on January 27, 2002
I don't own half of all the Sonic Youth recordings, and I don't pretend to catch all the hidden nuances and meanings lurking in this release. However, I must say that from what I've heard of SY so far, this is my favorite album. Though my favorite individual songs ('Washing Machine','Sweet Shine', etc.) are usually on other releases, this album is a sheer masterpiece on both the conceptual level and judging from pure enjoyment. It's taken me a while to piece together what Sonic Youth is actually up to in their music, but they seem to pull it off flawlessly here. Conceptually, this album is ingeniously constructed; combining the songform with the infamous noisey drones and chaotic bursts, sometimes several times in a single track, SY manages to form a sort of theme album that gives off the same dreamy vibes throughout its duration. The carefree-ness and unorthodoxy in terms of the audio image makes the album more of a work of art than a so-called 'rock CD' (which is largely why SY is considered art-rock, I assume). The melodic quality of the music here is superb. Unless they've got me totally fooled, SY wrote many of these songs using very subtle counterpoint and unconventional melodies that seem so dissonant at first that the listener is tempted to write it off from the start. 'Green Light' is a perfect example. One time, at the beginning few minutes of the song, my mom walked in and actually laughed and said 'In my day these guys would have never gotten a record deal'. Now, to be fair, she didn't have enough time to analyze it.. but my point remains the same. If listened to carefully, this song is actually quite lovely and emotionally expressive even though the notes seem to fight each other at every turn. This may be a fundamental observation, but I think the dissonant noise serves to cloak the beautiful undertow inherent in the music. Once you just surrender to the sound as a whole, you begin to see all the hidden beauty. About the songs themselves, almost all of them are winners. 'Shadow of a Doubt' and 'Star Power' are simply gorgeous. 'Secret Girl' has a nice chunk of noise and a piano with some eerie guitar screeches in the background, giving it that 'feel' that I'm trying so unsuccessfully to describe. The Sean Penn song, whichever title you prefer, is also brilliant as it builds to a blissful, climactic guitar tapestry. Even 'Bubblegum' is good :^). Anyway, I highly recommend it.. it is simply a work of art. Other SY releases also come highly recommended.
on April 8, 2006
Originally released on the wonderful SST label (check out the website), "Evol" was the first really definitive Sonic Youth album. From the ultra disturbing woman on the cover (Lung Leg, whoever that is, apparently from some indie film) to the music itself, we embark on a sonic journey through the nether regions of our minds. This is where nightmares dwell and resurface in the detuned guitars that howl, feedback, ring out and swirl about under and over the songs themselves.
"Tom Violence" is somewhat subtle, at least as the CD opens (I don't think the track listing is correct), with the guitar noize waiting until near tracks' end to take us deep into audio alienation.
A gruesome spoken word piece giving us details of a gory auto wreck, a piano playing a beautiful snippet and a storm of guitar feedback and dissonant tones that closes "Sean, Madonna and Me", or, alternately titled "Expressway To Yr Skull" give us a view of the dark side from a safe distance. Album owners of the original release may recall that at the end of "Expressway To Yr Skull", which closed the album, unlike "Bubblegum" that closes the CD, there is no outgroove to allow the needle to return to its stand. Thus, the drone continues on and on, sometimes nearly hypnotizing you before you realize what's going on. Can't do this with a binary code. A must have for SY fans.
on October 1, 2005
i would like to say first off their is not a bad song on this cd, it is all mind tripping bliss. my favorite 2 songs being tom violence and marilyn moore with of course the masterpiece from this album expressway to yr. skull. i do own most of sonic youth's other stuff except work from 98-2003 but ive heard most of this, and i can also say that i think this is the most lyrically strong cd they have also. the two love songs on this cd star power and green light are just amazing they drew me in the first time i heard them sonic youth might be noise punk to the core but they can still make pretty songs. another thing i would like to say is i think this album is much better than daydream nation. if u talk 2 most sonic youth fans they will tell you daydream nation is the best cd but i totally disagree, i think this is musically lyrically and just all around superb to daydream nation. this was their height the prior realeases to this which were "confusioin is sex" and bad moon rising are amazing but arent for everyone.then the realeases prior 2 this are great also but i consider this their height. if u like sonic youth and u already have this cd and not much of the other stuff i would recommend sister which in my opinion was very close 2 this album in being my favorite i recommend washing machine also which goes against some of their medicore early 90's work like dirty and goo
on April 13, 2006
This is not simply a "touching" album that suggests a mood. EVOL grips on from the very beginning, turns you upside down and immerses you in a somber, dark world that no other album can create. And it will keep you coming back for more and more.
The haunting guitars of the opener "Tom Violence" only hint at what is to come. "Shadow of a Doubt" is perhaps the best SY song with Gordon on vocals; her whisper backed by a sudden assault of noise sends chills up your spine. "In the Kingdom #19" (listen for Thurston throwing fireworks in the studio after one minute) and "Secret Girls" are abrasive, ethereal tracks that may take more than one listen to appreciate, but are among the band's best. The heralded closer "Expressway to Yr Skull (The Crucifixion of Sean Penn)" is an epic journey, beginning with Thurston's unforgettable cry "We're gonna kill the California girls," building to a frantic pace and then slowing down into a spacious wall of noise.
This is SY at their height lyrically. Daydream Nation may have more "masterpieces" of feedback but EVOL leaves more of an impression. Each song has its own way of leaving you breathless, and its clear that after the 39 minute adventure Sonic Youth has to be one of the greatest bands of our time, if ever.
on April 2, 2005
Mid Eighties SST indie rock classic! This was the very first Sonic Youth album I owned. I got the vinyl in 87 at the age of 15 and it blew my mind and has ever since! The best song on the album in my opinion, and one of Sonic Youth's best songs period is "Expressway to yr Skull," aka "Madonna, Sean and Me," aka "The crucifixion of Sean Penn." Whatever title you prefer, this song is a beautiful, powerful masterpiece that hits you in the soul every time. It's the most special melodic guitar masterpiece I have ever heard. Chiming scree infused with bliss, It builds to a mind melting crescendo and goes completely over the top, then the way the bass, drums and guitar work together into the mind bending recovery is aural art for sure. If you are lucky enough to hear it live you are in for a religous experience. On the vinyl it ended side 2 with a locked groove, meaning that when your turntable needle reached the end of the song instead of running out and ending it went around in a circle, playing the droning end of the song forever or until you turn it off.
While "Expressway" is a highlight, the rest of the album is awesome as well. Lyrically and sonically one of the things the sonics were into at the time this was recorded was the psychology and mythos surrounding the manson family and that era, but that is only one aspect of this album. Another interesting thing about this album is the atmosphere it creates; many of the songs are different from one another sonically, yet the album is cohesive. Songs like "In the Kingdom #19," with its narrative style and crazy stuff going on in the background evoking thoughts of D.Boon's tragic death, and "Marilyn Moore," and "Shadow of a Doubt" just transport you atmospherically. I have recommended this album to many new listeners of SY, some find that they don't like it as much as "Sister" at first, because many of the songs aren't as "immediately accessible" as the gems of that album, but with more listens it rewards them, it grows on them and they like it as much or more. Bublegum is a cover, I believe of an old Kim Fowley song and was not on the original release, but was a B-side (of the Starpower single if I remember correctly) added in the CD age. It seems somewhat out of place, especially following expressway. In any event, this recording is one of SY's best, and in my opinion one of the best period. Buy it, it's magical.
on September 2, 2007
This has been my first experience of Sonic Youth -- obviously very much after the fact but so what? Well, this is quite harsh and unrelenting stuff. I'm sure it's first rate in its genre, but I was put off by the consistently aggressive, discordant sound.
It's possible to admire some music without ever feeling the need to listen to it. For me, Evol is very much in that category. No doubt that makes me a philistine.
Meanwhile, look around this web page and you will see very little effort among the customer reviewers to provide a balanced critique of Evol. It's 5 stars, as usual, as far as the eye can see.
on May 1, 2000
To me this album represents one of Sonic Youth's finest moments. Sheer noise, lo-fi melody, absolutely inspired lyrical work. I saw them in 1987. They were using an electric drill as a guitar pick, and a screwdriver wedged into the strings for leverage. Thurston spent a good portion of the evening throwing his guitar and letting it slam onto the stage with an explosion of breaking guitar sounds and lots of feedback. With no prior introduction, this spectacle was somewhat disorienting. I didn't "get" Sonic Youth until I heard EVOL. If you are wondering which record to get, this is a superb starting point. My only complaint for this record (and also for daydream nation) is that the liner notes totally suck. I guess that's what I get for relying on words to relate to a general feeling for a scene I was never in. It would be nice to have some relevant context, though. Actually the liner notes in Bad Moon Rising aren't that bad. I'll go now, what is this a book club?
on May 30, 2002
A nice dose of inner-city mindtripping that takes you along on a slowly meandering subway of catharsis, love, confusion, and violence...basically good ol' Sonic Youth...a band with the fullest potential to take you on a journey of self-experience...
It starts out with "Tom Violence", a song about going away from home to get experience, finding the contradictions in one's anarchic philosopphy ("My violence is a number/Find it in the father/Find it in a girl")...it then proceeds to a great moodpeice "Shadow Of a doubt" which conveys imagery of a pre-ordained destiny from many years ago to meet a person, then using spiritual methods to explore each other, all this beside eerie and exploding guitars..."Starpower" is a beautiful punkish love ballad, it's other romantic equivalent "Green Light" is shadowy and sensual, when Sonic Youth do love songs they make it curious and beautiful...
"In The Kingdom 19" is the best track, as well as the most talked-of and most known track, a fast spoken-word narration of a man crashing and going to live off in the woods with an animal he almost killed, thrown together at the speed of someone actually crashing, it's a classic..."The Boy Who Can Enjoy Invisibilty" (which I don't think is the actual name)is more stripped-down, gleeming in claustrophobia with faint pianos and paranormal lyrics (always gives me a mental picture of a girl levitating in a dusty attic)..."Marilyn Moore" is as well a more eroded arrangement, but more chaotic than the latter, imploding with desperation and confused anger...
"Espressway To Your Skull" (a.k.a. The Crucifixtion Of Sean Penn) is the best song, an apocalyptic masterpeice as another reviewer said. makes you wanna kill Cliafornia girls and find the meaning of feeling good...there's also the so-so strait-ahead rock song "Bubblegum" and the instrumental which eludes me of its name, but is radical nonetheless...
Every Sonic Youth is meant for taking existential aural and mental pshychadelica trips. Get all of their albums.
on June 27, 1998
Sonic Youth are known to be detached and weird. This album is from their old undeground era, but listening to this made me wonder how many more beautiful melodies hide there in thousands of underground records ... but then maybe it's just me -- detached and weird myself. Sounding like a kid tune, "Green Light" shows Thurston Moore's as a primitivist poet singing his simple but oh-so-genius love confessions; "In the Kingdom #19" has another poet, beatnik-y Lee Ranaldo, citing a tale of a man hitting an animal with his car, and leaving the civilization for the woods to live with it - all over crazy rhythms and psychedelic guitars. The bunch adds some instrumental surf-rock in delightful, pastoral "Death to Our Friends". And the epic endless "Maddonna Sean and Me - The Crucifixion of Sean Penn - Expressway to Yr. Skull" (endless title too) ... oh, there's too much to write about it. Nothing can describe the amazing slide guitars over the extra beats thrown into the ye olde 4/4 rhythm. Neil Young called this track "the greatest guitar track of all times". Don't listen to anyone who'll say this record is old, weird, or "just a childish intro for 'Daydream Nation'". If you're a fan or just looking for some new stuff, it's a must.
on November 1, 2001
(...)Everything you've read about this album is true. It's dark, beautiful, and mysterious. It was Sonic Youth's creative apex, seeming almost a manifestation of some way-cool New York zeitgeist of the time. Paradox, interdependence of polar opposites, mystery, and infinity spill out of every crack in this music and saturate it on every level. Song lyrics on the surface appear to be throwaway doggerel but are revealed to repeated listening as being carefully written to express concepts that are very tough to convey.
A musical and chronological midpoint this is between the sprawling textural compositions of Glenn Branca and the concise rock of Goo. It sounded like nothing before or since and managed to make "guitar rock" exciting again. There is a question during the 4-minute ambient drone-fest which closes the epic Expressway To Your Skull (listed as Madonna Sean and Me on the jacket) as to whether the guitar tones are actually bending and shifting or my ears are bending around them. After alot of ghostly chiming feedback, the vinyl SST pressing featured a locking groove so that the song just droned on and on until the needle was lifted from the album.
In short, amazing album which drastically changed me.
As the heartbeat-like bass drum fades at the end of In The Kingdom#19, Thurston can be vaguely heard saying "Never gave a damn about the meter man, 'til I was the man who had to read the meter, man..." Eerie....