Friday, September 4, 2009

SONIC YOUTH: Retrospective/Album Review -The Eternal

This post is dedicated to Eric & Carrie who pushed me to start this blog a year ago and are huge Sonic Youth fans. They recently welcomed a brand spankin new lil munchkin into their home named Poppy…who totally rocks. Congrats again guys. Your daughter is a peanut btw.

Some bands that have been around awhile, 25 years or so and still tour (less likely to record new tracks) usually sound like garbage…more pop…lyrics lose complexity…tempo decreases. The term “going through the motions” comes to mind. They play the songs that made them popular as an opener and encore but they are usually a lot slower than the originals. Then there is Sonic Youth.
When I heard the Sonic Youth track 100% when I was a kid I thought. “Ummm this is cool”. That was probably the first track I ever heard…then I heard Dirty Boots and said to myself “Umm holy shit this rocks”. They had a way of closing tracks so kick-ass. Then I proceeded to pick up the albums Goo and then Dirty (on cassette tape). I especially liked Goo as this was a nickname I had for a brief period when I was a pre-teen (don’t ask). I listened to them constantly as I delivered pizza in high school. I must be honest that I didn’t dig Kim Gordon’s voice at first…that quickly changed when I heard Kool Thing. Man she’s awesome. Her duet (so to speak) with Chuck-D was reminiscent of Debbie Harry, Blondie-esque but for a new generation. Daydream Nation I didn’t get into later although it came before those other two albums mentioned. Teenage Riot is hands down one of the top songs of all time in my opinion. When I lived in a dingy (that’s being polite) basement on 2nd St in the East Village with my cuz we would go to this local bar called The Library for happy-hour pretty much every other Friday. We would throw in 3 or so bucks and would play the same songs every single time…mine were Minot Threat and Misfits. Danny’s were Pavement and Sonic Youth…no other song but Teenage Riot.

Sonic Youth has so many albums that on the later records I would only pick and chose tracks to download as most of them sucked in my opinion. They were too much of what they are famous for which is long track times filled with feedback. Rather Ripped was refreshing as the tracks had some structure and vocals to them (Download - Reena). I remember seeing them when I was in high school with Pavement, Bosstones, 311 etc at the Philly WDRE fest in the early 90’s. They headlined but their set sucked as all they played were 10min long songs filled with distortion (that’s what I remember). As a teenager I didn’t really “get” what they were trying to do with a live show. I was filled with angst. “Whatevs”. I wonder if that tour many years ago brought them together with former Pavement bassist Mark Ibold…who is now a permanent SY band member. Hmmm. I heard them live two other times. Once my cuz and I couldn’t get into the Central Park Summerstage show so we listened from outside the fence…so good. The last time was literally a year ago on Labor Day weekend when I saw them at the final Macarren Park Pool show in Brooklyn. That weekend actually spawned the Cugerock blog. They were so freakin good. The songs they played were across the catalog and the sound was amazing. Thurston played guitar behind his back for Gods sake. Such a great night. That brings me to their latest album The Eternal.
This album is truly a Sonic Youth album but the melodies and guitars are slightly different. It has the perfect mix of distortion and melody which skewed other albums one way or the other. The first track Sacred Trickster could have been off of Dirty. Same goes for Thunderclap For Bobby Pryn which comes later in the album. Pretty hard not to rock along with either of these tracks. That said they weren’t very different from that their back-catalog. The first track that hooked me was Leaky Lifeboat as it didn’t sound like the normal SY intro. While Anti-Orgasm, the second track is one of those classic 6minute distortion rants. Antenna (the 4th track) is 6minutes of great rock melody and vocals (with a little distortion mixed in which is expected). What We Know if very rockin and pop-ish. Its refreshing and puzzling altogether. Total rocker…maybe Mark had some influence on it?…theeeeen you hear the distortion….classic SY. That was Thurston’s turn and Kim was next with Malibu Gas Station. I feel like Thurston took a few pages out of his solo effort Trees Outside the Academy with tracks like Walkin Blue. This is my favorite track on the album. The husband and wife come together (rare) on No Way which is so kick-ass I can’t even tell you. If I ever hear this live I will pee my pants. Good thing I’m going to see them with Dinosaur Jr in November. WHU-WHU-WHAAAAAAAA??? Such a lineup….reminiscent (yeah I’ve used that word twice in this post) of the Swervedriver/Hum tour.

Like I said, Sonic Youth has such an extensive catalog of music. My bro in law Rob, Eric or my cousin Danny could definitely school me on SY history. I only have experienced a small chunk which had a definite impact on my teenage years….stepped away…and now is back in a significant way. The staying power and relevance of this band is unparalleled. They are an influence on countless bands from mainstream to indie. Most bands from the 80s that are still “on the scene” just plain suck now - U2 I’m looking in your direction. “Blackberry loves U2”…great well Tommy doesn’t. I “Used2”. Ha!

Happy Labor Day kiddos.