Review Summary: This album is rather overlooked...
Sonic Youth are sorta hard to ignore. Their [EDIT] most well known [/EDIT] album Daydream Nation was hailed as a classic and remains one of the most important albums in recent times. While Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star isn’t nearly as good as the aforementioned, it is one of the most underrated Sonic Youth albums. It is considered to be an album of many filler songs with a few jewels among the rough, but I enjoy nearly all the songs on this album. Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty
Sonic Youth are:
Thurston Moore (Guitars, vocals, bass)
Kim Gordon (Bass, guitar and vocals)
Lee Ranaldo (Guitar, vocals)
Steve Shelly (Drums and percussion)
Note that the guitar and bass roles are switched constantly between Kim and Thurston, but not at all on this album, as Kim plays bass on all songs. Also note that Lee is a vocalist, but again, not on this album.
The day I bought this album, I didn’t have the highest of expectations. I hadn’t heard great things about this album and kind of bought it as it was the last Sonic Youth album I had to buy to have all of them. I put it in my CD player and was quite surprises at the first track Winner’s Blues
. It’s a soft, lo-fi acoustic Thurston track, and is quite soothing. The same effect is again replicated on the last track, but I’ll get to that later. My only probably is the quality of the recording of this track, Thurston sounds like he is playing way off in the distance, and it is crackly and very compressed.
The next song, Bull in the Heather
was a surprise hit for Sonic Youth . I’m not a very big fan of this song, it is a rather short song sung by Kim. The guitars are done in a very Sonic Youth style: Creaky and played in a very unorthodox way. The creakiness at the beginning eventually leads into the verse, with Kim saying a few words, then leads back into the creaky guitars. There is some good drumming by Steve though, which is probably the track highlight.
The next song, Starfield Road
, is very cool. It starts with some effects and guitar playing, which continues into the verse, but these kind of die down when Thurston Starts singing, the lyrics are very interesting to say the least. It is a very short song, and the verse part leads right to the end of the song, and all the guitar screeches and effects come in full force, and Steve pounds away while Thurston sings ends the song.
is a very different change in pace for this album. It is quite creepy and sounds very hollow. Kim sing on this one: “Here, There, Here, There” this then builds up to a quite intense jam, that then leads into a bit more cheerful section of the song, and progresses again in the same way. It is a very mellow song, the guitars are nice and the drumming is laid back.
After Skink is done, Screaming Skull
takes us back to the more rocking side of the album. I really like this song; it’s basic, but fun. Thurston mentions names associated with the late ‘80’ and early ‘90’s indie scene. Artists such as the Lemonheads and Hüsker Dü are mentioned. One of the highlights on this album.
Slowing things down, yet again, is Self-Obsessed and Sexxee
. It’s a fairly boring Thurston song. There’s not too much interesting about this song, nothing really stands out. It is however, one of the most structured Sonic Youth songs there are. Bone
seems to be the only song that mixes the rocking tracks with the calmer track. Not to say it’s fantastic, though. Starts out with some pretty impressive snare drum work by Steve, accompanied by Kim screaming and Thurston and Lee killing the crap out of their guitars. It then breaks down into a fairly depressing Kim song that quickly gets repetitive. The song then basically starts from the start and repeats itself again.
But then we get back to another nice, rocking Sonic number, Androgynous Mind
. The song progresses nicely from the start, with Thurston singing fairly calmly, then slowly the guitars get louder, the drums pound harder and Thurston starts screaming the lyrics. Thurston and Lee then jam for a bit, and the song jumps back to where it started, and gets quieter and fades out, leading into Quest for the Cup
. I don’t know what it is that makes me severely hate this song. Perhaps it’s the incredibly annoying beginning part, with the band stopping and starting and Kim annoying, repetitive vocals. Usually, I respect Kim’s singing, but this time it’s just very unimaginative. The song then breaks down into an equally annoying ending.
gets us back into the more upbeat rock songs. The bass is quite noticeable in this song, and sounds pretty cool, as it isn’t doing what most bass lines do and follow the guitar, it’s fairly independent from the song, which adds a lot, as the song isn’t particularly fantastic. Another Thurston song.
sounds a lot more like Sonic Youth’s older songs, in that it starts like any other conventional indie/alternative song would (with trademark Sonic feedback and noises), but the breaks right down into a fairly spaced out jam, something with Sonic Youth are very well known for, and something which hasn’t happened much since Mote, on their 1990 album, Goo. Tokyo Eye
follows on well from Doctor’s Orders, but doesn’t start off too well. It sounds soft, but is ruined by a very annoying and synthesized crash symbol, but the best part is the Jam in the middle, which is quite rockin’. The vocals are provided by Thurston, who sings them very quietly.
We then go into the last of the loud songs, with In the Mind of the Bourgeois Reader. One of the fastest songs on the album, kicked off by some chugging guitars and goes straight into a river of hard hitting drums, loud guitars and bass. Pretty good song to rock out to, and it has a very grungy feel abut it.
But then Sweet Shine is comes, which is my favourite song on the album and is possibly my favourite song by Sonic Youth. It’s so lush and sweet, which makes it sound like Winner Blues in many ways. This is a nicely structured song (Sonic Youth don’t do this much), the guitars perfectly go with Kim’s voice, who sounds pretty damn good on this song. It’s so pleasant, and even the slightly shouted chorus bit is calming. No, really. If you haven’t liked the album so far, chances are, this song will make it worth it. The only bad thing about this song is that it belongs on Washing Machine or just an album that’s much calmer. So it is and it isn’t a good way to end this album. Also, if you’re willing to hear a whole lot of strange sounds, fast forward a few minutes through the silence and you’ll come to a whole lot of crap
. Also it’s interesting to note that this album is recorded over the tapes for Sister (another Sonic Youth album) and if you amplify the silence in between tracks and such, you can hear parts of some songs off Sister.
In summary, this album, though does contain a few filler songs, is generally a very good album for rocking out to, with some songs that are bit out of place. It is overlooked by many casual listeners, but if you love Sonic Youth as much as I do, and are very open to all their stuff, you won’t have many problems with this album. One of the most disappointing factors in this album is that Lee does not lend any of his vocal talents, which is a huge let down as I am a big fan of Lee’s stuff (as most Sonic Youth fans are). But I do like the way that the album remains pretty consistent right to the end, in that the album quality doesn’t drop towards the end, in fact, the last four songs are some of the best on the album. 3.8/5