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Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth Paperback – June 2, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Anchored by the married couple of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, and propelled by democratically distributed experiments from all four group members, underground music icons Sonic Youth, as chronicled by Browne in his compulsively readable new biography, are a model for how to sustain a career in the burnout-friendly world of rock music. Browne traces each phase of the band's career with the easy, anecdotal grace of an accomplished journalist: he sketches each band member's youth and initiation into the New York music scene, provides accounts of the years of day jobs and thrifty recording sessions, and gives a play-by-play account of the band's courting by labels following the independent success of the album Daydream Nation. The book is most engaging in its middle third, an in-depth account of the band's initial struggles and successes at Geffen, their major label home for the past two decades of their career. While Browne succeeds at capturing the personalities and debates that shape the band's character, at times the author's engagement with the band's actual music is not as incisive or comprehensive as it could be. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"An expressway to the soul of the influential band."—Vanity Fair

"As much a chronicle of the combustion of music and popular culture Sonic Youth helped ignite as it is an earnest portrait of the band and examination of their work…Browne's book will suck you in…He fleshes out the personalities and occasional tensions behind the band’s deadpan image."—Los Angeles Times

"The whole scene in you-are-there detail."—New York Post

"A rollicking, epic biography…Browne cannily opts to tell, in a crisp, novelistic style, the compelling story of the cultural tornado of galleries, rock clubs and unique personalities (Lydia Lunch, Kurt Cobain and Chloë Sevigny, to name a few) Sonic Youth swirled around in, the band's ongoing fight to maintain the purity of their vision, and above all, their shared passion for new ideas and sounds."—Salon

"For almost 30 years, Sonic Youth has been one of the most influential and innovative bands in the rock topography…a much-deserved biography."—Rolling Stone

"He goads the band...into uncharacteristic chattiness."—Village Voice

"[Browne] found a neat narrative to work with, charting the group's determinedly paced journey from under-populated gigs in the arty early-'80s downtown scene to its brush with alt-rock fame in the mid '90s to its current status as an inspiration to a nation of young experimentalists."
Time Out New York

"David Browne's thorough chronicle cuts through the formidable Sonic Youth mystique, not only getting down to the nuts and bolts of this long-running machine but finally locating all the ways that Sonic Youth has altered the course of high culture, low culture, and everything in between."
—Michael Azerrad, author of Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991

"Sonic Youth were so outlandishly ahead of the curve that we're only beginning to understand their warped brilliance now, so it's a stroke of good fortune that we get to revisit the fascinating story of SY with David Browne, one of the finest cultural journalists in America. This is a monumental book. It's thorough, riveting, revealing, and exquisitely written, and it takes its place alongside Timothy White's Catch a Fire and David Hajdu's Positively 4th Street as one of the truly essential volumes of pop-music history."&mdashJeff Gordinier, author of X Saves the World: How Generation X Got the Shaft but Can Still Keep Everything from Sucking

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; Reprint edition (June 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306816032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306816031
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,036,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Crescenzo C. Capece on June 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've been waiting a long time for a big, in-depth bio of one of music's most interesting,enduring and influential bands, and Browne's book certainly delivered the goods. He covers all aspects of the band--childhoods, early days and apartments in New York, recording sessions, the dynamics within the band, their ups and downs and conflicts with their record companies and managers, the whole Lollapalooza experience, and personal lives. I had no idea Kim's high school boyfriend was Danny Elfman or that there was a showdown within the band during the "Dirty" sessions. It's extremely well researched and the writing is accessible and lively. If you're a fan, you have to read this.
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Format: Hardcover
A great biography about one of the greatest American bands.
I consider myself quit an expert when it come to Sonic Youth, nevertheless this book surprised me with all the rich information the author has gathered (Very impressive research including interviews and pictures from all the people who were involved in the Sonic Youth story).

The book is well written and leaves you with wet eyes in the end. It tells the story of ordinary people who had dream, some of those dreams were achieved some of the were not.

It is a must read to any sonic youth fan and to anyone who consider himself an alternative/rock/punk/indie music fan.
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Format: Hardcover
This book does an excellent job of describing in detail the relationships between the people in this great band, and the many people they've worked with in their 25+ years together.

My only complaint is that the author occasionally gets some glaring facts wrong. He claims that the SST in SST Records stands for "Solid State Tuners" (it stands for Solid State Transmitters); and makes passing mention of an early associate of the band moving to San Francisco to attend Berklee College of Music (which is located in Boston). These are basic, easily verifiable facts, and I'm kind of amazed that they weren't caught by someone who read it between the rough draft and the actual printing.

Does this ruin the book? No, because the mistakes don't actually alter the course of events as the book describes them. They do, however, cause me to doubt the book's accuracy in general, and I can't help but wonder if there were other more consequential mistakes that flew right over my head.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the only SY book I've ever read. I remember reading several articles/interviews in the late 80's/early 90's, and kinda lost touch with the band after "Goodbye 20th Century." As such, I thought this was a very good read. Lots of info I'd never seen mentioned before, and some good pics too. The book cuts off before Thurston and Kim's break-up, so no juicy gossip in that area.
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Format: Hardcover
There is one specific review so far that is very, very wrong. It could be that this person did not read the whole book; I'm not a mind reader. This review claims something along the lines of "there is no new material in this book than there was in Confusion is Next: The Sonic Youth Story by Alec Foege." Confusion was released in 1994. There were six Sonic Youth studio albums released after 1994, not including side projects and production credit. There was another member of Sonic Youth who was added and left after 1994. I could go further, but the main point is, this review is utterly ridiculous.

This book was fantastic. It really gives you a clear window to the indie scene over a 25 year period. The best thing about this book, however, is all of the fine examples of the bands and artists and people who started their career and friendships with Sonic Youth, and with their help, broke into mainstream.
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Format: Paperback
If you like what Sonic Youth is all about, you'll like it more after reading this book. This book is unique in bringing the lives of Sonic Youth members' lives to the reader. It's a must-have, must-read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am really enjoying this book. It's very interesting, and being thorough does NOT make it a boring read. It's nice to read a biography about such a talented band. It's nice that their story is about musical creativity, and not about drug and alcohol abuse. That's the stuff that gets boring after a while.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
What's most astounding about this well-crafted biography of Sonic Youth is how such a groundbreaking act still years ahead of its time is comprised of such ordinary, middle-class people. If you're looking for the high drama of stereotypical, cliché sexdrugsrock'n'roll nonsense, this isn't your book. If you're interested in pulling back the curtain of the most creative, influential and underrated bands of the past 30 years, then Goodbye 20th Century will be a page-turning delight into the world of four brilliant visionaries and a revolving cast of supporting musicians who changed the world and paved the way, both as performers and behind the scenes, for what became grunge.
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