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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Sonic Youth
Goo - Deluxe Edition
Geffen Records

Rating: 8/10 ?

October 18, 2005
In 1990, I was 13 years old, searching for music and cultural movements to define my notion of "cool" - a concept that fascinates many a young adolescent. I had already been introduced to bands like The Cure, Morrissey, The Smiths and Duran Duran by a punk-rock friend of my older sister's, so I had a bit of a jumpstart on moving away from the vapid wasteland of Top 40 radio. One night, my parents took my sister and I to a movie called Pump Up the Volume, playing at New York City's Angelika Film Center. I can't remember if we chose it or if my parents instigated the excursion, but Christian Slater, a super-hot Samantha Mathis, pirate radio and lusty teens sounded all right to me. Afterwards, I determined that the movie did indeed fit into my burgeoning notion of "cool." But the thing that stuck with me the most was the soundtrack. And in the midst of the Pixies, Concrete Blonde and Leonard Cohen, one song in particular stood out to me: "Titanium Expose" by Sonic Youth. The punk-rock/psychedelic bending of guitars, the transformations of churning riffs from slowed-down spaciness to speed-core… I was blown away, and I knew I needed to find out more about this band.

Granted, my introduction to Sonic Youth came at what some will argue was their most commercially accessible moment (although others would give Dirty that dubious honor). The songs and the structure on Goo were more similar to much of the rock that I had been exposed to than, say, anything on Confusion is Sex or EVOL. But the move to a major label, as I would discover delving deep into their catalogue, certainly hadn't dampened the avant-garde, experimentalist art-rock that SY are so well known for. Songs like the droning "Tunic," the lengthy and discordant "Cinderella's Big Score," and certainly the squealing "Scooter and Jinx" harkened back to earlier times for the band. However, listening to tracks like "Mary-Christ," "My Friend Goo," and certainly "Kool Thing," showed a band flirting with a sound that, while still relying on detuned junk guitars and vocals, was able to grasp the concept of a more traditional structure and feeling.

This reissue, coming a two years after Dirty got the same treatment, may reinforce the notion that Goo is, in fact, one of Sonic Youth's best records. The opening track, "Dirty Boots," is one of their best songs, period, as octave-picked guitar notes open the slightly melancholy and eerily sentimental track before it launches into noisy, punk rock mayhem in its latter half. "Disappearer" is a Daydream Nation-style space rocker, as Thurston Moore nonchalantly and softly sings over layers and layers and layers of guitars. "Mote," a distinctively Lee Renaldo song, ends on waves of warm feedback and guttural guitar bashing. Even the aforementioned "Kool Thing," a sort-of collaboration with Public Enemy's Chuck D, was forward-thinking for its time, though the briefness of Chuck's contribution to the song has always mystified me a bit. And, of course, the album's closing track, the destructively beautiful "Titanium Expose," is a must-hear for any new fan and a must-revisit for anyone who's been a long-time fan.

The first disc of this Deluxe Edition consists of the original track listing, remastered by John Golden this past year, and the sound couldn't be crisper. The last five tracks fall under the "Outtakes, B-Sides and Rehearsals" category. "Lee #2" is a song that would have sounded out of place on the record, a mellow almost folky number; the band covers the Neon Boys' "That's All I Know (Right Now)", all snot-garage attitude. "The Bedroom," a track that previously appeared on the "Dirty Boots" single, is a standout, one that I would love to hear a fully realized studio recording of. "What can you do when your mother's a skinhead?" asks Thurston at the onset, before this menacing, live instrumental track melts your face.

The second disc consists of demo recordings of most of the songs that appear on the original record, and they basically sound like, well, demos. Many of the tracks' running times stretch out way beyond their final versions. "Blowjob" (Mildred Pierce) runs almost 9 minutes long, as an extended feedback outro goes on and on. "Dirty Boots" receives a reprised ending, finding the band in the unfamiliar territory of the jam. This disc is rounded out by a Beach Boys cover, "I Know There's an Answer," and topping it off is "Goo Interview Flexi," a punk-rock collage of bits and pieces of the record mixed with Thurston's stream-of-consciousness sense of humor, that originally appeared as a promotional flexidisc distributed by Geffen when Goo was released.

Goo was an early landmark and genre marker in the alternative music "scene" that would take off throughout the 90s. The record and what it meant for SY's trajectory was instrumental in helping to launch the major label careers of bands like Nirvana, and introduced a band handily able to walk the line between experimental noise and innovative rock to those who might otherwise have never heard. 15 years later, Sonic Youth's sound and M.O. has calmed down a bit - as things tend to do with age - but their creativity and drive have barely slowed.

Reviewed by Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other reviews by Jonah Flicker



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