Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth



by AlienEater USER (9 Reviews)
September 24th, 2006 | 18 replies | 4,513 views

Release Date: 1982 | Tracklist

7 of 7 thought this review was well written

Sonic Youth’s first album, Sonic Youth was released in 1982, just a few months after they had formed. “It’s almost shocking how mature this album is”, notes Byron Coley, in his liner notes. Looking at the front cover, it’s not hard to agree. It depicts the four members of Sonic Youth: Thurston Moore, Lee Ronaldo, Kim Gordan and Richard Edson. Kim looks like she’s straight out of art college, with her huge glasses and hair that seems to be cut with a knife and fork, Thurston looks about fourteen. Richard Edson isn’t wearing the baseball cap that Kim encouraged him to wear, and Lee looks about, uh, thirty. But that’s the youngest I’ve ever seen him.

In some ways, it isn’t shocking how mature this album is. One such reason is the bands they had previously been in. Most notably was Glenn Branca’s guitar ensemble, with Lee, Thurston, and Richard appearing in it at least once. But I digress, no matter how shocking it is, this album kicks as[i]I[i]s. In an arty, interesting, unmistakeably Sonic Youth kinda way. This album is unlike any other, but remains distinctly them. The dual guitars screw around with typical Sonic Youth style dissonance, guitar assaults lurk around every corner, especially in the live bonus tracks. With rarely any effects used, they manage to create almost shocking amounts of noise, they chime, twang and repetitively onslaught chords. Kim’s minimalist bass stlye bass is oddly high in the mix, it propels the songs forward, gives them structure, and melds the songs firmly together. It’s the focal point of many of the songs, and allows the guitars to reign freely. The drumming is mainly simplistic, and draws from Edson’s dance roots. Sonic Youth is also notable for Moore’s attempts to sing, which he soon abandoned, and instead opted for a monotonous droning until their 1986 album E.V.O.L.

The opener “The Burning Spear” is song that shows their utmost creativity, it begins seemingly structureless, with an avant-dance/ post-punk drum beat appearing, atonal guitar, until Kim’s bass emerges. Her huge, loose, sound is heavily Reggae inspired, particularly on this track, and it welds the song together. Suddenly a white noise roaring static erupts, and is apparently created by Lee running a mechanic drill through a wah-wah pedal. Hmm, interesting. As Byron Coley notes, (he notes many things) on “I Don’t Want To Push It” everyone seems to be pushing it as hard as they possibly can. A tribal drum beat sets the tone, and a energetic two note bass line follows. Supposedly, this is directly inspired by seminal Krautrockers Can, and Moore’s vocals are his best impression of Damo Suzuki. I can kinda see it. “I Dreamed I Dream” is the only song on the original album to feature Kim on vocals, which is a shame. Her rhythmical talking is a times, breathtaking, and here she sings self-referential lyrics, while Moore’s vocals overlap and float above. For “The Good And The Bad”, Kim and Thurston swap instruments, and he plays a rocking bass line, while Kim dissonates with Lee. (Everybody love to verb words.)

The bonus tracks are an entire live set from before the album, with a few other songs, and different names. In fact, the only different songs are “Cosmopolitan Girl” and “Destroyer”, the rest just have other names. The guitars are particularly prominent on these live songs, and are they are generally more energetic. A “lost song”, “Destroyer” is one such, the guitars spike throughout, and occasionally use harmonics. “Cosmopolitan Girl” is the only song that Kim sings alone. She bellows incomprehensible lyrics about something, or other. Or something. And that’s all I have to say about that.

The record label Neutral was created to release this album. Or long EP. It is, if nothing else, an interesting record to listen to, for histories’ sake. But it’s more than that, in fact, it remains one of Sonic Youth’s greatest records. And that’s all. But I jest.

“The point is, beauty and noise and love and eternity. In one little package. What more could you ask for?”"Byron Coley, Liner notes.

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user ratings (125)

Comments:Add a Comment 
September 24th 2006


Cool review.

The band actually considers this album to be pretty naive, which is kind of weird considering that it doesn't seem so. And it's in standard tuning apparently, even though you can pretty much play the songs in any tuning because of how atonal they are.

Two-Headed Boy
September 24th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

I need this album. Cool review.

Mister Mop
September 24th 2006


Love the first paragraph....... Thurston Moore still doesn't look much more than 14 today!

The Jungler
September 24th 2006


Great review, this is one Sonic Youth album I really don't want to get, you did good almost changing my mind though.
Is there seriously only 5 songs on this?

September 24th 2006


The reissue has bonus tracks.

September 24th 2006


Great review. Sonic Youth is one of those bands I need to be more into than I am.

September 24th 2006


Cool review. I could've gotten the reissue of this for a great price, i regret not doing it

Two-Headed Boy
September 24th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

I was in the same situation with a 2/$15 with this and The Whitey Album. I also regret not doing it

September 29th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, both of you should have bought it. It's pretty awesome.

October 16th 2006


Album Rating: 3.0

I bought this and I love it.

October 17th 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

Well isn't that dandy?

Yes it is.

October 17th 2006



December 8th 2006


i've yet to hear this album. by your review, it sounds excellent though

Two-Headed Boy
December 23rd 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

My dad pulled out the original vinyl version of this, and I greased 'er up a couple times through. Quite a solid album indeed.

September 13th 2007


How long is the album? Is it worth buying at full price, if a discounted one can't be found? I love long songs, so if it's a good album, not an ep, (the reviewer seems unsure) it sounds great.

October 6th 2007


Album Rating: 4.0

Nice review, but there's a mistake in: obviously it's not Thurston's voice which collaborates with Kim's in "I Dreamed I Dream". Actual it's Lee and it's indeed his first vocal performance in a Sonic Youth song - not as most people think it'd be "In the Kindom #19" from EVOL.

April 19th 2010


Great EP

May 20th 2012


I think this is better than Confusion is Sex/Kill Your Idols.

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