Sonic Youth

Geffen, 1990

REVIEW BY: Brian Birnbaum


Sonic Youth has been a relatively new discovery for me. It's hard to pin them down to a genre, especially because they seem to really try and avoid one, and my expectations going into this were naught, but critics had called this their most accessible album, so it seemed a good place to start.

My first listen to the album was no different than my fifth, which is good and bad. Although the album immediately hit home for me, and I enjoyed it quite a bit, it didn't reveal as many things upon further listens as I had hoped. A little bit disappointing, especially considering the textured, layered production.

This album just screams grunge with low-key, depressing vocals; Kim Gordon sounds like my dog dying on the microphone. This actually adds to the mood of the album, especially on songs like “Tunic (Song for Karen).” I also love albums with killer opening tracks, which this one has in the form of “Dirty Boots,” featuring a catchy chorus and cool lyrics that use old blues slang: “It's time to rock the road / And tell the story of the jelly rollin.'” That means sexual intercourse, in case you were wonderin'.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The peak of the album is found on the ninth track, “Cinderella's Big Score.” The music is not the catchiest; rather, the genius is the lyrics, an emotional barrage of hate spewing up from Kim toward her brother, reportedly: “But you could give me anything / But you couldn't stand a fist / Don't give me your soul / Your heart is an abyss.” This is poetry at its finest, just honest feelings told through amazing words.

“Kool Thing” is the best-known track off Goo. It's one of few to receive mainstream radio airplay, featuring Chuck D from Public Enemy, and although his contributions are minimal they allow Sonic Youth to reach out to a different breed of music fan. The title describes the track perfectly as a keen 1990 songs that helps begin the crossover from hair metal to alternative rock.

Yet this album is kept from being great for a couple reasons. The first is a slight lack of diversity, owing to the fuzzy, distorted guitars on every track. The second reason is the extended jamming at the end of some of the songs; often, the band will extend a song with kind of a fuzzed-out, Dave Matthews jam (without the horns and violin and such), ruining otherwise solid tunes like “Mote” and “Titanium Expose.” “Scooter + Jinx” is just a minute-long instrumental jam and also one of the weaker songs on the disc – the problem is that the sounds are cool but overall they simply add to the length and disquiet the flow of the album.

But overall, this is a solid offering from a solid band. I have since listened to some of their other material and I'd have to say that this ranks up as one of their best, probably behind Daydream Nation. If you like soaring harmonies and clean production, this will drive you nuts, since it's both musically and lyrically raw. If that is your thing, though, go pick this up.

Rating: B

User Rating: B-


© 2006 Brian Birnbaum and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen, and is used for informational purposes only.