Sunday, April 18, 2010

Renegade Princess

The second song on the LP NYC Ghosts and Flowers is called "Renegade Princess"

I was never really a fan of this song but I never skipped it when I listened to the album as a whole.

"Renegade Princess" seems to have been born out of another extended jam. The first 1:36 of the song features a slow moving three note arppegiation. This is a typical move for the band. This time, the riff is very smooth and chimey. The band allows the riff to ring out a little. Thurston sings the song as if he is reading off a list of descriptions. His voice is suttle and has a hint of melody. The song picks up in double time from 1:36 until the end. The song becomes more aggressive when both Kim and Thurston began singing lines like "make way for the midnight princess, the renegades fight tonight, the renegades fight for light." I often discount the "jam" aspect of this song because of its structure. I'm pretty sure both parts of the song were potential songs and were merged to make a whole song. Both are different yet flow naturally from one to the other.

This song was written in 1999 and debuted instrumentally at the same time as Free City Rhymes. Both Thurston and Lee used Les Pauls on stage and possibly in the studio. I always thought it was weird they began experimenting with Les Pauls. It didn't look right. Lee also used a 12 string with only 10 strings. The tuning CGDGBB was employed in this tune, along with most of the album.

This song has not been played live since 2000.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bull In The Heather

The second song on the LP Experimental jet Set Trash and No Star is called Bull In The Heather.

"Bull In The Heather" is one of Sonic Youth's most recognizable songs because it managed to get quite a bit of airplay during the early/mid-90's. This song is one of the bands most accessible songs and it follows a semi traditional pop formula. As I have mentioned before, Sonic Youth has the ability to make radio friendly mainstream music, they only choose to let it out in small doses.

The first time I ever saw the band live was 8-15-2001. The band was opening for Pearl Jam and my br0ther and I were psyched that Sonic Youth was tapped to be the opening act. Before the show, we were going over what songs SY might play and were really hoping for Bull In The Heather. We got our wish, and it was the first song!! Kinda weird huh?

This song features some really awesome harmonics provided to Lee Renaldo. The harmonics act like the main riff that drives the song. Kinda strange that such a simple riff played with harmonics would become one of the most recognizable pieces in the Sonic Youth catalog. The ringing is very hard to miss and mistake for another song. When being played live, Thurston just taps on the strings on the tail piece to his jazzmaster.

This is another tune that features the soft spoken vocals of Kim. She manages to bring some sex appeal in her performance when she says "tell that you want to score me." Also, I have no idea what this is about.

The video for this song features Bikini Kill princess Kathleen Hanna.

Bull In The Heather is one of the lone survivors of this album. It was not played live from 1997 to 1999. The 2000 tour acted almost like a greatest hits tour and Bull In The Heather was prominently featured in the top of every set. It gets pulled out every now and then. This song was recently recorded live for a special live album that was given out to those who bought The Eternal early.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Swimsuit Issue

The second song on the album Dirty is called "Swimsuit Issue"

The name says it all.

"I'm not here for tempation, i'm not your summer vacation, i don't wanna be a sensation!" Are these cries for help? I've always thought that Kim was defending the girls of the 1992 Sports Illustrated Swin Suit Issue or singing in repulsion for the display of human flesh. Either way, this song is another example of Kim taking the role of the feminist and voicing her opinion. For more clarification read the Shoot entry. Another great line is "now your moving your wrists, and i'm not giving you head." I think its repulsion and I think this because at the end of the song, Kim calls out the first name of every model that appears in the 1992 edition. I also like to think that Kim is expressing that these women have names and are not just bodily objects of lust.

This song is very tight and dynamic. The intro is a very tight syncopated guitar riff with nothing but 16th note downstrokes. Being the 2nd song, it wastes no time into launching into the sonic onslaught of noisy rock that the album Dirty represents. Most of Dirty was done with the infamous F#F#F#F#eb tuning.

This one was played nightly during the 1992 tour. It comes back every now and then for one off shows, but has never really resurfaced in the setlist. Not even when Dirty was rereleased.

Monday, April 12, 2010


The last song on the album NYC Ghosts and Flowers is called "Lightnin"

As I stated in the Free City Rhymes post, NYC Ghosts and Flowers is a mellow album compared to the rest of the bands work. It would seem fitting that they would end the record on such strange note.

Over the years I have heard this song is much better live than the studio version. There is one line to the whole song and it's "lightnin strikes me." Kim sings this line about 6 times in a row using her talking whisper voice. It's kinda creepy when you hear it late at night in the dark (don't ask).

This song seemed to have come together before the album was made as it was the only song debuted with vocals at the '99 secret gigs. The working title was "10." Jim O'Rourke plays an EMS synth for all the weird space sounds and trumpet sound is actually Thurston honking a bike horn that is wedged in his guitar pickups. This strange array of sounds are very similar to the SYR 3 disc which features collaborations with Jim. Maybe it was placed on the end of the record because they needed another song? "Lightnin" is by far the most interesting track because of its standout nature. Not a bad way to end the album. The loose and avant garde atmosphere allows you to recover from the 9 minutes opus that precedes it.

I never saw this song live. My only opportunity was at one of the SYR shows in August 2000. I left the show right after the main set. I should have stayed because this song was played for an encore. That's what I get for being responsible.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Free City Rhymes

The first song on the album NYC Ghosts and Flowers is called "Free City Rhymes."

In July 1999, Sonic Youth had their equipment stolen. The theft was devastating, but the short summer tour went on. Got give them props for only canceling one show of the 8.

Sonic Youth had become a band that was deadlocked by their equipment. They had become slaves to the technology they had created. This was the best and worst thing that could ever happen to this band. Without the safety net of trusty guitars, tunings, and effects, Sonic Youth was once again allowed to re-invent the wheel they had created, and it started with the NYC Ghosts and Flowers album.

An issue of the Sonic Death newsletter stated that in late '99, the band was hard at work replacing their equipment and trying to learn how to be a band again. Shockingly, the band would do a few gigs debuting instrumental versions of new songs, "Free City Rhymes" was one of those songs with a tentative title as "1." In less than a year, the band would be able to write and record a brand new record. I guess bands should get their stuff stolen more often huh?

With all the new equipment came new tunings. It seems to me the band approached the songs in a "jam" way but flushed out all the eratic changes to just keep the simple portions of the song. "Free City Rhymes" opens with a blip intro and some lightly picked guitar from Kim. The lyrics are a somewhat description/tribute to New York City. The music itself had a floating atmosphere that some of their previous work lacks. You get the feeling that you are floating above the city seeing all the things that Thurston is pointing out. The song ends the same way it starts. A very mellow intro to a very mellow album.

The song clocks in at 7:22, making it one of the longest intros to a Sonic Youth album.

When the band played on Late Night with David Letterman in June 2000, the world was shocked to see Thurston and Lee both playing Les Paul Specials. Never saw that one coming. Plus, the 2000 tour saw the addition of a 5th member, Jim O'Rourke, who has been a collaborator with the band in the past. Not only did he contribute bass and guitar on the tour, but he also is credited as the producer for NYC Ghosts and Flowers.

This song has not been played since 2001.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Starfield Road

The third song on the LP Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star is called Starfield Road.

This song is 2 minutes and 15 seconds of pure Sonic Youth. It's short and straight to the point.

Most of the material on Experimental was written during band jam sessions. At the time, Thurston claimed he went into making the album with zero ideas because he used up any song idea on his solo album Psychic Hearts. Both records were released in the same year. Starfield Road comes off as not only a song born out of a jam, but also some pre-planned thought.

The intro is very typical for Sonic Youth but not for the time period. The band had made two very commercially accessible albums and were enjoying some long awaited recognition from the years past. The normally thing to do in the year 1994 would be to make another record like the one before but as history shows, Sonic Youth never makes the same album twice. I have said in the past that their albums work in three's and Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star not only comes as the third piece to Goo and Dirty, it also paves the way for the future. The next three records would done primarily through free jams.

The dirgy intro leads into a two chord verse that does not end. The does an abrupt noise ending that is just like the intro. Back to basics, yet something new. The songs has a melody over the two chords and a really wide phaser effect tries its hardest to get you to turn your head and pay more attention to the noise. The phaser is very space like and acts like a rocket. The ending is well timed with the phaser because when it reaches its final apex, the noisy ending erupts to bring the song down. Like a rocket. Hence the title, Starfield Road.

The lyrics for this song are somewhat sexually explicit and dirty. I'm a firm believer that it's about fucking. You can read them HERE.

Friday, April 2, 2010


The third song on the LP Dirty is called "Shoot."

I've always held this song in high esteem and I've always referred to it as fan favorite.

"Shoot" is one of my favorite Kim vocal songs because she uses her very sensual/sexy/whisper voice. The vocal performance is what makes this song what it is. The lyrical content is very teen angst driven an Kim's vocals allows the song to have that flare. In 1992, Kim Gordon was 39 years old, I find it kinda funny that she's singing "can I have the car keys? I wanna go for ride/can I have the car now? I wanna leave this town." Then again, the band was in the their 30's, and they had the weird YOUTH in their name. Go figure.

The song is not all teen angst driven. The song actually depicts a toxic relationship. This theme seems to be re-occurring from time to time. I t was around 1991-92 Kim Gordon began carrying the female rocker torch. The 90's were a very interesting time for music as the underground of he 80's were beginning to emerge in the mainstream of pop culture, and with that, came women in rock bands. But not just women, women playing side roles and not just fronting a band. Kim Gordon, Kim Deal, D'arcy, Juliana Hatefield, and many more were stepping in filling out major roles in rock bands. Kim seemed to be Queen of indie rock.

I like to think that this song, even though it depicts a toxic relationship, isn't about that all the way. Kim was never really the loudmouth Kathleen Hannah of the Riotgrrl movement, but had her own ways of displaying the power of the woman. "Shoot" is example of a woman doing what she wants and deciding not to take No for an answer. Whether the character in the song wants to play bass in a band or leave her lover, she is taking the power away from the over powering male and using it to make herself who she really is in the world.

Stop me if this isn't making any sense.

"Shoot" was regularly played nightly on the Dirty tour of 1992. It was normally the set opener. This is another song that has yet to resurface from that era. I always felt it would make a nice encore piece with the newer material.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I was going to post "Shoot" from Dirty today but then I decided to wait. This blog needs some work. I've got a bunch of new posts to bring out but I will be doing to some cleaning on all the earliers posts. There is tons of info and personal commentary I've been meaning to add to them, so I will be doing MANY blog updates over the next few days. After that is finished, I will then give the front page a new look. After that, there will be more new posts. The goal is to be done posting by the end of May. That will bring this project to a full 2 years in the making.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mildred Pierce

The 8th song on the LP Goo is called Mildred Pierce.

I was never a big fan of the album Goo. Some friends find that hard to believe. Earlier today I decided to listen to the album in order to finish out the rest of this blog. The band really has me up until this song.

I have always felt that Goo sounded too slick and not dirty enough for Sonic Youth. As I have stated in previous posts, most notably Dirty Boots, the band was making compromises in order to please the hand that was about to feed them. Goo is complete with a few potential hit singles. This song comes off as filler. I never thought I would say it, but that is how I honestly feel. "Mildred Pierce" is a simple three chord punk rock song that has only two words. The song clocks in at 2:13 and leaves something to be desired.

"Mildred Pierce is also cleverly placed in the end sequence of the album. I like to think that it acted like the dividing line between two sides of the band. The first side of the LP comes off as a pop record but the second side is pure avant noise rock.

I still like to think the album is overproduced for a reason. Once again, please refer to Dirty Boots.

For some reason, I always seem to put this song on SY mixes.

This song is in standard tuning and has never been performed live, although, I could be wrong.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


The second song on the LP A Thousand Leaves is called "Sunday."

For an album that is as abstract as A Thousand Leaves, it manages to have a "hit" on the record. I noticed a trend with Sonic Youth: stay true to your art while making the powers that be happy with it. It seems that every album that SY has put out on Geffen contains a possible radio single. In my experience in the record industry, as long as they have something to sell (wether they want to sell it or not) they are happy. SY seems to always deliver a single that we will never hear on the radio but it exists to make the suits happy. This is why Sonic Youth managed to release all 9 of their contractual obligated record with Geffen. This is also the reason why Geffen built the band Echo Canyon, a studio for them to spend endless hours of recording and keep the studio bills to a minimum. No matter how commercial Sonic Youth can be, they always manage to do it in a very punk rock/avant garde way. This is why "Sunday" is one of my favorite songs.

"Sunday" doesn't seem to fit amongst its brothers and sisters from the same album. Yet, A Thousand Leaves would be naked without it. After the dirg intro "Contre Le Sexism," the album takes a dramatic turn. Mood-wise, "Sunday" is the perfect transition from one track to the other, but arrangement and sonically speaking, "Sunday" takes the album into another direction. I've always felt the band was saying "psyche!"

"Sunday" is a song that is centered around a riff. There is an intro riff and then a main riff. We don't hear the intro again in the song but it prepares you 

This song first appeared on the soundtrack for the film Suburbia in 1997. This version is slightly different. It contains a much longer intro, a longer middle jam, and a spacey outro. Obviously, the song was shortened for the album but the radio single was cut even more. I've never heard it, but I heard the edits were terrible. I often wonder if this song was intended for the Suburbia movie and not an album release. Like I stated above, its the one song that doesn't seem to fit. Plus, it was recorded at a different time from the bulk of A Thousand Leaves but I could be wrong about that. The soundtrack version of the song sounds more like the rest of the LP. Even though it contains the same parts, the edit for the record was more than likely intended for the use of a single. It would not surprise me if Geffen requested the song to use a lead single for the album.

"Sunday" was debuted in 1997 as an instrumental. The song was played regularly at shows from 1998-99. It managed to survive with "Hoarfrost" on the 2000 tour but rarely gets played now.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unmade Bed

The second song on the LP Nurse is called "Unmade Bed."

I love the opening chord to this song. It's comes of very spooky and soothing at the same time. The opening portion of the song is very relaxing and allows you to just slide into the song with an undying familiarness. A familiar feeling you don't want to give up.

That's exactly what this song is about: Comfortable Familiarness That You Can't Let Go Of No Matter How Miserable You Are.

The band does a great job painting the picture of two lovers. The female in the relationship is miserable and the male comes and goes as he pleases. "Look whose come back home again." The female knows she must get out of the toxic relationship but he manages to "sucker her back" every time. "Now that you're in arms, know that you're just in his way." All she wants is him to be there physically and mentally. Even when she gets what she wants, she doesn't. The song ends with the line "now its time to fade away." We are left wondering if she realizes her woes and leaves or just falls back into the routine of the toxic lover. You decide.

Dripping Dream

The third song on the LP Nurse is called "Dripping Dream."

Lately I have been in a mood that wants to remember the summer of 2004. Nothing reminds me more of that summer than the album Nurse.

One of the disappointments of the 8/25/2004 show was that Dripping Dream was not played. It remains one of my favorite songs on the album.

The song is slow to start and features classic sonic arpeggiations that go from light picking to a muted riff. These parts signify the changes in verse but the song picks up during the "caught shadows, sex meadows" part. The song builds in tempo slowly and erupts. The difference in noise eruptions is that this time the chaos is controlled and Lee's guitar noise still retains the riff and melody. The song ends a lot like "Rain on Tin" from Murray Street or the dream-like intro to "The Sprawl" from Daydream Nation.

According to the tour archive this song was only played 4 times during the 2004 tour. It also specifies that Thurston had problems remembering the words and the melody. This makes sense because there are lots of words to this song. Most of them don't make sense, but its just another great example of Thurston putting random lines together that flow like poetry and not song.