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Interactive Sonic Youth timeline, curated by the band members themselves
11.16.2017
07:44 am
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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…

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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11.16.2017
07:44 am
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‘Put Blood in the Music’: Essential doc on Sonic Youth, John Zorn & other 80s NYC noise musicians
10.10.2017
12:41 pm
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Most of Charles Atlas’ movies cover the world of dance, but in the late 1980s he put together a diverting documentary about the New York sound of the moment, with special focus on two budding stars from that scene, John Zorn and Sonic Youth. The movie is called Put Blood in the Music; the title derives from a comment made by Glenn Branca.

Atlas’ playful methods involve some minor video trickery—his illustrious list of talking heads, about which more later, are always superimposed over footage of NYC street scenes. Atlas’ thesis, one voiced by most of his guests who discuss the matter in the movie, is that the special conditions only New York City can provide are responsible for the particular qualities of the music produced by its citizens—bracing, dissonant, heterogeneous.

Put Blood in the Music has a very impressive roster of participants, including Branca, Lydia Lunch, John Cale, Kramer, Christian Marclay, Vernon Reid, Arto Lindsay, Hal Willner, Richard Edson, Karen Finley, and Lenny Kaye. Obviously we see a lot of Zorn and the SY people as well.
 

Karen Finley in ‘Put Blood in the Music’

Zorn is a more engaging presence than Sonic Youth, who at a distance of about three decades, are also far more familiar these days. Zorn was about 25 when this was filmed, but he seems even younger than that. He’s the kind of music nerd who has distinct, serious phases of getting “obsessed” with hardcore or obscure Japanese pop; can converse insightfully about the music of Carl Stalling, composer for the old Warner Bros. cartoon shorts; and as a teen was quite taken by the music of Argentinian experimental composer Mauricio Kagel.

The Sonic Youth section is no less impressive—the high point may be the glimpse we get of Ciccone Youth covering Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love,” a subject already discussed at length here. Sonic Youth are arguably at the peak of their powers—they had just recorded Daydream Nation.
 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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10.10.2017
12:41 pm
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First look at the video for Thurston Moore’s New Age/No Wave single ‘Aphrodite’
05.10.2017
09:38 am
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Thurston Moore’s new album Rock n Roll Consciousness was released on April 28th via Caroline International. The new material was recorded with the same line-up of musicians he’s been working with since 2014: Deb Googe of My Bloody Valentine on bass, Nøught’s James Sedwards on guitar and Moore’s longtime musical collaborator from Sonic Youth, Steve Shelley on drums.

With a title like Rock n Roll Consciousness, and the way the press materials describe the new single,  you could be forgiven for wondering if Moore’s gone all New Age:

“Aphrodite,” a strange and heavy No wave rocker in salutation to the icon of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation, enumerates tools beyond the consciousness: electric guitars, the power of mind, imagination, will and intention to practice magick. Thurston sings of spells and possession as he and James pick up energies from string sorcery in a true group séance. Steve Shelley transmits the power of the symbolic into actual shimmering cymbal resonance and Deb Googe’s bass weaves a mesmeric psychic shaping — all in service to the mystic song.

Hard to tell. Maybe Moore has gone New Age on us—the lush psychedelic imagery seen in the “Aphrodite” video is light years away from that of Sonic Youth’s infamous collaboration with Richard Kern and Judith Barry on their “Death Valley 69” clip in 1985—but this certainly didn’t disappoint.

Moore’s North American tour is already in progress.
 

“Aphrodite” by Thurston Moore. Directed by Francis Coy (with footage from the Azores by Eva)

Posted by Richard Metzger
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05.10.2017
09:38 am
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Skate decks with photos of Björk, Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth & more taken by Spike Jonze


The Björk skateboard deck from Girl. Part of a new series featuring photographs taken by Spike Jonze. Available here.
 
So far there are five different skate deck designs that are a part of a Photos by Spike collaboration between skateboard company Girl and director Spike Jonze. The boards feature the beyond cool shot of Björk (seen above) taken by Jonze, and another that pays homage to the Beastie Boys who appear in character as seen in the 1994 “Sabotage” video (directed by Jonze) that is forever burnt into our collective consciousness.

All of the decks in the group are quite different looking. Both the Sonic Youth and Nirvana decks utilize black and white photos, while the image of Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs lounging on the bottom of her deck is vibrantly colorful as is the yellow skate deck itself. Jonze’s relationship with Girl goes back to at least 2007 when he co-directed a film on the company, Yeah Right. However, the director’s love of skateboarding goes even further back than that as his very first film, Video Days was about, you guessed it,skateboarding. Each sweet deck will run you about $50. I’ve posted photos of all the decks below for you to see below as well as some footage from Video Days.
 

The Sabotage deck.
 

Sonic Youth.
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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04.10.2017
11:21 am
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‘No Nirvana’: Jane’s Addiction, Sonic Youth, Screaming Trees & more live on UK TV in the early 90s


An early shot of Jane’s Addiction.
 
The Late Show was a multi-topic program broadcast on BBC2 which featured issues of cultural importance such as art, books, films and segments dedicated to more socially conscience topics such as military conflicts and religion. Not to diminish such things, they also featured live musical performances by musicians and groups such as XTC, the ethereal Jeff Buckley and The Stone Roses who appeared on the show in during its first year in 1989. In 1993 The Late Show broadcast a special called “No Nirvana” that featured a collection of what is referred to as the all encompassing sounding “contemporary American rock bands” that had previously appeared on the show. 

The title of the show was allegedly intended to be a joke directed at The Late Show itself because for some reason the band had never appeared on it. Most likely because they had suddenly become the biggest band in the world after the release of their 1991 album Nevermind. The grouping for The Late Show’s late-night Contemporary American Rock lovefest delivered was to say the least, a pretty solid knockout punch when it came to the lineup. Though they were part of the original broadcast, performances by Pearl Jam (doing “Alive”) and Rage Against the Machine (performing “Bullet in the Head”) are not included in the footage below. What you will see are Jane’s Addiction pulling off a great version of “Been Caught Stealing,” Sonic Youth’s killer version of “Drunken Butterfly,” Seattle grunge heroes Screaming Trees led by a long-haired Mark Lanegan doing “Dollar Bill,” and more from the likes of Belly, Dinosaur Jr. (with a nearly unrecognizable J Mascis), Smashing Pumpkins, Minneapolis band Sugar, and R.E.M.

Watch after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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01.25.2017
10:22 am
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‘Kool Thing’: Kim Gordon’s 1989 interview with LL Cool J that inspired the Sonic Youth song
01.04.2017
09:14 am
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In the September 1989 issue of SPIN magazine, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon interviewed LL Cool J to get a feminist perspective on the male-dominated world of hip-hop. The result was an awkward and unintentionally hilarious conversation that served as the inspiration for the 1990 song “Kool Thing” (which was Sonic Youth’s first major label single). At the time, LL was promoting his third studio album, Walking with a Panther, the cover which depicted the rapper posing alongside a cuddly and adorable black panther sporting gold chains.

“I had a thing for male Black Panthers, I also loved LL Cool J’s first record, Radio, which was produced by Rick Rubin.” Kim recounts in her memoir Girl in a Band. She had said publicly that Radio was one of the albums that turned her on to rap music, and that “Going Back to Cali” was one of her favorite music videos because as someone who grew up in L.A. she appreciated “the humorous way it made fun of the 1960s archetypal Southern California sexy white-girl aesthetic.” LL’s publicist couldn’t believe that anyone in Sonic Youth knew about LL Cool J and happily granted an interview which took place during a rehearsal break for an upcoming tour. “I’ve never interviewed a pop star before, and having just seen LL on The Arsenio Hall Show I’m nervous.” Kim prefaced in the SPIN magazine interview titled “Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy.”

“When I — the Lower East Side scum-rocker, feeling really, really uncool — arrive at the rehearsal studio, the dancers are taking a break. They’re real friendly; we talk about my shoes for a second. They are three girls — one of whom, Rosie Perez, is in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing — and a young boy. A bunch of other people are just hanging out. LL is preoccupied talking to some stylists, gesturing about clothes. Occasionally he shoots a look my way; I have no idea if he’s expecting me or he’s just looking at my out-of-place bleached blonde hair. LL slowly approaches, checking me out but stopping to talk to friends. I jump up, walk over, grab his hand, introduce myself and say, ‘Can I shake your hand?’ He’s aloof. I marvel how boys who’re tough or cool to cover up their sensitivity keep attracting girls and fooling themselves.” Kim and LL sat down at a nearby empty studio and she began the interview by asking him to sign her Radio CD. She then gave him a copy of Ciccone Youth’s The Whitey Album (a pseudonymous side project of Sonic Youth and Minutemen/Firehose member Mike Watt). When she told LL Cool J that The Whitey Album sampled beats off his records he laughed out loud and said, “I got a CD in a couple of my cars, I’ll play it.”

They began discussing sports cars and LL’s newly purchased home he called “Wonderland,” as LL flipped through The Whitey Album CD packaging. He pulled out and unfolded an insert which featured a photograph of a young girl with dozens of black & white flyers for hardcore shows plastered all over her bedroom wall. “Who’s this girl? It must have been a long time ago for it to say The Negroes.” LL mistook a flyer he noticed for Necros (a punk band from the Detroit music scene.) “That’s the Necros, an early hardcore band. Are you familiar with the early hardcore scene?” “Uh-uh, what is that, like heavy metal?” “No, not at all! It was basically kids talking to other kids. The Beastie Boys were part of that. I remember when they were a hardcore band.” LL processes the information and then quips, “The Young and the Useless?” (referring to an early 1980s punk band that included future Beastie Boys member Ad-Rock, and so, cool points for LL Cool J). “That was another band. The Beastie Boys had their same name when they were a hardcore band. Hardcore was so fast that if your ears weren’t attuned to it you couldn’t understand it. It wasn’t meant for anyone outside the scene. Like rap music, some of it is so fast, unless you’re familiar with the slang you can’t get it. That’s why so many people who were into hardcore listen to rap. It’s something that excludes white mainstream culture.” Gordon explained. “That’s interesting, I never really knew anything about that.” Cool J said.
 

Photo from Ciccone Youth’s The Whitey Album CD insert fold-out
 
While Kim Gordon’s connecting the dots between hip hop and the early hardcore music scene made for a great start to the interview, things then took a dive when she asked him about the females fans who admire him. “What about women who are so into you as a sex object that they take a picture of you to bed with them and their boyfriends or husbands start freaking out?” “It’s not my problem,” LL responded. “The guy has to have control over his woman.” Gordon plays along without confronting LL Cool J about his misogynist comments. “Are there any female sex symbols that you relate to?” Kim asks, “Oh yeah, every day on the way to work.”

“It was totally ridiculous for me to assume that we had anything in common” Gordon later admitted in a 1991 telephone interview with the Phoenix New Times. “That’s why I tried to make the article show how elite and small the downtown scene that I come out of is. I was trying to make fun of myself. I don’t know if that came across.” Six months after the interview was published, Sonic Youth recorded the song “Kool Thing” at Sorcerer Sound Recording Studios in New York City. Although LL Cool J’s name is never mentioned, the song’s lyrics contain several references to the rapper’s music. Kim Gordon sings “Kool Thing let me play it with your radio” (a reference to LL Cool J’s single “I Can’t Live Without My Radio”). The lyrics “Kool thing walkin’ like a panther” are a reference to the LL Cool J album Walking With a Panther. She repeats the line “I don’t think so” over and over again which is also a repeating line in the LL Cool J hit “Going Back to Cali.”

Elissa Schappell, author of the short-story collection Blueprints for Building Better Girls, perfectly summarizes the clash between Gordon and Cool J in an essay she wrote for the anthology book Here She Comes Now: Women in Music Who Have Changed Our Lives:

“Kim was able to take the disastrous interview and elegantly turn it into something much larger than its parts. Working at SPY I was used to putting myself into the path of trouble, and when it found me I took notes. Kim had taken notes and then transformed the experience into a sharp and witty social critique of gender, race and power that you could dance to. ‘Kool Thing’ is more than Kim’s assault on LL Cool J’s ego, but a self-mocking jibe at her own liberal politics. The sarcasm in her voice when she addresses ‘Kool Thing’ (Public Enemy’s Chuck D) in the breakdown is self-mocking — the female voice inflated by privilege and naïveté. (‘I just wanna know, what are you gonna do for me? I mean, are you going to liberate us girls from the white male corporate oppression?’)

More after the jump…

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Posted by Doug Jones
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01.04.2017
09:14 am
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The wonderful, endless world of ‘Goo’ album remixes
11.02.2016
12:45 pm
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Chronic Youth
 
Raymond Pettibon’s provocative imagery for Black Flag in the early 1980s remains some of the finest specimens of album art ever created. I can still remember seeing those CDs in the store all clustered together, hardly believing my eyes. Slip It In, My War.... I think my favorite cover was Family Man.

After Sonic Youth jumped to DGC after Daydream Nation, they saw an opportunity to give Pettibon a more mainstream platform. For Goo, SY’s first album for DGC which came out in 1990, Pettibon repurposed a 1966 news photograph of Maureen Hindley and her first husband, David Smith, who were witnesses in the Moors murderers trial in the U.K., to create an instant classic, indeed one of the most iconic album covers in rock history. Surely many among the DM readership can recite Pettibon’s ineluctably lurid caption by heart: “I stole my sister’s boyfriend. It was all whirlwind, heat, and flash. Within a week we killed my parents and hit the road.”

Something about Pettibon’s deadpan use of comic strip tropes and the curiously cocked head angles of the two principals has made the Goo cover a nearly irresistible object of appropriation and parody. The Tumblr Goo Mashups provides a handy collection of Goo-related images. There have been reworkings that reference Star Wars, Breaking Bad, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Adventure Time, Bob Dylan, The Simpsons, Twin Peaks, Tom Waits, and on and on.

Goo mashups are so plentiful that not even the Internet can contain them all. About two months ago I was in Stockholm and a guy passed me on the street wearing a Goo shirt addressing North Korea with its odious dictator Kim Jong Un on it. The banner text was something like “Double Pleasure,” as I recall. Never did find anything about it online. (I don’t think it’s this one.)

Here are a few choice examples:
 

Batman & Robin
 

Daft Punk
 
Many more examples after the jump…....
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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11.02.2016
12:45 pm
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‘Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father’: Sonic Youth, the Wedding Present and the Fall’s tribute to the Beatles


 
In 1988, NME got in on the ground floor of the burgeoning turn-of-the-‘90s fad for tribute compilations when it released Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father, a song-for-song recreation of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band by various artists with popular or cult followings in the UK, including several tracks that have held up quite well by the likes of the Fall, Courtney Pine, and Sonic Youth.

At the time, the original album had recently been the subject of much 20th-anniversary fawning by midlife-ing Baby Boomers, but in hipper circles its rep was in the shitter, as undergroundists vastly preferred a heavier psychedelia stripped of that acutely Barrett/McCartney/Davies’ penchant for Edwardian whimsy. In just a few years, the rise of Brtipop would slow much alt-handwaving of the Beatles’ legacy, but in 1988, the advance guard would have been happy to bury it. Accordingly, much of Sgt. Pepper Knew My Father drips with a viscous irony. The Scottish soul-pop band Hue and Cry attempted a pretty drastic transformation of “Fixing a Hole,” but it falls short of its ambitions. The Three Wize Men’s version of the title song is similarly transformative, and it certainly has moments, but it’s acutely ‘80s UK hip-hop, of which I’m really not a fan. YMMV, of course. Wet Wet Wet’s version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” is icky and fey, and only merits mentioning because that band was a big enough deal at the time that they alone probably accounted for at least half of the copies of the record sold. The Triffids’ version of “Good Morning Good Morning” is not only the worst thing on the album, it might be the worst thing period.

The comp shines more brightly when its artists aren’t afraid to get weird without trying to erase the source material. The Wedding Present’s contribution, an amped-up version of “Getting Better” with Talulah Gosh’s Amelia Fletcher, is exactly as you’d expect that band to perform the Beatles—poppy and bouncy, yet aggressive and clamorous as all hell. Sonic Youth, in the thick of their dense, twisty, and epic Daydream Nation era, are a beautiful match for George Harrison’s raga-rock freakout “Within You/Without You,” and in fact that cover eventually re-emerged on one of Daydream Nation‘s later reissues. The very very eccentric Frank Sidebottom—the spherically-headed masked singer who inspired the 2014 film Frank—does an absolutely wonderful remake of the very very eccentric John Lennon music hall paean “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” The Courtney Pine Quartet’s instrumental take on “When I’m Sixty Four” is a tremendously fun piece of lounge jazz. But the original album’s great set-piece—“A Day in the Life”—is also the tribute’s huge closer, and that song is handled with incredible reverence by the Fall. You’d figure of all bands the Fall would have been likely to go in for the piss-take, but no. It’s quite a stunner.
 
Listen after the jump…

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Posted by Ron Kretsch
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10.06.2016
10:45 am
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Teen Age Riot: Ferocious Sonic Youth concert from German TV, 1996
06.10.2016
01:26 pm
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On Easter Sunday in 1996 there was a big festival in Düsseldorf, Germany—the German TV show Rockpalast was there and captured some outstanding footage of Sonic Youth in its prime, supporting their ninth album Washing Machine, from which most of the material played in the show stems.

Other acts participating in what came to be called “Osterrocknacht” (Easter Rock Night) were Cypress Hill, the Walkabouts, Smashing Pumpkins, the Afghan Whigs, Garbage, and Chumbawamba (a year before their breakout hit “Tubthumping”).

Sonic Youth doesn’t play a single song from before Daydream Nation. In fact, 9 out of the 11 songs come off of SY’s two most recent albums, Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star and Washing Machine.

The first three songs amount to throat-clearing before the band starts really kicking ass on “Washing Machine.” The camerawork, audio, and editing are all excellent, and the 21-minute finale of “The Diamond Sea” has to be seen to be believed.
 

Setlist:
Teen Age Riot
Bull in the Heather
Starfield Road
Washing Machine
Junkie’s Promise
Saucer-Like
Becuz
Sugar Kane
Skip Tracer
Skink
The Diamond Sea

 

 
via Fluxtumblr
 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Sonic Youth raw and live in 1991

Posted by Martin Schneider
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06.10.2016
01:26 pm
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‘Gila Monster Jamboree’: Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets and Perry Farrell live in the Mojave Desert, 1985
10.06.2015
09:01 am
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Sonic Youth’s West Coast debut took place at the Gila Monster Jamboree, one of three not-totally-legal shows Desolation Center put on in Southern California during the mid-‘80s. If you wanted to attend, you had to buy a ticket, sign a release form, and then make your way to a remote rock in the Mojave Desert. Run by Stuart Swezey of the great AMOK bookstore and press, Desolation Center specialized in setting up wild shows at nontraditional venues, as the ‘90s Sonic Youth biography Confusion Is Next explains:

Previous Desolation Center events had included a boat cruise around San Pedro Harbor featuring the Minutemen, and a Mojave Desert show starring the coruscating German band Einstürzende Neubauten and high-gauge explosives. The Sunday-night bill pitted Sonic Youth against the Meat Puppets, an acid-punk trio from Phoenix, Arizona, signed to SST; Redd Kross, a seventies-inspired punk band led by teenage brothers; and Psi-Com, a [sic] unfortunate group headed by one Perry Farrell—later front man for the infinitely more successful Jane’s Addiction.

A map to a halfway point, Victorville, was provided with each ticket; exact directions to the festival site were given verbally from there. Despite a rash of free LSD and a late-night slot that forced Sonic Youth into the chilly desert air, the show was an unqualified success. Regardless of the prevailing hippie aesthetic (which the members of Sonic Youth found nothing if not anachronistic), Sonic Youth for the first time met their true contemporaries face-to-face: postpunk musicians who regarded rock and punk with equal doses of admiration and derision.

 

Directions to Gila Monster Jamboree (larger image here)
 
A more recent Sonic Youth bio, Psychic Confusion, includes eyewitness detail from Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert and Meat Puppet Curt Kirkwood:

“We went to this weird goth guy’s house the day before, to check out the drum kit I’d be borrowing,” remembers Bob. “The place was full of wild reptiles. He was the singer of Psi-Com; years later, I would realize he was Perry Farrell, of Jane’s Addiction.”

“Gila Monster was a pirate thing,” explains Kirkwood, “the kind of thing Meat Puppets used to play in Arizona, where people would bring kegs. But Stuart did it on a much larger scale.” The generator and crappy PA system were set up at Skull Rock, a knoll deep in the Mojave Desert, eight miles from Joshua Tree.

~snip

“It was well lit, because it was full moon,” remembers Kirkwood. “Clear viewing, you can go hiking around, you don’t need a flashlight or nothin’. It’s real nice. You were surrounded by the desert, you kinda had to sneak in. There was slippery stuff going on all around; there were 500 people there, and I think a lot of them were on LSD. There was this bizarre feeling of paranoia. Loads of people were just sitting there going, ‘woooah, woooah’, tripping in the desert, all these punk rockers from LA. It was a pretty SST-heavy affair. Like I said, we’re all friends, Redd Kross, Sonic Youth, all the attendant freaks from SST. It wasn’t real loud, it was pleasant.”

 

Sonic Youth in Southern California, 1985
 
I’ve yet to come across any recordings of Redd Kross at Gila Monster Jamboree, and while audio of Psi Com’s bad night (according to Perry Farrell: The Saga of a Hypester, after their set ended, the frontman hid behind a rock and sobbed) certainly exists, all the links I’ve found are dead. However, you can hear all of the Meat Puppets’ performance, comprising most of their not-yet-released masterpiece Up on the Sun, in glorious FLAC or just-fine MP3 at the Meat Puppets Live Repository.   
 

A ticket to Gila Monster Jamboree
 
And here’s Sonic Youth, two months before the release of Bad Moon Rising, busting a gut for “Brother James” under the desert stars. We learn from Lee Ranaldo’s liner notes for the VHS of Sonic Youth’s set, released in 1992, that a crew from Flipside Magazine shot the video, and that the Meat Puppets were the last band to go on, playing “on into the night as the desert cold set in, under a big ring around the moon.” If you’ve ever wondered how Sonic Youth pulled off “Death Valley ‘69” without Lydia Lunch, wonder no more.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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10.06.2015
09:01 am
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100%: Sonic Youth live at Brixton Academy, 1992
09.09.2015
09:43 am
Topics:
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Well, THIS rules. The wonderful music blog Aquarium Drunkard has shared a set of MP3s documenting a 1992 Sonic Youth performance at Brixton Academy. That show was legendary and has fortuitously been preserved in really high quality—the bill that night also included Pavement, whose set was recorded for broadcast by the BBC. That Pavement set became the essential bootleg Stray Slack, which DM’s Martin Schneider mentioned in a post just under a year ago. The Beeb kept the recording going for Sonic Youth, and their set was the subject of the bootleg Splitting the Atom, though I’m unclear on whether that boot was indeed the actual BBC tapes, or an audience recording. A shaky-cam video exists of the set as well, but the sound frankly blows.

This was around the time when Sonic Youth had begun encroaching on the mainstream, and were accordingly upping their rock-out levels for the album Dirty, from whence half of this set is drawn. There isn’t much deep catalog here, they were clearly in promotions mode: EVOL is represented by “Tom Violence,” and a spirited take on Sister‘s opener “Schizophrenia” is present, and a couple of tunes hail from Goo—amazingly, there’s not even a single track from their untouchable landmark Daydream Nation. It does, however, include the awesome Lee-song “Genetic,” a live staple at the time that, amazingly, never made it to an album. It lived on the b-side of the “100%” single.

You can download the set here. The songs aren’t indexed, so they may appear in your player in alphabetical order. Aquarium Drunkard has the correct order listed, if you’re a stickler.

Since extant video of the set is basically trash, here’s an appearance from around the same time on Later with Jools Holland, featuring “Drunken Butterfly,” “Sugar Kane,” and “JC.”
 

 
Many thanks to Geoff Grant for finding this find.

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Stray Slack: Incredible full Pavement concert, Germany 1994
Sonic Youth and Mike Watt vs Madonna

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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09.09.2015
09:43 am
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Mike Kelley fronts Sonic Youth, 1986
12.17.2014
10:36 am
Topics:
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The first time I visited New York’s SoHo district in 1992 I remember seeing a large print of the cover art for Sonic Youth’s Dirty hanging in a loft window. Earlier that year, my art teacher had complained about Sonic Youth’s use of Mike Kelley’s “Ahh. . . Youth!” on the Dirty sleeve, so I probably wouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Kelley had fronted the band during a 1986 performance.

In the mid-‘80s, Kelley worked on a project called Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile. It consisted of a series of paintings, a cave-like installation called The Trajectory of Light in Plato’s Cave, and a poetic text. The project culminated a December 1986 performance of the text by Kelley and an actress named Molly Cleator, backed by Sonic Youth.
 

 
Alec Foege’s old Sonic Youth bio Confusion Is Next gives some background on the collaboration:

In December 1986 Kelly invited the band to provide sound effects and incidental music for three performances of his piece Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile at Artists Space in New York. Kelley recited an hour-and-a-half poem he had written and dramatized with the help of actress Molly Cleator while the band droned on.

Plato’s Cave had begun “as a project about the possessive,” Kelley said in one interview, “about how ascribing a quality of possession to something would equalize everything. Like, if I said that this was an exhibition of everything from Lincoln’s house, it links all this random stuff together that has no link except as a possible way to psychoanalyze Lincoln. Everybody asked me why I picked those three people. I made a whole list of possessives that were in common usage and I just picked the three that sounded best together. . . . Then I wove a set of associations between them.”

The band got together with Kelley a couple days before the performance. Kelley went through the script and told the band what he wanted at certain cues—a chunky rock sound, a bang, a spooky noise.

“I wanted to play with rock staging,” Kelley says. “For a lot of the performance, they were behind a curtain, so you didn’t even see them. I was trying to play against this rock-star thing, where there’s a shift of focus to somebody who in normal kind of rock-theatric terms would be the singer.” Kelley’s actions made him the center of focus—the singer, as it were—even though Sonic Youth’s accompaniment accentuated his actions and words with kabuki-like synergy, rather than in the traditional way in which a rock band interacts with a vocalist.

 

 
Kelley and Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo discussed the show in a 2009 interview:

Then, to connect your and Mike’s practices—I understand that Sonic Youth provided the soundtrack for Mike’s piece Plato’s Cave, Rothko’s Chapel, Lincoln’s Profile at Artists Space in 1986. How did that collaboration come about?

LR: I think Mike and Kim [Gordon] had been friends in LA. Mike was coming to New York to do this piece at Artist Space and asked us if we would work with him. Steve [Shelley] had just come aboard as our permanent drummer, and we were at the point where we were past just trying things, and had really formed a language that we were all comfortable working with.

MK: That’s right—I knew Kim in LA before she moved to New York. At that time she was not yet a musician; she was a visual artist.  I watched the development of Sonic Youth, and I liked the music and I liked them as people. In that particular performance I wanted to have a live sound element modeled after kabuki theater, where there are musical sections that play off the language in a quite disjointed way.  I also wanted to play with the idea of rock staging. A lot of the audience was there to see Sonic Youth specifically, because at that point they were a known band, so I had some parts where the band was really foregrounded and others where they were completely hidden—behind a curtain, for instance—so you couldn’t see them. And it was great, because they sometimes were doing music not at all typical for Sonic Youth—at one point, for example, I asked them to repeat a riff from “Train Kept A-Rollin’” over and over.

Kim Gordon reminisces about her relationship with Kelley in the video clip below, produced as part of this year’s Mike Kelley retrospective at MOCA. (Kelly committed suicide in 2012.) She says a few words about the performance:

Plato’s Cave, I felt like we were some kind of a Greek chorus to it, and I always thought of Mike as a performance artist more than a visual artist. And at some point, I realized the work was the performance.

 

 
You can listen to the 38-minute (not hour-and-a-half, pace Foege) Plato’s Cave performance in its entirety here. A CD is available from Kelley’s label Compound Annex.

 

Posted by Oliver Hall
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12.17.2014
10:36 am
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Beck, Thurston Moore, and Mike D’s ridiculous jam on MTV, 1994


 
Mass culture machines love the status quo—a salesman, after all, is fattest and happiest when he knows what’ll sell and how to sell it. So when a sudden zeitgeist shift catches them with their pants down, it can be illuminating to watch them try to pull them back up. When the reset button got pushed in the early ‘90s and cult figures whose worldviews revolved around aggressive abnormality suddenly became the new rock royalty, things could get pretty damn funny.

One noteworthy moment was when Sonic Youth‘s Thurston Moore guest hosted MTV’s late night alternaghetto 120 Minutes. In the 1980s, that show featured some legitimately outré artists, but by 1994 watching that show was no longer significantly different from listening to commercial radio. Because of Moore’s untouchable underground bona fides, featuring him injected a fresh dose of off-the-path credibility into that show, and his interview with the then newly-rising Beck was pretty hilarious. Watch it here, it’s worth a few minutes of your life.

But weirder still is this bit of insanity from the same broadcast—Moore, Beck, and the Beastie Boys’ Mike D collaborating on a noise jam. This is what happens when you let the freakshow into the big tent—Dada in mass media. Rigoddamndiculous.
 

 
Hat-tip to Mr. Rob Galo for this find.

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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10.31.2014
12:57 pm
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Strangest Bedfellows: Sonic Youth jam with the Indigo Girls, 1989
09.29.2014
09:57 am
Topics:
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Saxophonist David Sanborn’s late night program, Sunday Night (eventually re-named Night Music), ran from 1988-1990, lasting just 44 episodes. In that short time, Sanborn racked up an impressive and diverse list of guests—some rarely seen on American television, including The Residents, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Miles Davis, The Pixies, Sun Ra, Bongwater and Conway Twitty. Sanborn’s show also had its fair share of unusual, one-off collaborations.

The idea,” Sanborn recalled in a 2013 interview, “was to get musicians from different genres on the show, have them perform something individually — preferably something more obscure or unexpected rather than their latest hit — and then have a moment toward the end where everyone would kind of get together and do something collectively.”

One evening in 1989, Sanborn had on Diamanda Galas, the Indigo Girls, Daniel Lanois, Evan Lurie, and Sonic Youth, who were making their TV debut.

After pulling off a ripping version of “Silver Rocket” early in the program (which included a lengthy mid-song freak-out), Sonic Youth returned for an even more chaotic finale.

Joining the band to cover the Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog” are Sanborn, Lanois (then in the running to produce Sonic Youth’s major label debut, Goo), Don Fleming (Velvet Monkeys, B.A.L.L., etc., and acting as SY’s manager), the Indigo Girls (!), and members of the Night Music Band, including one guy rocking the keytar.
 
Sonic Youth on Night Music
 
Kim Gordon does her best Iggy growl, and the entire band—heck, everyone on that stage—is clearly enjoying this moment. Fleming seems to be having the most fun of all, singing back-up vocals with the Indigo Girls and sidling up next to Sanborn during his solo.

Obsessed with wreaking a bit of havoc at the taping, Fleming bought along a toy plastic whistle for the “I Wanna Be Your Dog” jam. During Sanborn’s sax solo, Fleming ran over and began playing in unison. If that wasn’t a strange enough spectacle, Fleming then decided to see if woodwinds could feed back and began smashing the whistle into an amplifier. “I was like, ‘What the fuck?’” Sanborn recalls. “But it was kind of funny. Weird theater.” (Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth)

Watching the credits roll—as this unlikely of alliances rages on—only adds to the bedlam and hilarity of the clip, which concludes before the performance actually ends. Somehow, the lack of closure is also fitting; it’s as if the chaos lasts an eternity.

25 years on, TV still rarely gets get as crazy this unless it’s on BRAVO.

Here’s the full episode (“Silver Rocket” starts at 6:50; “I Wanna Be Your Dog” at 42:30):
 

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Sonic Youth and Mike Watt vs Madonna

Posted by Bart Bealmear
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09.29.2014
09:57 am
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Half Japanese ‘Overjoyed’ mini-doc features members of Sonic Youth, REM, and Velvet Underground
08.06.2014
04:35 pm
Topics:
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It’d be tempting to dismiss this “mini-documentary” as a mere advertisement for a record release if the subject weren’t the incandescent and seminal lo-fi band Half Japanese.

Since their debut triple-album‘s 1980 release, the band, helmed by Mr. Jad Fair, have advanced an influential primitivist approach to rock music, which has made them one of those bands that see little marketplace success but are utterly beloved by other musicians. So beloved, in fact, that Fair’s bandmates have over the years included, among many others, noted producer and Velvet Monkeys/Gumball honcho Don Fleming, Shimmy-Disc boss and Bongwater multi-instrumentalist Kramer, and Velvet Underground drummer Mo Tucker.
 

 
So when it was announced that Half Japanese would be returning with a new album after a thirteen year layoff, it was surely an easy matter to find plenty of glowing testimonials from folks you can trust. (It’s worth noting that Fair has spent that downtime pursuing the visual arts, and if you can catch an exhibit, I recommend it, his work is great fun.) Overjoyed will be released by Joyful Noise on September 2, 2014, and members of REM, Sonic Youth, the Velvet Underground, NRBQ, Teenage Fanclub and many, many others are eager to tell you all about why you should care. If what you see here whets your appetite for more, you really need to see the 1993 documentary The Band That Would Be King. I’ve said this before, many times, but as far as I’m concerned it bears infinite repeats: if that doc doesn’t make you want to start a band, you might have no soul.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds
Virtuosity in minutes: Half Japanese’s only guitar lesson you’ll ever need
‘Indie, punk, Motown, Brill Building and Velvets’: meet the street karaoke maestro of Los Angeles

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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08.06.2014
04:35 pm
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