Monday, January 12, 2009

No.1 - Sonic Youth

Godfathers of the NY art-rock scene? Or just a bunch of over-age rockers who infest the mildest of melodies with ear-splitting noise? I mean what is it with the noise? They are perfectly well able to crank out serviceable 'indie/alternative' melodies but then poison them with feedback. There's nothing wrong with a bit of noise used in the appropriate manner. Jesus and Mary Chain have feedback as an integral part of the songs (hmm... or do they? maybe a future sacred cowpat?). It's scarcely believable that these guys appear to be as 'cool' as they are. All the bands they reference are either unheard of or unlistenable to. I bet Thurston and Kim listen to the Eagles at home.

What's worse is the Sonic Youth fans. They all despise the prettier, easier-to-listen-to SY songs, typified by their last album, Rather Ripped, which junked the 7-minute long, punctuated by quiet bits, then loud screechy bits SY template in favour just really good, catchy tunes. In general their last 3 albums (Murray St, Sonic Nurse and Rather Ripped) are a lot easier to listen to right through than their so-called seminal albums (Sister, Daydream Nation, Goo)

Don't get me wrong, I like a bit self-important, pretentious twaddle as much as anyone. But albums really ought to be enjoyable to listen to. I defy anybody to listen to their most revered-album Daydream Nation right through. Sure Teenage Riot is a class song, but Providence? What were they thinking? It's a real nothing, just a machine hum all they way through. I think it was meant as a joke but there are very few incidences of 'musical jokes' that are actually funny. Email any you can think of to - if you find any. They are fond of extended guitar workouts within songs - not very punk - though the majority of those are tedious in the extreme. A friend of mine said many years ago that Sonic Youth sound like 'they have their heads up their holes'. Unfair? Perhaps.

Then there is the Kim issue. Undoubtedly a cool looking lady, and a good musician. But just don't give her any songs to sing. The results are never pretty. Though 25 years down the line, she is learning (her contributions to Rather Ripped are actually good to listen to), she has shrieked her way through dozens of painful songs over the years.

And as for their collaborative projects, 2 words: Don't. Bother. Kim's contribution to the 'Hidros' thing with Mats Gustafsson is one of the most irritating things I've heard in a long time. And I paid €20 for it!

Sonic Youth are in their fifties now and still look cool, and tick all the 'cool' boxes: listen to the 'right' music, read the 'right' books, films etc. If they stopped trying to be so cool and just concentrated on making music that people actually like listening to we could yet get some great music.