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!!

Saturday, May 10, 2008


This Blog is a work in progress that has been hevily influenced by Matt Peach's blog titled Hung On Every Word. Many other freinds have blog now and feel the need to join the ranks and start talking about stuff.

This blog is dedicated to Sonic Youth. I am going to attempt to write about every Sonic Youth song. ounds crazy? Well, its something to do. Rather than discuss how gre they are and dissect each album, making a single entry about every song seems a lot more interesting and challenging. I am going to try and provide videos and hopefully live mp3's from my personal collection of bootlegs.