Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review #62: Sonic Youth - Sonic Youth (1982)


Year: 1982
Genre: Punk Rock
No-Wave, Post-Punk
Neutral Records
24 Minutes (Medium-Length)
My Rating:

I consider Sonic Youth to be one of the greatest bands of all-time. They started in 1981 as part of the New York No-Wave scene; even older than hardcore, No-Wave is an intentionally abrasive, non-commercially-accessible, pretty much big 'fuck you' to traditional song structure and elements within. And still, Sonic Youth is the most well-known descendant of this movement. This is their first album, so it's far from what you might hear on some of their later albums, but it certainly is interesting to listen to, even if it isn't one of their most accessible works.

1. The Burning Spear
The most well-known song from this album. Begins with crashing drums and bizarre guitar noises that sound like the chiming of bells. This seemingly aimless chiming eventually is carried off by a mid-tempo beat which sounds pretty cool. Soon enough, the bass comes in, providing some semblance of a melody to the song. The lyrics suggest a dependence on religion or something like that. Thurston sings this one.

2. I Dreamed I Dream
Very cool bassline accompanied by eerie lead-guitar tones. Slow tempo. The vocals are interesting in the fact that Kim and Lee both sing the same lines alongside eachother in this song, but Kim just says the words and Lee softly sings them in the background. Kind of sad-sounding. The lyrics seem to be about the hopeless situation of the working-class youth. My favorite one on here.

3. She Is Not Alone
A song led by bongo drums and more weird guitar sounds. The only lyrics are "she is not alone today". End of Side 1.

4. I Don't Want to Push It
This one starts with the shredding of two different chords. Sounds like some sort of ice-thing, for some reason. More weird bongo-type beats and a two-note bassline. I think the lyrics are supposed to be about hitting rock-bottom in life or dying in poverty or something like that. Thurston sings this song.

5. The Good And the Bad
This one is pretty long (almost eight minutes in length). A mid-tempo bass-driven tune with lots of fleeting swoops of tuneless guitar chords and notes. The drums sort of fade away into softer drumming and the song's tune changes during a lengthy mid-section which slowly builds up into a repeat of the "main" part of the song again. Well, that's the end.

That's "Sonic Youth". They actually re-released this album in 2006 to have 13 tracks instead of just five (most of them are live tracks, but there is also an early studio recording of a song called "Where the Red Fern Grows" from 1981). The band would continue to play this style of noisy No-Wave on their next two albums, "Confusion is Sex" and "Bad Moon Rising", each with a mysterious, but youthful vibe to it. Eventually they would begin to become more of a post-punk/alternative band and experiment with more melodic and traditional songwriting, but they have always still kept the noise/weird approach, making entire mini-albums based on that concept, often collaborating with other musicians for it. "Sonic Youth" is a pretty good album to listen to, but I personally prefer the string of albums after it over this. Still, it's a pretty decent beginning for the band, and I definitely suggest it to any Sonic Youth fan who hasn't heard it yet (or one who has only heard their "hits" that earned them a bit of popularity during the early '90s).

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