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
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.