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: