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Sonic Youth – EVOL (1986) & Sister (1987)

January 26, 2021

[Albums 841 & 842 / 1001]

“You say it’s a sight that’s quite worth seeing
It’s just that everyone’s interest is stronger than mine”
– Elliott Smith, Rose Parade

While I’ve never been to the Rose Parade, I’ve been to many a Santa Claus parade.

For me, it’s an annual event where, year after year, Elliott Smith’s lyric rings true: everyone’s interest seems to be stronger than mine. 

Now I recognize, for the last several decades, I haven’t exactly been the parade’s target audience!

Although I see the appeal of the downtown atmosphere & the style of the individual floats, if you take those elements away, what’s left?

Is there any substance?

Or is it merely branding, masquerading as entertainment?

.

Sonic Youth has a quintet of albums on the 1001 list (Evol, Sister, Daydream Nation, Goo, Dirty).

Making a Sonic Youth review feel almost like a annual (or bi-annual) tradition.

Much like the parade patrons who will cheerfully sit in the cold for a glimpse at Santa, the 1001 list editors appear to be all-in for Sonic Youth.

However, there are doubtlessly droves of die-hard Sonic Youth fans (Sonic Youths? Youthiacs? En-Youth-iasts?) that believe the list editors weren’t all-in enough; anything less than the inclusion of all 15 studio albums in the Sonic Youth discography, simply inexcusable.

So maybe it’s just me (or perhaps there are dozens of us, dozens!) that find(s) the magic somewhat elusive.

Although I see the appeal of the noisy atmosphere & the alternative style, if you take away those elements, what’s left?

Are there substantive songs buried beneath?

Would an ‘unplugged’ concert of these songs be entertaining? 

Would that be a sight that’s quite worth seeing?

Even if I’m not necessarily the biggest fan, I’d still probably go.

It’s just that everyone’s interest will likely be stronger than mine.

…..

Verbalize the Positive

Rose Parade, what a song!

From → 1980s

24 Comments
  1. I never know which Sonic Youth albums I have heard, I enjoy them while they are happening and immediately forget them once done, they just don’t stick around. Smith nailed the Rose Parade.

    • That’s how I feel with certain tv shows/movies as well, quite diverting during, completely forgotten shortly thereafter!

  2. I like that trio of 1980s albums – I think they all deserve a place.

  3. It strikes me that the process this zoom 33 ⅓ group I’m in — one book/album per week, reading the monograph then discussing it and the record — bears some resemblance to your task. But where as I can absent myself from something I’m really not that interested in, you have a counter keeping watch over you. Respect.

    • My thanks, Bruce – and that sounds like an intriguing club. I’ve seen those books but have yet to read any of them.
      I find zoom meetings exhausting but that one sounds like one that wouldn’t lead to too much zoom fatigue!

      • The meetings are great. More sharing than showing off (which is always refreshing when it’s a group of men!) and the outcome is usually a greater appreciation of the record in question.

        Are you a fan of Bowie’s mid-70s work? The 33 ⅓ on “Low” is excellent.

      • I am – that may have to be my entry into the 33 1/3 book series.
        His 1977 has to be among the most productive calendar years ever!

  4. Wow, five albums in the 1001 list? That is crazy. I have heard the grand total of NONE! And honestly, not itching to go listen to them knowing apparently there are 5 great albums. Everyone has their own taste and they have never been mine. Glad you made it through them.

    • It’s funny, they get lumped in a category with Pavement (who I adore!), but I just haven’t been able to muster too much enthusiasm for these folks

  5. jprobichaud permalink

    I’m kind of with you on this Geoff. I’ve never been able to get into them past the “hits”, or rather, a few of the songs that I used to hear on alternative radio in the early 90s. I get that they are talented but I just can’t get into them myself.

    • I think that closing line is my current sentiment too – I don’t dispute that there is talent, but with a finite amount of time available for listening, I can’t see myself revisiting all that often

      • jprobichaud permalink

        So much music, so little time.

  6. I like Sonic Youth, but I always thought of them as an art project more than a band. Sound art, maybe. That frees them up to make whatever noises pleased them, but most of it ain’t for the radio. They did have some songs in the more traditional format we’re used to, but even those had those edges to them, pulling you back into the maelstrom. I moreso tend to think of them as art for art’s sake, rather than trying to apply our ingrained musical frameworks of easy resolutions and verse verse chorus verse bridge etc.

    • Ahh, perhaps I should try it through the ‘art’ lens next time – and if their art can inspire the use of the term maelstrom, I’m persuaded to give it another go!

  7. I don’t get Sonic Youth or parades. I’m glad they are there for others who enjoy them!

    • I just quoted a similar line to Mike – I too am pleased they are available for others to enjoy at their leisure!

  8. 5 albums!? Jings. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think I like Sonic Youth. I say I think cause I rarely choose to listen to them these days, but I like them. Three of those albums are real favourites that I have here – Daydream Nation, Goo and Dirty), but I wouldn’t include all of them in a 1001. No chance. This follows on from the conversation the other day about the amount of entries some artists have on the 1001… 3 max. For Sonic Youth, maybe 2. Goo is a definite.

    • I think our conversation helped inspire this post, J – so my thanks to you!
      I of course support them making an appearance on the list, I just don’t hear a huge evolution in the sound from album-to-album here (then again, I’m sure aficionados hear much more nuance on the 5 albums than I do)!

  9. I’m like Kevin. I tried, because they received so much praise especially in my guitar magazines. But I just do not get Sonic Youth.

    However I like the lyric in the Catherine Wheel song “Phantom of the American Mother”:

    “How you gonna feel if Superman and Sonic Youth are fairy tales?”

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