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!