one of their very very best though I like everything I've heard, even NYC ghosts and flowers, which I hated at first...but then again i haven't heard all of their recs). There are other SY threads but i don't think george pulled them up (how very naughty of him).

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Monday, 22 September 2003 15:35 (nineteen years ago) link

I bought Murray Street solely because the horn players from Borbetomagus appear on one track. What a waste of $15.

Phil Freeman (Phil Freeman), Monday, 22 September 2003 15:37 (nineteen years ago) link

still the best live rock band out there, especially w/ the new o'rourke-ified lineup.

dan (dan), Monday, 22 September 2003 15:41 (nineteen years ago) link

'Murray street' definetely grew on me and its a good companion to 'sister'.

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Monday, 22 September 2003 15:47 (nineteen years ago) link

the DN candle is a painting by gerhard richter

mark s, Thursday, 7 July 2022 12:56 (seven months ago) link

Off top of my head I seem to recall, SY was on an episode of that David Sanborn's 'Night Music' show or am I remembering that wrong?

― earlnash, Wednesday, July 6, 2022

I'm surprised Debbie Harry and David Sanborn himself didn't join for a duet.

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 7 July 2022 13:05 (seven months ago) link

These are the details for the South Bank Show Put Blood in the Music.

https://www2.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/4ce2b7994c2f8

Jaysus, RTÉ co-produced that? You wouldn’t see the likes in 2022.

wronger than 100 geir posts (MacDara), Thursday, 7 July 2022 13:30 (seven months ago) link

Sanborn plays on SY's ensemble cover of I Wanna Be Your Dog on that ep, IIRC XP

politics is about vibes and the vibes are off (stevie), Thursday, 7 July 2022 13:37 (seven months ago) link

MacDara, perhaps they were co-producers on the South Bank Show as a whole? As Dan Selzer says, this episode was a buy-in (and yes, they junked the Ambitious Lovers and Hugo Largo sections entirely).

I think the Velvet Underground South Bank Show was an in-house job, tho?

Ward Fowler, Thursday, 7 July 2022 14:18 (seven months ago) link

the DN candle is a painting by gerhard richter

I had never really thought about the cover art until I saw one of his candle paintings (not the cover one) the first time I went to the art institute of chicago and had serious brain-melting OH SHIT moment.

joygoat, Thursday, 7 July 2022 17:20 (seven months ago) link

He was a fan of the band and did not charge for the use of his image.[citation needed] The original, over 7 metres (23 ft) square, is now showcased in Sonic Youth's studio in NYC.[citation needed]

mark s, Thursday, 7 July 2022 17:52 (seven months ago) link

Sister was revelatory for me. You can do that with guitars?!

Daydream Nation even moreso. I got the vinyl for Christmas that year, and among the inner-groove inscriptions was “Star-strangled Bangles.” As someone who loved All Over The Place, but was disappointed with Different Light, I felt that.

Goo felt like, “Let’s do what we know we can do, and what our fans know we can do, but slightly tightened up, and with some digital crispness on the mix. You know, to kind of introduce us to this new audience.” As a holding action, I dug it. I saw them three times in three months that year: headlining November ‘90, opening for Public Enemy December ‘90, and opening for Neil Young & Crazy Horse January (or possibly February) ‘91. On the Public Enemy show, Steve Shelley was channeling Keith Moon like no drummer I’d seen before or since. Which made all subsequent SY records that much more confusing and disappointing; did they anesthetize him after 1991?

Dirty was, “Wait, do you think we can…make a…hit record?!” (No, you can’t.)

Experimental struck me as, “Remember the spirit that used to motivate us? Because I’m not sure I do.”

Washing Machine was, “Oh, ok, I remember that spirit now!” (The only album I’m able to discern in the liner photo of record shelves is Bill Dixon’s Collection, so props for that.)

The first three SYR EPs thrillingly built on one another, adding intrigue to anticipation. Which inexplicably resulted in…

A Thousand Leaves was, “Hey, you know what we haven’t tried yet? Sucking. Let’s suck! Like, not just being mediocre, but really cluelessly sucking!”

After that, I gave up.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Thursday, 7 July 2022 22:51 (seven months ago) link

the first time I went to the art institute of chicago and had serious brain-melting OH SHIT moment.

Ha, I had a similar moment there, around 2012-13 or so. I knew the cover was a Richter painting, but had no idea where it came from or ended up. And suddenly, 20+ years later, there it was!

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Thursday, 7 July 2022 22:53 (seven months ago) link

Quite notm

Malevolent Arugula (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Thursday, 7 July 2022 23:03 (seven months ago) link

thought A Thousand Leaves, NYC Ghosts & Flowers, Murray Street, Sonic Nurse, and Rather Ripped together were an incredible run

Dan S, Thursday, 7 July 2022 23:25 (seven months ago) link

during that period, SYR 4: Goodbye 20th Century (1999) was too esoteric to be generally well-liked, but it was an homage to artists like Christian Wolff, John Cage, Takehisa Kosugi, Pauline Oliveros, Yoko Ono, and Steve Reich and was very interesting

Dan S, Thursday, 7 July 2022 23:44 (seven months ago) link

I loathe SYR3, probably my least favorite release of theirs. SYR4 at least has the excellent Oliveros song and some other cool moments.

thinkmanship (sleeve), Friday, 8 July 2022 00:52 (six months ago) link

I blame Jim O'Rourke for SYR3

thinkmanship (sleeve), Friday, 8 July 2022 00:53 (six months ago) link

> serious brain-melting OH SHIT moment.

i remember walking into a gallery around Bond Street with tim of this parish around 2003 and seeing a load of Sonic Nurse (etc) paintings by Richard Prince.

koogs, Friday, 8 July 2022 00:55 (six months ago) link

Jim O'Rourke brought a lot to the table with Murray Street and Sonic Nurse

Dan S, Friday, 8 July 2022 01:18 (six months ago) link

I guess, I can't really hear it aside from an overall increase in sound density but I like those records just fine

thinkmanship (sleeve), Friday, 8 July 2022 01:20 (six months ago) link

A Thousand Leaves was, “Hey, you know what we haven’t tried yet? Sucking. Let’s suck! Like, not just being mediocre, but really cluelessly sucking!”

I've possibly mentioned this before but A Thousand Leaves was the point where Sonic Youth went from being a band I like to being my favorite band.

silverfish, Friday, 8 July 2022 02:21 (six months ago) link

yeah ATL is wonderful, as is "Silver Sessions: For Jason Knuth". I love late SY - saw them on the Sonic Nurse tour and I have never heard a band sound *so good* on stage, I felt like they were plugged into my brain. O'Rourke was a member then and I wondered if he may have had some influence on that.
Also Tarfumes, there's no digital on Goo, just 2 x 24 track analogue.

assert (matttkkkk), Friday, 8 July 2022 03:10 (six months ago) link

Yeah, I figured Goo wasn’t recorded digitally, given how much better it sounds than many of the all-digital recordings from around that time (the Kinks’ UK Jive and Rosanne Cash’s Interiors are two awful-sounding records that spring to mind). But Goo has a brighter sheen on it than Daydream Nation or (especially) Sister. I probably associate that with digital as it was the first SY record I bought/heard on CD.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 8 July 2022 12:51 (six months ago) link

SYR4 is top three SY for me. Great idea, very well executed.

Ward Fowler, Friday, 8 July 2022 12:56 (six months ago) link

xp The Replacements' Pleased To Meet Me (which I otherwise love) comes to mind too, but at least it feels kind of hilarious in that context, like the Mats of all people recording digitally when that sort of thing was usually done by Peter Gabriel or Paul McCartney circa 1986. It's also kind of funny when you get to those pauses on "I Don't Know." I saw at least one article from the time joking, "look ma! No hiss!"

birdistheword, Friday, 8 July 2022 14:25 (six months ago) link

As ever, a lot being said that I disagree with, but that’s life.

Goo is the SY album I’ve spent the least time with, not sure why. (See also The Whitey Album.)

Legalize Suburban Benches (Raymond Cummings), Friday, 8 July 2022 14:41 (six months ago) link

SY is just a band that means different things to different people — I'm on the Celebrate All Eras spectrum ... though these days I listen to live stuff more than the albums actually.

tylerw, Friday, 8 July 2022 15:32 (six months ago) link

A lot of the time I feel like ATL is their best album but I think it's a case of Pet Sounds syndrome where you've burnt yourself out so much on Pet Soubnds and Smile that you start to think Sunflower or w/e is the best Bb's album.

The 25 Best Songs Ever Ranked In Order (Deflatormouse), Friday, 8 July 2022 16:39 (six months ago) link

DN is one of my least favorite albums of theirs, I honestly think I prefer Goo? Maybe it's just cause I really don't like "Teenage Riot"

The 25 Best Songs Ever Ranked In Order (Deflatormouse), Friday, 8 July 2022 16:50 (six months ago) link

I loved Goo too, but also thought Kim Gordon’s intro to Teenage Riot was one of the best album openers ever, and that the song itself was a great anchor for one of the very best Sonic Youth albums

Dan S, Friday, 8 July 2022 23:22 (six months ago) link

"The Diamond Sea" off Washing Machine is just such a good track. Easily my favourite of their 90s albums. Will put "A Thousand Leaves" on at some point.

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 9 July 2022 10:57 (six months ago) link

im playing it right now

i have a half-realised theory that the blurred photorealism of richter's kerzen is a match for the masking sheen of DN's production (which i found a letdown at the time: i wanted it to go BIG, not DISTANCED) -- value of this theory is that it might offer a way back into the dream for me

mark s, Saturday, 9 July 2022 11:07 (six months ago) link

SYR4 is top three SY for me. Great idea, very well executed.

― Ward Fowler, Friday, 8 July 2022 bookmarkflaglink

Overall I am concluding their brush with 90s alternative rock led to a few sorta wasted years. Had a listen to some of the Ciccone Youth alb for the first time and, well,"(Silence)" is where it looks like they wanted to go, some of the time. But they didn't, for several years.

I will have a re-listen to SYR4 later as well xps

xyzzzz__, Saturday, 9 July 2022 11:09 (six months ago) link

i shd have a look back at the stuff i was writing abt them in 89-90 i think: i had a more generous read on this brush but it was more generous bcz "the year punk broke" and the ruinous victory of grunge hadn't yet taken place so their role as melancholy curators of a much longer tradition of boondocks countercultural resistance still absolutely seemed like a noble and a worthwhile project (and not something where the resurgence was going to muffle the deep past)

i remember watching them on a late-night show (possibly sunday night) on the communal TV in the communal TV room in the communal house my sister lived in in new york in the late 80s -- with joe, who'd lived in the house since it had been a radical brooklyn squat where you went in the late 60s to get radical psychedelic therapy (eg from him) (he was still in fact a therapist), and the place (the room, the house, joe's company) had this amazing melancholy movement vibe still somehow, and SY fit that as a surviving project, and tp prove it joe thought they were cool

all round the room was a huge bookshelf of books left behind by denizens down the decades and it was just this amazing repository of forgotten late 60s and 70s cultural artefacts, all scattered now no doubt -- hope joe is doing ok, he was a nice guy, my sister will know probably

mark s, Saturday, 9 July 2022 11:51 (six months ago) link

this melancholy btw is very much their dominant mode (as opposed to any kind of triumphalism): it's abt past ideals holding on not current ideals sweeping all aside

mark s, Saturday, 9 July 2022 11:52 (six months ago) link

In case any of you want to see a guy stroke his chin while watching the Kool Thing video, and then talk about it for a half hour:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpsL79hoxCU

Bunheads Pilot Enthusiast (morrisp), Sunday, 10 July 2022 06:57 (six months ago) link

Mark, thanks for that image and framing.

Legalize Suburban Benches (Raymond Cummings), Sunday, 10 July 2022 09:17 (six months ago) link

Indeed.

Ned Raggett, Sunday, 10 July 2022 19:36 (six months ago) link

melancholy curators of a much longer tradition of boondocks countercultural resistance

Maybe the prime example of this at the time was their use of cheaply copied video footage of Iggy, the Fall, Sun Ra etc. in the "Teenage Riot" video.

A negative version of this tendency in that era is Twin Infinitives by Royal Trux, where 25 years of alternative music dead-ends in a room full of electronic garbage and dirty needles.

Halfway there but for you, Monday, 11 July 2022 02:03 (six months ago) link

What does “boondocks” mean in this context(?) We’re talking about downtown NYC bands here, so I must be misunderstanding that bit…

Bunheads Pilot Enthusiast (morrisp), Monday, 11 July 2022 02:18 (six months ago) link

Haha I wondered that too but it was such a lovely post I wasn't going to quibble.

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Monday, 11 July 2022 02:47 (six months ago) link

"not famous at the time"

thinkmanship (sleeve), Monday, 11 July 2022 03:01 (six months ago) link

two weeks pass...

Take a sip every time Kim says "Hey...Hey you..." or a variation thereof.

SQUIRREL MEAT!! (Capitaine Jay Vee), Tuesday, 26 July 2022 13:41 (six months ago) link

Lol!

My Little Red Buchla (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 26 July 2022 13:45 (six months ago) link

one month passes...

https://i.imgur.com/0VcsB7D.jpg

Karl Malone, Saturday, 24 September 2022 17:15 (four months ago) link

one of the first things I did when getting on the early pre-windows internet was printing off a listing of Sonic Youth guitar tunings from usenet. I showed it to this guy I knew and he sneered at me, saying it was pretentious to use alternate guitar tunings. when I pointed out he was a massive Dylan fan he got fuckin mad, saying that was "different" somehow. lol.

( X '____' )/ (zappi), Saturday, 24 September 2022 17:33 (four months ago) link

he was idiot and you shd have pushed him over

mark s, Saturday, 24 September 2022 17:34 (four months ago) link

What did he think the pretence was?

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Sunday, 25 September 2022 01:46 (four months ago) link

three months pass...

Shared this in the "I Rate Everything" board accidentally (no idea that existed). This was just posted by Roxy Cinema in NYC but not widely announced - they're screening The Velvet Suite with a Q&A afterwards with Lee Ranaldo and filmmaker Ignacio Julia moderated by Thurston Moore:

https://www.roxycinemanewyork.com/screenings/the-velvet-suite/

birdistheword, Thursday, 19 January 2023 17:06 (two weeks ago) link

what is the Roxy Cinema? How long has that existed?

dan selzer, Thursday, 19 January 2023 17:24 (two weeks ago) link

The Roxy Hotel decided to turn its basement into an arthouse cinema around 2017. It's been building its profile since then. (I think it helps that a few distributors/programmers who were friendly with Metrograph seemed to have gravitated more towards Roxy.)

I saw a rare screening of Godard's King Lear there recently and there's a pretty cool retrospective on Sara Driver coming up too. Right now they're also playing Aftersun, EO and Moonage Daydream.

birdistheword, Thursday, 19 January 2023 17:46 (two weeks ago) link

FWIW, this turned out to be pretty awesome. The concert that was filmed turned out to be pretty great, but they also presented some re-discovered footage of the Velvets at their very first concert after they began their association with Andy Warhol. It's a pretty brief glimpse, but it's amazing to see them and the kids they were playing too (who apparently walked out as soon as the feedback-drenched solos began). The Jonas Mekas film was also a pretty great tribute to Andy with some surprising faces (like Lennon and Ono).

The Q&A was long, with Ignacio Julia doing most of the talking, but Moore and Ranaldo hung out for a long time afterwards, happily talking with anyone but also selling the new book, Linger On, published by Ecstatic Peace Library. Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley were also there in the audience which was pretty cool - last time I saw them with anyone from Sonic Youth (specifically Ranaldo and Steve Shelley), it was actually at the Lou Reed tribute at Lincoln Center where Kaplan, Hubley, Ranaldo, Shelley and others performed "Sister Ray." (Since then, at least Ranaldo has played in their annual Hanukkah shows, but not at the ones I attended.)

birdistheword, Tuesday, 31 January 2023 07:02 (one week ago) link

*the kids they were playing to

birdistheword, Tuesday, 31 January 2023 07:03 (one week ago) link


You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.