ARTIST: Sonic Youth
YEAR RELEASED: 1986
CHART ACTION: None
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Tom Violence
LINEUP: Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo, Steve Shelley
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Leaping to SST, new drummer in two, Sonic Youth moves past noise for noise’s sake into sculpting songs out of their chaos.
SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Steve Shelley, former Crucifucks’ drummer, joined Sonic Youth in time to record this album, and his presence and steadiness helped fuel a transformation in the band. No longer were they content to make noise and horrific soundscapes – Sonic Youth was going to reach you through songs that utilized their noise, not fight against it.
Though this started a bit with “Death Valley ‘69”, it really hit home with songs such as “Tom Violence”, “Starpower” and “Madonna, Sean & Me” (also called “Expressway to Yr Skull” or “The Crucifixion of Sean Penn”). The chaos is there, but there’s melody there, and recognizable song forms.
Sure, they don’t give up the noise (side two still has a couple of cuts that the melody is still a mystery), but this is a big leap forward for a band who wanted to reach more people than the 50 no-wave folks in NYC.
NOTES & MINUTIAE: Mike Watt played bass on “In the Kingdom #19”, a Lee Ranaldo story-song about a car accident.
IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: The CD had a B-side, their cover of a Kim Fowley tune.
GRADE: A-: This is the beginning of Sonic Youth’s journey into the pop-culture landscape.