Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Trilogy: The Wonder, Hyperstation, Eliminator Jr.

The final track on Sonic Youth's 5th LP Daydream Nation is a three song jam called "Trilogy." The three segments are titled The Wonder, Hyperstation, and Eliminator Jr.

How do you end one of the most influential albums in music history? What was going through the bands head when deciding on the track listing for what could have potentially been the bands last and final record? How do you bring everything you have spent building for the last 6 years to a grinding halt? Easy, take three songs that were not going to be on the album, and make it one song. 14 minutes......

By the end of the recording process, the band had many untitled jams that were not going to be used for the record. Sonic Youth managed to peice together three of Thurstons contributions because they all sounded veyr similar to each other and flowed neatly. If the band had not distinguished the three sections, the listener would never know. Ending on a long, yet high note is something the band is known to do. So far, "Expressway To Yr Skull" had been the only record ending opus, but this way of ending an album will repeat several times in the next 20 years.

The album gets is name from "Hyperstation." The line "day dreamy day in a day dream nation." Thurston enjoys rhyming random words together, even if he is not making any real clear sense. Kim explained that the title was going to come from a line in a song, so they jsut wrote out a list of potential titles derived from all the songs. "Daydream Nation" won the vote.

The "Trilogy" manages to take everything the band had worked towards and lump it into a 14 minute opus. Daydream Nation is the top of a mountain. After 5 records, the music had evolved the place they wanted to take it. Art punk became the Sonic Youth sound. ANy band that can take noise and turn it into pop music deserves recognition. And that is why Daydream Nation was added to the United States Library of Congress Popular Music Preserve List in 2006. It's just that good people!

"Trilogy" was played nightly during the 1988'89 tour. It was retired, never to be heard again until 2007 when band decided to do a tour playing the album from start to finish. All 14 minutes of it.

Daydream Nation is the end of an era and the start of a new one. By the end of 1989, the band went around world and began going in a brand new yet obvious direction. Music was about a to change in a way Sonic Youth would have never imagined in 1982. In just under a year, their cult-like status will change to god-like, with help of a guy named Kurt.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


The second to last track on Daydream Nation is called "Kissability."

Sonic fans got one of the greatest suprises in 2002, Kissability had risen from the grave! During the Murrary Street tour, the band re-worked and worked in some older tunes for Kim to sing freely with Jim O'rourke rocking the bass. Kool Thing and Making The Nature Scene were among the songs brought back into the set.

"Kissability" is another song that re-invents an older Sonic style. The song has a bass riff that drones the main riff with verse and chorus both sharing the riff. Lee provides more of his now signature harmonics and picking. Plus, there is a breakdown of noise that leads back into the main riff. Very reminiscent of the EVOL era.

"Kissability" was the first of many Daydream Nation songs to come back during the 2002-03. Before this time, Teenage Riot and Eric's Trip were only songs that survived and were played regularly. Kissability, Total Trash, Candle, and Silver Rocket all saw set time from 2002-06.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Rain King

The next song on Daydream Nation is called "Rain King."

This is a milestone for one very simple reason....its Lee's 3rd vocal on a record. By far, the most of any Sonic Youth album. What does this tell us? Lee should sing more.....

Dirge and grind. This song reminds me of older Sonic. It was never really one of my favorites, but brings a smile to myself. It has a twinge to it that hints at things to come...lead guitar!! Not sure why but the working title was called "Mellancamp." John perhaps?

Rarely played live. Lee often changed the lyrics during the '88 tour. He shows this in years to come with many of his contributions. Lee has always felt that just because a song is recorded and released, its never the final realization of the song. Rain King falls into that category, must be why the rarely played the song.

Resurrected for the 2007-08 Daydream Nation re-issue shows. Has not survived since.

Thursday, December 25, 2008


The 9th song on Daydream Nation is called "Candle."

Slow burn. Isn't that what a candle does? It can only burn and light so long. The cover of Daydream Nation features a rather simple photograph of a candle. This song represents the center piece of the album. aren't candles also used as centerpieces?? Ironic isn't it?
"Candle" starts off slow and quiet, then moves into main section of the song. Alot like Cross The Breeze, its multi-sectional, but features very straight verse/chorus parts.

The song uses alot of imagery alternating the word "candle." The line "tonight's the day" is a play on the Neil Young song "Today is The day." "Tonight's The Day" was one of few titles kicked around for Daydream Nation. The song actually influenced the use of the candle on the cover. The front cover was painted by artist Gerhard Ritcher in 1983. It's titled "Kerze." The album was sold on the bootleg market in Russia. They even attempted to re-create the front cover...

Candle was one of easiest to pull off live Thurston and Lee both use a EEAAEE tuning. Lee of course plays the more intricate parts while Thurston leads the riff along with bass.

Candle disappeared after the '89 tour and came back in 2002! That was a surprise because the band was opening many shows with Candle. It enjoyed some nice stage time for most of the 2002-03 tour, then went back into hiding until 2006 when it was obvious the band was gearing up for their 2007 Daydream Nation tour. Candle remains a fan favorite from this record.

Video to come soon.....

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


The 8th song on Daydream Nation is called "Providence."

This is hardly a song, more like a transition. 1988, Thurston went to see his friend Mike Watt's new band fIREhOSE in NYC. Thurston had come to the show with a box of cables of cassettes. He later discovered that he accidently threw the box away along with some trash at the show. Watt cakked Thurston at 10:30 the enxt night in Providence, Rhode Island asking if he had found the box. The track features the message Watt left on the answering machine. Apparently Thurston was "high" and becomes forgetful....

This song also has a piano playing in the background. This was taken  from a cassette recording at Thurston's mother's house. Sounds of an over heating peavey tube amp can be heard in the background aswell. 

Providence is a nice transition from half of the record to the other. This sound collage seems to be influenced by Lou Barlow's tape collage on the Dinosaur Jr album "You're Living All Over Me." Lou's cassette collages were becoming more frequent at shows, and around this time Thurston began blasting random cassettes of Madonna filled with guitars noises and answering machine messages.

This song was "played" inbetween the main set and encore on the '88-'89 tour. Usually before Total Trash during the end of the set. "Providence" was also placed in its proper place during the 2007-08 Daydream Nation shows.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Here are some Youtube videos from the past few posts...

Hey Joni

The seventh song on Daydream Nation is called "Hey Joni."

Lee actually sings more than one song on a record! This does not happen very often, in fact, Lee sings one other, which we will get to soon!

Inspired by the movie "Neuromancer," the titles takes a play on the song "Hey Joe."

This song comes at you with force. After the noises and drones from Total Trash, Hey Joni starts immediately, no time for an intro or extended parts. Lee and Thurston play very similar parts on this song and even share tunings. This is rare, which leads me to believe this song came together quickly, leaving no time for thought. 'Hey Joni" also features more of Lee's intricate signature harmonics.

This is also one of the few Sonic Youth songs that feature a very stable verse/chorus/verse/chorus. Thurston and Kim have stated that around this time they digging on Dinosaur Jr, and J's songs influenced much of the writing. I would be more inclined to believe this on Goo or Dirty, but in 1988, Dinosaur was hot sheet on the indie scene.

This is my freind Jason Manley's favorite song.

This song got retired in 1990. It makes sense because Eric's Trip was the staple Lee song until 1995. Hey Joni was revived for a few shows in 2006 but brought back into the set nightly during the 2007 Daydream Nation re-release tour. Hey Joni also managed to get regular play after that tour during all the sporatic dates in 2008. It was play in Nashville back in April...and it was awesome!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Total Trash

The sixth song on Daydream Nation is called "Total Trash."

"Total Trash" follows Eric's Trip very seamlessly. It has a very simple three chord riff and drives almost the entire song. The riff is very "rock and roll" 12 bar blues, something we don't see too much in the Sonic Youth cannon, but of course its not tuned to E!

Total Trash uses the same riff throughout the song as both a verse and chorus with Lee providing some really basic lead guitar. Thurston sings a melody that rings and has some catchy words.


We ge to the end of 2nd chorus and typical Sonic fashion, it all comes crumbling down like building getting demolished. Leave it up to Sonic Youth to completely deconstruct one of the most basic songs of their current status! Its still all punk and no play.

The breakdown leads into a nice noise jam that uses the riff as a backbone. It has been said that Totla Trash is the second longest song on this record. A rough mix from the daydream sessions emerge in bootleg form to reveal the song having a much longer jam making the song well over 9 minutes! What is great about this tune is that the breakdown is more of a "jam" than a noise jam because the main riff is contained and each member gets to sort of "go off" for a moment or two. Mastrubation at its best. Where's J Mascis when you need him?

"Total Trash" was often played last in the set during the Daydream '88-'89 tour. It was absent until '93 where it was played nightly but then took another back seat until being dusted off June 18th 2003 in Louisville, Ky (i was there!) First performance in 10 years. It was played twice after that (same tour) and did not appear again until the 2007 Daydream Nation anniversary shows.

Video to come!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Eric's Trip

The fifth song on Daydream Nation is the Lee Renaldo classic "Eric's Trip."

Bugged eyed excitement came over me in June 2006 when I saw Sonic Youth in Atlanta on the Rather Ripped tour. Thurston broke out the drifter guitar and I knew what was coming....I could feel it...Lee says "ok my turn, this is eric's trip!"

Eric's Trip is one of the masterpeices that gives Daydream Nation its fortune and glory. This song is one of fur Lee songs to appear on the album, but for years, remained Lee's main staple in the set.

The melodic almost spoken words "I can't see anything at all, all I see is me, that clear enough thats whats important, to see me." So simple, yet so eloquent. Eric's Trip is anthem in itself. The songs takes lyrical inspiration from the Andy Warhol film "Chelsea Girls" following the acid trip of one of the characters Eric Emmerson.

One of the most inventive Sonic tracks. The entire song was written using Thurston's Drifter guitar. It was also during this time the band began to rely more heavily on their equipment. Eric's Trip seemed nearly impossible to pull off without the drifter!

Eric's Trip was the Lee staple from '88-'99, only to be replaced with Hoarfrost and Skip Tracer. The song seemed to be lost forever when the band had their equipment stolen in the summer of '99. After a nearly four year silence, the song returned a few times when Thurston managed to find adn hot rod another drifter guitar. The 2006 tour featured the song in heavy rotation, especially for the Daydream Nation album shows.

Video to come soon!

Thursday, November 27, 2008


I have been posting the last few blogs from work. The computers all have flash and other media players disabled which will not let me view or post videos from YouTube. Here some videos from the last three posts....Enjoy!

Teenage Riot 2007 Tour

Silver Rocket video 1988

The Sprawl 12-22-2007

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cross The Breeze

The 4th song on Daydream Nation is called "Cross The Breeze."

After the 8 minute opus of "The Sprawl," Daydream Nation is amped up into hyperspeed with "Cross The Breeze." This song is a masterpiece in the sonic catalogue, it features 5 very distinct parts, all with different sections and varying tempos. This song seems like it would difficult to pull off live.But they did, always, even 17 years later....

The song begins the same way it predecessor does, only it launches into a two chord punk riff backed by a galloping drum beat. Is it possible to have a punk song thats over 6 minutes? Does that defeat the purpose? The song can be divided up into 5 parts A B C D.

Here's how it breaks down:

Part A: Intro
Part B: Upbeat intro/lead in main section instrumental
Part C: verse/chorus "lets go walking on the water....i want to know"
Part D: "running cross the breeze"
Part B
Part A

The band began a reginment of labeling ever portion of every song with letters. Kim claimed they would lay them out on the floor, some songs would go up to Z!

Cross The Breeze's multi sectional approach made the song very difficult to pull off live especially with all the time and tempo changes. It was played nigtly on the '88-'89 tour and got some play in 1990 but was not dusted off until 2006 when the band began slowly placing Daydream Nation songs in their set to ultimately be played in its entire form. Cross The breeze shared some extra stage time on all the scattered 2008 dates.

Video to come soon....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Sprawl

The 3rd song on Daydream Nation is called "The Sprawl."

There are two kinds of Sonic Youtn fans, those that love Daydream Nation and those that think its too long and drags. "The Sprawl" is easily the song that gives the listener the "drag" red flag. After the high powered "Teenage Riot" and sonic-punk "Silver Rocket," The Sprawl takes a nose dive in tempo, clocks in at over 7 minutes, and features 3 minutes of an instrumental outro. Sonic Youth is showing no signs of slowing down if you can make it past this song. It has its finer points. When the band set out to "extend" their jams and songs, the Sprawl HAD to be one of the forst songs set in that direction. Although the track has a "free flowing" feel, it is highly orchestrated and resembles the wall of noise we once loved from the Confusion Is Sex era.

The song features a chorus that repeats in the same place. A veyr pop type attribute for a song of this type."Come on down to the store, you can some more." The rest of the vocals feature a typical sonic youth style of "spoken" word singing. The lyrics sound simple and improvised, in fact they more than likely were even though some of the lyrics were taken and inspired by "The Stars At Noon by Denis Johnson. Favorite line "does this sound simple enough? fuck you! does fuck you! sound simple enough?"

The loose outro is what feels as if the song drags. The layered guitars playing the same drone over and over seem to go on and on until it melts into the next track....then things pick up....

"The Sprawl" ws debuted with the rest of the record in 1988. It was played nightly during the '88-'89 tour but layed to rest until 2007 with the re-release of Daydream Nation.

video to come....

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Silver Rocket

The second song on Daydream Nation is called "Silver Rocket."

There is a surprise in  every song. Sonic Youth finally managed to write a "punk" song. Silver Rocket begins with an apreggiated but dives right into a two chord riff. The song is tight, and gets the point across...but then...

In typical Sonic fashion there MUST BE A BREAKDOWN and then a RETURN. Only this time, the sudden onslaught of noise comes at you when you least expect it. Its almost as if the band falls apart only to regain itself in the return to the chorus.

Silver Rocket is an indication that Sonic Youth is not only perfecting their song writing but managing to stretch their legs and "jam" a bit. Daydream represents the culmination of 6 years of musical evolution. Everything that is Sonic Youth from this point is thrown into Daydream Nation, Silver Rocket is pop, punk, noise, art, and attitude.

Silver Rocket was the song Sonic Youth performed for their first ever national television debut on the Night Music show. Don Fleming joins them on keys.

Silver Rocket was played mostly during the '88-'89 tour. It dropped off the setlist until 2000. It then saw periodic plays until 2006, but was being geared up for the 2007 Daydream Nation tour.

Video to come...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Teenage Riot

The first song on Sonic Youth's 5th LP is called "Teenage Riot."

"This song made the band famous whether they liked it or not." - Byron Coley.

By the end of 1987 and a 12 week tour taking the band across America and back to Europe, the band settled into a nest of extreme prolific production. With the creative genius of Mike Watt on their side, the band churned out a full-length LP filled with noises and cover songs called "Ciccone Youth: The Whitey Album." (This record will not be discussed in this blog.) The interim period between Sister and Daydream Nation was to be one of experimentation and writing. Lee Renaldo made a solo record along with Steve Shelley. The band was certain their next record had to match up with the cyber-punk blast of noise that made up Sister, but had few ideas where to take the music other than, as Thurston says, "extend our jams and our songs." A double LP was in thought and future sight.

"Teenage Riot" represents an era of music that ws bursting to be noticed. By 1988, bands like the Butthole Surfers, Big Black, Dinosaur Jr, and Mudhoney all made their mark on the indie scene blasting through small town after small club. The Europeans seemed to the only ones listening, but the pot was too hot and eventually popped. "Teenage Riot" represents an era before grunge was grunge, J Macsis was a guitar god, and Kurt Cobain was just some guy from Aberdeen. "Teeenage Riot" marks the begininng of that era.

The song depicts some slacker type guitar player as the president of the United States. 1988 was a time of change in America. Ronad Reagan finished his 8 year run as President and George Bush was elected in a landslide win. Life was good and plentiful for the band, there was just one problem....they did not have a label.

The powerful juggernaut known as SST had begun to spin its wheels. Many artists were dropped and some never contacted. When Lee was informed SST would need more time and money to release the as of yet untitled record, Lee and Thurston thought it best to seek other options and try to get the record a national release. The European label ENIGMA that had put the first 4 records out in Europe, opened a American office in New York City called Blast First. Within 6 weeks, Sonic Youth had a deal and a distribution through CBS. The same company that put IRS on the map. This widespread distribution which would make the record available in the USSR, Japan, and Australia for the first time, would eventually lead to a major label deal in 1990.
"Teenage Riot" boasts a new tuning Lee rrefers to as a "split G." Oddly, This tuning was rarely used and this song seems to be the only one on the record.
Debuted in 1988 with all the rest of the tunes. Teenage Riot has enjoyed a good run since. It ws layed to rest from '97-'99 but then resurfaced as either an encore or an opener on the 2000 NYC Ghosts and Flowers tour. Since 2000 the song has been played in and out sets. I managed to see them do this one in '04 in the middle of the set, only to find out it had only been played a handful of times on the tour. At a show in 2003, everyone kept yelling for it and Lee said "we played it last night, it was great!" and launched into Kool Thing....funny.....2007 saw the performace of the entire Daydream Nation album. I was there in Chicago to witness the greatness. It was also the first time I had seen the band begin the song with the "spirit desire" portion, which was rarely done in the past.
video to come...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

White Cross

The last song on the LP Sister is called "White Cross."

"Burning Inside!!!" Thats a strong start to a song that finishes a record. I have always thought, is there truly an end? Sister represents the idea that music is made for the future and not for the present. The "cybe-punk" mentality used through out the entire record gives the album a used and worn out futuristic sound. It is no wonder "White Cross" is the last song on the record.

The lyrics are simple and short, which is often a quality that the band uses, allowing them to explore the music more. It doesn't much lyrical content to make this song work:

Burning inside
I cross myself but if it doesn't help
because i'm not smart enough
i'm digging into white hot
learning not to lie
we cross it out and stay away

the song repeats the first two lines after an enormous build up and breakdown. Making good to end the record but the song kicks back in and has a abrupt ending. That's it? Want more? No noise jam? Thurston makes many references to his catholic upbringing. Others being "Catholic Block" and "Tuff Gnarl." He makes statements about trying to find a sense of security in the lyrics, trying to "cross it out" but its not helping. He's learning "not to lie" or sin but has trouble discerning between what is right and what is wrong, or is there a difference? He chooses in the end to stay away, because he's not smart enough or too young to understand and could possibly return after some experience. Remember, Thurston left home at 17 to find a whole new world...

"White Cross" was debuted in 1984 in a different form and came in and out of setlists in '86. Being one of the shortest songs, it was often extended with a longer jam in the middle. Setlists often list the song as "White Kross." Just like "Kotton Krown" was used with K's. The 2002-03 Murray Street tour saw a return into regular rotation, although the song has been pulled out many many times since the '87 Sonic Sister Tour. 2002-03 setlists spell the song with a "K," and was often used as an opener or secong to "Bull In The Heather." That's a weird transition!

Monday, September 8, 2008

On Hiatus

I have not made a post since August 19th. I have had to take a small break because of the busy stuff I have been doing. Now that school has started, the brewery is looking better and my wedding is over, I can turn some attention to this large undertaking.

Posts will return with "White Cross" and "Teenage Riot" beginning September 12th. Most of Daydream Nation, Goo and Dirty have already been written, so I will try to put up a new post every day.

Thanks for reading!!

Enjoy this video from 2005! Thurston is funny........

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cotton Crown

The second to last song on Sonic Youth's 4th L Sister is called "Cotton Crown."

This song represents another first for the band, a duet! Kim and Thurston must be one of the most famous couples in rock history, strange how it took 4 records to make a duet happen. Strangely enough "Cotton Crown" is not a  typical love song.

The first line of the song makes a declaration of love "love has come to stay in all the way" as if love has come and gone all this time. "feels like a wish coming true, feels like an angel dreaming of you." Ok maybe it is a typical love song. Not something easily pulled off though. This song represents love for the city that bore the music the band has been playing, New York City. A bond that can't be broken and a city that has yet to fall. "Angels are dreaming of you" could that the city is being watched over and taken care of and wearing a "cotton crown" could be Thurston taking responsibility for the city's well being. King of New York?

Typically sung only by Thurston when played live. "Cotton Crown" often gets spelled as "kotton krown" on setlists. The song was used frequently as an opener during the 2002 Murrary Street tour. "Cotton Crown" never really went on hiatus either. It often popped up in sets from 1990-1996. 2000-03 saw the song back again in rotation.

video soon!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pacific Coast Highway

Track 3 on side 2 of Sister is called "Pacific Coast Highway."

People love horror films. slasher films, serial killers, and supernatural murderers. Does Sonic Youth like horror films? I have always gotten that impression from the song "Pacific Coast Highway." 
One of Kim's darker compositions, it depicts the story of a serial road killer told from the killer's point of view. "Come on get in the car let's go for ride some where, i'll make you feel real good you'll make me feel so crazy."

This song has a sort of "mellow" break in the end right before the final chorus. I like to think of it more as a "lounge act." A few moments to let the listener calm down before the final end. The dream like guitar sound makes you feel as if you are running from the killer himself and manage to find a few moments of peace where you feel as if he's gone. But not for long!!

The band has a tendency to title a song before they REALLY title a song. "Pacific Coast Highway" appears on the track listing of Sister but the liner notes has an additional listing that titles it "PCH." The spelled out version could have been a working titles because live sets list the song as "PCH."

Sonic Youth has always had a way of playing nothing but the current release live and then on the next tour only play a song or two from the previous record. PCH was last played in '87 before it came back as a regular from '93-'96. Often used as a encore. A ten year gap went by and PCH got some play in 2006! With many of the older forgotten tunes getting another go around in 2006, it is no surprise this little gem got resurrected. 

no video. sorry!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Hot Wire My Heart

Track 2 on side 2 of Sister is a cover song called "Hot Wire My Heart."

Sonic Youth's first officially released cover song! Originally recorded by the punk band Crime and written by Johnny Strike. Unlike the Kim Fowly cover of "Bubblegum" that appeared as the b-side to Starpower, the band took the time to learn this song! One of the few songs in this era that were played in standard tuning. 

Rarely played live. Last known performance is 9-30-87.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tuff Gnarl

Side 2 of Sister begins with one of my favorite songs "Tuff Gnarl."

"Tuff Gnarl" was an ever evolving song. Some of the working titles were "Sea Smart" and "Really Fast." The band manages to give youa great image lyrically and then crash it down with a noise jam. Typical? Yes. But "Tuff Gnarl" is a song that belongs to this collection.

The song depicts a sort of punk rocker or hard core kid coming of age. "He's running on a tufff gnarl in his head, he's got a fatal erection in his head, he's really smart and he's really fast, he's got a hard tit killer fuck in head." Thurston uses images of sex to describe this coming age. The character in this little story seems to have discovered the joys of sex and is trying to channel the urges somewhere else. Hardcore advocates were typically straight edge which usually meant no smoking, drinking, drugs of any kind and even no sex. The young man finds solace in music as a way to calm down "mental tool box explodes in music creates utopia, gnarls out the nerves."  Thurston even makes a Big Black reference by using the words "sonic pig pile."

"Tuff Gnarl" has not been played since 1987. This is upsetting because its one of my favorite songs. Maybe it will make a triumphant return someday.

Funny performance from 10-13-87.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Pipeline/Kill Time

The 5th song on the LP Sister is called "Pipeline/Kill Time."

Like many records to come, Lee takes the vocals! By this time Lee's writing has bene evolving and his songs have begun to take shape from simple spoken word noise jaunts to full blown melodic noise jaunts.

This song has several parts to it. After each set of lyrics a different break in between verses is used until the song does a build up, but doesn't come to a crashing end! The then moves into an entirely different song accompanied by a MOOG. Thurston claims that the band began trying to extend out some of the jams in places but "Pipeline" allowed for an extra noise jam which ebcame "killtime" which could easily be what the band calls it, just killing time? filling up space?

Pipeline/Kill Time" wasn't exactly a staple in the set in '87 and was often "fucked up." Lee explained later the band could never get it right and he could never remember the words. The song also could have had a short life due to the fact it is the most reminiscent of the "Confusion" days. Last known performance was on 10-16-87.

Video from 10-13-87.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Stereo Sanctity

The 4th song on the LP Sister is called "Stereo Sanctity."

Sister is just like any other Sonic Youth record in that its plagued with its own "sound" issues. EVOL (as I mentioned before) had a very hollow reverberated sound. Sister claims a more muffled sound. In fact, one of the attracting factors in using Sear Sound Studio to produce Sister was the fact the soundboard was an old 24 channel board that still used vacumm tubes. Thurston claims you can "hear" the tubes humming in several places of the songs. In fact, the sound of the electricity pumping through the tubes can be heard ALL OVER the record. Total silence is actually in the key of A-flat, I wonder key tubes hum in? The guitars on Sister get a more "raw" sound with some grit. The drums in fact come out muffled. Despite the bands best efforts to "cool off" the drum sound, they came in too warm! make sense?

"Stereo Sanctity" could easily be a pre-cursor to grunge. Its fast and abrasive and leaves little time for thought. Again, we are dealing with the idea of "cyber-punk" or futuristic punk rock. The grunge explosion is only a few years away. The drums are very pounding while the guitar utilizes a more noise riff rather that the three previous songs that have recognizable riffs. The breakdown though is quite melodic and creative.

The lyrics are what drive this song the most. Alot like "Schizophrenia," this song takes inspiration from writer Phillip K. Dick. "I can't get laid cause everyone is dead!" is one of many exact quotes from Radio Free Albemuth.

Although is was performed nightly in 1987, the song never really made it past the initial touring outing for Sister. It came back briefly in 1993 but has not been played since.

This video is another from 10-13-87.

Beauty Lies In The Eye

Track 3 on the LP Sister is called "Beauty Lies in the Eye."

Lee uses an acoustic guitar on this one. That should be an indication of where the song could go or not go. "Beauty" follows two upbeat songs and why? Why place the exotic violent love ballad third? For the first time, Sonic Youth actually takes some time to place the songs in a cohesive running order.

The music is slow and loud. Lee composed the music using 4 guitars all in F#F#C#C#C#C#. A wall of sound type method was used layering each guitar along with some droning on the top two strings. The track was completed  solely by Lee but Kim provided the vocals. Kim sings a melody along with the C# strings and paints the picture of a violent love story. "Do you want to see the explosions in my eye?" she asks in a very powerful manner as if the person the question is being directed to is in for something terrible. Power of woman?

When played live, Thurston played bass, Lee played guitar and Kim sang. Steve got a break. The live version on "Hold That Tiger" bootleg is rather different mostly because of the fewer sounds from the band. It still holds up but not enough to come back into the set. "Beauty" has not been played since 10-24-87.

The band made a video for this song. It can be found on the Screaming Fields of Sonic Love video. I found it on YOUtube but it won't let me post it. If you are that interested in seeing it, just check it out on youtube.

This video is from 9-14-87 Atlanta, Ga.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Catholic Block

The second song on Sister is called "Catholic Block."

"Sister" was recorded at NYC's Sear Sound Studio. Sear Sound would also be the home to Experimental Jet Set Trash No Star and Rather Ripped. During the rehearsal stage of the album he band began not only focusing on making their songs more structural and cohesive, but they even came up with a system for putting a song together. The bad would number every part of the song with  a letter staring from A to Z. The charts would be laid out on the floor or taped to the wall. Some songs went all the way to F! "Catholic Block" went only to "C" but Lee admits that several songs on the record had parts removed. The band got so into "building" a song they sometimes built too much! This same process would be used during the making of Daydream Nation.

"Catholic Block" begins with a low sound of guitar plugging in. The song is the most "single" sounding on the album. Once again, a "hooky" riff is used to drive the song along with a definable verse and chorus. A breakdown is used but doesn't "noise out." Its used mainly as a transitional part of the song.

Thurston wrote the song based upon his catholic upbringing, but mostly in a joke sense of humor. Thurston often felt that catholic school boys and girls were the most punk because of their rebellious manner. Essentially, he's singing from the point of view of a rebellious teen punk! Youth?

This song uses two tunings. Lee is laying DDDDAA and Thurston is using F#F#F#F#eb.

Catholic Block saw its first appearance in April '87 and became absent from the set until 1992. The song was played regularly in'95-'96 but began collecting dust until the 2003 Murray Street tour where it was played almost nightly. It springs up in live sets every now and then.

The first video is from 10-13-87 Madison, Wi. The second is from 8-8-06 Toronto.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


The first song on Sonic Youth's 4th LP "Sister" is called "Schizophrenia."

By the end of 1986, Sonic Youth saw themselves extremely busy with a nearly 6 month tour schedule. November saw the end of EVOL and the beginning of a new era for Sonic Youth. Little time was taken in between albums as the band along with Mike Watt put together an experimental piece titled "Ciccone Youth." Sonic Youth's evolving appreciation for pop music began to not only grow in their record collection but also in their own music. Instead of rejecting pop music, they embraced it in their own way. Prince, Micheal Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and especially Madonna were all in heavy rotation. It was only a matter of time Sonic Youth was capable of channelling those elements into their music.

The word "cyber-punk" had been thrown around by Thurston at the start of 1987. Sonic Youth had branched out of their avant garde days to arrive to a newer medium of punk rock. It wasn't just punk rock, it was something else, music not for today but for the future. "Cyber-Punk" was used to describe the sounds of "Sister."

"Schizphrenia" starts with a really upbeat drum intro. Almost 80's. But then again, its the 80's right? SO why not? Who cares if Sonic Youth wants to actually keep a beat now? The song also contains the bands first ever "hook." A riff that not only carries the song but the vocal melody when Thurstons sings (and yes sings) "I went away to see a an old friend of mine, her sister came over, she was out of her mind!" The song then switches to a Kim part with her singing "the future is static, its that we have." The theme for the record is set in the first song. In a matter of 4 minutes the band manages to give you a glimpse of a newer kind of Sonic Youth, alot like EVOL, songs YOU CAN AND WILL REMEMBER!

Lyrically, the song is based on the life of Phillip K. Dick, a science fiction writer that Thurston has been obsessing over for a few years. Dick is most well known for the avant garde science fiction novels "The Scanner Darkly," "Radio Free Albemuth," "Man in the High Castle," and "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" Thurston learned a bit about his life from Wharton Tiers and tied his life into the song referring to fraternal twin "Jane" who died shortly after her birth. Thurston manages to remove himself and place his own thoughts into the mind of Dick and speak in a first person point of view. This is when Sonic Youth begins to leave their abstract lyrical thinking behind.

The working title was called "Sister," and was often announced that way for years. Alternate title maybe?

"Schizophrenia" was debut in April 1987 and became the bands opener for the entire '87 tour. The song became a staple in the live set especially during the breakdown. The song was not played during the '88-'89 Daydream Nation tour but came back into regular play in 1990. The song disappeared from '96-'99 but has been played quite frequently since 2000, mostly as an opener or an encore song. I have seen the band play this song twice. Quite possibly my favorite Sonic Youth track.  On May 2nd 2001, During Kim's part, she pointed at me during she sang "i could tuck you in and we could talk about it." I was flabbergasted!

This video is from 1987. Not sure on the date.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Expressway To Yr Skull

The last song on Sonic Youth's third LP is called "Expressway To Yr Skull."

EVOL has been a record of many firsts. "Expressway" could easily be considered Sonic Youth's first epic opus. "Expressway" would also be the staple closer for many years to come.

The song begins with a rather off beat strum but launches into a grand scale intro. The bright sounding chord progression gives off an almost happy feel when Thurston sings "we're gonna kill the california girls!" The keeps the upbeat pace going strong while melding into another Lee riff that sings the chorus "mystery train freeway plane expressway to yr skull". This doesn't ;ast long as the band takes the song into double time launching into quite possibly the best orchestrated noise jam to date. Hanging on a dronign F# chord then descending back into and E, a hollow vortex of noise is soon to follow. Quite and calm, the song ends and leaves you with sound of echoes. The subject of the song has been disputed for years, but with Sonic Youth you never really know. The song was written during the bands first visit to the west coast, so you know......

EVOL was released with rather mysterious etchings. Some copies of the vinyl had "expressway to yr skull" or "we're gonna kill the california girls" etched into the sides of the record. The track name of "expressway" on the back cover names the song as "Madonna Sean and Me" while the listing on the inside of the sleeve reads "The Crucifixion of Sean Penn." The song has always appeared as "Expressway" on setlists but was not officially listed until the released of Screaming Fields of Sonic Love in 1991.

"Expressway" was debuted on 6-12-1985 in the middle of the Bad Moon Rising tour. The song was also played on 8-1-1985 Columbus, Ohio. This video was released through Atavistic and was considered to be the first known performance of the song until the 6-12-85 video surfaced. This also one of the first songs written with Steve Shelley.

"Expressway" became a staple at the end of the set from '86 til '88. The song rested a few years and then came back in 1990 during the Goo tour. "Expressway" can also be found on the 1991: The Year Punk Broke video. Once again it rested a few years only to be played again in 1993. "Expressway" collected dust during the years '95-'99. The song has come back into the many times since 2000, but got constant play in 2004 and 2006. I got to see this song played in Atlanta on 8-21-04. Jim played an accordion during the final noise jam! Pretty amazing!

Only three songs from EVOL have continued to be played throughout the years "Tom Violence," "Shadow of a Doubt," and "Expressway." Maybe the band will bring "Starpower" back?

This video is from The Bonnaroo Festival in 2006 and features Stephen Malkumus from Pavement on vocals.

This next video is from the aforementioned 8-1-85 video. This tape can also be found at the Middle Tennessee State University library!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Secret Girl

Track 4 on Side 2 of EVOL is called "Secret Girl."

Secret door opening? The start of the track is quite spooky. The song begins with some loud hollow noises that sound as if a box or door is being opened to reveal something beautiful. The slow piano sounds like a music box with Kim's soft vocals over them. The listener begins to unravel the mystery of the song "the boy who enjoys invisibility, the pleasure is everlasting."

Thurston recorded the piano part for the "Made In The USA" soundtrack. The instrumental was slowed down and added Kim's vocals for EVOL. Listed as "Secret Girls" on the vinyl. The piano was often played through the PA while Kim sang over it. The boys typically took a break or provided melodic feedback to the tape.

"Secret Girl" was debuted sometime in 1985 after the recording of the "Made In The USA" film. It was played as an instrumental until it was re-recorded with vocals for EVOL.  "Secret Girl" has made a few appearances post-EVOL but has not been played live since 1993.

Guess what? Another video from 11-3-86!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Marilyn Moore

Track 3 on Side 2 of EVOL is called "Marilyn Moore."

Strange noises. That describes "Marilyn Moore." Even though Sonic Youth has dived into a world of structured songwriting, they still managed to get some new sounds out of their instruments. "Marilyn Moore" employs the use of a tape delay a lot like "Shadow of a Doubt". Lee begins a somewhat melodic pick scrape and slide to create a riff. Thurston's hollow yet poetic yell carries the melody of the song while Lee continues to use the pick scrape delay.

Lydia Lunch wrote the lyrics. This would Sonic Youth's third collaboration with Lunch. More to come.

Often used as the set opener during the '86 EVOL tour but has not been played since 11-22-86.

Video from 11-3-86. 

Monday, July 28, 2008

Death To Our Friends

Track 2 on Side 2 of EVOL is an instrumental called "Death To Our Friends."

So far, a Sonic Youth record wouldn't be complete without an instrumental track. The difference between this song and other instrumentals is that "Death To Our Friends" lacked lyrics and it just stayed the way it was. Plus, this song was actually played live for a change.

Lydia Lunch once said her favorite thing about Sonic Youth is the build ups in all the songs. "Death To Our Friends" takes advantage of using the "build up" theory by starting with a simple riff and speeding up and then slowing down. Another progression starts and then builds up again, starting another progression using the build up then slow down mold. In 1985, the song contained the lyrics to "Marilyn Moore."

The song uses the classic F#F#F#F#EB and has not been played live since the end of the '86 european tour.

Another video from 11-3-86.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Green Light

Side 2 of EVOL starts with "Green Light."

A typical Sonic Youth song. Thurston and Lee build the song around a basic riff while Kim and Steve carry the song. There is no "real" chorus in the song but Thurston repeats "I see a green light!" after every few lines. In a typical Sonic fashion, the song builds and builds until it falls into a dark black hole of never ending reverb, something the band is becoming known for and is able to pull off quite well. 

Reverb is also what makes this record sound a little more unique to the others. Lee began using a tape delay unit to get the deep vortex type sounds. The drums and vocals are very "roomy" and everything either chimes or rings. Perfect for this band. The use of reverb even improves the vocal performances making them quite spooky, For "Green Light" Thurstons usual spoken melody style of singing makes him sound more like he's really singing. Echo?!

"Green Light" was the first song composed with drummer Steve Shelley and one of the first to be played live before the record was made. The original title was "Green Love" and was often used as the set opener during the '86 tour. "Green Light" has not been resurrected since 1987.

This is another video from St. Louis 11-3-86:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Taking A Break

My posts have been quite sparse these last two weeks. I have been extremely busy and haven't had much time to think about the blog. A break is needed.

The Blog will return on Monday July 21st with "Green Light". The rest of EVOL will be finished by the end of next week also.

Thank you for reading and sorry for the delay on posts.


Friday, July 11, 2008

In The Kingdom #19

Track 4 on EVOL is called "In The Kingdom #19"

This is Lee Renaldo's first lead vocal appearance and first vocal of any kind since singing back up on "I Dreamed I Dreamed."

Much like "I'm Insane" and "Justice Is Might", Kingdom #19 reads like a poem. In fact it is a poem. Mike Watt provides bass on this song while Thurston noises it up with some new effect pedals. He also says he "plays Lee's amp" whatever that means. Instead of just improvising, and then laying down the spoken word, the band  played along to Lee's long winded poem. The full piece can be found on lee's book "Road Movies."

Like many of Lee's poems, this one is rather dark and depressing. It depicts a car crash and the after of the dying and surviving victims.

The screaming, crackling and angry yelling is from Thurston setting off firecrackers in the vocal booth while Lee was reading. The track was saved and cut up for the song. Lee was so angry he almost quit the band.

This gem has never been performed live.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Track on EVOL is called "Starpower."

Why do great song stem from tragic events? On November 22 1985, Minutemen guitarist D. Boone died in a car crash. He was 27 years old. His best friend Mike Watt fell into a deep depression and traveled to New York City to be with his friends Sonic Youth. Shortly after arriving, the band started work on EVOL.

Watt was invited to come stay with Kim and Thurston and to sit in and hang out during the EVOL sessions. It was during this time the band convinced Watt to continue playing as it was the only way to heal himself emotionally from the tragic loss.

Watt made three major contributions to the EVOL record. The first was the song "Starpower." The intial riff came from Watt himself jamming on one of Thurston's bass guitars. Te song was worked out and Thurston provided the lyrics. During this time Thurston had turned Watt onto pop music such as Madonna and Bruce Springstein. Watt claims "Starpower" came from him jamming with band trying to write a pop song. The influence of Madonna gave way into Sonic Youth's recording. Alot like the first two tracks "Tom Violence" and "Shadow of a Doubt" the song contains a catchy riff with a verse/chorus structure with a start and finish. Kim later claimed the song was inspired by Joan Jett. But who knows....

The song is presented in the universal Sonic tuning of F#F#F#F#EB.

Even though Thurston wrote the words, it was fitting that Kim sing it in her dark, yet sexy drone voice. Its a love song. Live, the song was sung by Thurston and during the '86 tour with fIREhOSE, Watt joined the band onstage for the song.

"Starpower" has not been played since 11-23-1986. Its a shame. Maybe the band we revive it on their next tour? They have proven that anything is possible......

Tis video features members of fIREhOSE playing horns and Mike Watt on bass. 11-3-86.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Shadow of A Doubt

Track 2 on Sonic Youth's 3rd LP is called "Shadow of a Doubt."

Towards the end of 1985, Lee and Thurston began working on new tunings for the upcoming record. Thurston and Lee sometimes would play the same song in two different tunings in order to expand the palette of sounds for any single song."Shadow Of A Doubt" is one of those songs.

Most of the record uses the F#F#GGAA tuning, but this song also incorporates the F#F#F#F#EB tuning we discussed with "Death Valley '69." The band also uses a tape delay machine to create that creepy staccato intro.

This is one of the few songs in the sonic catalogue where the lyrics and the title are very obvious in origin. Kim wrote the lyrics word for word based on the Alfred Hitchcock film "Strangers on a Train" but takes the titles from a different Hitchcock film. Kim says at the time the band was really into old black and white Hitchcock films and its no secret that the lyrics are exactly the movie! The band adds a few interesting twists to the song with a very emotional breakdown of Kim yelling "it was just a dream! it was just a dream!"

May 22nd 1998 saw the return of this song after a 12 year hiatus. The song was also played nightly on the 2002-03 Murrary Street tour and has had a few revivals since. I was lucky to witness this one in 2003!!

This video is taken from 11-3-1986 in St Louis. Notice the Janet Jackson playing in the beginning?? Sonic Youth was famous for playing Top 40 pop in between song during a guitar and tuning change! More on that later!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tom Violence

The first song on Sonic Youth's 3rd LP is called "Tom Violence."

1986 was the turning point in Sonic Youth's career. After a busy touring schedule of both sides on the Atlantic, Sonic Youth took a few weeks to catch their breath before starting on their 3rd LP EVOL.  At the end of the of the '85 european tour, Bob Bert announced he was leaving the band, this time for good. Steve Shelley was the first and only drummer to audition, and played his first show having only a few practices. As Thurston states "something clicked, and thats why we've had the same drummer since."

Another big change occurred during this time, the band chose to leave Homestead and join the ranks of SST. A change that was not easily made and left many at Homestead feeling "dumped." Gerard Cosley took it personal. 

EVOL is a dark record, and the opening "Tom Violence" does its job by getting that across. The band was interested in pop music at the time and began writing songs in a more traditional format. "Tom Violence" is presented with a verse that repeats a tag line as a chorus and then comes equipped with a traditional Sonic breakdown only to return to the original verse to end the song.

The word "violence" is used very differently, referring to the protagonist "life." Thurston croons "my violence is a dream, a real dream." "I left home for experience, carved Suk for honesty on my chest." One could think Thurston is writing about himself and his experiences of playing music and leaving home to go to New York. The asks the question is he made the decision yet doesn't really seem to care if it truly was the right decision. Some people think the song is about Tom Verlaine from the New York band Television.

This song is presented in another classic Sonic tuning of F#F#GGAA. This tuning is used often on EVOL and the next few records.

This song remains constant at Sonic Youth shows. One of the only three that are still played from this album. I have been lucky to witness this neat little tune three times.

I could not find a decent video of the song but found a video where someone had dubbed the original track. Here you go:

Monday, June 30, 2008

Death Valley '69

The last song on Sonic Youth's second LP Bad Moon Rising is called "Death Valley '69."

A hit? Hit it!!!

This song could easily be Sonic Youth's first real "hit". The song was released as a single before Bad Moon Rising was recorded. The more raw 7" featured no vocals from Lydia Lunch and was track to a 2-track machine by Wharton Tiers. The "demo" is much more slower than the album version.

Co-written by Lydia Lunch, Sonic Youth finally managed to write a pop song! It features a normal verse, chorus, breakdown/bridge and then back into the verse/chorus for a final finish!

As stated before, Bad Moon Rising was the first Sonic Youth record to feature full songs with alternate tunings. Death Valley 69 is the first song to feature the F#F#F#F#EB tuning. This is open of the longest surviving tunings which is still used today. Thurston was more prone to alternate tunings mostly because he had a hard time playing chords with his large hands. He preferred to jsut play barre chords with his thumb and alternate open tuning made that possible and gave the band a large palate of sounds to use.

This song was played almost nightly until the 1988 Daydream Nation tour. It was layed to rest until 1998's Thousand Leaves tour where it was the last song in EVERY set. The song has not been played since 2000 but was part of the bands sound check at several shows in 2006.

The first video was Sonic Youth's first music video directed by the great Richard Kern. The second is from the Gila Monster Jamboree video on 1-5-85.

Justice Is Might

Bad Moon Rising seems to be full of more experimental songs that the average Sonic Youth record. "Justice Is Might" opens up with a spoken word written by Lydia Lunch but Thurstons vocal was recorded on cassette and then chopped up Sgt. Pepper style! Guitar noises along with some basic drums move this song very quickly but ends with soem amplifier noises provided by Thurston.  This song, like many on this record hide Sonic Youth's potential songwriting evolution. Maybe thats why Bad Moon Rising is my least favorite?

This song has not been played since October 1984. Not one of my favorites.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I'm Insane

The fifth song on Bad Moon Rising is called "I'm Insane."

I'm Insane sounds like a noise collage more than a song. Bob Bert provides more steady pounding drums while Thurston and Lee make some crashing noises. A bass line can be heard under all the chaos. A song actually starts to form when Thurston begins his "speaking" vocal style. A melody from the lyrics carries the song from the chaos that it starts with to an actual structured peice.

Sonic Youth began trying to write more structured work, but I'm Insane is a good example of a track begins with a mess but slowly evolves into a more structured piece. Like some of Lee's songs, this song reads more like a poetry piece which requires more of a spoken word approach. On the Gila Monster Jamboree video, Thurston just reads the lyrics from a set of cards. Porbably too many to remember?

This video is from the The Gila Monster Jamboree VHS from 1-5-85.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ghost Bitch

Track 4 on Bad Moon Rising is called "Ghost Bitch."

Which direction? Forward? Backward? The great thing about Sonic Youth in this '84-'85 era is that the band not only made great leaps forward but managed to retain the darkness and style from previous efforts. Kim refers to this time as a "goth" period, where they were purposely trying to keep the music and lyrics dark and even creepy.

"Ghost Bitch" sounds like an outtake from Wharton Tiers two track session and starts off with almost two minutes of improv noise. Bob Bert uses one of his signature tribal style drums beats while Kim does a spoken word style vocal. Even the song is nothing but a large mess of noise, Kim hints at a small touch of melody to her emerging vocal stylings. Step forward? Step Back? New ground? Like I said before, Bad Moon Rising serves as a bridge in an EVOLving band.

Thurston plays a tuning of CCGGA#A# with a drumstick jammed in the 7th fret while Lee plays the same tuning only with an acoustic guitar!?!?!

Debuted in October 1984, this song had a longer life span than several of the tracks and was played regularly until the end of 1986 EVOL tour. 

This video is taken from 8-1-85.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Love Her All The Time

&tSonic Youth finally managed to write a true love song by the fall of 1984, its the third track on Bad Moon Rising and is perfectly titled "I Love Her All The Time.";div> 
One chord. thats all. Sonic Yout manages to get the job done by droning on one chord! Lee repeats a riff with a G#G#D#D#cb tuning that the bass mimimicks while Thurston croons the lines "she crawls into my mind, twisting through my nerves" The end of each verse is accompanied by noise break which leads back into the drone riff and verse. No wave? noise? what happened to structure?

Bad Moon Rising serves as a bridge from Confusion to Evol. I Lover Her All The Time is an example of a song that has an arrangement that could have been on Confusion, but a melody that could have been for Evol. The band is still all about noise and this song proves they could write structure and orchestrate chaos.

This song came at a time when Thurston and Kim got married in 1984. It can be seen as an artsy ode to his loved one. Lee married around this time as well. Love was certainly in the air but in a more Sonic style.

1991: The Year Punk Broke has a great live version of this song. It has not been played live since 1995.

Here is a live video from the Gila Monster Jamboree in the Mojave Desert 1-5-85.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Society Is A Hole

The second track on Bad Moon Rising is called "Society Is A Hole."

This song begins in a segue from "Brave Men Run" and features a drony vocal performance from Thurston. During this Reagan period, the band became somewhat obsessed with singing about the degradation of American culture. Like early hardcore, the lyrics are political and strive to make a point of mapping out no where we are in 1985, but where society as a whole (pun?) is headed. Thurston says "we're living in pieces, I want to live in peace" it almost seems like a plea.

This song was debuted in 8-14-84 but has not been performed since sometime in 1985.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Brave Men Run

The first track on Sonic Youth's second LP "Bad Moon Rising" is called "Brave Men Run.

The band began production for Bad Moon Rising in September 1984 and ended towards the end of October at Martin Bisi's studio Before Christ. The album utilized a 24 track tape machine which was a step up from the 4-track machine used for Confusion Is Sex. The record would also be released by atleast 3 different labels, Blast First and Rough Trade in Europe and Homestead in America.

"Brave Men Run" sounds like an epic intro to a record. The song is only 3:37 long but bashes away an intro that 1:37 leaving Kim's vocal performance at the end.  The song uses a typical Sonic song approach by creating a large build up and then crashing it down at the end with only the low hum of the bass.

The song represents one of the first songs written in an alternate tuning, F#F#F#F#eb. Many more songs for years to come would be presented in this tuning. 

The song was debuted in Europe in '84 but has not seen the light of day since October 1985.

This video is from the Gila Monster Jamboree in the Mojave Desert 1-5-85.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Early American

The third and final song on side-B of Kill Yr Idols is song called "Early American."

Even though the band was trying to move away from free form jamming, Early American represent an "orchestrated" jam. This track could have easily been left over from the "Confusion" sessions but recorded during the 2 track sessions months later.

Thurston has commented that this is one of favorite recordings the band has done, strangely, it was only performed on the European tour of November 1983. It was used as a segue into "Burning Spear" and can be heard on the Live In Venlo Holland bootleg.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Brother James

The second song on side B of the Kill Yr Idols EP is called "Brother James."

Not much information in this song exists and I'm not really sure what it is about. Sonic Youth has been known to draw influence from other outside sources but "Brother James" has some surreal lyrical content. "Take my hand he said to me" starts the song. I have always thought this song was about drugs and being seduced into the power of being in an altered state of mind.The line "brother james gave it to me" being repeated leads me to believe this when the next line says "take my hand you might as well, were going straight to hell!"

"Brother James" has remained in the live set since 1983. Out of the 9 shows I have attended, the song has been played 5 times. Pretty constant huh? "Burning Spear" is the only other song from this era that has survived throughout the years but does not get as much play as "Brother James." Reason? lets face it, its their best song from this era and represents evverything the band was trying to accomplish in its early years.

This video is from 8-27-04 from the Sonic Nurse Tour in Paris.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Kill Yr Idols

Shortly after finishing the LP "Confusion Is Sex", Sonic Youth went back to Warton Tiers to record 3 brand new songs. The sessions were done in two days with a complete live take that was recorded straight to 2 track. The end result was the Kill Yr Idols EP.

With a European release of Confusion looming ahead, a German label called Zensor decided to release the EP ahead of time in order to get some hype for the LP. "Protect Me You" and "Shaking Hell" were offered up on the A-side as a preview of Confusion. The song "Kill Yr Idols" was the first song on side B.

Its all about press. Thurston prefers any press wether its good or bad but after a slandering remark saying that avant garde music is good in theory but never comes to life put Thurston is a tale spin. He then wrote a letter to the Village Voice saying "before every show we walk down 32st street and suck Glenn Branca's dick to take in all the genius"

The song says "i don't know why you want to impress Christgua, let that shit die, kill yr idols, sonic death, its the end of the world your confusion is sex!" Thurston meant this as a come back to Christgua writing and wrong assessment of the band and of the whole art scene in general. Sort of a "we're not gonna take it" done in a SONIC way. The original title was "I Killed Christgua With My Big Fucking Dick"

"Kill Yr Idols" quickly became one of Sonic Youth's defining songs. The verse chorus structure shows the band moving in a more "song" structure and not relying on extended noise jams. The song was done in two takes live, a method Lee wished they had done for the entire Confusion record.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Lee Is Free

The last song on Confusion Is Sex is called "Lee Is Free."

"Lee Is Free" is an instrumental recorded at Lee's apartment on cassette. It features some guitar experiment and alot of string bending. The track closes out the record. There is no record of this song ever being played live but might have been used inbetween songs while switching guitars alot like "Freezer Burn."

"Confusion" was completed sometime in April of '83 and released in September 1983. The band embarked on a tour with Glenn Branca and made their first trip to Europe in November. During this time, some new songs that didn't make it onto "Confusion" emerged in the and would become the "Kill Yr Idols" EP.

"Confusion" was very well recieved but the abnd was plagued with comparisons to Branca. Their next effort, "Bad Moon Rising" will be an attempt to break the no wave mold.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Making The Nature Scene

The second to last song on Confusion Is Sex is called "Making The Nature Scene."

"Making The Nature Scene" was one of the three songs considered for the planned single that ended up becoming a full LP.

This is the only track on "Confusion" that drummer Bob Bert plays on. Before recording, Bob was let go from the drums due to concerns with his playing ability. Jim Scalvanos plays drums on all the other tracks. Towards the end of recording, Jim decided he did not want to continue and Kim suggested bringing Bob back. His contributions to songs like "Confusion Is Next" "Shaking Hell" and "Making The Nature Scene" were noticeable enough to give him another try. Bob came in and knocked out "Making The Nature Scene" in less than a day.

Another hardcore song? The lyrics were written by Thurston but sung by Kim. Thurston plays a groove on the with a thumping junlge type beat behind him. Lee sweeps a drumstick across the guitar along with drums. A lot like "Confusion Is Next" "Making The Nature Scene" evokes a youth uprising with lyrics like "order of decay, nature reality is selection, too of critical internvention, fragmentation is the rule, unity is not taught in school." This song could have been another hardcore song but in a Sonic Youth treatment, the song evokes more power than a fast 1 minute song.

"Making The Nature Scene" comes and goes in the set but was played nightly during the 2002-03 Murray Street Tour. It really seems in the last few years more and more songs from this era are being played again!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Confusion Is Next

Track 4 on Side 2 of Confusion Is Sex is called "Confusion Is Next."

Next? Sonic Tooth? Chaos? The song takes lyrics to describe the art scene or atleast that is what Thurston has been known to say about the song. Turston has always had a fascination witht hardcore but I feel its mostly with the subculture and the DIY ethic that comes with it. "Confusion is Next" to me represents what could have been an interesting "hardcore" song.

I maintain that chaos is the future
And beyond it is freedom
Confusion is next and next after that is the truth
You got to cultivate what you need to need

Stick your fingers in your mouth
Squeeze your tongue and wrench it out
From its ugly fucking cancer
Its ugly fucking cancer root
You got to cultivate what you need to need

Chaos is the future and beyond it is freedom
Confusion is next and next after that is the truth
You gotta cultivate what you need to need
Sonic tooth, sonic tooth
Sonic tooth, sonic tooth
Stick your fingers in your mouth
Squeeze your tongue and wrench it out
From its ugly fucking cancer
Its ugly fucking cancer root
You got to cultivate what you need to need
Sonic tooth, sonic tooth
Sonic tooth, sonic tooth

All these lyrics are missing is a fast double yime tempo with loud fast guitars! Its kind of that way. As I said before, This song to me, represents Thurston's ideal hardcore song done in a veur Sonic style. Words of chaos, freedom and shouting for the future can only point towards hardcore. A group that lived for themselves adn their subculture. A way of life.

This song was one of the three proposed for a single before the project became a full LP. "Confusion" has not been played since the '95 Lollapalooza Tour.

Tell nothing but the truth.

World Looks Red

Song 2 on Side 2 of Confusion Is Sex is called "The World Looks Red."

Wait a minute! An actual song? Side 2 features more tunes that represent an actual song structure rather than an orchestrated jam. "World Looks Red" was one of the first few songs harbored an actual structure with a start and finish.

The song was worked out and played instrumental with lyrics added by Micheal Gira during the recording of Confusion Is Sex.  During live showsThurston often adds the lines in repeat "no it is, yes it isn't" during the end. The song features Lee playing the riff with a screwdriver stuck in the neck. Thurston bangs another riff with a drumstick in the fret board. Like many songs of this era, the drums and bass carry the song with the guitars noise up the riff or the melody.

The band often opened shows with this song and was in rotation until the end of '86. The song was revived during the '95 Lollopalooza tour but remained un-played until 2006, joining "Shaking Hell" on the Rather Ripped tour.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Side 2 of Confusion is Sex starts off rather up-beat with an extreme track known as "Inhuman."

Of all the songs Thurston plays bass on, this is the only one that he sings with the bass.

Confusion ushered in a newer side of Sonic Youth. They often recieved criticism for copying Glenn Branca, but the main difference between The Sonics and the noise guru were that Sonic Youth began orchestrating their jams into actual songs with a start and finish.

"Inhuman" is a short rocker with a noise intro. Thurston counts it off and the song explodes into a 3 minute punk song.

"Inhuman" is a good example of the line Sonic Youth often walked between punk rock and noise. Thurston often called it "Art-Core."

This song gets pulled out every once in a while but has remained dormant since the early ninties. The Murray Street tour saw a brief revival during encores.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Shaking Hell

Rounding out the end of side 1 on Confusion Is Sex is a Kim Gordon tune called "Shaking Hell."

In June of 2006 I got a little surprise while seeing the band on the Rather Ripped Tour.....SHAKING HELL!!! After 20 years of being retired, the band pull this one out during the final encore of their Rather Ripped Tour. Faces were stunned, minds were blown.

The song features one of the best and dramatic vocal performances from Kim. She begins with a low whisper:

she's finally discovered she a
i told you so!
she's finally discovered she a
i told her so!

She then gets somewhat seductive:

come closer and i'll
tell you!
come closer and i'll
take off your dress!!
take off your dress!!

the primal scream of those lyrics are haunting. Even when she yells "Turn Around!!" She ends with a  heavy breathing, almost orgasmic vocal repeating "shake! shake! shake! shake!"

The song features Thurston on bass with Lee strumming the guitar. Kim plays guitar also. The song is a basic repeating riff with guitar noises, but then breaks down to a lone drum beat with Lee providing a rather melodic drone background.

This song was one of three songs considered for a 7inch single at the start of 1983. Thurston had been really into hardcore and noticed that most hardcore bands released singles because they were cheap and easy to make. The band entered the studio with Wharton Tiers only to realize that they had more than enough material to make a full album. "Shaking Hell" was the first song to be recorded for the record.

Problems would plague the entire making of Confusion Is Sex. The best take of Shaking Hell got erased by accident and several attempts were made to get another good take. The only copy of the erased track existed on a cassette tape. The rough mix down was used as the final track on the record. You can even notice a drop in fidelity when the song comes on.

This song was a staple in the set from 82-84. Shows were often ended with an extended jam of the song. A live version appears on the Kill Yr Idols EP, which was taken from the 11-15-82 show at The Pier in Raleigh, NC.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I Wanna Be Your Dog

Track four on Confusion Is Sex is called "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

This is an Iggy and The Stooges cover recorded live on cassette in November 1982 at The Pier in Raleigh, NC.

The band has been known to pull this cover song out ever now and again. Iggy Pop himself joined the band on stage in '87 and has continued to do so when the opportunity arises. Others that have lended their services on playing this song live include Mark Arm and Steve Turner (mudhoney),  Ron Asheton (the stooges) and Nick Cave.

This song was played a number of time on the Sonic Nurse Tour in 2004.

Freezer Burn

Song number three on Confusion Is Sex just happens to be a short instrumental called "Freezer Burn."

During the recording of Confusion, the band did alot of accidental experimentation. The band spent Jan-Feb of 1983 working day and night to keep the track from sounding too muddy. Traks were recorded, rerecorded, mixed and remixed just to get a decent sound. Wharton Tiers had a great 8-track tape machine but very little equipment for it.

Freezer Burn is a failed experiment that turned out to be useful on the final product of Confusion. It has been said that the band recorded this guitar only track in a walk in freezer down the street from Wharton Tiers studio. The track was actually done in the studio testing rooms for better low end. 4 guitar were tracked and layered, and when finished, the sound was so muffled it sounded as if it was done inside a walk in freezer, hence the title.

The track was used to segue into the live version of "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

Sometimes played on cassette in between songs at live shows.

Protect Me You

After the loud bang of "She's In a Bad Mood," Confusion Is Sex gets cooled down a bit a with a dark and somber tune called "Protect Me You."

Confusion Is Sex walked many lines in 1983. "Protect Me You sounds like a song that a little girl would and make up to herself alone in her room. Kim Gordon plays this role often with her vocals often giving off a very dark impression. Like the previous track, "Protect Me You" stay within the realm of New York avant garde art rock.  As we will see, the rest of the record begins to branch out from the confines of "Protect Me You."

Thurston thumps his guitar with drumstick wedged in the fret board. This is the only track Lee plays bass on any record. Mostly because he wrote the bass line. One of my favorite Kim vocal performances, dark, somber, and sexy.

Written in 1982 and performed on the Savage Blunder Tour in November '82.  No live recording exists of this song and its believed to have never been played live after its recording in March '83.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

She's In A Bad Mood

Sonic Youth's first full length LP is titled "Confusion Is Sex." The first song is called "She's In A Bad Mood."

At the end of 1981, Sonic Youth replaced drummer Richard Edsen with drummer Bob Bert and at the beginning of 19982 embarked on a three week tour with fellow Neutral label mates The Swans. It was during this switch the real change in the bands sound began to take shape. Many new songs were added to the live set, one of them being "She's In A Bad Mood."

The song builds and builds and then a final crash of noise brings the song to an end and into silence. This format had been used before with several of the earlier pieces but is best represented in this song. Lee uses more lead pipes to create the metallic crashes of noise and Thurston scrapes, strums, and drones on a fractured E chord.  The vocals are lazy and melodic with a catchy refrain "she's in a bad mood but I won't fall for it!"Perfect start for the record?

"She's In A Bad Mood" isn't exactly the "first" song on the Confusion Is Sex. The record made to start with either side but the LP lists the as the start of side 2 but the 1994 Geffen reissue places it at the start of the record.

This song has not been performed since November 1983 and very few live recordings exist of this song.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Good and The Bad

The last song on Sonic Youth's self titled EP is called "The Good and The Bad."

Instrumental ending is always the way to go. The Sonics have been known to end records with a flighty noise jam and this is the first.

The song features a thumping bass riff a lot like "The Burning Spear." It is no secret that no wave and New York City noise had inklings of dance and jazz music. The ascending and descending guitr lines come into a breakdown and back into the groove. Over and Over again distinguishing the both sides of the song, the good and the bad.

Neutral Records released Sonic Youth at the beginning of 1982 and was recorded for $1000 at Radio City Music Hall. The studio was a 24 track facility making it the "cleanest" sounding Sonic Youth record until 1990's Goo. By the time the record came out, the band had clearly shifted paths into a new world of sonic noise music. Richard Edsen left shortly after and the new era and sound of Sonic Youth was ushered in by new drummer Bob Bert and sound engineer Wharton Tiers.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I Don't Want To Push It

The Fourth song on Sonic Youth's self titled EP is called "I Don't Want To Push It."

Another simple tune from this EP. The band wails into a free form jam while Thurston sings right above a whisper making his vocals almost inaudible. Thurston states in the Confusion is Next book that his vocals had to be redone a few days later and he had developed a cold, making them very "stuffy." 

This song was originally titled "Hard Work" and can be found on the 2006 re-issue in a 9 minute form. Another performance of the song appears on the Sonic Death cassette. This was a staple jam in the set and is a great representation of the New York No Wave style. Art rock at its best. This song was last played on 11-04-1983. It has not be resurrected in any form since.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

She Is Not Alone

The third song on Sonic Youth's self titled EP is called "She Is Not Alone."

In  late 1981 Sonic Youth decided to stop rehearsing and begin using their performances as practice. Most of the live set was improvised and the band was tired of paying to rent a space to practice. This caused Richard Edsen to question whether he wanted to continue with the band. "She Is Not Alone" was a song that started off in a free form improvised state.

The earliest known performance of this song was in July 1981.  The "Confusion is Next" book and the liner notes to the Sonic Youth EP indicate that this song was debuted without drums in a very noisy state. Drums were added and the earliest known recording was the 9-18-81 performance.

The recording features some simple bass lines with Thurston repeating the line "She is not!" He starts off soft and then his voices raises but never above the soft whisper. For the record Lee put down his drill (often used on stage for the song) and made some interesting "clinking" sounds by dropping lead pipes onto the floor is various parts of the song. The song is 4:05 long. It has been known to go on for 15 minutes.

The song was brought back into the live set in 1999 after an 16 year absence.  It was often used as the encore during the A Thousand Leaves tour. The song took on a different form and would be an all out jam ending in a noise jam. The song came back in 2002-03 and played frequently during the Sonic Nurse tour in 2004.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I Dreamed I Dream

The second song on Sonic Youth's first EP is called "I Dreamed I Dream."

This song dates back to 1981 and was originally titled "Where The Red Fern Grows."

This song features vocals by both Kim Gordon and Lee Renaldo.  After the crashing end of Burning Spear, "I Dreamed I Dream" starts off with a slow bass drone in the form of a G chord, slowly switch to F# and E. Small guitar picking accompany a steady one chord guitar strum. With Lee singing the reverberated vocals in the background,  Kim repeats several lines "all the money is gone" working you, fucking you, working you fucking you". The abstract lyrics and the one chord drone/strum give a small hint as to wear the band will be heading in the future. Most of the lyrics were written by drummer Richard Edsen.

I have always been surprised on how "quiet" this song comes off. Early live recordings indicate a much fuller range of noises carrying the song.  This song was included on the "Screaming Fields of Sonic Love" cd and an episode of the Sopranos in 2007. This track best represents the band in that era and gives a unique perspective on the no-wave scene and where it was headed. Several compilations from the No Wave era include this song. Sonic Youth was obviously trying to branch out from improve noise and try to orchestrate their jams into actual songs or pieces from a larger performance. 

A demo of this song surfaced on the 2006 re-issue which was recorded a few months prior the EP recording. The performance isn't as tight and does not contain any lyrics. This song has not been performed since 9-18-81. I could be wrong though.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Burning Spear

It's very fitting that the first post on this blog would be the first song the band ever wrote in 1981, The Burning Spear.

Thurston Moore said in 2006 that "it was my intention that the first chord of our first record be and E chord." In 1981, Sonic Youth had yet to become the multi-tuning masters they are today. In fact, all of the first EP, Sonic Youth, was in standard tuning.

Underground reggae was popular during the early 80's. New York was becoming a mecca of avant garde music and art and Sonic Youth was smack in the middle.  An early hip-hop-reggae infused music called Go-Go was quite popular at the start of 1980. Thurston says that "Kim used to play along to funk records to learn bass. In our Eldridge St. apartment she would play the first Black Uhuru record and play along."  Drummer Richard Edsen was in several Go-Go based bands and liked playing fast noisy disco beats. This is how the basis of the first few Sonic Youth songs were formed.

"Its just a song about living on 13th Street" says Thurston. "It was known for its heroin trade, I would only go out during the day time and rarely at night." The two minute drum splash rings in some guitar noise from Lee Renaldo and kicks in with a fast beat back by Kim's bass. Thurston and Lee bang on their guitars with drums sticks and screw drivers (or anything that sounded cool). The builds like a volcano only to explode in a final avant garde noise finish.

"Burning Spear" first known performance was in july 1981 at the infamous Noisefest and has been in rotation in the live set for the last 25 years. It was rarely played from '87-'94 but managed to make several long lived comebacks, especially during the 2000 NYC Ghosts and Flowers tour, often being announced as "this is the first song we ever wrote!"

This video is from 11-08-1985. pretty cool stuff!!