Sonic Youth
Dirty


3.0
good

Review

by Thomas Bambaataa Ghidrah Towers USER (67 Reviews)
January 27th, 2006 | 27 replies | 13,829 views


Release Date: 1992 | Tracklist


6 of 7 thought this review was well written

Let‘s not kid ourselves, Sonic Youth are dirty. One moment they’re parading around screaming about Madonna and insanity, the next they sign on to major record label David Geffen Company and go carousing with the early 90’s grunge bands. First came Goo in 1990, a slight turn away from the classic sound of its predecessor Daydream Nation, a masterpiece of guitar fuzz and art rock. Goo being lightly tinged with standard alternative rock and the intense free-form noise toned down, might have shocked the hardcore Daydreamin’ fan. Shocking enough that the pioneers of “Pigfuck" music were even on the DGC roster in the first place. But suddenly we see bassist/chick-that-does-the-spoken-word-songs Kim Gordon in Gap ads? Naughty, naughty Kim. Dirty was released and Sonic Youth showed how dirty they really are. And that’s not including the picture of naked artists canoodling with plush toy animals under the CD tray. Well, dirty may be the wrong word, but they were certainly doing something un-Youth.

The noise of Sonic Youth’s previous albums is still here, but mainly restricted to what sounds like a cheap, old amp being cut in half by a chainsaw, rather than the storm of violent noise of previous Youth recordings. Guitarists Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore still go ballistic at times, as the soothing, mystical, melodic Theresa’s Sound-world goes into an aggressive climax of screeching guitars and clashing cymbals. The formulaic quiet-loud-quiet-loud of the song gets tiring, a lot of the songs also follow rather standard structures. Hmmm yes, Sonic Youth get a little, dare I say, poppy, on this album. But the pop factor of the band and the disharmony reminiscent of Youth’s earlier career are at constant war with each other. One moment the melodic beauty of Wish Fulfillment (Ranaldo’s only contribution to the album, despite being the one with the most consistently great songs) the next a full on attack of punk with the infinitely noisy, and dead melodically Nic Fit, a 59 second song with indecipherable half-shouts half-mumblings for lyrics.

Sonic Youth have always flirted with punk’s raw rapidity, and it comes out in full flow in Dirty, mainly the songs of Kim Gordon. This is where Dirty slumps, over half the songs are simple, punk songs sung by the vocally challenged Kim Gordon (she’s not known for spoken word for nothing.) She sings in a growling, hostile voice, sounding like a disgruntled feminist in Swimsuit Issue or a drunk vixen in, uh, Drunken Butterfly. The brutally intense guitars that either send out either crunchy alternate tuned chords or Sonic Youth’s trademark drumsticks-on-strings noise, giving the songs some variation. Orange Rolls, Angel's Spit would be a total loss because of Kim’s insane screeching if it were not for the amusing chorus of “lalalalalalalaluuuuh" and Ranaldo and Moore’s guitar freak outs, featured pretty much exclusively to song interludes. Youth Against Facism comes as the most punk song, Thurston Moore blatantly attacking the Reagan-era government in a snarling voice over a fuzzy bassline and pick scrapes. Shocking lyrics, not because I thought Sonic Youth were right-wing republican lovers, but because they’re so straightforward for a band known for enigmatically ironic ones.

The pop side of Sonic Youth then comes out on the other songs, left to the calm, confident voice of Thurston, besides Lee’s earnest, melancholic single input or On the Strip, the only song where Kim calms down and produces a laid back song with a pseudo-R&B chorus. Sugar Kane, Chapel Hill and Purr are straightforward pop songs disguised in fuzz and overdrive, and each lose themselves in detached, manic instrumental interludes. So how are these catchy chorus’d songs made sugary and slick? Butch Vig of course, adding a smooth gloss over the raw guitars, like putting a Versace gown on a trucker, giving it that Nirvana’s Nevermind feel. The result on Dirty is somewhat confusing; raw, yet refined, disharmonious, yet pop filled, mainstream, yet unconventional. Thurston Moore’s songs follow a formulaic structure, verse-chorus-verse-chorus-chaos, which gets boring since all the interludes sound the same and the guitars are restrained and always have the same sound. Kim Gordon’s songs sometimes follow the same formula, but just go nowhere at times, like Shoot a 5 minute song consisting of a bassline and Kim singing about shady business.

Compared to other Sonic Youth albums, it sounds too imitative of the scene of the time and itself. It’s all upfront, the music isn’t too interesting, it doesn’t leave an afterthought of “What was that?" like other Sonic Youth albums. There’s no intrigue, there’s no sexy mystery, it’s like being married to a prostitute for 50 years; yeah it’s kind of weird, but nothing new. Unless you’re not interested in the intriguing wackiness of Sonic Youth, leave this one at the bottom of the “Youth to get" list. If you are, then it’s an enjoyable grungy album. Fans of Sister and freaky beatniks beware, Dirty probably isn’t your cup of tea. Or does all that just make it more intriguing than the other albums? Hmmm?



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Comments:Add a Comment 
pulseczar
January 27th 2006



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

That's right, Eliminator Jr. let me review a Sonic Youth album. :cool:

Zebra
Moderator
January 27th 2006



2647 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Detailed review, but I actually enjoy Kim Gordons voice.
Dirty is one of my favorite SY albums, I think it's because I can listen to every song and it's more accessible than other SY albums. 'Swimsuit Issue' is my favorite track.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
January 27th 2006



15727 Comments


good stuff Galapogos.

Never heard SY

Digging: Alvvays - Alvvays

Jawaharal
January 27th 2006



1832 Comments


Kim Gordon has a bad voice, there is no denying it. She sounds like she is an old woman moaning words.

I still want to pick this up even though it doesn't seem as great as some other yoof releases.

kewl review too.

Zebra
Moderator
January 27th 2006



2647 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I never said that Kim had a good voice, I just said that I enjoyed it.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
January 28th 2006



2125 Comments


"Sugar Kane" = Sonic Youth's best song imo.

AlienEater
January 28th 2006



716 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this is way better than goo. i enjoy kims voice too, because of its growling hostility.
otherwise nice review

Pinball Map
January 28th 2006



39 Comments


I actually thought this was Nick when I saw this on the front page.

JohnXDoesn't
January 28th 2006



1267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I like this record somewhat more then the reviewer. I actually like the fact that the noise was cut down and that it is more accessible. I don't look for interesting or arty in my rock n roll. I just want it to rock first and foremost. Whether it's Bruce Springsteen, Sonic Youth, The Pixies, REM or NIN. Just make it rock. This album rocks.

masada
January 30th 2006



2733 Comments


[quote=Review]There’s no intrigue, there’s no sexy mystery, it’s like being married to a prostitute for 50 years; yeah it’s kind of weird, but nothing new.[/quote] Don't talk about yo' mama like that.

"Nic Fit" is a cover.

masada
May 26th 2006



2733 Comments


"Theresea's Sound-World", "Wish Fullfilment", "Sugar Kane", and "Purr" are all awesome. The rest is either average or terrible. Most of them are pretty haphazard and lazy.

"Orange Rolls, Angel's Spit" contains a bunch of riffs that sound way too similar to a lot of their other songs.

pulseczar
May 26th 2006



2385 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah those 4 are my favourites, Chapel Hill too.

Two-Headed Boy
May 26th 2006



4527 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I bought the deluxe editions of Goo and Dirty, and as far as I'm concerned they're no Sister or Daydream Nation, but they're great listens.

smokersdieyounger
May 27th 2006



672 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Kim Gordon has an unconventional voice, not a bad one. I think she sounds really good.

This is the only sonic youth album Ive heard and only one I own, which is probably why Ive rated so high, I think Ill get daydream nation soon.

masada
May 27th 2006



2733 Comments


She sounds terrible on this album.

FA
May 27th 2006



127 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I hadn't heard Sonic Youth 'til someone told me that Richard Edson was the parking attendant...or something in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I could never really get into them, but I don't hate them by any means.

Two-Headed Boy
June 30th 2006



4527 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I also think that Kim sounds like crap here. She's a better mumbler than singer.

Two-Headed Boy
August 29th 2006



4527 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This album has grown on me recently. I'll give it a 3.5 for now.

Muisee
September 24th 2006



679 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Very good album, lacks in parts, but an enjoyable listen never the less.

AlienEater
September 30th 2006



716 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I just bought the Deluxe Edition. It's quite cool.

Oh, and there's a few songs where Kim sounds normal. "JC" and "On The Strip".



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