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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen years ago) link

Search - Daydream Nation Destroy: The rest

hmmm, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen years ago) link

Ciccone Youth sounds like an italian pornstar

hmm, Wednesday, 6 June 2001 00:00 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen years ago) link

Silver Session! I love that album.

Kodanshi, Thursday, 7 June 2001 00:00 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen years ago) link

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

Wesley, Sunday, 10 June 2001 00:00 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen 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 (eighteen years ago) link

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

Josh, Monday, 11 June 2001 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

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

Josh, Monday, 11 June 2001 00:00 (eighteen 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 (sixteen 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 (sixteen 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 (sixteen 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 (sixteen 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 (sixteen 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 (sixteen 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 (sixteen 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 (sixteen 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 (sixteen 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 (sixteen 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 (sixteen 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 (sixteen 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 (sixteen years ago) link

"JC" is SY Top 5, easy. Anyway, good discussion on Dirty. I fall somewhere in the middle. I bought Goo first but Dirty is when I became a fan and yet - despite my level of teenage obsession - I never managed to absorb all of Dirty, especially the second half. At this point, if needed, I would cut most of the Kim songs (mainly "Swimsuit Issue", "Orange Rolls" and perhaps "Drunken Butterfly"), which feel kinda juvenile to 40sth me. But I think these songs could have been split into two albums

licorice oratorio (baaderonixx), Monday, 14 October 2019 09:55 (four months ago) link

Daydream Nation wasn’t on a major in the UK, Blast First put it out.

Position Position, Monday, 14 October 2019 11:29 (four months ago) link

one thing that i've been puzzled by while reading this thread is that a lot of people dislike Goo, an album of theirs which i unreservedly love, but maybe this is because it's the first one i purchased? it totally blew my mind and changed my life, tbh.

i really like Dirty, but understand the feeling of it as a monolith— it's not just the songs themselves, but the production just wears me out in a way that no other SY album does. this is fine, but i find it to be one of my least-listened to "good" albums.

blue light or electric light (the table is the table), Monday, 14 October 2019 12:47 (four months ago) link

Dirty was recorded with Butch Vig at a studio called the Magic Shop.

iirc the new york episode of the Foo Fighters documentary series a couple of years back was filmed at Magic Shop, seemed like a funky little space

Daydream Nation wasn’t on a major in the UK, Blast First put it out.

Paul Smith, who ran Blast First, was also a big part of Enigma, I think, which might explain that. But post-Daydream is the proper Major Label era. The band were courted by lots of major labels, and even had a weird, weird meeting with Tommy Mottola, who said he had a button on his desk that would make them superstars.

SHANTY the golden fish portion (stevie), Monday, 14 October 2019 12:48 (four months ago) link

also, am i the only one on here who really likes Lee and Lee's songs? i know they can border on lame and silly sometimes because of his whole beat-worship lyrical style, but it's not like Thurston is a great lyricist either.

blue light or electric light (the table is the table), Monday, 14 October 2019 12:49 (four months ago) link

Lee is the weird uncle of SY and unimpeachable

an incoherent crustacean (MatthewK), Monday, 14 October 2019 12:51 (four months ago) link

Lee is great, Wish Fulfillment is a jam

SHANTY the golden fish portion (stevie), Monday, 14 October 2019 13:15 (four months ago) link

Lee's songs are the best!

Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Monday, 14 October 2019 13:21 (four months ago) link

“JC” is considered top-five SY? Weird, it sounds like filler to me.

drunk on hot toddies (morrisp), Monday, 14 October 2019 14:17 (four months ago) link

another huge Lee fan over here but I'm still not sure "Genetic" would have worked on the album

sleeve, Monday, 14 October 2019 15:23 (four months ago) link

"i actually like the lee songs the best" is a long-running SY challop (doesn't mean it isn't true)

na (NA), Monday, 14 October 2019 15:42 (four months ago) link


heh, i was just talking to a friend about goo yesterday (heavily influenced by it popping up on this thread recently) and found myself basically saying that. i smdh at myself

It is my great honor to post on this messageboard! (Karl Malone), Monday, 14 October 2019 15:50 (four months ago) link

i don't like the Lee songs the best, but i did write an entire sequence of poems based on Lee's tracks, so i have a deep appreciation for them.

blue light or electric light (the table is the table), Monday, 14 October 2019 16:08 (four months ago) link

i will say that i think anyone who doesn't pick "Mote" as the best track on Goo is cloth-eared. maybe a tie with "Disappearer" if i'm feeling generous.

blue light or electric light (the table is the table), Monday, 14 October 2019 16:10 (four months ago) link

I made a nice Lee only mix. I love his songs. Not better or worse just different like a dave Davies or George Harrison.

dan selzer, Monday, 14 October 2019 16:23 (four months ago) link

Lee's vocals remind me of a male Grace Slick, and I mean that in a good way.

Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Monday, 14 October 2019 16:26 (four months ago) link

"mote" is the best song on goo and my favorite sy song

american bradass (BradNelson), Monday, 14 October 2019 16:28 (four months ago) link

"Dirty Boots" is easily my favourite song on Goo fwiw. That classic intro, the groove, the wailing solo, the beautiful ending section, their best video. I do like "Mote" a lot, though.

All along there is the sound of feedback (Sund4r), Monday, 14 October 2019 16:52 (four months ago) link

I only just now noticed that the superb acoustic version of "Purr" is missing from the deluxe reissue of Dirty! wtf, that version is gorgeous:

sleeve, Monday, 14 October 2019 17:05 (four months ago) link

Disappearer > Mote

timellison, Monday, 14 October 2019 17:15 (four months ago) link

Tunic tho....

Mario Meatwagon (Moodles), Monday, 14 October 2019 17:17 (four months ago) link

The melodicism of “Disappearer” is really serene.

timellison, Monday, 14 October 2019 17:26 (four months ago) link

xp. i read your post up to the end but i must admit that i didn't really get that remark about dirty being a political record. concerning dirty i had always assumed the most political part of it was that it was their debut on a major. and "youth against fascism" of course. but i do not see what would be so bad about it. to my shame i must admit that i don't really think about an album being political or not. that is not a criterion for me to evaluate music. only when the political is too obvious, it usually turns me off. like certain protest singers.

something else. the best german translation of sprawl i could find referred to the open land being cluttered by new buildings, that is not exactly what you mean, is it?

Sorry for the belated reply. Basically the relentlessness of Dirty exhausts me, and it's exhausting like, say, a gathering of miserable grad students trying to agree on what they want from their faculty/admin overlords is. I mean, it's more pleasurable and varied than that, and I like "Youth Against Fascism" well enough as a sneery tossed-off punk rock rant. I think someone could perfectly well see what I dislike about the album as a virtue. Trouser Press wrote this about the album in their '90s guide (available here:
Dirty loses the wise-ass attitude [of Goo] in favor of shorter songs and more direct, charged lyrics that push Sonic Youth dangerously close to punk-rock convention. A cynic might interpret this shift as Sonic Youth's attempt to woo the Lollapalooza Nation, right down to the hiring of producer Butch Vig and mixer Andy Wallace, the Nevermind tag team. Whatever the intent, the disc is shot through with urgency. Shelley's drums send the songs hurtling like a dirt racer with bad shocks, while the guitars splatter the windshield with roadkill. Righteous indignation, political and otherwise, is the primary mood: Gordon mines withering, post-feminist sarcasm on "Swimsuit Issue," while "Chapel Hill" imagines a mosh pit atop senator Jesse Helms' head and "Youth Against Fascism" gets surprisingly topical with an endorsement of Clarence Thomas accuser Anita Hill.

And it's actually this urgency that I find kind of off-putting, though I wouldn't necessarily in another band (say, The Clash). I prefer a Sonic Youth that's more lived-in. When Washing Machine came out, it was their first '90s album that felt like it was really "for me." I like Goo quite a lot these days, though.
Daydream Nation wasn’t on a major in the UK, Blast First put it out.

It was, incidentally, out of print in the States when Dirty came out and I was just getting into the band — I think Enigma had gone under? I bought the Blast First import and it was expensive ($22 or something like that).

eatandoph (Neue Jesse Schule), Monday, 14 October 2019 20:50 (four months ago) link

thanks for the post. i love relentlessness and especially urgency in music. funny that you mention the clash. i cannot relate to their stuff at all and find it conventional, predictable and tedious. urgent is about the adjective which seems furthest away of any song i have ever heard by the clash. i like goo too but who doesn't. when washing machine came out i pretty much gave up on the band. i continued buying the albums out of some kind of respect but didn't listen to them a lot. even the syr albums. some of them still wait for my first listen.

je est un autre, l'enfer c'est les autres (alex in mainhattan), Monday, 14 October 2019 21:07 (four months ago) link

Yah, post-Nevermind, whereas Goo was still from that mysterious time we remember as the Poppy Bush Interzone.

timellison, Monday, 14 October 2019 22:12 (four months ago) link

Speaking of "Nevermind," I'm listening right now to NYC Ghosts & Flowers... I really like this one, I think it's one of their most enjoyable albums. It's "experimental" in a way that hits my sweet spot (as opposed to the approach they take on a lot of other stuff, which doesn't connect with me so much)

drunk on hot toddies (morrisp), Monday, 14 October 2019 23:11 (four months ago) link

funny that you mention the clash. i cannot relate to their stuff at all and find it conventional, predictable and tedious. urgent is about the adjective which seems furthest away of any song i have ever heard by the clash.

thank god i'm not the only one who feels this way about the Clash.

blue light or electric light (the table is the table), Monday, 14 October 2019 23:29 (four months ago) link

thought The Clash had a great sound

Dan S, Monday, 14 October 2019 23:34 (four months ago) link

10 favorite SY albums, chronologically

Daydream Nation
A Thousand Leaves
Goodbye 20th Century
NYC Ghosts & Flowers
Murray Street
Sonic Nurse

not sure of the order, maybe Sister/Daydream Nation are overall tops for me, but Evol was the first one I heard. It was the one that made me obsessed with them, and it has several amazing tracks as well as the ∞ locked groove at the end of Expressway to Yr. Skull

in retrospect I appreciate Goo and Dirty a lot more

Dan S, Monday, 14 October 2019 23:34 (four months ago) link

Not so sure that the first time I saw Sonic Youth play might be the best show I ever saw. It was on the Goo tour and the opening act was Redd Kross. They played Big Star before Red Kross played and Richard Hell before Sonic Youth. It was in the Indiana room in the Union at Indiana University in Bloomington. Not that big a room at all and I saw an insane Primus and Fishbone show the next year in the same place. That SY show was the first time I saw a big circle pit open up and people stage dive at a show. They stopped the show and played Madonna's Rock the Vote video when it aired during their set. Lee Ranaldo's got a poem called "Bloomington Indiana...Autumn" that might have it's origins to the date perhaps. And I think the recording of that poem was the fist collaboration between a SY member and Jim O'Rourke.

earlnash, Tuesday, 15 October 2019 00:15 (four months ago) link

Oh yeah, the McDonald brothers came out for the encore and sang backing vocals ala the Supremes with Kim with Thurston on bass on the show closer "My Friend Goo." The set was awesome, big part of their set was off Sister and EVOL. They opened with "Stereo Sanctity" and I remembered getting carried away from the stage in the crowd like being in the middle of the ocean. I had been to some punk rock shows before that but it was usually like 10 people beating each other up in the middle of a basement, different kind of thing.

earlnash, Tuesday, 15 October 2019 00:20 (four months ago) link

that was right after I left town, but a ton of my friends were at that show!

sleeve, Tuesday, 15 October 2019 00:35 (four months ago) link

funny that you mention the clash. i cannot relate to their stuff at all and find it conventional, predictable and tedious. urgent is about the adjective which seems furthest away of any song i have ever heard by the clash.

thank god i'm not the only one who feels this way about the Clash.

― blue light or electric light (the table is the table), Monday, October 14, 2019 7:29 PM (three hours ago) bookmarkflaglink

me too zzzzzzzz

The Ravishing of ROFL Stein (Hadrian VIII), Tuesday, 15 October 2019 03:14 (four months ago) link

first time I saw sonic youth was at the WFMU benefit at the Ritz. Lineup was Love Child, Gumball, Dim Stars, John Zorn's Painkiller and Sonic Youth. I was a huge Sonic Youth fan but was getting pretentious and ended up feeling like Painkiller blew them out of the water. I definitely listen to Sonic Youth more than Painkiller these days.

dan selzer, Tuesday, 15 October 2019 04:23 (four months ago) link

v enjoyable thread!

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 15 October 2019 11:58 (four months ago) link

i never felt a deep connection to this band but i have loved listening to their music. and they soundtracked a lot of my formative years. 'dirty boots' was inescapable at college parties ime

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 15 October 2019 12:00 (four months ago) link

i saw them first 1993 on the bizarre festival near the lorelei. they produced some great guitar noise and blew everyone else off the stage. especially new order was totally ridiculous. other bands who paled in comparison: therapy?, porno for pyros, the young gods, helmet. consolidated were quite good, actually. hole was ok too. that was about nine months before kurt's suicide.

je est un autre, l'enfer c'est les autres (alex in mainhattan), Tuesday, 15 October 2019 12:07 (four months ago) link

"“JC” is considered top-five SY? Weird, it sounds like filler to me."

it's one of my favorite songs on Dirty certainly. I guess it's about Joe Cole but the lyrics have always, always been creepy and unsettling

akm, Tuesday, 15 October 2019 12:58 (four months ago) link

what have I done

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 15 October 2019 13:00 (four months ago) link

I got on board the SY train at the perfect time, since I had a super hip friend in 9th grade who made me a copy of Daydream Nation not long after it came out, and Goo and Dirty were both great follow-ups that rewarded anticipation. I've had different favorite Sonic Youth albums over the years, including all three of those, but none of them have really ever been among my all-time favorite albums, if that makes any sense. I just don't feel the need to listen to them that often. Similarly, I've seen the band a bunch in different settings and venue sizes, and while I don't remember any of the shows being bad, I also don't remember any of those shows being among my favorites, either. Or remember much of them at all, tbh. Kind of weird, esp. for a band that made five or six records that I do like a lot.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 15 October 2019 13:16 (four months ago) link

Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star gets less love than the other Geffen albums, and the way it uses brevity to limn gender play and sexual posing puts it over Goo and Dirty. Sonic Youth were still learning, which is to say: its post-DN predecessors required the sheen just as the band needed to get experiments in getting radio play just right.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 15 October 2019 13:22 (four months ago) link

May have mentioned this on the board elsewhere, but I got into them through Alec Foege's Confusion is Next book from 1994. My freshman year of college I was just really starting to spread my wings into new music and I randomly came across that book in an art supply store. To a kid from the middle of nowhere Illinois, it made them sound like the best band ever. A few months later DGC started their reissue project around the release of EJST&NS, so my first albums were actually the Screaming Fields comp, EJST&NS and Made in USA. Interesting entry, to say the least, but I was enthralled. Washing Machine was the first album that came out after I was a new fan, so that one will always have special place for me. I remember pissing off my roommates on a technicality on the nights we used to rotate songs and I chose "The Diamond Sea" for my turn.

soaring skrrrtpeggios (jon /via/ chi 2.0), Tuesday, 15 October 2019 13:43 (four months ago) link

I don’t know if I hear sheen on Goo and Dirty. I think they were just different attempts at presenting their sound, though it is interesting that their desire, after Dirty, was for something more primitive.

timellison, Tuesday, 15 October 2019 14:40 (four months ago) link

Definitely more sheen on Dirty to my ears, that album sounds great. The irony imo is that "more sheen" actually translates to louder and more abrasive in this case. I think the nature of their noise before that resulted in a sort of fuzzy haze, but the stuff on Dirty is jagged and shrill in all the ways feedback and distortion should/could be.

Josh in Chicago, Tuesday, 15 October 2019 14:50 (four months ago) link


All along there is the sound of feedback (Sund4r), Tuesday, 15 October 2019 14:54 (four months ago) link

I actually think Daydream Nation’s sound is fairly clear and, again am not sure that Sonic Youth gained something invaluable in what they were trying to do sonically with Dirty (though I like its sound well enough). There are all sorts of approaches and this was a major label band who perceived their contemporaries to be groups like the Dead C.

timellison, Tuesday, 15 October 2019 15:07 (four months ago) link

I don't know that it's invaluable or that it was required for this band but I do think there is more sheen there (a hyper-realistically brighter sound, stricter stereo separation, more layered overdubs) that gave it a distinct quality and worked with what they were doing then. Goo actually sounds pretty naturalistic to me, like DN with higher fidelity.

All along there is the sound of feedback (Sund4r), Tuesday, 15 October 2019 15:17 (four months ago) link

xp I'll take any excuse to bring up the classic Bananafish description of the Dead C as "sound[ing] like Sonic Youth in a wind tunnel with broken microphones"

sleeve, Tuesday, 15 October 2019 16:05 (four months ago) link

three months pass...

This came on the radio yesterday, the singer sounds *exactly* like Ranaldo, I was giggling to myself, from now on I'm going to pretend he and Kim had a side project.

Maresn3st, Sunday, 19 January 2020 13:39 (one month ago) link

I hate that song more than anything in the universe

brimstead, Sunday, 19 January 2020 18:31 (one month ago) link

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