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Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth were one of the most unlikely success stories of underground American rock in the '80s. Where contemporaries R.E.M. and Hüsker Dü were fairly conventional in terms of song structure and melody, Sonic Youth began their career by abandoning any pretense of traditional rock & roll conventions. Borrowing heavily from the free-form noise experimentalism of the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, and melding it with a performance art aesthetic borrowed from the New York post-punk avant-garde, Sonic Youth redefined what noise meant within rock & roll. Sonic Youth rarely rocked, though they were inspired directly by hardcore punk, post-punk, and no wave. Instead, their dissonance, feedback, and alternate tunings created a new sonic landscape, one that redefined what rock guitar could do.

The band's trio of independent late-'80s records -- EVOL, Sister, Daydream Nation -- became touchstones for a generation of indie rockers who either replicated the noise or reinterpreted it in a more palatable setting. As their career progressed, Sonic Youth grew more palatable as well, as their more free-form songs began to feel like compositions and their shorter works began to rock harder. During the '90s, most American indie bands, and many British underground bands, displayed a heavy debt to Sonic Youth, and the group itself had become a popular cult band, with each of its albums charting in the Top 100.

Such success was unthinkable when guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo formed Sonic Youth with bassist Kim Gordon in 1981. Moore had spent his childhood in Bethel, Connecticut; Ranaldo was from Long Island. Both guitarists arrived in Manhattan during the height of the New York-based post-punk no wave movement, and began performing with the avant-garde composer Glenn Branca, whose dissonant, guitar-based music provided the basis for much of Sonic Youth's early music. Moore's girlfriend Gordon had been active in the avant and no wave scenes for some time, and the pair helped stage the Noise Festival, in which the band made its live debut during the summer of 1981. At the time, Sonic Youth also featured keyboardist Anne DeMarinis and drummer Richard Edson. DeMarinis left the band shortly afterward, and the quartet recorded its eponymous debut EP, which was released on Branca's Neutral Records the following year. During 1983, Edson left the band to pursue an acting career and he was replaced by Bob Bert, who drummed on the group's debut album, Confusion Is Sex (1983). The band supported the album with its first European tour. Later that year, the group released the EP Kill Yr Idols on the German Zensor label.

Early in 1984, Moore attempted to land the band a contract with the British indie label Doublevision, but the label rejected the demos. Paul Smith, one of the owners of Doublevision, decided to form Blast First Records in order to release Sonic Youth records. Soon, he received a distribution deal from the hip U.K. indie label Rough Trade, and the band had its first label with strong distribution. During all these record label negotiations in 1984, the cassette-only live album Sonic Death: Sonic Youth Live was released on Ecstatic Peace. Bad Moon Rising, the group's first album for Blast First, was released in 1985 to strong reviews throughout the underground music press. The album was markedly different from their earlier releases -- it was the first record they made that incorporated their dissonant, feedback-drenched experimentations within relatively straightforward pop song structures. Following the release of the Death Valley '69 EP, Bert was replaced by Steve Shelley, who became the group's permanent drummer.

Bad Moon Rising had attracted significant attention throughout the American underground, including some offers from major labels. Instead, Sonic Youth decided to sign with SST, home of Hüsker Dü and Black Flag, releasing EVOL in 1986. With EVOL, the group a became fixture on college radio, and its status grew significantly with 1987's Sister, which was heavily praised by mainstream publications like Rolling Stone. The group's profile increased further with the 1988 Ciccone Youth side project The Whitey Album, which was a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Madonna and other parts of mainstream pop culture.

The band's true breakthrough came later in 1988 with the double album Daydream Nation. Released on Enigma Records, it was a tour de force that was hailed as a masterpiece upon its fall release, and it generated a college radio hit with "Teenage Riot." Though the album was widely praised, Enigma suffered from poor distribution and eventually bankruptcy, which meant the album occasionally wasn't available in stores. These factors contributed heavily to the band's decision to move to the major label DGC in 1990.

Signing a contract that gave them complete creative control, as well as letting them function as pseudo-A&R reps for the label, Sonic Youth established a precedent for alternative bands moving to majors during the '90s, proving that it was possible to preserve indie credibility on a major label. Released in the fall of 1990, Goo, the band's first major-label album, boasted a more focused sound, yet it didn't abandon the group's noise aesthetics. The result was a college radio hit, and the group's first album to crack the Top 100. Neil Young invited Sonic Youth to open for him on his arena tour for Ragged Glory, and though they failed to win over much of the rocker's audience, it represented their first major incursion into the mainstream; it also helped make Young a cult figure within the alternative circles during the '90s.

For their second major-label album, Dirty, Sonic Youth attempted to replicate the sloppy, straightforward sound of grunge rockers Mudhoney and Nirvana. The band had been supporting those two Seattle-based groups for several years (and had released a split single with Mudhoney and brought Nirvana to DGC Records), and while the songs on Dirty were hardly grunge, it was more pop-oriented and accessible than earlier Sonic Youth records. Produced by Butch Vig, who also produced Nirvana's Nevermind, Dirty became an alternative hit upon its summer 1992 release, generating the modern rock hits "100%," "Youth Against Fascism," and "Sugar Kane." Sonic Youth quickly became hailed as one of the godfathers of the alternative rock that had become the most popular form of rock music in the U.S., and Dirty became a hit along with the exposure, eventually going gold.

Sonic Youth again worked with Vig for 1994's Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, which entered the U.S. charts at number 34 and the U.K. charts at number ten, making it their highest-charting album ever. The high chart position was proof of their popularity during the previous two years, as it received decidedly mixed reviews and quickly fell down the charts. Later in 1994, Moore and Gordon -- who had married several years before -- had their first child, a daughter named Coco Haley. Sonic Youth agreed to headline 1995's American Lollapalooza package tour, using the earnings to build a new studio. Following the completion of the tour, Sonic Youth released Washing Machine, which received their strongest reviews since Daydream Nation. After a series of experimental EPs issued on their own SYR label, they resurfaced in 1998 with the full-length A Thousand Leaves. NYC Ghosts & Flowers, which featured Jim O'Rourke as a producer and musician, followed in the spring of 2000. O'Rourke became a full member of the group, touring with the band and appearing on and producing 2002's Murray Street.

The five-piece Sonic Youth returned in 2004 with Sonic Nurse; one year later, however, O'Rourke departed the band to pursue a career as a film director. Late in 2005, the remaining bandmates issued SYR 6, a recording of a benefit concert for the Anthology Film Archives that Sonic Youth had played alongside percussionist Tim Barnes. Rather Ripped, a fusion of the mellow, sprawling feel of the band's previous two albums with a more stripped-down sound, was released in 2006. In 2008, the band resurrected the SYR series: J'Accuse Ted Hughes arrived that spring as a vinyl-only release, while Andre Sider Af Sonic Youth chronicled an improvised performance at 2005's Roskilde Festival. They also assembled a compilation album for Starbucks, Hits Are for Squares, featuring the previously unreleased track "Slow Revolution." Before the busy year concluded, Sonic Youth made additional headlines by leaving the Geffen label and signing with Matador, which prepared to issue the band's 16th album, The Eternal, during the following spring. The year 2010 was relatively quiet for the band, with members concentrating on individual projects like Shelley's Vampire Blues label; they also recorded the soundtrack to French director Fabrice Gobert's film Simon Werner a Disparu, which was released early in 2011. Moore and Gordon announced their impending divorce in the fall of 2011, creating doubt about the band's future past their year-end South American tour. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Koncertas Stan Brakhage Prisiminimui

Comments

even tho I love kim gordons dancing and acting-im glad they broke up-I wish Thurston would quit music and drive those double deckers in London-he could tell lame punk rock jokes and tell the passengers he was in a famous rock-once upon a time-and everybody would roll their eys and say- oh sure
Love it
Love it
you gotta check out Thurston Moore's new band, they're called Mountains of Teenage Girl Turds
Thurston Moore, why you gotta ruin a good thing?! :-(
I think this song has great interest and intelligence . Anytime you get favorably compared with Lou Reed(RIP), you be doing some good stuff.
Angel so right but sometimes the best artists are dicks. Do you want him nice then where do we get the angry reverb?
Thurston moore is a dickhead-I blame him for the end of two great groups-sonic and twilight.
The indie handbook volume 3 would read:
Show girls you fancy them by getting with their boyfriends.
Replace your party-loving mates with awkward greasy coy friends
who like listening to sonic youth,
you always must appear aloof.
Remember no amount of faking can make your indie band groundbreaki n g .
I'm 13 and i love this band! I'm surprised their an 80's band haha!! But wow this band is amazing! Kim gordons voice is amazing! :D
this album is in the top ten
jeffreymqs64 1
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claricentp91 7
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shawnnavuz71 1
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dardess
Nothing like it today. Or if there is tell me about it.
Wait a minute, I love SY, but to say Husker Du were fairly confentional is just completely uninformed, and unenlightene d . How about actually listening to an entire Husker Du album in the context of early 80's. Zen Arcade? Warehouse? Candy Apple Grey? really any album all the way through and then you tell me they were conventional . Lumping them in with REM is just itching for a fight.
today's indie rock owes this band credit as one of it's originators.
Sonic Youth, the better Nirvana. And I fully stand by what i just typed.
Thurston is great dude. And a seriously great band
30 years relevant
I lurv da yutes...
Thurston is the coolest guy
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of you life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lover's name will come on the screen in big letters. This is so scary because it actually works
yeaaaaa.. good track :))))))
the emperor is wearing clothes, but on inspection they're kind of boring clothes.
r.byrd2
Great band. A lot of the songs touch something deep inside that I can't explain. I've been a fan since the 80s and always will be.
Bobonnit: Chapel Hil is a rock song, along with many other Sonic Youth songs. Apparently, you don't know what rock is. That's ok, I know what it is.
Kim IS sexuality in vocals while being reserved and plain..stunn i n g
Kim Gordon...she ' s been an influence to many male and female vocalists and never abandoned her band ie Kim deal of pixies
This freaked me out This isn't fake. Apparently, if you copy and paste this on ten comments in the next ten minutes, you will have the best day of your life tomorrow. You will either get kissed or asked out, if you break this chain you will see a little dead girl in your room tonight. In the next 53 minutes someone will say I love you or I'm sorry This freaked me out This isn't fake. Apparently, if you copy and paste this on ten comments in the next ten minutes, you will have the best day of yo
ingridvonpel t
Hmm. Kim Gordon v. Kim Deal. GO!
greatest song ever
real chill music
When I read a description like this: ~Borrowing heavily from the free-form noise experimental i s m of the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, and melding it with a performance art aesthetic borrowed from the New York post-punk avant-garde, Sonic Youth redefined what noise meant within rock & roll. Sonic Youth rarely rocked.~ I have to agree. It is noise and they don't rock. Thumbs down losers
skirtsoplain
Top 5 all time rock band. The best in their subgenre.
dont read this because it actually works. You will get kissed on the nearest possible friday by the love of your life. tommorrow will be the best day of your life. however if you do not post this comment to at least 3 songs you will die in 2 days. now youve started reading this so dont stop. this is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in at least 143 minutes when if done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is scary cuz it actually work
I hate this so mu
Plus, an added bonus: Kim has KILLER legs.
Ugh they're just so good!
Long live the 'Youth.
Awaaaaaaaaaa a a a a a a a a a a w s o m e !
One of the best bands ever!
;)
@DescJockey and LayneTheLege n d . . . guess we'll just have to settle and listen to Fugazi instead. MacKaye had a whole lot more to say.
alkingflg
They are bad a** to go and keep going. In a bit of stormy weather to a secret location. Or what ever or not then again.
wow...totall y always thought what DescJockey posted. such a unique sound, but the worst fukkin lyrics ever.
My all-time favorite band. Bar none.
Every time I start to like Sonic Youth, I make the mistake of looking at their lyrics. Useless gibberish. Why, guys? Why? With all of their instrumental and structural creativity and ingenuity, imagine how much greater they could have been if somebody had taken the time to add meaningful lyrics. Go ahead, tell me I'm wrong and that the lack of meaning is actually cool and artistic and special - I don't buy it for one second.
incinerate fun song yo
Your bio references a bunch of great albums, Daydream Nation, Evol, Sister, Badmoon Rising.... but Pandora doesn't have these albums in its database. FIX THIS! (and maybe my Sonic Youth station won't have to play Aha)
decal_12
@WilliamHame l - that's weird, I thought the Eternal was great. Probably their best since Daydream Nation... But still, I agree - not a bad time to bow out. What a legacy to leave behind.
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