Monday, December 11

Track Review: Sonic Youth

from “Rather Ripped”

My friends and I saw Pearl Jam this summer at the iPayOne Sports Arena in San Diego. Normally, I wouldn’t pay seventy bucks to see a band play live at an arena, but Sonic Youth were opening and I wanted to see both them and Pearl Jam before they bit the dust. Our tickets read six-thirty and so, thinking six-thirty was the time doors opened and knowing our seats were assigned, we showed up around seven. I was looking forward to between two and three hours of Thurston Moore and Eddie Vedder magic. Unfortunately, it was then I learned from someone sitting next to us that the show actually had started at 6:30, and that we had missed Sonic Youth’s performance.

There’s about a million things wrong with this picture. First, why the hell did they start the show at six-thirty? Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth attract primarily older crowds, it’s not like their parents want them home by ten. Second, Sonic Youth were really only given a half hour to play? If you have an opening band as huge as the Yoof are, you give them their due hour time slot. Especially if you’re gonna let Pearl Jam play for two-and-a-half hours after. And finally, the biggest question I had that night, why the FUCK did Sonic Youth open for Pearl Jam and not the other way around? Sonic Youth is twenty-five years old, puts on a great live show, and is a fucking monolith of American underground music. They’re still putting out quality music after a quarter century; come talk to me when Pearl Jam is putting out stuff this good in 2015.

In fact, I’d put “Incinerate” against any song put out by a band that’s been around for so long. It may not stack up against the epic tracks on “Daydream Nation” or “Goo”, but I’ll be damned if the whole thing doesn’t bleed style/maturity/class and go down smoother than a frosty. Sonic Youth has cleaned up a bit for this record, eliminating some of the noise and stripping their songs down to a few, simpler elements. “Incinerate” isn’t a dense track (it sounds like it could’ve been recorded live) but that makes for a breezy, effortless listen. The song glides on a sheet of air, propelled by tight-as-shit pocket drumming and modest but inventive guitar lines. Even the guitar solo flow is easy on the ears, bottling up a couple of ferocious licks but letting them free before they begin to grow restless.

Thurston’s voice sounds as good as ever, clean enough to highlight his melodies but dirty enough to remind you that at any moment he can send it all to shit. The lyrics aren’t outstanding, but there’s memorable moments (“I ripped your heart out from your chest / replaced it with a grenade blast”) and the simplicity of the verses suit the laid-back, artsy feel of the song. “Incinerate” is the whole package, really, a bright, cohesive track and a refreshing listen from one of the oldest, most important voices in music today and, as I found out at the Pearl Jam show this summer, one of its most underappreciated.

Sonic Youth - Incinerate

- Dominick Duhamel -

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At 10:12 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great fucking review.

At 9:07 PM , Anonymous Matt said...

Fantastic review, but nothing, and I mean nothing, goes down smoother than a frosty. Edit.


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