Sonic Youth
NYC Ghosts & Flowers



by something vague USER (16 Reviews)
June 11th, 2006 | 22 replies

Release Date: 2000 | Tracklist

Dissapointment is nothing new, really. I was always hopeful that Chinese food would be some wonderous form of culinary heaven, but instead it ended up leaving some of the worst tastes possible on my young little tongue. But everyone sets themselves up for dissapointment, whether or not you know it. And yes, I'm going to attempt to stretch at this somewhat pointless introduction as far as I can to occupy space in this review. So, imagine how dissapointed you would be if you came across a Sonic Youth album that's probably some of the most fatty, unhealthy stuff you've ever tasted. Would you like it?

Alas, a tragedy struck Sonic youth on July 3rd of 1999: a large amount of customized, nearly irreplacable guitars, basses, amplifiers, and effects pedals were stolen with a Ryder truck of theirs. The truck was found empty a few days later, thus forcing the band to borrow and purchase a new set of equipment to use for following shows and so on. When back in the studio, Sonic Youth decided to go back to their older studio equipment that they had not taken with them. The resulting "experiment" is what you hear on NYC Ghosts & Flowers.

If there was one album to liken NYC Ghosts & Flowers to, it would be Sonic Youth's most recent studio effort SYR4: Goodbye 20th Centtury. However, where that album is freely experimental and greatly influenced by the avant-garde composers of the past such as John Cage, the former tends to be a self-conscious attempt at recreating the ambiguity of beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg, in the music and in the songwriting. After all, leave it to Kim Gordon to "sing" such tripe as "Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider. Girls go to Mars, become rock stars.". Yes, we probably know you're trying to be arty while being naive at the same time, an amazing precedent really (not). But that's just lazy.

"Free City Rhymes" creeks and drones on for 7 and a half minutes, but somehow it's probably one of the most eventful songs on NYC Ghosts & Flowers. Starting out dull and boring (which is basically the whole of other songs), it eventually leads into chiming guitars and a solid, laidback drum beat with moraccas in there too, drawing similarities to the warm feeling of songs on Sonic Nurse. Thurston sings with a calm and welcoming that is pleasing to the ear, something that has definately came to him with age. "Renegade Princess" is a ridiculous and pandering attempt at making music, while "Nevermind (What Was it Anyway?)" drones along somewhat, somehow being slightly tunefuls in the process while Kim Gordon churns out some calmly spoken lyrics such as "Lost yr. hand what is it anyway. Hiptsers stand what was it anyway". The double tracking of her voice here in some places creates a soothing effect to counteract the somewhat cynical lyrics.

Lee Ranaldo's only song is on the title track, which puts itself out as the most confident and self-assured song on the album, due to Lee's vocals and lyrics that stay true to the better side of beat poetry, creating those familiar bohemian scenes and settings that the rest of the album tends to fail at. The music compliments the vocals very well here, sometimes bordering on creepy dissonance, sometimes bordering on fleeting beauty. It's a dynamic affair. The song once again proves that Lee is one of the most vital members of Sonic Youth, something that is typically forgotten by quite a few people. However, the rest of NYC Ghosts & Flowers is pretty pathetic, especially the couplet of "Side2Side" and "StreamXSonik Subway", two of the most obviously forced and boring songs that Sonic Youth have put out. "Lightnin'" at least has some interesting sounds, with some horns, static, and clanking. Look, we can make weird sounds because our gear was stolen. Look, I can stop listening now.

So it's not the devastatingly horrible album that Pitchfork will lead you to believe, but NYC Ghosts & Flowers is pretty much a downer.

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user ratings (200)
other reviews of this album
Shadowed Reflection (3.5)
This is the album that Pitchfork loves to hate. Why they hate it so much is not apparent to me. Well...

altron2095 (1)
A disappointment is every department, the Youth kill us with fried Beat idiocy and everything teeter...

Comments:Add a Comment 
June 11th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

I so knew you were gonna do this (cause you told me :p)

June 11th 2006


Chinese doesn't suck.... Orange chicken, kung pow, and shrimp fried lice ftw!

Very good review.

June 11th 2006


Oh yeah this review is gettin' some love.

Two-Headed Boy
June 11th 2006


Anything with Chicken in it isn't chinese food :/

Supoib review, and I have no interest in this album. Still gotta get Washing Machine...:upset:

June 11th 2006


Pitchfork sucks because they gave Zaireeka a 0. >=[

I got washing machine :cool:

good review

June 11th 2006



Washing Machine is good stuff, man.

The Jungler
June 11th 2006


Yeah, this is a great review, though I completley disagree with the chinese food comment. I don't see myself ever getting this as there is an etirnety of music (including 2 or 3 SY albums) I have to get before it. Once again, great job.

June 11th 2006


Album Rating: 2.0

First 2 songs = cool

Everything else = huh

June 11th 2006


agreed, this CD is bad. worst CD of theirs, IMO.

September 12th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

Amazingly I like this cause I'm weird like that.

September 12th 2006


The one listen I gave this round my SY-obsessed friend's flat tells me that there's 4 good songs here, and the rest is guff.

December 15th 2006


Album Rating: 2.5

you obviously haven't eaten real chinese food.... i lived in Beijing for 4 years so i have tried many things... sure the dog penis soup and the fried monkey brain is rather dodgy but gong bao ji ding and he lan dou is pretty damn addictive

December 15th 2006


Album Rating: 2.5

you obviously haven't eaten real chinese food.... i lived in Beijing for 4 years so i have tried many things... sure the dog penis soup and the fried monkey brain is rather dodgy but gong bao ji ding and he lan dou is pretty damn addictive

April 26th 2007


no chinese food is still shit

April 26th 2007


Album Rating: 2.5


August 1st 2007


No one believes me, but I think this album is extremely underrated. Like the Cure's The Top, this album seems to draw the ire of the majority of this band's fanbase, but in reality is a decent if not perfect record. Yes, it seems pretentious, but really this album was just another step in Sonic Youth's evolution as a band, going from a regressive psychedelic feel to, due to a need to subtitute for lost equipment, restless experimentation with sound as a thing in itself. Even if you hate this album, you must still admit tha Sonic Youth had guts for releasing something this outré without explicitly trying to poke anyone in the eye (fans, their record company). And I like it!

And that line in "Nevermind" was clearly a self-effacing joke. Kim playing with her "radical" image, I think.

Furthermore, this album was certainly better live.

September 13th 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

Awesome album; it's hard to get into the first few listens though. It's highly recommended for those with patience though.

Good review though, really. I just happen to love the album!

August 26th 2008


It is ever so uninteresting how certain anthropo-entities endeavour to comment upon the album 'NYC Ghosts and Flowers' without previously recognising subtleties that are omnipresent on the album itself. It is not a matter of liking or disliking, but of appreciating (here used in the sense of 'understanding'). Briefly, 'NYC, Ghosts and Flowers' is an excellent record, some have not yet figured it out. If something is so delicate as to appear almost diaphanous it doesn't mean it exists not.

May 8th 2010


This isn't so bad, kind of boring though.

October 5th 2012


"But everyone sets themselves up for dissapointment, whether or not you know it."

hey a spinoza thinker, album looks interesting

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