Sonic Youth

I read a great description of Weezer once that went something like: “they were the perfect band for those kids who never liked Sonic Youth as much as they were supposed to.”

I bought Daydream Nation a few years ago, because it was supposed to be a landmark, and I like having landmarks. I never quite got into it. There were a few good garage rockers (namely Total Trash and Teen Age Riot), but the album seemed to repeat itself, and the noise frequently didn’t seem to have much of a point. At that time in my life, Weezer was my favorite band.

Recently, I decided to give Sonic Youth another shot. Unfortunately, that long haired fellow who borrowed my copy of Daydream Nation has yet to return it.

But I managed to get a copy of the new album Rather Ripped, as well as other recent records Sonic Nurse and Murray Street. The latter two are quite good. Rather Ripped is really good. I expect some longtime fans will despise it. The songs are only 4 minutes long, and they all have melodies which are sung more or less in tune, and the feedback loops are contained to a few short passages rather than dominating large chunks of the record. And I love it. It’s still clearly Sonic Youth. Still has their signature styled riffing — Thurston’s guitar sounds as much as ever like a sheathed knife. Still has their noise and odd phrasing and Velvet Undergroundiness. But the songs are focused. They’re clearly about things, and they’re musically direct. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t like sludging through 15 minutes of intentionally-amateurish tunelessness to find a hook.

I’ll give Daydream Nation another listen when I can track that hippie down, and I may check out Sister (their other “masterpiece”), but as of now, I’m convinced Rather Ripped is the best album Sonic Youth has made.


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