Sonic Youth have, for reasons so thoroughly well-publicized they hardly merit rehashing here, been very, very quiet since their 2011 split, though its individual members have continued to keep prolific release schedules in various bands. But the ongoing lack of an extant Sonic Youth does nothing to change the fact that 2018 is coming, and that year is full of huge milestones for the incalculably influential band: Their first album, Confusion Is Sex, will turn 35. Their masterpiece, Daydream Nation, will turn 30. And their final statement as a band, The Eternal (SO inaptly titled in hindsight), will reach the tenth anniversary of its recording.
As there are no plans currently for the band to reactivate or for any further reissues (Daydream Nation already had a pretty damn posh set for its 20th, and yet another vinyl reissue in 2014), Caroline, the long-enduring label/distro, has produced, with the active participation of the band’s former members, a pretty amazing web tool for fans to navigate—it’s an interactive timeline of Sonic Youth’s history, that offers free music from crucial points in the band’s lifespan via the Spotify API. (You need to be registered with Spotify to hear the music, but is anyone still not?) It works out to be an interesting way to engage with the band, as it quickly underscores the drastic changes they underwent across the decades—how amazing is it to consider that only five years passed between the primitive “Kill Yr Idols” and the epic Daydream Nation? And the sheer amount of activity crammed in to the ‘90s is impressive.
Highlights include the original versions of “Death Valley 69” and “Brave Men Run” from a 7” on Iridescence Records, the anarchically casual and wonderfully scattershot 1987 E.P. “Master=Dik” and the self-released live LP Hold That Tiger. There are bummers, too—there’s no option to hear Lee Ranaldo’s head trip solo record From Here To Infinity—I’d love to see how Spotify handles all those locked grooves—or the debut EP by Free Kitten, Kim Gordon’s side project with Pussy Galore’s Julia Cafritz. But there’s plenty of time for such gaps to get filled in.
It seems fitting to leave you with a VHS rarity—an August 1985 performance at Stache’s in Columbus, OH. Believe it or not, despite the one-camera shittiness, this isn’t a bootleg, it was legitimately released by Atavistic. It documents drummer Steve Shelley’s first Sonic Youth gig outside New York and the first ever live performance of “Expressway To Yr Skull.” I STILL have my copy of this tape, which I watched so often back in the day I’m kind of amazed it’s still in one piece.