Music News

Sonic Youth

At long last rescued from the out-of-print wilderness, Sonic Youth's self-titled, under-heard debut reveals itself as quite the opposite of the festering, tonal Hades implied by subsequent records like Confusion Is Sex or Bad Moon Rising. Here we find a diminutive, blond Art Forum contributor picking up a bass, a pair of Glenn Branca-affiliated guitar soldiers, and a not-long-for-this-lineup drummer, then thoughtfully laying the groundwork for a quarter-century of aural expansions, redecorations, and wainscottings. Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore come correct with uniquely tuned guitar clangs and boings, throwing down tasteful effects-pedal scree on occasion. Kim Gordon's basic-yet-bold bass parts are distinctly audible in the mix and more integral than they are now, driving forward with the help of Richard Edison's precise wallop. Sonic Youth's true Holy Grail? The live bonus tracks from 1981, particularly "Cosmopolitan Girl," a dissonant, scintillatingly simplistic bit of sarcastic Gordon punk that likely helped launch a dozen riot grrrl bands.

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Ray Cummings