Friday, May 29, 2009

Sympathy For The Strawberry

The last song on the album Murray Street is called "Sympathy For The Strawberry."

Classic Sonic Youth drone. This song was built from the constant "no wave" riff that drives the song. Thurston and Lee add little blips here and there. It's a pretty slow song that carries on for 9 minutes. This is also a classic Sonic way of closing an album.

The song started off instrumental and was played on a short trip to Europe in 2001. I remember hearing about the "five new instrumentals" that debuted on this tour. This got me excited that a new album would be in the works. I also saw a video of the band playing a 9/11 benefit from September of 2001. They opened with the new instrumentals and this song was the first in the set an was announced as "Magik Chord." It even appears that way on the setlist. The final verson is much different as the early live version just sounds like droning with some guitar on top. Lee originally wanted to apply some of his lyrics that would become "Karen Revisited" and Kim wanted to sing "Karen." The two switched.

There is no clearly defined melody in this song and the words sound improvised. When I saw the band in 2002 and 2003, the words of this song seemed different both times and the song was extended well past the 9 minute album cut.

This song has not been played since 2003.

Monday, May 25, 2009


The second to last song on the album Dirty is called "Purr."

Thurston once said that the album Dirty was made in response to touring with Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr in 1991. He claimed that the band felt like it was competing night after night to hold their own against the two up and coming super bands. Being that Daydream Nation and Goo both took influence from Dinosaur Jr, it also safe to say that Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr also evolved themselves as a result to playing with Sonic Youth. "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" and pretty much the entire In Utero album is a good example of the Sonic rubbing off onto Nirvana.

"Purr" is such a song that takes away from that experience. It has a melody, a verse/chorus and even something that resembles a guitar solo using a very nasty sounding flanger! Pretty cool huh?

This was one of the earliest songs written for Dirty. It was debuted in 1991, probably during the Goo tour. "Purr" is a great example of the band showing its punk rock roots. The riff is simple and the song comes together with a very cohesive three chord change up. The beginning starts off almost like a Dammed song. Steve Shelley rocks the hell out of those drums, which is something new for the Dirty album. I always wondered why this one never got as much play. It was played during the Dirty era, but has not been touched since. I always looked at it as a show closer.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Peace Attack

The last song on Nurse is called "Peace Attack."

I was there the night this song was debuted on June 17th 2003. It was the first song in the setlist and was played along with a few others that would end up on Nurse. Thurston cam right out and announced this song was about the war in Irag, that had just began on Feb. 3rd of that year. It was Sonic Youth's small statement of protest. It was done right, and they did not get preachy. You have to love that about Sonic Youth, they just say what they need to say, and then they are finished.

"Peace Attack" is slower number. It has chimy and very bright chords with a clearly defined verse/chorus. By the time the band came around to making Nurse, they had been trying to get away from the free-form songs that had been so prominant on the previous 3 albums. Debuting this song during the Murrary Street tour was a clear indication of the direction that would be taken for the next few years.

This has been rarely played live. Just a handful of times. Its one of those mysteries of that band that probably won't be solved. "Peace Attack" is a song that came at the right time and is a subtle protest song. Maybe the band did not want it to become an anthem for the anti-war of the time. But here we are, 6 years later, and the war still continues.

Promo copies of Nurse had Peace Attack listed as the opening track to the album. Others had "I love You Golden Blue" as the opening track. Weird huh?


My favorite song from the album Nurse is called "Stones."

This song is a stand out for some odd reason. It could be that when I saw the band on the 2004 tour, this was the second song. I had the entire summer to get acquainted with Nurse, and this was a stand out track. Enough to get me going at the show.

I have always felt that this song was about ghosts, even if the lyrics use the word from time to time. But what about stones? I did some digging a fews ago, and found that in Death Valley, there are mysterious shaking stones. There are countless theories as to why they vibrate, but many believe its the ghosts of Death Valley.

I have always wondered why Thurston has such interest in deserts, and even in Death Valley. Does he long to live in such a desolate place? It has also been said that the song refers to Jerry Garcia or "The Dead." I personally don't think so, but you never know.

This song was debuted with all the other songs from Nurse at a secret gig in 2003. It was played nightly in 2004, saw some more play in 2005, and got sporadic in 2006. It has not been played since sometime during the Rather Ripped 2006 tour. I hope they pull this one out again for the upcoming summer tour.