Sunday, January 11, 2009


The 5th song on the LP Goo is called "Mote."

The return of Lee! I have a friend that claims that "Mote" is the quintessential Sonic Youth song. I would file this one under "Greatest Hit" collection. It's my second favorite Lee Renaldo song.

"Mote" follows "the hit" of the album. Strange because if "Mote" had been cut, it easily be an stand out track and possibly a single.

In perfect Lee fashion, the lyrics are derived from a Sylvia Plath poem called "the Eye Mote." The song was actually introduced as "Eye Mote" during early concerts.

The demo is much different from the version on Goo. For starters, its titled "bookstore" and does not feature a bridge and centers mostly around the ending noise jam.

"Mote" became Lee's principle song in concert, typically alternating with Eric's Trip. The song ended up surving longer than most of Lee's songs only getting retired briefly during the 1998-99 Thousand Leaves Tour. "Mote" was brought back during the 2000-01 tour and was played in a medley with Hoarfrost called MoteFrost.

Last April, Mote was the 4th song in the set! Pretty ambitious with the extreme noise jam at the end!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Kool Thing

The 4th song on the LP Goo is called "Kool Thing."

This song is a radio song. Plain and simple. If there ever was a break out song for Sonic Youth, this is the one.

"Mary Christ" ends with the Kool Thing riff coming in, but the track ends and repeats the same riff. Many were puzzled for years about this until the Goo Demos surfaced only to show that both songs go into each other and the ending of Mary Christ is from the demo.

Chuck D makes a special appearance on this track. He doesn't rap but talks. Apparently it took him one take!

This song is about being cool. Seems to be a hot topic with the band during this time. Sonic Youth could have felt indifferent about their new major label home. They could have also felt indifferent about the possibility of being "mainstream" cool rather than underground hipster cool. Either way, the label rejecting the first version of Goo could have been the reason why this song turned out a little different from the demo. It's strategically placed as the 4th track, around the other "radio friendly"  tracks.

Maybe I read too much into things, but he Sonic's themselves are very careful about what they do. By this time, They KNOW how to write a pop song, they just didn't choose to until now. To quote the Sandlot, "she knows what she's doing, she knows EXACTLY what she's doing!"

Another song in F#F#F#F#ee. Many more to come! This will prove to be Sonic Youth's most marketable tuning. Thurston has a tendency to write a whole record using one tuning.

"Kool Thing" was played nightly during the 1990-91 tour. It got some play during the 100% Dirty Tour in 1992, but disappeared from the set completely until the 2000 NYC Ghost and Flowers Tour. Yes, we were shocked to see it come back! In 2001, Kim sat on the stage, looked at me, and did the "hey kool thing! come here! sit down beside me" part while looking and motioning to me!! 

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mary Christ

The third song on the LP Goo is called "Mary Christ."

After the longer droning outro of Tunic, Mary Christ starts out with a bang! A very jazzmaster tremelo bang that is!

"Mary Christ" has all the elements of a straight up punk/pop song. Verse/chours/verse/chorus. There's even a guitar solo thats emulated through a thick noisy fuzz pedal. This track makes it clear that Sonic Youth is once again being influenced by its peers, this song is very grunge! Kim also provides a nice "talk back" vocal in between every few lines. Trade off vocals are very "punk rock."
This sogn represents an eveuntual evolution into the 90's. Sonic Youth has already made their mark, but at this time, have their goals set into a different mode. How do you become a rock band? Could you call anything pre-Goo rock? "Mary Christ" is that effort. I'm sure having Don Fleming and J Macsis around couldn't hurt after all. Enough with the experimentation and "free sound," lets make a rock album!
The song is a about a friend of Thurston's, whom he used to go ice skating with. He apparently ran into her while on vacation in California in 1989. Inspiration at its best!
One of the earliest songs to contain the F#F#F#F#ee tuning. Used alot on this album.
"Mary Christ" has been played live since 1991.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Tunic (Song For Karen)

The second song on the LP Goo is called "Tunic (Song For Karen).

This song is a tribute to the late great Karen Carpenter. The band seems to enjoy singing about her or making reference to her. They even covered Superstar for the 1995 tribute, If I Were A Carpenter. Ironically enough, its only good track on the tribute.

The refrain, to me, still refers to the mystery of the industry. "You are never going anywhere." Geffen, J Macsis, Don Fleming, and Gary Gersh all deny there was any pressure to produce a marketable, slick productive record. Thurston to this day still prefers the 8 track demos over the actual record. The sogn could be a cry for help or just an insane chorus tributed for Karen. Either way, there was pressure in 1989-90, and with a larger than ever recording budget, and 24 track studio with large ceilings, the band was out of their environment, and I'm sure they all thought their stint on a major would be a short and sweet one. "You Are never going anywhere" explains all that in one simple line. If anyone felt the pressure it was Thurston, who wrote this song while on vacation in California in the summer of 1989.

This song has not been played since the end of the 1991 tour. There is probably a reason for that. It's never been one of those "whoaa!!" live songs. It has a tendancy to make the album drag being that its only the second track.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dirty Boots

The first song on Sonic Youth's 1990 LP Goo is called "Dirty Boots."

Goo marks the start of a new era of Sonic Youth, the Geffen era. After being approached by majors for the entire 1988-89 tour, Sonic Youth finally settled on Geffen, because they were the only label that allowed complete artistic freedom, or so they thought.

Goo was practically written over a weekend and recorded in less time, atleast the first rejected draft of the record was. The band entered Wharton Tiers Fun City Studio at beginning of 1990 and busted out 11 songs on an old 8-track tape machine. The tapes were handed to the people at Geffen with the intention of being released as their major label debut. Leave it up to Sonic Youth to hand in the most super duper lo-fi album to a major label. In all truth, the band was mocking them and they knew it!

"Dirty Boots" sounds nothing like the band has ever done before. Thurston claims that being on tour with bands like Dinosaur Jr and Nirvana made him feel like he had to compete. Thurston also has the most "pop" sensibility of all the band members, so Thurston took the writing into an even more mainstream direction than ever before. "Dirty Boots" says it all.

The song was written in California in the summer of 1989. The lyrics managed to take many "slang" terms and string them together. Essentially, the song is about california and how fake it is. Could this also be a song about the industry the band was about to enter? I think so. Sonic Youth knew what they were about to get into. Dirty Boots shows they are no stranger to the music industry and its way of "screwing" over. the band entered this with a "take no prisoner do what you want" attitude. Now THATS punk rock!

There are three versions of this song out there. First the Goo version. Then what is considered to be the "demo" versions. Both Wharton Tiers versions are different, but only in length. These can be found on the Goo re-issue.

This song has not been played since 1993. I wonder why? Seriously! I do! I met a freind at a Sonic Youth show in 2004. We hit it off and had a great time enjoying the band together. Before the encore, she turned to me and said "If they play Dirty Boots can I kiss you?" If you've seen the video, you will know what i'm talking about. Good times.

The 1990 video:

Taken from the documentary 1991: The Year Punk Broke