Monday, February 09, 2004

#77) Sonic Youth - Sister (released in 1987, I got a cassette used from Arboria in high school and eventually picked it up on used CD from City Lights in college. I wanted to be able to play "Schizophrenia" on my radio show)

Though the albums before and after Sister are far more musically rewarding than anything by these dabble-happy parasites has any right to be, for my money this is the only time they kept their awe-inspiring guitar sounds fascinating the whole way through without letting their cringe-inducing voices get in the way. Thanks to the blurry production style, the songs are less indulgent and yet, for the last time, genuinely mysterious and alien. It's what arena rock shows are like on Saturn.

Thurston Moore is in particularly great vocal form, melding with both the uneasy beauty of "Schizophrenia" and "Stereo Sanctity"'s oceanic waves of anxiety. Save for the violent opening verse of "Catholic Block," he's never been able to make his voice sound as threatening as his guitar (even when covering Crime's "Hotwire My Heart" he's more cute than anything else). That tenderness highlights the beating heart underneath the guitar drama - his youthfulness keeps things from sounding like "art." That's not something that comes naturally to Kim Gordon, who thankfully sounds less stilted and hesitant than usual (especially when dueting with Moore on the panoramic ballad "Kotton Krown"). After the bloated victory lap Daydream Nation, the group decided to let Geffen Records brush the hair out of their eyes and help them "go pop." Unfortunately, the major label's bright lights revealed their age and they settled for a "sonic pension plan" (as Great Pop Things put it). These days just staying hip leaves them winded.

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