Sonic Youth’s Best Songs – Ranked! | the lively youth


20. Ghosts and Flowers of New York (2000)

Considering the short distance to the exit, NYC Ghosts & Flowers’s reputation as dense, chaotic and infused with poetry has tarnished at least a bit over time. The title track, which slowly spans seven minutes from a muffled intro to a cacophonous climax, is the perfect example of the dark, bad-dreaming power the album wields at its best.

19. Shake Hell (1983)

Sonic Youth’s full debut album, Confusion Is Sex, was an abrasive leap forward from their goofy, half-formed debut EP. Excitingly, you can almost hear the band come together as Shaking Hell plays. It starts off as choppy post-punk funk, then suddenly transforms: a disturbing Kim Gordon monologue to a dark, tense, out of tune guitar noise.

18. Anti-orgasm (2009)

Sonic Youth’s last album, The Eternal, may have been the simplest they’ve ever released, but again, that’s a relative term. As Anti-Orgasm vividly proves – spiky, heart-wrenching guitars; panting and monotonous riff; nice off-beam coda – it couldn’t have been someone else’s work.

17. Sweet Shine (1994)

Apparently, recorded on Sister’s master tape, 1987’s Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, was a gesture of rejection and defiance in the wake of the post-Nirvana alt-rock gold rush. Its understated power is exemplified by Pavement-influenced languid Sweet Shine, disturbed by Gordon’s sudden shift to throat-piercing howl halfway through.

Sonic Youth at the Pukkelpop festival, Belgium, 1991. Photograph: Gie Knaeps / Getty Images

16. Rain on the Tin (2002)

Sonic Youth’s response to 9/11 offers a simple but touching plea for unity in the face of horror: “Come together, gather friends, fear no more, never again. The music, on the other hand, evokes the ghosts of New York’s past: there are times when the guitars intertwine in a way that is distinctly reminiscent of television.

15. Valley of Death ’69 (1984)

The Manson Murders had hung over rock music for 15 years when Sonic Youth recorded Death Valley ’69, a fierce and viscerally powerful song written from the fractured perspective of a member of the Manson family: The Bloody Zero Budget Video – by transgressive director Richard Kern – is the perfect accompaniment.

14. Candle (1989)

Candle’s lyrics defy explanation – look online and you can find people suggesting they’re talking about everything from purity of love to crystal meth addiction – but that doesn’t really matter. The long intro is sublime; the skillful passages from something approaching simple alternative rock to loud front guitar explosions are mind blowing.

13. 100% (1992)

You can hear the influence of grunge on the riff of 100%, a eulogy for murdered friend Joe Cole. The brief moment at 1:49 where everything else collapses, leaving drummer Steve Shelley – a sometimes underrated talent in a rush to praise the band’s radical approach to guitar playing – is just fantastic.

Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth at the Rock Torhout / Rock Werchter festival in Belgium, 1993.
Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth at the Rock Torhout / Rock Werchter festival in Belgium, 1993. Photograph: Gie Knaeps / Getty Images

12. Sunday (1998)

The band going wild in Confusion Is Sex or Death Valley ’69 sounded like they could burn alive but fast, but Sonic Youth matured incredibly well, as evidenced by the Anxious Sunday of 1998. The video starring Macaulay Culkin has makes the headlines, but you want the full-length album for the guitar interaction of the song in all its glory.

11. Little Problem Girl (1995)

A fabulous anomaly in Sonic Youth’s catalog, Little Trouble Girl was both an examination of preconceived ideas about teenage girls and a song that stripped the band’s signature sounds in a beautiful, distorted tribute to ’60s girl groups – specifically. in Shangri-Las, anguished. by I Can Never Go Home Anymore and Past, Present and Future.

10. The Power of the Stars (1986)

On the one hand, Starpower was Evol’s most pop moment – the melody and the amorous lyrics are overwhelming – but if it’s pop, it’s a deeply idiosyncratic vision: between verses and choruses are find two minutes of improvised experimentation, including an explosion of rhythmless noise. that My Bloody Valentine clearly took note.

9. Karen Revisited (2002)

A fabulous exercise in extremes. Karen Revisited starts off as a wonderful bittersweet song about nostalgia, sung by Lee Ranaldo, which has something of mid-60s folk-rock to its tune. Then, this being Sonic Youth, all hell breaks loose for the next eight minutes: breathtaking returns, echoing abstract guitars, noise that is alternately churning and spectral.

8. Silver Rocket (1988)

Critic David Fricke once suggested that, at full blast, Sonic Youth sounds like a screaming New York subway train in a station: Silver Rocket’s fierce improvised center section proves his point. Plus, you get three consecutive killer riffs within the first 30 seconds of the song alone.

Sonic Youth plays in Berlin in 2009.
Sonic Youth plays in Berlin in 2009. Photograph: Sipa Press / Rex Features

7. Kim Gordon and Arthur Conan Doyle Hand Cream (2004)

Inspired by Mariah Carey’s public meltdown in the early 2000s – the song was originally named after her title – Kim Gordon and the Arthur Conan Doyle Handcream offers a scathing assessment of the industry’s treatment of women music and media, his angry mood reflected by the background noise in the background. Things are moving too.

6. Kotton Krown (1987)

The perfect encapsulation of Sonic Youth’s ugly / beautiful aesthetic, Kotton Krown simultaneously sounds blissful – it’s not entirely clear whether the lyrics, sung in unison by Thurston Moore and Gordon, are about love or drugged – and chaotic: the guitars bustle around the vocals, the central riff slips and goes out of tune, the feedback screams. The overall effect is breathtaking.

5. The Diamond Sea (1995)

“If I were the leader,” Moore suggested, “each song would be 20 minutes long.” As it stands, The Diamond Sea was Sonic Youth’s longest song ever to be released on their mainstream albums. Going from an atmospheric ride to a drone experience and ultimately free-form noise, it’s completely captivating for its 19-minute duration.

4. Schizophrenia (1987)

1987’s Sister is such a triumph from start to finish that it’s hard to pick the highlights, but the album’s opening track is definitely one of them: a sweet melody; disturbing lyrics – inspired by Gordon’s mentally ill brother – crooned casually; a fabulous and spooky vocal cameo from Gordon; wildly inventive guitar playing; and a long slow-motion fade.

Sonic Youth in London, 1998.
Sonic Youth in London, 1998. Photograph: Martyn Goodacre / Getty Images

3. Tunic (Song for Karen) (1990)

Goo’s highlight was Sonic Youth’s moving tribute to Karen Carpenter – an attempt, Gordon said, to “free” the late singer – which reduced the sound of their detuned guitars slightly, focusing the attention of the singer. listener on the amazing exploration of the glory of lyrics. , identity, sanity and posthumous reputation.

2. Highway to Yr Skull (1986)

“Did you hear Expressway To Yr Skull?” Enthuses Neil Young. “It’s unbelievably good.” He was right. Also known as The Crucifixion of Sean Penn or Madonna, Sean and Me, the closing track on Evol remains one of the greatest things Sonic Youth recorded: a hypnotic, surging and euphoric song that gradually dissolves into a strangely quiet and buzzing noise.

1. Teenage Riot (1988)

You can’t get the full extent of Sonic Youth’s work in 20 songs: no room for experimental recordings released on their own Sonic Youth Recordings label; Nor countless song fans could rightly claim any classics, from Halloween to Kool Thing to Sacred Trickster. Teen Age Riot seems like an obvious number 1 – streaming numbers suggest it’s by far their most popular song – but that shouldn’t obscure how amazing it is: a cliché devoid of hymn that streamlines their exploratory approach into something joyful and life-affirming without sacrificing an ounce of their originality. If it had been released a few years later, it would have been a huge hit, perhaps too familiar: as it is, it still sounds quite fresh and vital.

Live in Austin 1995 and Live in Dallas 2006 are now available on Bandcamp

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