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Sonic Youth – Dirty (1992)

October 31, 2015

logoawesome autumn art by Sarca @ caughtmegaming

Autumn Colours Artist #1: Culture Club

Autumn Colours Artist #2: Pixies

Autumn Colours Artist #3: The Beatles

Autumn Colours Artist #4: Goldfrapp

Autumn Colours Artist #5: Sonic Youth

[Album 432/1001]

Thanks to their less-than-appetizingly-named track, Orange Rolls, Angel’s Spit, Sonic Youth represents the final entry in the Autumn Colours Series!

monica joey

When I think about Sonic Youth, I often think of a scene from Friends (Season 9, Episode 15) where Joey was auditioning for a play:

Joey: It’s for a play on a Broadway. And in a real theater…
Monica: Is it a good play?
Joey: It must be, because I read it and I didn’t understand a single word.


Now with a show like Friends, it’s easy to see the appeal.

The characters are attractive, the tone is upbeat, the comedy is accessible.  Heck, there’s even a laugh track to help guide viewers to the desired reaction.

Such viewer-friendliness makes Friends a show that anyone could easily appreciate.

Paradoxically, that also makes it an easy show to hate.

When the public ‘gets’ something immediately, there are those who feel compelled to throw around words like obvious, or formulaic, to express their displeasure with such mass-consumed products.

If everyone likes it, it can’t be any good.


Then there’s Sonic Youth.220px-Sonic_youth_dirty_original_album_cover

Few would accuse them of being too accessible (though I’m sure such contrarians exist).

The distortion tends to bury the melodies, the lyrics are never over-enunciated.

Such listener-unfriendliness makes Sonic Youth a band that could easily frustrate the masses.

Paradoxically, that also makes them critically immune.

If something is not instantly obvious, some might use words like visionary, or profound, to marvel at such an act.

If nobody gets them, it’s gotta be genius.


Then there’s me (neither mass-consumed nor critically immune).

Naturally I find Friends and Sonic Youth to be equals.

I appreciate each for what they offer.

Both peaked as they were approaching the midpoint of their respective careers (Friends in season 4 or 5/10, Sonic Youth around studio album 6 or 7/15).

Both understood what their audiences wanted and rarely missed the mark in terms of satisfying their respective target markets.  Friends’ bulls-eye had a larger circumference so perhaps bonus marks are in order for Sonic Youth, having excelled at repeatedly hitting a smaller target.

Both have done an admirable job of maintaining brand loyalty, even decades removed from certain beloved episodes/releases.

And for non-die-hard-fans-yet-non-haters like myself, one could argue each went on longer than needed.


The same could be said about this particular release, Dirty.

If you love Sonic Youth, you already love Dirty.

If you don’t, this may not be the one to convert the non-believers.

But if you’d like to give it a go, give it a few gos.

Don’t be nervous if its charms aren’t immediately apparent, though don’t assume it must be charming just because the charms don’t appear immediately!

If you’re willing to put in the time, it may end up being your Season 4 of Friends.

From → 1990s

  1. hmmm Sonic Friends? That is true like you say that some things sometimes go on to long. But contracts and $$$ Flow will dictate product on being shoved into our faces wether it’s good or bad….great read….

    • Ahh yes, and especially with our friends on Friends, it was certainly a lucrative business model! Interesting that I think a bunch of shows tried to emulate/extend that format but I can only think of one (How I met your Mother) that had similar success.
      Thanks King of Yammering!

  2. This is a fantastic analysis, and an interesting take. You might be the first person on the planet to ever correlate these two things.

    Myself, I’ve never seen Friends. I know of it, I know people loved it. I saw snippets of it in passing but I honestly doubt I have ever sat through an episode of it.

    But Sonic Youth, oh my yes. I sure do like them. Not because they’re impenetrable – I don’t think they’re purposely trying to be obtuse. They are, perhaps, to music what Jackson Pollock was to art. They do a lot of flinging at the canvas and letting the results be as they will be. Of course, it’s not entirely without skill, there’s always a hand (and in this case musical knowledge rather than any painting ability) to guide the result. It’s not just noise. Far from it. It’s a controlled melee, and once you get past the outer defensive line (intended to ward off the tourists, most likely), it’s ultimately very satisfying. You’re right, it can take time to get there, but when you do, it’s worth it.

    Nice one!

    • It’s strange, I advise students to never read comments sections of websites like CBC but I can’t recommend reading the comments portion of these music blogs enough. A terrific thought-provoking comment Aaron!

      I especially appreciate comments on the posts where I didn’t fully enjoy the album, it’s fascinating hearing what others heard on the recording that I missed.

      Very intriguing art comparison – Jackson Pollock is quoted in a Manic Street Preachers CD I’ve been enjoying lately (Everything Must Go).

      Lots to digest and I like it, thanks Aaron!

      • Heh thanks Geoff. Every once in a while a thoght forms in my head and it spills out, contrary to the usual WAHOO and GIVE ‘ER!

        Dirty is a cool CD. I’m glad you dug it!

      • Wahoos & Give ‘ers are still always encouraged of course!

  3. First of all, I love Sonic Youth. They are awesomely vague and I think it takes a few listens to really get into their music.

    Friends was so misleading. It was like Saved by the Bell. We watched. We got all excited for high school. And then we got there, and it was totally not Bayside. In the same vein, Friends was a very inaccurate representation of what underemployment in your twenties is really like. I’m a little bitter.

    Interesting post!

    • Awesomely vague, I like that!
      And agreed about the misleading nature of many shows.
      Though I find this clip has helped me overcome my Saved By The Bell bitterness!

      • I never saw an episode of SBTB either. But from the sounds of it, that may have done me a favour. 🙂

    • At least at Cheers, everybody knew your name…

  4. I like bits and pieces of Sonic Youth’s catalogue. I do find them a bit of a chore to listen to these days, though – I dare say an album often seems the length of a series of Friends!

    This one and Goo still have a place in my collection. I haven’t listened to them start to finish in a very long time, but I pull the odd song every now and again.

    • I think they may become a single here & there group for me too, for example, I now have an urge to listen to dirty boots!

      • Great way to kick off an album, isn’t it? Might need to listen to Goo on the way to work! Right in the mood now!

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Sonic Youth – EVOL (1986) & Sister (1987) | 1001albumsin10years
  2. 1992 | 1001albumsin10years

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