Review Summary: A disappointment is every department, the Youth kill us with fried Beat idiocy and everything teeters on stilts and stupidity. Noise without context, aimless noodling, but one good track? Sign me out.
This album is a sonic tragedy, the mythic 'bad' Sonic Youth album that had to happen sometime. Inevitable as it was, it didn't have to be this bad. Maybe it could have been just slightly worse than A Thousand Leaves or Experimental Jet Set. But such was not the case.
Certainly we could have seen this coming. The entire basis for the sonic sound of the Youth had just been destroyed back in 2000. While on tour, their gear was stolen. They attempted to soldier on with new instruments. They also recruited an auxiliary fifth member, Jim O'Rourke, here producing and lending electronics. However, the concept of the album itself, coupled with the loss of those inimitable guitars, killed this album. It is worth note that after this album, the burned Phoenix ashes of the Youth reconvened as a rather excellent neo-jam outfit. But that is a story for Bonnaroo and Murray Street.
The concept of the album seems solid enough, of course. Cover art by Burroughs. Giving back the debt they, the Youth, owe to the city and the pulse of NYC beat poets and scenesters of yesteryear. A graceful way to say goodbye as Thurston and Kim head to Jersey, yes?
What follows is a generally boring, embarrassing, powerfully dissappointing album of mistakes and regret. From awkward beat lyrics to simply awful Kim songs, this album overflows with horrid words, phrases, and vocals. What saves it from the absolute pit of nothingness, then? Only one track, the title track. Lee Ranaldo puts forth the only worthwhile performance here, with a sincere tribute to beat influence and his own brand of poetry. Here, NYC Ghosts and Flowers revels in noise and bliss that might just offer salvation for this turgid mess. However, nothing comes of its spacious beauty and wondrous melodies. The previous songs aren't mystically saved from mediocrity, and the proceeding "Lightnin'" turns out as abortive and worthless as the rest.
With the exception of the title track, the songs here are dissonant without being interesting, awkward lyrically, and just plain stupid at the very bottom. Overlong or too short, no track lasts its length, either stretching into boredom or ending without fulfilling any potential. The cancelled single, "Nevermind", has to contain the worst lyrics ever penned by the Youth, who have never been incredibly adept lyricists by any means. When a children's insipid rhyme becomes a chorus, you know you're dealing with the absolute lyrical nadir of any band. While some moments can crop up here and there, it's clear that they've done better work on every other album they've had.
So with Jim O'Rourke's vestigial laptop twiddles, Thurston's stilted ruminations, Kim's horrendous lyrics, and Lee salvaging only a single track, there's nothing much here. It really is only a ghost, a flower wilting and dying in the city streets.