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Incredible Album From An Incredible Band...
on December 6, 2005
Sonic Youth is one of the more influential and revered bands of the last 20 years. They are rightfully known as the Godfathers of Indie Rock. I can think of no other band that has been consistently putting out quality music for as long as Sonic Youth. Some bands manage to string together 2 or 3 good albums, but then tend to fade into obscurity, break-up, or start to suck. Amazingly, Sonic Youth have yet to succumb to any of those fates. They have had the occasional slump (the mid-to-late 90's), yet they are still here- producing worthwhile, quality albums. In my mind, their creative peak was the late 80's; when they put out the amazing trilogy of `Evol', `Sister', and `Daydream Nation'. I love this band and own every single one of their albums. That being said, `Sister' is my favorite.
`Sister' was initially released on SST records in 1987, and in my mind stands as the quintessential Sonic Youth release. There is a mythic, mystical undercurrent pulling the listener thru this delicious album. It is hard to quantify and explain. The guitar interplay of Thurston and Lee is something special- at times beautifully melodic, dissonant, violent, loving, and ethereal. These songs really speak to me.
This awesome work open with `Schizophrenia' (you really need to hear this song live sometime). I like how both Kim and Thurston share vocals on this track- something they should do more often, which they do in fact numerous times on `Sister'. Lyrically this is one of Sonic Youth's finest efforts, which should be no surprise to anyone when they realize that the Youth were heavily into Philip K. Dick at the time this album was written. Feelings of insanity, isolation, loneliness, chaos, and love pervade `Sister'- for these were all themes with which Dick was intimately familiar. A number of Sonic Youth's best tracks appear on this album. `Stereo Sanctity' is dissonant, delirious, and wonderful. This is followed by the reflective and mysterious `Pipeline/ Kill Time', which makes use of Lee's poetic lyrics, rolling drums, and incredible feedback control. After this amazing track comes `Tuff Gnarl', which ends with a devastating and divinely dissonant guitar frenzy. Maintaining the momentum, next up is `Pacific Coast Highway', one of Kim Gordon's best tracks- she sounds genuinely scary at the outset, which serves as a perfect lead-in to more guitar beauty. This stretch here- tracks 4 through 7, marks one of the best I have heard on ANY album.
`Cotton Crown' follows `Hot Wire My Heart' (which I could've done without). `Cotton Crown' is the closest thing Sonic Youth has to a love song, but don't let that deter you- I HATE love songs. The instrumental section in the middle of this song is a thing of beauty and power. Dissonant guitars have never sounded so soothing (with the exception of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless). `White Cross' follows this gem, ending the album on a rocking note. `Master-Dik' actually ends this version of `Sister' (I don't think it was on the original SST version). `Master-Dik' is a VERY tongue-in-cheek Sonic Youth take on Hip Hop, complete with lots of distorted guitars and even a KISS sample.
If you are only familiar with recent Sonic Youth, and you find yourself wishing they would rock out more, than you need this album. This is probably the Youth's most rocking album. The guitar is blistering throughout. And all though it is blistering, distorted, and dissonant; it is highly soothing and quite trance inducing at times. The guitar interplay here paved the way for the amazing sonics exhibited on their next album, the undisputed masterpiece- `Daydream Nation'.
The song writing on `Sister' is some of their best- cosmically poetic and mystically enchanting. This, in conjunction with the otherworldly music make for a fascinating listen. If you like Sonic Youth, but have yet to get this album, you must do so immediately. If you are only familiar with major label Youth (post-Goo), then you must IMMEDIATELY get this incredible album. And finally, if you are curious about Sonic Youth, but have yet to delve into their daunting catalogue, this might not be the best place to start. `Goo' & `Daydream Nation' might be better jumping off points. However, if you are musically adventurous, a guitarist, or a fan of interesting rock, you will most likely love this wonderfully dissonant work. After many years, and hundreds upon hundreds of CD's and vinyl albums, `Sister' remains one of my favorites.