Better Sides Of Sonic Youth:SYR8

 

Sonic Youth’s newest record, “SYR8: Andre Sider Af Sonic Youth”, is probably the farthest the group have ever gone into abstract noise (at least on record); it’s nearly an hour long, Merzbow appears on it, and it’s all improvised (Sonic Youth have said this is a “structured improvisation”, which is basically a safer way of saying it; think “socialist” instead of “communist”).  I do like this record; it is not Daydream Nation, it is not Confusion Is Sex, and it is not Metal Machine Music.  But I do like this record.  Yes, it was recorded in 2005, and was probably released now as a way to regain some of Sonic Youth’s indie cred before their next studio album, which will probably be even more normal than Rather Ripped.  But it is not a throwaway.  

Will you like this record?  Here are several facts about it:

  • It is not as noisy as Merzbow’s 1930.  So do not buy this record if you want to clear your guests out of a party; it will take a while to get started, and some parts are rather peaceful.
  • Kim Gordon’s voice varies in recognizability; sometimes it’s obvious, and sometimes it’s as hard as recognizing Cameron Diaz in Being John Malkovich.  So do not buy this record if you only like Sonic Youth for Kim Gordon’s singing. 
  • Includes Mats Gustafsson with the noisiest sax since James Chance.  So do not buy this record if you though “Jaded” was the worst song you ever heard.
  • Here is a summary of the first ten minutes:  It starts out with a few minutes of some damaged indie rock with Kim Gordon moaning somewhat tunefully, then goes into noise territory at the three-minute mark, settles down a bit at 3:40 and settles into some bass drones and shimmering guitar for about two minutes as drums fade in and out, then gets slightly faster at 6:00, whereupon at 6:54 there are some cymbal washes; at 7:10, everything gets noisier and the bass gets louder- this continues for a minute- then the drums come in.  At 8:10, a noise crescendo occurs, and then at 8:38 the drums start to play a beat as everything comes together in a strange way before falling apart at about 9:00.  At 9:10, drones come in, and at about 9:50 feedback joins this.  So do not buy this record if you are not already drooling at the mouth
  • Thurston Moore does not sing.  Do not buy this record if you think “Catholic Block” is the pinnacle of Sonic Youth.
  • All in all, I like this record and it is satisfying to know that even as Sonic Youth records proper become more modern rock than no wave, the SYR releases will always provide the wretched squall and horrible noise Lester Bangs admired so much.  I like it too.
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