Posts Tagged ‘Noise Rock’

h1

The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico

Sunday, November 25, 2012
The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

I write this, actually, while listening to Loaded.

I’ll have to admit this took a while for this one to grow on me. It was hard for me to step beyond the dreamy xylophone (that’s what that instrument is, right?) that opens “Sunday Morning.” What a beautiful song. It evokes what Sunday morning is to me – kind of sad day (maybe because Monday is the next day), but strangely peaceful and slow.

Finally, I’ve given it more of a listen, this is quickly becoming one of my favorite albums ever. Not only is it a historic album (punk and noise can trace their beginnings here), but it is a very good album that’s still enjoyable today. Because even today, there is nothing else that quite sounds like it.

This album has some rockers: “Waiting for the Man,” and “Run Run Run,” but it’s the more experimental stuff that I really like. I absolutely adore “Venus in Furs” and its S&M themes (“strike, dear mistress, and cure his heart”). The lyrics are kind of trashy, but it’s the strings, the beat, and the vibe that absolutely makes this song. I’ve never heard anything like it. It gets even darker with “Heroin” but for some reason that song never struck me as much.

At points the album can get slow and sweet, with “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties”. It gets downright wtf with the closer track “European Son” where it’s an all out noise fest. Sometimes I feel if Sonic Youth had been a band twenty years earlier they would have been a lot like the Velvet Underground.

Yeah…this is a group I’ll have to check out more. Definitely a treasure of the late sixties/early seventies.

h1

Sonic Youth – EVOL

Friday, August 19, 2011

EVOL (1986)

Sonic Youth is the only band I’ve driven over three hours to see, by myself. I hate driving, and I hate being by myself, so that speaks volumes for how much I adore this band. I waited anxiously for the band to begin – I was going crazy with no one to talk to. Just as I started to wonder if I had made a mistake, the band came on. The first few strains of “Tom Violence” shook the entire room, all doubt was dispelled. Seeing Sonic Youth live was a treat – especially when they closed with “Cross the Breeze.”

I can’t exactly remember the first time I listened to EVOL. I must have been a sophomore or junior in college. It didn’t strike me immediately, as did Daydream Nation or Sister. It was definitely a grower. But this is a psychotic and edgy trip. It’s like Sister, but rawer.  The lyrics are just as fascinating as the perfect blend of melody and noise. They could just be read for their own sake=. As the album title suggests,  a sense of foreboding and doom hangs over the whole album,  like there’s a horror movie going on in your mind, like an eighteen wheeler bearing down on you, but your frozen in place, like a vampire hypnotizing you before it bites into your neck. This album is a storm.

Every song on the album is good and worth listening to. “Shadow of a Doubt” is an absolute masterpiece, a bipolar trip that shifts between chilling guitar plucking and piano to a release of screaming and guitar riffage. “In the Kingdom” completely defies me to explain – it would probably take me another two hours to just write two sentences that can somewhat accurately describe the song.

There are so many intricate details that you could listen to this forty times and still pick out something new – and that, at least, is what has kept me coming back, much like all of Sonic Youth’s stuff I’ve had the pleasure of listening to.

h1

Helmet – Meantime

Thursday, April 23, 2009
Meantime (1992)

Meantime (1992)

Meantime is an alternative classic, but few people sing praises over it. I don’t really know why. It’s a great album, and for alternative metal, it does a lot more for me than, say, Rage Against the Machine.

Though the metal is grinding, loud, and abrasive, it contrasts nicely with lyrics that are subdued and contemplative, and almost like poetry. My first experience with Helmet was, like most people, the song “Unsung.” Certainly its main riff is one of the most memorable in all alternative music. No one who listened to it honestly could deny its power and sway – it just sort of pounds through you and turns you into a grunge-like zombie, completely fixated on the notes’ unrelenting drone. Unlike the lyrics, the repeated riff is not complicated, which is part of its genius. Perhaps its basicness taps into the baseness of all of us.

“Unsung” is probably the best song on the album, but the rest isn’t just filler. Though the songs do have a tendency to sound the same, and everytime I get to about track six, I feel a tendency to turn it off.

Sure, Helmet probably won’t be one of the bands you mention if someone were to ask you to name ten alternative acts that changed music forever. But for Helmet, that really wan’t their bag. They where just about doing their own thing – making powerful, engaging music that wasn’t exactly pretty. And because it wasn’t pretty, it connects with some of us who can relate to that better than the blistering guitar solos offered by the likes of Pearl Jam or other more “talented” acts.

Despite their similarities to other bands, Helmet were uniquely their own. Their juxtaposition of noise, hardcore, metal, and alternative make for an interesting listen that can’t help but overwhelm you with its power. Admittedly, Helmet and Meantime are things I have to be in the mood for. But when I want something powerful, confusing, and almost grunge-like except a little harder, or if I just want to take a trip back in time, then Meantime holds that slot.

h1

Sonic Youth – Sister

Monday, March 30, 2009
Sister (1987)

Sister (1987)

[This review originally appeared on Blogcritics. To see it there, click here.]

It’s 1987 and a new force is taking over music. Since the early eighties, Sonic Youth had been gaining steam in the noise and alternative scene, and in 1991 all it took is the spark of Nirvana to set the revolution off. But four years before that fateful event changed the alternative dream forever, Sonic Youth released Sister, continuing in the vein of their previous releases of EVOL and Bad Moon Rising by experimenting, ironically, by making their music catchier and more accessible.

But don’t make the mistake by thinking this is an easy album to listen to.

Sister is absolutely brilliant and should not by any measure be taken lightly. I almost want to say “shame on you” to all the owners of Daydream Nation that have yet to dive back into Sonic Youth’s catalog and explore this album of utter, psychotic brilliance.

Speaking of psychotic, the album kicks off with the rocking opener, “Schizophrenia,” a trippy dirge of alternate guitar tunings and strange chords that give its driving beat a sort of madness. Despite being off-putting, “Schizophrenia” is also eerily calming. I can’t really do it justice by mere explanation – the song is absolutely brilliant.

“(I Got A) Catholic Block” is, hands down, one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard. Its angry, honest, and I want to even say primeval sounding, because it somehow touches something deep and instinctual, repressed since the dawn of human consciousness. If I could use one word to describe the song, it would probably just be “intense,” as cliche and overused that word is used to describe music. Anyway, just like the first song, I feel like I’m failing miserably at describing its greatness.

Track four, “Stereo Sanctity” is yet another highlight of Sister. Like “Catholic Block,” it has an eerie, intense, driving beat that makes me feel fire in my belly, but if you were to ask me why it did, I wouldn’t be able to explain. Sonic Youth is, to me, more intense than any metal music out there. Though it’s not as heavy, just what they do with their notes and their blasts of noise just sort of throws me off and shakes my perception of how I see things. Any music like that entrances me.

Probably the most ethereal song on the album is track seven, “Pacific Coast Highway.” Kim Gordon does well here – most of the songs she writes for the band don’t really do it for me, but she has her occasional moments of brilliance. “Pacific Coast Highway” is one example of that. Starting off hard and intense, it eases and slows, then going back to its original intensity. It’s just a cool song.

Love it or hate it, there’s a song after “Pacific Coast Highway” called “Hot Wire My Heart” that is a demented sort of pop. I like the song, but at first couldn’t really recognize whether or not it was even music. Sonic Youth has that effect on me.

I’ve only gone through some of the highlights of Sister, but it’s a great listen and will probably surprise and maybe even scare you. Sister is considered by many to be Sonic Youth’s best, Daydream Nation or no. I prefer just to let each album stand on its own – they are both just different manifestations of the same creative genius that is Sonic Youth.

Regardless, picking this album up would be a great investment in great music, great music meaning chaotic and noisy while still having the hooks that makes it catchy in some strange messed up way.

h1

Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation

Monday, February 23, 2009
Daydream Nation (1988)

Daydream Nation (1988)

I admit lately that I’ve been having a slight fetish for the classics. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

Alright, if you’re reading this review and you’ve never heard of Sonic Youth, I’m jealous of you. Why, you ask? Because you have an oppurtunity I don’t have anymore, and that’s discovering this wonderful band. Yeah, that’s right; I’m jealous of you!

If you want to know more about the musicality and themese of this album then this post probably isn’t the place to read. Try the sum of all human knowledge.

I alluded to this album barely in my review of maudlin of the Well’s My Fruit Psychobells, saying something along the lines that Sonic Youth was one of those more chaotic bands that defined my music taste a little over a year ago. For the time, Sonic Youth certainly were chaotic, but I guess by today’s “noise” standards, they’re pretty melodic.

Daydream Nation is a happy medium between Sonic Youth’s chaotic, noiseful past and their more melodic future, which probably peaked from Goo in 1990 to Washing Machine in 1995. 

I didn’t really know all that at the time. I just heard that Sonic Youth were a neat band. Luckily, I was willing to give them a little patience. Being a noise rock virgin, I think that was a necessity. As such, I gradually immersed myself into Daydream Nation, first listening to it as I fell asleep, then picking choice songs on my way to class. Finally, I was listening to the album back to back quite often, leading me to buy Sister, Goo, and Dirty.

Sonic Youth and Daydream Nation are definitely growers. 

“Silver Rocket” is absolutely killer. “Teenage Riot” sucked me into liking the band. “Cross the Breeze,” track four…wow. Amaaazing. “Total Trash,” Candle,” and the “Trilogy” also deserve honorable mentions.

Great video below, uber intense stuff.

h1

Sonic Youth – Washing Machine

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Washing Machine (1995)

Washing Machine (1995)

I’ve always considered Sonic Youth’s Washing Machine, released in 1995, to be their best post-Daydream Nation album. Here’s why.

One of the reasons is due to memory. I bought Washing Machine last summer. I listened to it constantly in my car on my way to a local community college, thirty minutes each way. Every time I listen to it now, the memories of that time come flooding back – a rainy day before a test, a trip with a friend to Panda Express, the hot Oklahoma interstate. All of these time, Washing Machine was blaring. Because of Washing Machine, I can reflect on this time of my life just by popping the CD in.

But back to the album itself. I’ve read some reviews of Washing Machine that faulted the album for having no particular sound. Balderdash. The fuzzy, reverby, and even watery sound is present throughout the entire album. Sonic Youth excels on Washing Machine just as much as they have in past in creating a unique sound for a album never attempted by any other artist, with the possible exception of Dirty in 1992 for its grunge influences.

It starts of solid with “Becuz.” “Becuz” is a mixture between traditional, noisy Sonic Youth with the breakdown in the middle, and more melodic strains explored thoroughly in previous albums. Like Daydream Nation, Sonic Youth find a way to blend their chaotic, noisy past with the demands of the mainstream, only in an entirely different way. In this respect, Washing Machine has done what the much more famous Daydream Nation has also done, only from a different perspective.

Track three, “Saucer-Like,” has an amazing intro. Thurston sounds like he’s singing underwater here, as did Kim Gordon in “Becuz.” All of the songs have the peculiar quality – perhaps something to do with the production. Track four, “Washing Machine,” is one of Gordon’s greatest successes.

In fact, this album is a large testament to her creativity, as she stars in most of the album’s most successful moments.  “Washing Machine” is an eight minute epic. “Epic” might not be the right word. But the sonic effects created by the band here are extraordinary, especially around minute six towrads the end.

Track five, “Unwind,” is suitably named – it is relaxing, soft, yet somehow off-putting. A strange combination of words, I know, but Sonic youth can do things with their instruments and lyrics that make those words blend together like the strains of their music.

A definite highlight on the album comes with track six, “Little Trouble Girl,” a duet between Kim Gordon and Kim Deal, the latter the bassist from The Pixies guest singing for the song. Two Kims, two bassists, two girls, from two high influential alternative acts – who could ask for more? The song itself is strange, haunting, and beautiful. I am enthralled with this track and Sonic Youth’s ability to create such a moody atmosphere that almost defies words to describe. Put side by side, Deal is the stronger singer, but people don’t listen to Sonic Youth for the singing. It goes beyond that.

Following “Little Trouble Girl” is “No Queen Blues,” the hardest rocking song on the album. Thurston Moore destroys on this track. The bluesy feel it showcases is not often attempted by Sonic Youth. But blended with their noise, Sonic youth take blues to a whole other level. And of course, the complete noise breakdown towards the end is classic.

The rest of the songs are not really worth mention. Except one.

“The Diamond Sea.” Ahh, yes. This song is often pointed to as Sonic Youth’s last hurrah during their relatively mainstream stint from Goo in 1990 to Washing Machine in 1995.  Now this is a song which could deservedly be called epic! The lyrics are sung in Thruston’s husky, pleading voice about what seems to be a marriage or relationship gone awry and based on deceit and selfishness.

The mood Sonic Youth creates with their music perfectly reflects the lyrics, “Look into his eyes and you will see / that men are not alone on the diamond sea / sail into the heart of a lonely storm / and tell her you’ll love her eternally.” The relationship is one in which the couple cannot be honest with one another, so while one is beset with loneliness and the other has image problems, they are both too self-centered to meet each others needs or accept one another. There are other themes, of course, which I will leave to you, the listener, to discover on your own.

Washing Machine is an absolute must for anyone claiming to be a Sonic Youth fan. Washing Machine is an absolute must for anyone interested in Sonic Youth. Lastly, Washing Machine is an absolute must for anyone claiming to be a fan of music. That might be too far, but that is my humble opinion.