Sunday, January 30, 2011

Back On It (again)

When I started this blog, I had alot of time on my hands. The posts have been sporadic lately. But I am determined to finish this out! This has been a much bigger undertaking than I had originally intended. Some song, I really have nothing to say about, and others I have too much to say about. I'm finding a balance between the two, but to me, it doesn't matter when I finish, just as long as I do finish.

For now, enjoy this video:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Renegade Princess

The second song on the LP NYC Ghosts and Flowers is called "Renegade Princess"

I was never really a fan of this song but I never skipped it when I listened to the album as a whole.

"Renegade Princess" seems to have been born out of another extended jam. The first 1:36 of the song features a slow moving three note arppegiation. This is a typical move for the band. This time, the riff is very smooth and chimey. The band allows the riff to ring out a little. Thurston sings the song as if he is reading off a list of descriptions. His voice is suttle and has a hint of melody. The song picks up in double time from 1:36 until the end. The song becomes more aggressive when both Kim and Thurston began singing lines like "make way for the midnight princess, the renegades fight tonight, the renegades fight for light." I often discount the "jam" aspect of this song because of its structure. I'm pretty sure both parts of the song were potential songs and were merged to make a whole song. Both are different yet flow naturally from one to the other.

This song was written in 1999 and debuted instrumentally at the same time as Free City Rhymes. Both Thurston and Lee used Les Pauls on stage and possibly in the studio. I always thought it was weird they began experimenting with Les Pauls. It didn't look right. Lee also used a 12 string with only 10 strings. The tuning CGDGBB was employed in this tune, along with most of the album.

This song has not been played live since 2000.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bull In The Heather

The second song on the LP Experimental jet Set Trash and No Star is called Bull In The Heather.

"Bull In The Heather" is one of Sonic Youth's most recognizable songs because it managed to get quite a bit of airplay during the early/mid-90's. This song is one of the bands most accessible songs and it follows a semi traditional pop formula. As I have mentioned before, Sonic Youth has the ability to make radio friendly mainstream music, they only choose to let it out in small doses.

The first time I ever saw the band live was 8-15-2001. The band was opening for Pearl Jam and my br0ther and I were psyched that Sonic Youth was tapped to be the opening act. Before the show, we were going over what songs SY might play and were really hoping for Bull In The Heather. We got our wish, and it was the first song!! Kinda weird huh?

This song features some really awesome harmonics provided to Lee Renaldo. The harmonics act like the main riff that drives the song. Kinda strange that such a simple riff played with harmonics would become one of the most recognizable pieces in the Sonic Youth catalog. The ringing is very hard to miss and mistake for another song. When being played live, Thurston just taps on the strings on the tail piece to his jazzmaster.

This is another tune that features the soft spoken vocals of Kim. She manages to bring some sex appeal in her performance when she says "tell that you want to score me." Also, I have no idea what this is about.

The video for this song features Bikini Kill princess Kathleen Hanna.

Bull In The Heather is one of the lone survivors of this album. It was not played live from 1997 to 1999. The 2000 tour acted almost like a greatest hits tour and Bull In The Heather was prominently featured in the top of every set. It gets pulled out every now and then. This song was recently recorded live for a special live album that was given out to those who bought The Eternal early.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Swimsuit Issue

The second song on the album Dirty is called "Swimsuit Issue"

The name says it all.

"I'm not here for tempation, i'm not your summer vacation, i don't wanna be a sensation!" Are these cries for help? I've always thought that Kim was defending the girls of the 1992 Sports Illustrated Swin Suit Issue or singing in repulsion for the display of human flesh. Either way, this song is another example of Kim taking the role of the feminist and voicing her opinion. For more clarification read the Shoot entry. Another great line is "now your moving your wrists, and i'm not giving you head." I think its repulsion and I think this because at the end of the song, Kim calls out the first name of every model that appears in the 1992 edition. I also like to think that Kim is expressing that these women have names and are not just bodily objects of lust.

This song is very tight and dynamic. The intro is a very tight syncopated guitar riff with nothing but 16th note downstrokes. Being the 2nd song, it wastes no time into launching into the sonic onslaught of noisy rock that the album Dirty represents. Most of Dirty was done with the infamous F#F#F#F#eb tuning.

This one was played nightly during the 1992 tour. It comes back every now and then for one off shows, but has never really resurfaced in the setlist. Not even when Dirty was rereleased.

Monday, April 12, 2010


The last song on the album NYC Ghosts and Flowers is called "Lightnin"

As I stated in the Free City Rhymes post, NYC Ghosts and Flowers is a mellow album compared to the rest of the bands work. It would seem fitting that they would end the record on such strange note.

Over the years I have heard this song is much better live than the studio version. There is one line to the whole song and it's "lightnin strikes me." Kim sings this line about 6 times in a row using her talking whisper voice. It's kinda creepy when you hear it late at night in the dark (don't ask).

This song seemed to have come together before the album was made as it was the only song debuted with vocals at the '99 secret gigs. The working title was "10." Jim O'Rourke plays an EMS synth for all the weird space sounds and trumpet sound is actually Thurston honking a bike horn that is wedged in his guitar pickups. This strange array of sounds are very similar to the SYR 3 disc which features collaborations with Jim. Maybe it was placed on the end of the record because they needed another song? "Lightnin" is by far the most interesting track because of its standout nature. Not a bad way to end the album. The loose and avant garde atmosphere allows you to recover from the 9 minutes opus that precedes it.

I never saw this song live. My only opportunity was at one of the SYR shows in August 2000. I left the show right after the main set. I should have stayed because this song was played for an encore. That's what I get for being responsible.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Free City Rhymes

The first song on the album NYC Ghosts and Flowers is called "Free City Rhymes."

In July 1999, Sonic Youth had their equipment stolen. The theft was devastating, but the short summer tour went on. Got give them props for only canceling one show of the 8.

Sonic Youth had become a band that was deadlocked by their equipment. They had become slaves to the technology they had created. This was the best and worst thing that could ever happen to this band. Without the safety net of trusty guitars, tunings, and effects, Sonic Youth was once again allowed to re-invent the wheel they had created, and it started with the NYC Ghosts and Flowers album.

An issue of the Sonic Death newsletter stated that in late '99, the band was hard at work replacing their equipment and trying to learn how to be a band again. Shockingly, the band would do a few gigs debuting instrumental versions of new songs, "Free City Rhymes" was one of those songs with a tentative title as "1." In less than a year, the band would be able to write and record a brand new record. I guess bands should get their stuff stolen more often huh?

With all the new equipment came new tunings. It seems to me the band approached the songs in a "jam" way but flushed out all the eratic changes to just keep the simple portions of the song. "Free City Rhymes" opens with a blip intro and some lightly picked guitar from Kim. The lyrics are a somewhat description/tribute to New York City. The music itself had a floating atmosphere that some of their previous work lacks. You get the feeling that you are floating above the city seeing all the things that Thurston is pointing out. The song ends the same way it starts. A very mellow intro to a very mellow album.

The song clocks in at 7:22, making it one of the longest intros to a Sonic Youth album.

When the band played on Late Night with David Letterman in June 2000, the world was shocked to see Thurston and Lee both playing Les Paul Specials. Never saw that one coming. Plus, the 2000 tour saw the addition of a 5th member, Jim O'Rourke, who has been a collaborator with the band in the past. Not only did he contribute bass and guitar on the tour, but he also is credited as the producer for NYC Ghosts and Flowers.

This song has not been played since 2001.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Starfield Road

The third song on the LP Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star is called Starfield Road.

This song is 2 minutes and 15 seconds of pure Sonic Youth. It's short and straight to the point.

Most of the material on Experimental was written during band jam sessions. At the time, Thurston claimed he went into making the album with zero ideas because he used up any song idea on his solo album Psychic Hearts. Both records were released in the same year. Starfield Road comes off as not only a song born out of a jam, but also some pre-planned thought.

The intro is very typical for Sonic Youth but not for the time period. The band had made two very commercially accessible albums and were enjoying some long awaited recognition from the years past. The normally thing to do in the year 1994 would be to make another record like the one before but as history shows, Sonic Youth never makes the same album twice. I have said in the past that their albums work in three's and Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star not only comes as the third piece to Goo and Dirty, it also paves the way for the future. The next three records would done primarily through free jams.

The dirgy intro leads into a two chord verse that does not end. The does an abrupt noise ending that is just like the intro. Back to basics, yet something new. The songs has a melody over the two chords and a really wide phaser effect tries its hardest to get you to turn your head and pay more attention to the noise. The phaser is very space like and acts like a rocket. The ending is well timed with the phaser because when it reaches its final apex, the noisy ending erupts to bring the song down. Like a rocket. Hence the title, Starfield Road.

The lyrics for this song are somewhat sexually explicit and dirty. I'm a firm believer that it's about fucking. You can read them HERE.