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Sonic Youth


Sonic Youth (1981-2011): a Grunge band from New York, New York, USA.


lthough Sonic Youth started long before, they would rise to fame with the popularity of the so-called grunge bands but following a more punkish style. Starting in 1991 with founding members Thurston Moore (vocals/guitar) and Kim Gordon (vocals/bass) they would quickly replace an embryonic rhythm section of Lee Ranaldo (vocals/guitar; replacing Ann Demaris) and Richard Edison (drums; replacing Dave Keay) to release several efforts on German only indie label 'Neutral', including the live mini album debut Sonic Youth (1984) and Confusion Is Sex (1984; with new member Jim Sclavunos replacing Edison). After several label changes and another mini Kill Yr. Idols (1983), along with the replacement of Sclavunos with Bob Bert, they would sing to UK based 'Blast First' to launch their first trans-Atlantic release Bad Moon Rising (1995), an album that showed them at their most menacing, especially on the infamous Death Valley 69 track, a song with references to infamous serial killer Charles Manson, featuring with guest singer Lydia Lunch.

While 'Blast First' still represented them in the UK their main interests were now handled by the now legendary grunge homeland label 'S.S.T.' to produce the Thrash-like effort Evol (1986) as a follow-up. But before another could be completed Mike Wait (of Firehose) stepped in to assist them all on the side project Ciccone Youth, with a spin-off of Madonna's Into The Groove(y), a one-off that became a surprise dance hall hit and later featured on the album The Whitey Album (1988), getting them their first charting at 63 UK.

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The follow-up albums Sister (1987), Master=Dik (EP; 1988) and Daydream Nation (1988) were enough to get them a major deal on 'D.G.C.' (David Geffen Company) for the Goo (1990) album. Daydream Nation got a 99 US chart position, but Goo saw a definite increase in their market value by getting 32 UK/96 US Goo featured Chuck D. (of Public Enemy) on the track gone single Cool Thing, as well as a haunting tribute to Karen Carpenter titled Tunic (Song For Karen). The album sweetened their sound with melodic hooks and got them listed with the grunge crowd. The 'Youth would support both Neil Young and Public Enemy on tours in 1991.

The follow-up, Dirty (1992), was widely considered an under produced album; it was further hindered by the arrival of Nirvana. Regardless of the critical comments, the album managed a respectable 6 UK/83 US In 1995 'A&M' released their Superstar track on the Carpenters tribute album, but after that they took a decided back-step into their traditional styles and acoustic psychedelia with Experimental Jet Set, Trash And No Star the year before, followed with Washing Machine (1995) and A Thousand Leaves (1998), all of which charted in the top 100. NYC Ghosts And Flowers (2000) was another tribute of sorts by paying homage to the New York Beat poets whose work was once heard on New York's "mean" streets. Allen Ginsberg influenced the album's title while the cover art was William Burroughs, but the album as a whole only managed to capture part of the feeling of the era.

Beside their regular discography, Sonic Youth would release a set of albums as a part of a set dubbed "The SYR Series" on their own label 'Sonic Youth Recordings'. The SYR series established a tradition where each album was released in a different language. SYR1 has song titles and album sleeve artwork in French, SYR2 is in Dutch, SYR3 is in Esperanto, SYR4 is in English, SYR5 is in Japanese, SYR6 is in Lithuanian, SYR7 is in Arpitan, SYR8 is in Danish, and SYR9 is in French again. The set of albums started with Goodbye 20th Century (1999), an album that took on the styles of Christian Wolff, John Cage and Cornelius Cardew.

During the summer of 2002, Murray Street would be released; critics heralded it as a "return to form for Sonic Youth", seemingly revitalized by the addition of Jim O'Rourke, who became a full member during this period, playing bass guitar, guitar and occasionally synthesizer. Soon after, the band were filmed for Scott Crary's documentary Kill Your Idols, depicting Sonic Youth as a key influence upon the post-punk revival then happening in New York. 2004's Sonic Nurse would be similar in sound and approach to its predecessor, and received positive reviews. Among its tracks was Pattern Recognition, a song named after the 2003 William Gibson novel; once again showing the band using Gibson's work for inspiration. The band was also slated to perform in 2004's Lollapalooza tour, but the concert was canceled due to lackluster ticket sales.

After the more conventional Rather Ripped (2006), Sonic Youth would release The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities featuring tracks previously available only on vinyl, limited-release compilations, B-sides to international singles, and never before seen. It would be the last recording for 'Geffen' release.

In 2008, the band independently re-released Master=Dik for the first time on CD, exclusively at their online store. The follow-up recording, The Eternal (2009) on 'Matador Records', would prove to be their last. Side projects and other interests had drawn the band members apart.

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Sonic Youth among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal Studio fire.

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Sonic Youth
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