Graham Reid | | 1 min read
And how much missed they are in the current climate of seemingly unfashionable (if we believe the charts) guitar-based rock.
Effortlessly creating a bridge between NYC avant-garde, guitar-noise and alt.rock, and thus paving the way for Nirvana, grunge, Pavement et al, Sonic Youth continued to extend the landscape they established for themselves and although albums showed decreasing returns they carried on while their students outran them, and continued to deliver interesting records and challenging side projects.
The fact they embraced hip-hop as much as the guitar textures and experiments of the late Glenn Branca only enhanced their reputation, and perhaps further added to their marginalisation by those who just wanted more guitar noise.
It was no joke that a 2011 compilation album selected by famous fans such as Radiohead, Beck, Flea and others was called Hits Are For Squares.
This 10 song collection – which includes The Sprawl, Hey Joni and Hyperstation from their seminal Daydream Nation album – captures their wide-screen yet laser-focused intensity.
That it all fell apart so badly in 2011 after 30 years was more than just a pity, it was ugly and disappointing.
As bassist Kim Gordon wrote in her insightful autobiography Girl in a Band: “The couple [her and husband/guitarist Thurston Moore] everyone believed was golden and normal and eternally intact, who gave younger musicians hope they could outlast a crazy rock'n'roll world, was now just a cliché of middle-aged relationship failure – a male midlife crisis, another woman, a double life”.
Gordon's book peels back the layers of pleasure and pain of the band's career and her personal life, but if you prefer just the thrilling affirmation of their innovative guitar rock then you could do a lot worse than this fat-free live album.
Remember them this way?