After giving it quite a bit of thought lately, I have come to the conclusion that the most accurate comparison involving Sonic Youth would be that of Edgar Allen Poe. Both artists have their similarities; the knack for creating atmosphere, vivid imagary brought forth by the written word, the ability to instill a sort of dense, unpredictable feeling in the reader or listener, etc. Most importantly, though, is that both are both extreme forms of human, whether it through dark tales of plague and irony (The Masque of the Red Death
) or perhaps split-minded personality (later, on"Schizophrenia"). Edgar Allen Poe's writing gives off a sense of morbid lust, dense atmosphere, the cryptic, irony, one's conscious, fear, and several other primal emotions that every human experiences at one point or another. And that is exactly what Sonic Youth accomplished with the recording of EVOL
The cover art of EVOL
is a still from Richard Kern's 1985 film [url=http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0230825/]Submit to Me
[/url], that of actress Lung Leg in an awkward, but otherwordly-ferocious looking state. Kern was a leader in independent filmmaking and photography, despite the often disturbing subject matter of his work. All art aside, there are several other interesting things concerning the conception of EVOL
and the times surrounding it. Circa June 1985, then drummer Bob Bert left the band, and was soon replaced by ex-Cruci***s percussionist Steve Shelley, who has been with the band for full 20 years this summer. Evol
also marks Lee Ranaldo's first solo vocal performance ("In the Kingdom #19"), and Mike Watt's, former bassist of the punk icons the Minutemen, first guest spot on a Sonic Youth record.
also signified a new era for Sonic Youth at that time. Ironically enough, the band had recently signed to the independent punk label SST, home to such bands as Black Flag and Husker Du, despite the fact that their sound had slowly been progressing from claustraphobic noise/skronk to a more melodic, but still equally experimental whateveryoucallit sound. "Tom Violence" finds Sonic Youth instantly diving into atmospheric, echoed noise-rock anthems, with Thurston Moore shouting lines such as "My violence is a dream" while the tension piles up and the band lets loose, but actually goes straight back into the next verse, almost playing with the automatic want of a release of that tension. Later on, the seven minute "Expressway to Yr. Skull" plays with this, thought proving more anthemic and lyrically interesting ("We're gonna kill the California girls!"). The full-out sound of EVOL
, though, is not as easily described as I would hope. The songs switch between certain aesthetics, even through the course of one song, whether it be pretentious noise-rock anthems and spoken-word reflections or mellow, densely produced slow-burners and more pop-minded songs.
Oh, what these "pop-minded" songs I speak of? Heck, Jem Finch, they's be "Star Power", "Green Light", and the CD bonus track "Bubblegum". With the exception of "Star Power", these songs are the only songs that fail to capture much interest; the melodies are bland and uninspired, the compositions are the same old Sonic Youth, especially in the "hazy but melodic" state of EVOL
, and are in general just flat-out forgettable. Besides these flops (not that of Thurston Moore's hair), the songs conceiled within the confines of EVOL
are as wonderful as they are....wonderful. "Shadow of a Doubt" finds Kim Gordon at her absolute best; speaking in a paranoid hush about love with a stranger, what seems to be a suicide pact, etc. while being accompanied by music that could easily be described as "mysterious" and "ethereal", but it goes so far beyond that; almost drowning out the regret in Kim's voice with hazy, but airy harmonics and tom flourishes. It was inspired by two Alfred Hitchcock films, Stranger on a Train
and Shadow of a Doubt
The two true spoken-word pieces on EVOL
are also, naturally, the most intruiging and particularly enthralling song on the album. On "In the Kingdom #19", we find Lee Ranaldo hastily, but monotonously, belting out line after another of abstract imagery concerning whatever; one's state of being, mortality.. it is everything and nothing, a horror flick without the blunt slashing; a novel without a plot. The music is as chaotic and sci-fi like as the song, and that goes without being said, while "Secret Girl" is practically guitar-less, where distant, cryptic piano swirls around as Kim mumbles about. Thinking, again...it's amazing to think that EVOL
was released in 1986, the year that saw hair metal dominate the charts. I'm sure there were some other things that sucked that year two, but y'know what? That doesn't really matter much.
"I'D GIVE MY SOUL TO BE WHERE I WAS A YEAR AGO...IF I HAD A SOUL LEFT TO GIVE"
Originally Posted by EVOL Liner Notes - Lisa Crystal Carver
These songs say dreams are real. I can't think of a finer guide than "E.V.O.L." for a young person just discovering the wide world. Here are songs of total exploration, no positioning oneself on the dark side or the anti-dark side. Here are songs of total freedom. Give them to your little sister on her birthday.