Thursday, June 4, 2009

Karen Revisited (Karenology)

The fourth song on the album Murray Street is called "Karen Revisited."

This song appears on the album as "Karen Revisited" but appears on every setlist as "Karenology." It has been told by Lee that the official title of the song is "Karenology" and was not changed in time to be changed for the pressing of the album.

If you own the vinyl of Murrary Street, this song has been displaced because of its 12 minute running time. It appears on the cd as track 4 but comes in as track 3.

This is another song that was morphed from a series of jams. Kim was supposed to sing this one, but Lee penned the lyrics and it became what it is. The other song in question was Sympathy for the Strawberry.

I don't have much to say about this one because it is my least favorite song on Murray Street. I feel the actual 4 minutes of the song would have been enough. This is one of the few times I feel the band has ruined a song with a noise jam. For a good solid 2 minutes, there is a high pitched fuzzy feedback that really hurts my ears. It wouldn't be so bad if there was something else happening. The song builds and has a nice finally when Lee yells "ask me if I care!" After that, I usually skip the rest of the song, sorry guys.....

I always wonder if this song is about Karen Carpenter. The band seems to be obsessed with her. what's with the name Karen? It gets used and kicked around a lot.

"Karenology" was debuted in September 2001 as an instrumental with all the other songs from the record. It was played nightly from 2002 to 2003. It has not been played since 2003.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rain On Tin

The third song on the album Murray Street is called "Rain On Tin."

Opening the doors to the studio has always been one of the coolest things about the internet. In 2001, the band began to embrace the the networking power of having a website and the "Echo Cam" that was on 24/7 in the studio made the excitement of a new record all the more exciting. I had heard many of the instrumentals that were "new" songs, but a finished record in my hot little hands in January 2002 was far off. I would have to to wait until June.

"Rain On Tin" was always a favorite from Murray Street. I believe there is a total of 15 words in the entire song! The song comes in with a few short lines followed by a cymbal crash and some dissonant chords behind each line. Then a "sonic" jam starts and continues for the next 5 minutes, ending the song with some well coordinated guitar work between Thurston and Lee. I have always thought that this song was borderline instrumental and maybe the band thought adding some lyrics could keep it from ending up as an instrumental. There is no real middle portion to the song but there is definitely a start and a finish. I could take this song as an instrumental because it does not feel jammy, it feels very well thought out.

"Rain On Tin" was played nightly, sometimes opening shows, throughout the 2002-03 tour. It came back in the form of an encore in 2004 several times, including the show I saw in  Atlanta in August 2004. It was cool to see them pull it out on a different our and not abandon it like some other songs

Disconnection Notice

The second song on the album Murray Street is called "Disconnection Notice."

While the band was making murray Street, the placed a webcam in the studio so you could watch them recording. It was on at all hours of the day and night and was pretty cool when you flipped it on and saw Jim, Lee or Thurston sitting at the mixing board. Pretty cool stuff.

In late 2001 Thurston told Rolling Stone that they were under no obligation to deliver a new record but have not heard from the label since the end of the previous year. Even with no label interest in a new record, the band went ahead on recording, after all, Geffen gave them the money to build Echo Canyon, the studio that sits on Murray Street.

I have always thought that this song was about Sonic Youth's relationship with Geffen. The 90's were over and the ever evolving music business has cast a shadow on on the early nineties, but the world has had a taste of Sonic Youth long before 1991. Part of me wants to think this song was about getting dropped with the line "did you get your disconnection notice? Mine came in the mail today." The next few lines "they're telling me that i'm disconnected" which could refer to Sonic Youth's place in popular culture or mainstream music. On paper the band looks terrible, but in eyes of the fans and record buyers, Sonic Youth were rock and roll gods. This explains Thurstons "what if" approach to the record.

"Disconnection Notice" was debuted in September 2001 as an instrumental. It has been played sporadically since the 2002-03 tour.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Empty Page

The first song on the album Murray Street is called "Empty Page."

After two years of dealing with a new set of equipment, and touring behind the NYC Ghosts and Flowers album, it looked like the band would take a small break and possibly do some other projects.

Not the case. During the development of the NYC Ghost and Flowers material, the band had to re-learn how to make noise, and they did this by pulling out many older tunes from 2000 to 2001 tours. "Kool Thing" was resurrected after a long absence.

The natural thing for any band to do during and after a transitional period is to keep up the momentum, and thats exactly what the band did coming into the year 2002.

"Empty Page" was the first song written and recorded for Murray Street. Thurston says that he intended to make a solo album with a bunch of new songs he wrote on his brothers "strange G tuned" guitar. He felt the songs were too pop and too structured and felt a solo record would be better. But after the band heard the demos and a few rehearsals, it was obvious that these new tunes would work great for a new Sonic Youth record.

"Empty Page" has an opening, a verse, chorus, bridge, solo, and coda. It is one of my favorite openings to a Sonic Youth album.

"These are the words but not the truth." Byron Coley claims that this song has to do with Thurston wondering "what if" about the band, and on a visit to Boston he kept wondering what his life would have been like without Sonic Youth. Seems interesting because at this time, Thurston was 43, and opening for Pearl Jam in 2000 probably got him thinking about fame and what it really is and what it does. This is deep, even for Thurston, but I consider Byron Coley to be a reliable source.

This was debuted in 2002 along with the other 6 songs from Murray Street in September 2001. it was played nightly from 2002 to 2003 and has made many appearances since that time. I hope they pull this one out again soon.