Review Summary: Confusion Is Sex is filled with unrelenting noise and disorder that cooperate in an unexpected manner.
Whenever I recall early Sonic Youth, there is one word that always comes to mind: unforgiving. This innovative noise rock band never pulled any punches, and Confusion Is Sex gave them the chance to punish the listener with loud and harsh music. However, beneath the album's ugly exterior, there is also creativity and originality. Confusion Is Sex turns its back on mainstream popular music and illustrates a struggling young group of musicians leaving an indelible mark on the world of underground rock.
There is no denying that this LP is murky and often quite challenging. The lo-fi production and the scarcity of "verse-chorus-verse" arrangements will not be incredibly inviting to the casual listener. However, the album's strengths creep out from behind the abrasive and mangled guitar and bass riffs. Sonic Youth strives to craft a chaotic sound, in which something is always intentionally askew, whether it is linked to the vocals, the chord progression, or the rhythm.
This is easily one of the band's noisiest albums. The guitar riffs are jarring, the percussion is grating, and the songs do not follow any logical pattern. From Thurston Moore's distorted vocals to Kim Gordon's ear-splitting shrieks, the album screams with belligerence. Gordon unleashes her rebellious attitude with "Making the Nature Scene", using piercing vocals to upset any form of order. The track makes a stellar entrance with a razor-edged riff that foreshadows the impending clamor. Sonic Youth advances through the LP with utter audacity, bombarding the listener with disturbing sounds that comprise a record of nonstop pandemonium. Taking advantage of its unpredictability, "Inhuman" establishes a frontal sonic assault with contorted vocals and an accelerating tempo. The track evades any form of comfort as Moore's voice becomes practically incomprehensible. The drums and guitars become inflamed until finally Moore lets out a painful cry.
As the band pushes through the LP, their vision becomes clearer and their identity materializes. Right off the bat with the opener "(She's In A) Bad Mood", Sonic Youth assert their command of their new discordant style with absolute force. On "Shaking Hell", they stray from what could have been a straightforward tune and transform the track into a caustic, unrelenting number. The song's change of pace augments the resilience of the percussion once Gordon takes the direction of the track into her own hands.
Despite the incessant bedlam produced by the off-key guitars, Sonic Youth harness these sounds to construct songs that are equally unorthodox and imaginative. For instance, "The World Looks Red" unfastens with a grotesque chord before melding a rapid bassline with jangling guitar. Additionally, "Confusion Is Next" opens with vicious, unpleasant guitars topped with Moore's perturbing lyrics. The LP's shortcomings stem from its struggle to sustain the same friction across all of the tracks. Some tracks, like "Protect Me You" become slightly repetitive and diminish the initial shock value of the album. However, there are no bad songs on this LP, and each song lends something intriguing to those who put forth the effort to find it.
Confusion Is Sex is unrefined, unsettling, and unpredictable. On this album, Sonic Youth displays their avant-garde brand of songwriting and composition. The music on Confusion Is Sex is certainly not for everyone, but those who can appreciate its values will be drawn to the innovative noise rock that the album boasts.
Making the Nature Scene
The World Looks Red
(She's In A) Bad Mood