I remember the first time I heard Sonic Youth.
It literally turned my world upside down. It was this album,
originally released in 1990. I remember buying Goo in
a mall record store called Camelot Music. I remember
finding out about SY, buying past albums, becoming a fan. I
also remember some dude in my high school science class looking
at the CD insert and finding the photo of Lee Renaldo in drag
rather arousing. Then I told him it was a guy. He balked at
me, told me I was a freak, and I realized I loved this band.
Itís the re-mastered album thatís the main draw here. The
album sounds great, with perhaps a volume boost, maybe some
more sounds that didnít exactly "pop" on the original
release. It doesnít sound different, but itís an improvement.
definitely a new level for the album. Thereís also several
out-takes and b-sides on the first disc, as well as a second
disc with demos and more outtakes.
With the first track, Dirty Boots, the album is an instant
classic. Thereís the obligatory delving into beautiful noise
noodling that is SYís signature. I always loved this. It
made me feel like anyone can do this, and it made listening
to and creating music as a whole more approachable. I ultimately
hold SY responsible for expanding my musical taste.
By the time Tunic (Song for Karen) comes up, you have to leave the album on for the next 40 minutes. It is a rule. This is a track that just shows off how much grit the band has. Itís the subtle, off timed drumbeat, with the slightly off tuned background guitar tracks, and sub-bass domination, that all combines to make the song scary, and ultimately real. A little too real for me to comprehend when I was only 14.
Mary-Christ: a post punk masterpiece. Blazingly fast and frighteningly brutal. This song inspired me to make my first guitar have a whammy bar on it. Also an introduction to rock album reiteration (the end of the song fades out as the beginning of the next track is played.)
Kool Thing. Probably considered a hit. I think I remember actually
seeing this video played on MTVís 120 minutes. The track features public enemyís
Chuck D. That blew a lot of people away. Remember the context here: Lollapalooza
was happening in 91, featuring Ice-Tís Bodycount, and a couple of years later
there was that shitfest movie: Judgement Night, featuring all
these crazy rap rock collaborations. It could be safe to say SY ushered in
the idea, but I donít necessary hold them responsible for Limp Biskit -- thatís
Aerosmith/Run DMC Ďs fault.
Mote. A mid-album sleeper. Not much, but notably featured is the vocals
of Lee Renaldo. A steady rock song, with the SY signature rhythm gallop, completed
with an end of song noise fade.
My Friend Goo. This is the song that I fell in love with. Itís also
probably one of the more annoying to my wife. Perhaps itís the possibly threatening
voice of Ms. Kim Gordon, or the silly "Pee Yoo" lyrics.
Disappearer. Another sleeper hit, but features some prominent guitar sounds that I honestly donít remember hearing before. I love those tones! Imagine a hollowed out concrete tube, with a full stack at the end of it. Thatís what the guitars sound like: very pointed and focused.
Mildred Pierce. Named after a 1945 Film Noir featuring Joan Crawford, one can only assume by the scattered lyrics that the band feels strongly for the movie. It is, however, completely in the air as to their opinion of the film. You would have to ask the band.
Cinderellaís Big Score. I think this song is about Kim Gordonís little brother. Itís a brutal tale about an addict. Itís just a wild track, with a lot of fire really being tossed around in the music. Itís also very complex, and has a lot of progression and drastic measure changes. One of my favorites.
Scooter & Jinx. The video for this song on the DVD says it all. SY
are not afraid of anything, including the involvement of photographer/filmaker
Richard Kern directing the video. The song? Itís 1.05 minutes of musical masturbation.
Titanium Expose. A finale of sorts, this is the original ending of the album. This is another scary track, with a bit of a settled down tempo. It feels like this song is a bit of an explanation of the album, with the lyrics really being about nothing in particular. Weird huh?
But, of course, thereís also the extras. Demos, promos, live versions. My
favorite is the last track on disc 2, taken from an interview flexi disc with
an abstract explanation from different band members for each song on the released
album. I was never aware that Tunic was about Karen Carpenter. I really
didnít. I was about 14 at the time, and was probably not aware of The Carpenters,
other than the songs. I was just a young babe in the woods, which SY proudly
led me through, to the wonderful haven of underground music. Thereís also a
bonus track on disc 1 called Lee
#2 that I really like. Itís a somewhat standard sounding track, very
Velvet Underground inspired, phaps so much so that it was never placed on
the album. On disc 2, there are the 8 track demosfor Goo, which
sound great. Theyíre
roughly recorded, but I think itís amazing. You get to hear variations of
vocals and really cool freak out song finales, offering insight into SYís
song creation process.
Itís an honor to write this review. It would be even more of an honor if band members read it. I feel, as do many, that SY have written the book on success in the indie rock world. Theyíve survived, and they continue to create exciting and challenging music.
I also recommend Sonic Youth: Corporate Ghost, which came out
3 years ago. Included in that video collection is the Goo Album
video project: a video for each song on this album, all with the same budget.
So, in conclusion, this is a worthy purchase, if not for the out-takes and
b-sides, then definitely for the remastered album tracks. If you have the album
already, I would recommend giving it away to someone youíd love to introduce
the band to, and getting this version for yourself. I always feel a little
gypped when record labels do this to us. In a world where the measly compact
disc has to compete with Dualdisc and DVDs and albums that come with a bonus
DVD, et cetera, this release is simply another choice. I feel, however, this
is one of those rare instances where the reintroduction is appropriate and
well calculated. I love this band (if you canít tell).
Sonic Youth = Indie Rock Gods