Sonic Youth: Classic or Dud/S&D?

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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-two 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-two 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-two 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-two 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-two 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-two 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-two 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-two 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-two 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-two 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-two 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-two 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-two years ago) link

Search - Daydream Nation Destroy: The rest

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

Ciccone Youth sounds like an italian pornstar

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

Silver Session! I love that album.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josh, Monday, 11 June 2001 00:00 (twenty-two 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 (twenty 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 (twenty 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 (twenty 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 (twenty 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 (twenty 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 (twenty 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 (twenty 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 (twenty 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 (twenty 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 (twenty 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 (twenty 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 (twenty 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 (twenty years 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 (one year 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 (one year 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 (one year 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 (one year 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 (one year 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:

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

Mark, thanks for that image and framing.

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


Ned Raggett, Sunday, 10 July 2022 19:36 (one year 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 (one year 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 (one year 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 (one year ago) link

"not famous at the time"

thinkmanship (sleeve), Monday, 11 July 2022 03:01 (one year 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 (one year ago) link


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

one month passes...

Karl Malone, Saturday, 24 September 2022 17:15 (one year 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 (one year ago) link

he was idiot and you shd have pushed him over

mark s, Saturday, 24 September 2022 17:34 (one year ago) link

What did he think the pretence was?

No purposes. Sounds. (Sund4r), Sunday, 25 September 2022 01:46 (one year 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:

birdistheword, Thursday, 19 January 2023 17:06 (one year ago) link

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

dan selzer, Thursday, 19 January 2023 17:24 (one year 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 (one year 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 year ago) link

*the kids they were playing to

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

ten months pass...

The legendary mid 80s "bootleg" Walls Have Ears is getting an official reissue via the band in February:

Culled from three 1985 gigs in the UK during a transitional and transcendent time in the band’s story, Sonic Youth’s ‘Walls Have Ears’ appeared as a 2LP set in 1986, not just a live album but an artful tapestry full of live experimentation with songs, between-song tape segues, darkness, humor and audio verité on par with elements of side B of ‘Master Dik’ to come later. With a bit of complexity to the situation of the release itself. Deleted as quickly as it appeared, it’s now issued for the first time officially under the band’s auspices.

The ’85 shows were the second time the band appeared on British soil, picking up on a newfound high profile in the press after their 1983 London debut supporting SPK and Danielle Dax. That particular gig, while admittedly a technically-challenged, volumatically room-clearing one for the band, nonetheless wowed music scribes in attendance. This anarchic set cast the New Yorkers in a bit of an exotic light, Brits now getting juiced to the mythos of the emerging guitar-slinging American independent underground; an art/punk band from NYC sporting casual attitudes and tees sporting Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, and Prince made some good copy on top of their bludgeoning stage appearance. For Brits, Sonic Youth repped an all new avenue apart from the usual 4AD/Rough Trade/Some Bizarre hold on the scene, and were embraced. After a mostly dormant 1984, the band then established a new evolution within themselves via ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and found a home stateside on Homestead. In Britain, SY found its keyhole to the all-encompassing (even on an indie standpoint) music biz via Paul Smith, who was wowed by a cassette passed to him by Lydia Lunch. A promoter and label liaison who had forged many connections locally working for the likes of EMI and Cabaret Voltaire’s Doublevision label, Smith ultimately founded his own imprint Blast First to take on ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and evangelized the band with P.T. Barnum-esque gusto, eventually acting as a strong portal for UK footing for others of the American underground (Big Black, Butthole Surfers, Dinosaur Jr.). Blast First continued to act as an overseas diplomatic envoy for Sonic Youth through their SST years as well as issuing their classic 1988 Daydream Nation outside the USA. But true to Barnum, Smith’s injection into the band’s creative sphere as a sort of de facto manager type was somewhat in guerilla mode, and the Smith-produced ‘bootleg’ of their ’85 UK gigs surfaced much to everyone’s surprise, just before EVOL, their SST debut, was to be released. It turned out to be a marker of the group’s dissatisfaction that ultimately led to the band and Smith parting ways after Daydream.

In this 2LP set brimming with primitive classics like “The Burning Spear”, “I Love Her All The Time”, “Death Valley 69” and “I’m Insane” (uncredited on sleeve), segues and live guitar changes ooze together threaded by Madonna tapes and vocal loops off the board (somewhat a necessity for distraction until the band had a full fledged stage crew to prepare guitars). Claude Bessy (French punk raconteur who moved to LA for a period to cofound Slash Magazine and notoriously appeared in the Penelope Spheeris ‘Decline of Western Civilization’ documentary) humorously MC’s their intro to a October 30th ULU London gig with a lob at the indie label zeitgeist: vocally detailing how Rough Trade had come down on distributing the “Flower” 12” for sporting a xeroxed, nude female on the cover. The message was that music was reality, not manufactured subcultures, and Sonic Youth was there to present Britain with a healthy dose of it. The first two sides of ‘Walls’ are massive, cavernous, with newly-drafted drummer Steve Shelley in tow taking on past tunes and unveiling “Expressway To Yr Skull” in glorious form. They tear it up especially on one trash-fi excerpt of “Blood On Brighton Beach” (actually “Making the Nature Scene”) from a legendary outdoor gig November 8th where Moore, Gordon and Ranaldo’s guitars treble-blast dissonant shockwaves over the black-stoned beach of Quadrophenia fame.

The record’s second slab spotlights an April 1985 pre-Shelley gig supporting Nick Cave at London’s Hammersmith Palais and was one of the final appearances live of Bob Bert, again featuring some molten takes on “Brother James”, “Kill Yr Idols”, “Flower” (Iisted as “The Word (E.V.O.L.)”), “Ghost Bitch” and others. The emergence of the Jesus and Mary Chain in the world gave Brit scribes a lazy and easy parallel, addressed here with a wink with the inclusion of “Speed JAMC”, another offstage tape interlude playfully scrolling through one of that band’s songs at fast-forward. In six more years the continual evolution of Sonic Youth would find them darlings of The Reading Festival, on tour with Nirvana in tow and continuing to smash down walls, but this document remains an essential representation of some lean and mean years of the quartet’s throttling march out into the world.

Brian Turner

Tahuti Watches L&O:SVU Reruns Without His Ape (unperson), Tuesday, 5 December 2023 14:51 (three months ago) link

V excited by this. Amazing music on that boot.

impostor syndrome to the (expletive) max (stevie), Tuesday, 5 December 2023 14:59 (three months ago) link

Absolutely amazed to see an announcement of this in my inbox.

Ned Raggett, Tuesday, 5 December 2023 15:02 (three months ago) link

Oh wow have never seen a copy of this anywhere other than the radio station I DJed at. It really does have some amazing stuff on it.

grandavis, Tuesday, 5 December 2023 16:02 (three months ago) link

lol of course WTJU had one

I treasure my copy for sure

out-of-print LaserDisc edition (sleeve), Tuesday, 5 December 2023 16:02 (three months ago) link

Yep hah hah! I have looked at most record stores I have visited over the years and have never seen a copy in the wild.

grandavis, Tuesday, 5 December 2023 16:10 (three months ago) link

I don't think I have either, I bought mine on release

out-of-print LaserDisc edition (sleeve), Tuesday, 5 December 2023 16:10 (three months ago) link

Ah cool.

grandavis, Tuesday, 5 December 2023 16:13 (three months ago) link

I remember when I was researching my SY book Paul Smith of Blast First telling me he pressed up the boot to make SY some extra money, because he thought it was immoral that Thurston and Kim had to work at a photocopy shop to make rent and that they should be able to live off their music, and that's why he did the boot. but they heard about it before he could explain that to them, and they thought he was ripping them off, and he reckoned it caused a profound crack in their friendship.

impostor syndrome to the (expletive) max (stevie), Tuesday, 5 December 2023 16:14 (three months ago) link

Thurston had hevay flu at the ICA show that some of the tracks come from, and was shivering backstage and was sweating and wearing every item of clothing he owned just to stay warm, and all the London scenesters thought he must have been some dopesick smackhead. He gets on stage and they begin playing and he's burnin' up under the lights and begins removing all his shirts and jumpers, one item at a time, as the show wears on, and everyone tells him afterwards that it was a genius bit of stagecraft on his part.

impostor syndrome to the (expletive) max (stevie), Tuesday, 5 December 2023 16:15 (three months ago) link

I remember when I was researching my SY book Paul Smith of Blast First telling me he pressed up the boot to make SY some extra money, because he thought it was immoral that Thurston and Kim had to work at a photocopy shop to make rent and that they should be able to live off their music, and that's why he did the boot. but they heard about it before he could explain that to them, and they thought he was ripping them off, and he reckoned it caused a profound crack in their friendship.

That excuse might have worked had he not pulled the exact same trick on Big Black...

Tahuti Watches L&O:SVU Reruns Without His Ape (unperson), Tuesday, 5 December 2023 16:30 (three months ago) link

That excuse might have worked had he not pulled the exact same trick on Big Black...

Sound Of Impact? i had always thought that was with the band's consent.

i sold my Walls Have Ears, to my eternal regret so this is good news.

stirmonster, Tuesday, 5 December 2023 17:04 (three months ago) link

Sound Of Impact? i had always thought that was with the band's consent.

I'd have to dig out my copy of Our Band Could Be Your Life to check, but I believe it was supposed to be a promo-only thing sent to radio stations, and then Albini spotted copies in record stores and confronted Smith about it.

Tahuti Watches L&O:SVU Reruns Without His Ape (unperson), Tuesday, 5 December 2023 17:18 (three months ago) link

actually, that sounds familiar.

stirmonster, Tuesday, 5 December 2023 17:43 (three months ago) link

Of course there's an Albini interview about it (from Quietus):

Tell me about Blast First re-issuing records without your permission.

SA: It's kind of complicated, in that my relationship with Paul Smith who runs Blast First kind of broke down over a Big Black bootleg that he had done. He had originally done the bootleg with our blessing, under the precondition that we weren't trying to milk the audience; we just wanted to put out a live record and we wanted to stop the inevitable bootlegging of the band by putting out a very high quality live record. And that was The Sound Of Impact. The record was intended to come out as a limited run, to cover its costs and nothing else. Just put the record out, sell as many copies as necessary to cover the cost of making it, and that's it. Right?


SA: A second run of that record was done, and started showing up in stores, with some very slight manufacturing differences that allowed me to tell that these copies were not part of the initial run. So I confronted Paul Smith about it, and he told me a story about someone at the pressing plant deciding - because he was a fan of the band - that the world needed more of the record, and pressed up another edition. That story didn't sit well with me, and it seemed completely incredible. Previously to that, there had been a problem with the band Sonic Youth, where he had done a bootleg for Sonic Youth under similar circumstances where it was obvious that they were going to get bootlegged anyway, so he thought, "Let's cut them off at the pass, and do a really nice bootleg, get it out there and you guys can make a little money."

The band kind of went along with it at first, then decided better – decided against it – but Paul went ahead and made this edition and released it, and the band found out about it and the band got mad about it and they almost broke off their relationship with him. This had happened a couple years previous to this thing with the Big Black record, and I knew about it, and he knew that I knew about it. So the story that this second edition was done by somebody at the pressing plant seemed completely incredible. So I asked him to put me in touch with this kid who he claims was a big Big Black fan, and he claims did this edition of the record all on his own. I said "Just let me talk to this guy, and it's all over; if it's somebody else then I have no complaint with you. I'll verify the story then we can move on". And that effort went on for a couple of years, literally a couple of years, during which time Big Black ended, and the posthumous record came out and the Rapeman record came out, and ultimately he was just never able to produce this other person. And it ended our relationship. I said, "I can't deal with someone who's bullshitting me, and this seems like bullshit, so I guess we're done". The problem with just ending the relationship there is that, at the time, the Rapeman record was still un-recouped. Meaning we had been given an advance from Blast First, and the bulk of that money was spent just relocating Rey and Dave from Texas to Chicago, and not spent on the record itself. But regardless, the money was spent, so the Rapeman record hadn't yet recouped at the point where our relationship broke down to the extent that we weren't going to be working together anymore. We haven't spoken about it, but it seems to me like it would be callous of me to reissue the record without clearing the books with Blast First, despite whatever my feelings might be about any duplicity on Blast First's part regarding the Big Black record. I wouldn't want to reissue their record and do a new, worldwide edition of the record. That record hasn't been available in the UK since Blast First ran out of them, I don't think that they've bothered to reprint them, although they would certainly be within their rights to do so. It's been available continuously in the US, and so if we were to reissue it and make it available in the UK it would be through Touch And Go, and I would be self-conscious about doing that without clearing the books with Blast First, and I honestly don't know how much money we owed them. There's potentially a prohibitive debt there, I really don't know.

Beyond Goo and Evol (President Keyes), Tuesday, 5 December 2023 17:54 (three months ago) link

I have a CD boot of Walls Have Ears which is currently in a box to sell on Discogs (if it's not blocked on there which it might be). I ripped it first obviously

Colonel Poo, Tuesday, 5 December 2023 17:55 (three months ago) link

it is blocked, it's this one

Colonel Poo, Tuesday, 5 December 2023 17:58 (three months ago) link

one month passes...

Well not directly them but this is one of the best/most unexpected things I've heard in a while -- liv.e doing a cover of "Kissability"

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 25 January 2024 00:02 (one month ago) link

two weeks pass...

Listening to Walls Have Ears now and it's really incredible. Would have loved this in high school (1988-90) when I was listening to them the most.

Tahuti Watches L&O:SVU Reruns Without His Ape (unperson), Friday, 9 February 2024 16:29 (three weeks ago) link

yeah it rules

Surfin' burbbhrbhbbhbburbbb (sleeve), Friday, 9 February 2024 16:40 (three weeks ago) link

Hoping this is sitting at home waiting for me when I get there.

Maxmillion D. Boosted (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Friday, 9 February 2024 17:25 (three weeks ago) link

Mine arrived this morning, just spinning it now. Great start to kick it off with one of my favourite SY songs (no, not yer man from Slash’s speech).

wronger than 100 geir posts (MacDara), Saturday, 10 February 2024 12:17 (three weeks ago) link

two weeks pass...

Liked Walls Have Ears so much I made their first decade the subject of this week's BA newsletter.

Tahuti Watches L&O:SVU Reruns Without His Ape (unperson), Wednesday, 28 February 2024 16:31 (six days ago) link

Really liked this early years visit. I just finished reading Moore's memoir and have been on quite the SY kick lately. 'Sister' just gives and gives - definitely a fave album. For absorbing the NYC no wave and post punk and glam rock and hardcore scenes around them at their inception, they came up with such a unique sound that would serve them throughout their career. Truly an exciting band.

BlackIronPrison, Wednesday, 28 February 2024 16:38 (six days ago) link

I appreciate seeing I Love Her All The Time getting some kudos in your piece. One of my SY all time favourites. Loving the Walls Have Ears version of it too.

stirmonster, Wednesday, 28 February 2024 16:48 (six days ago) link

Nice essay!

Marten Broadcloak, mild-mannered GOP congressman (Raymond Cummings), Wednesday, 28 February 2024 16:55 (six days ago) link

i will read later when i have time. somehow i ended up spending too much time reading about phish! that is definitely my SY era.

scott seward, Wednesday, 28 February 2024 17:31 (six days ago) link

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