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Wednesday, June 7, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 149

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Album Review:
Sonic Youth

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Michael Lavine/Geffen Records


Members of highly-original, talent-laden band Sonic Youth from left: Steve Shelley, Lee Ranaldo, Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon.

Sonic Youth keeps it real on latest solid, impressive effort


NYC Ghosts & Flowers

Sonic Youth
Geffen Records
Release Date: In Stores Now

Grade: A


By Brandon Moeller
Daily Cougar Staff

Sonic Youth's latest album is remarkable, a must-have for anybody who needs a new taste in their jam box. All of the elements that make Sonic Youth an important band -- in an age where bad music is easy to make and easier to sell -- are wrapped tightly into the eight tracks that total almost 45 minutes.

On NYC Ghosts & Flowers, listeners are treated to Thurston Moore's chaotic guitar tunings and dynamic sound, Kim Gordon's eerie vocals, great songwriting and music that fearlessly says anything and everything.

The seven-and-a-half minute "Free City Rhymes" kicks off the album, its lyrics skillfully cushioned by Moore's guitar riffs that transcend all the boundaries of modern rock guitar progressions. This song is a perfect highway cruiser, and its slow melodic buildup grabs listeners and keeps them in front of the speakers until the album gasps its last breath. "Free City Rhymes" also acquaints new listeners to an average sampling of what Sonic Youth does with its music.

Moore begins to tenderly sing the free verse lyrics to "Free City Rhymes" more than two minutes after the song begins, as if to make the statement that rushing through things (usually to raise the probability of radio play) is overrated.

The next track, "Renegade Princess," is an elegant ode to midnight princesses everywhere. What's a midnight princess? It's hard to precisely tell from Moore's lyrics, but I believe the song is a furious adolescent anthem celebrating the beauty of youth. Gordon and Moore chant, "Make way for the midnight princess" while the song's tempo gradually increases, until the song erupts into a full blown fist-clenching anthem and Moore begins to repetitively chant the following lines four times each, while the other members go crazy on their instruments.

Gordon takes over the lead vocals on the next track, "Nevermind (what was it anyway)." She sings, "Lost your hand what was it anyway/ hipsters stand what was it anyway/ glitter tongue what was it anyway/ gave you a flower what was it anyway/ gave you the power what was it anyway"... and when the song peaks, Gordon eerily sings, "Boys go to Jupiter get more stupider/ girls go to Mars, become rock stars."

Moore spits out pure poetry on the next track, "Small Flowers Crack Concrete," which is about D.A. Levy, who was a poet/activist/pamphleteer in Cleveland' late 1960's counter-culture. The song is also about the reefer hysteria of the time (as well as today).

Gordon's haunting vocals return on "Side2side" which is a melodic sway song. Moore gets into a bit of a vocal frenzy on "StreamXsonik subway," and the noise effects and reverberating amps are a mind-numbingly great addition.

But one of the best songs on the album is "NYC Ghosts & Flowers." Moore sings, "When the phone rang/ three in the morning/ dead middle of night/ there was nuthin on the line/ I set back the silent receiver/ tiny flames lit in my head/ hey did any of you freaks here ever remember Lenny?/ I can't remember his last name/ he's turned to dust now, one of the chosen few/ left out in the rain, out of town again/ left out in the rain, ocean bound I guess."

The best part of a new Sonic Youth album is that it is always new -- unlike most bands, Sonic Youth is not "template rock." Its real talent is invention. There may be bands that sound like Sonic Youth, but there's rarely a band that can consistently re-invent the guitar like Moore can every time the band goes into the studio.

The worst part about this album is its lack of longevity: the album, once again, is only 42- something minutes long. This isn't usual for Sonic Youth, a band known for 20 minute guitar and noise jams, like "Teenage Riot." Nonetheless, this album is a must for those who are tired of replicated, overplayed crap.
 

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