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NOTE: As I was going through my archives of writings today, lo and behold, what should I come upon but this review I wrote for CD World’s newsletter (Now Called Skip’s Record & CD World) back before mp3’s and 13 years after the fact to the day. The novel coincidence was too much for me to ignore. As such, I decided to re-publish the review for nostalgia’s sake and you hardcore Sonic Youth fans out there who may be reading.  – Pinki Tuscaderro

Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth has once again, stretched the boundaries of electrified, modem music with their 2000 release NYC Ghosts & Flowers. The album sweeps into a strange melodic beginning, with Thurston Moore tweaking strings in such a manner that challenges the sonic ability of the typical electric guitar. The rest of the instruments slowly join in while subtle spacey effects fade in and out of the background. The sounds slowly build and level off as Thurston weaves his half-sung half-poetry recitation lyrics into the pool of wonders that is Free City Rhymes.

Another great track off the cd is the song Nevermind (What Was It Anyway). When I first heard this song I was not sure what to make of it, but it has continued to grow on me immensely. The song starts with an odd jangly rhythm that contrasts deeply with the meandering melody, yet it manages to. Pull the song together and give it more dimensions. Steve Shelley bursts into the mix with his chunky, staggering beat on the drums and Kim commences to taunt and question in her breathy, but commanding voice.

I would have to say the most intriguing track off the cd would have to be Lightnin. The band delves into the past and future with this piece, Kim pulls out the trumpet on this one and breaks into the synth fury of effects built up by the rest of the band in heavy spurts of sound reminiscent of Miles Davis during his more experimental phase but minus the funk side and plus a more dark edge. All in all,NYC Ghosts & Flowers is a puzzling treat if you are tired of all the verse chorus verse stuff being pumped out of the music industry by the crap load.

Now, if you happened to miss the show Sonic Youth put on at the Roseland on July 22 I can at least fill you in on the highlights of the evening. It was a packed house, though I do not think they sold the place out. I managed. To wedge myself somewhere in front of the stage closes enough to see the action. The band drifted onto the stage and immediately went into Teenage Riot from the album Daydream Nation. There was a brief false start due to something with Thurston’s guitar but they gave it a 2nd go and jammed the song through the roof. The crowd was excited and appreciative for this morsel from Sonic Youth’s store of songs as they wove the song into an extended version of the new Free City Rhymes. There were many fun surprises throughout the night and the band offered a glance at the extensive catalog of music they have managed to create over the years.

They played the rocking Kool Thing from the CD Goo with Kim Gordon taking a break from the bass and guitar, dancing about the stage freely, and indulging in the breathy growling lyrics that saturate this explosive song. Lee Ranaldo also did a song from the same cd called Mote though before starting he stated that for the evening the song would be Mode. That was the mystery of the night. Whatever you want to call it, this version was intense. Lee sang one other song, the haunting and foreboding NYC Ghosts & Flowers. This is an amazing song live; It started off soft and willowy but ended in a cacophony of noise that threatened to shatter the Roseland into a million pieces.

By the end of the show, rather than winding down, the crowd’s eagerness for music seemed only to intensify and Sonic Youth ended up doing two encores. The first song was the gem Bull in the heather from Experimental Jet Set, Trash, and No Star, following with and finishing off the night with a blissfully weird, winding version of Lightnin.

Sonic Youth at Portland’s Roseland Theater was an entirely different animal compared to the show I saw at Bumbershoot 1999, which was mostly experimental free form noise. Although there were already hints toward the current album with Kim spending much time exploring sounds with the trumpet and Thurston using strange props to extract unique noises from his guitar like a bike home, drum sticks and steel files. While polar opposite in content, both shows were equally intense, unpredictable, and memorable. It seems Sonic Youth never gets old. What will they do next?


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