Tuesday, April 11, 2006

the drifter

How do you choose your favourite Sonic Youth album? You obviously can't pick a GEFFEN release. And the Blast First albums just seem a bit obvious - "Daydream Nation"? Come on! And, y'know, no-one likes the first album, really. But you can't say "Kill Yr Idols" - that looks like you're trying too hard. And what are the other options? The SYR releases? "The Silver Sessions"? "Sonic Death"? Decisions, decisions...

Actually, I like something from all of the above. But "Confusion is Sex" has a special place in my heart. Pretty much all SY releases have moments have greatness but they can sometimes sound like they came out of nowhere, from another world - the guitars on "Confusion..." are very much of this world, raking up the muck and plonking it directly in your ears.

Sonic Youth - The World Looks Red

I also love the vaguely sixth-form-poetry nature of the lyrics - "People with fish eyes / The ground sucks / Walk on my fingertips, displacing the fog...". Lyrics on "The World Looks Red" are by Michael Gira of Swans-fame, so we shouldn't be too surprised. But hey! The guitars are the thing - I've always loved that they're so raw and (*journo word warning*) visceral. You can hear that the band are doing battle with equipment that's on the verge of total shutdown.

Sonic Youth - Shaking Hell

The sessions for "Confusion..." were legendarily disorganised. Whole tapes were wiped by accidents with magnets, one tape had cola liberally poured over it. The chosen take for "Shaking Hell" was lost, so the final master was copied from a cassette dub.

Both of these mp3s are ripped from my vinyl which sounds super-in-your-face and melded together. The current CD version of the album really overeggs the 'lo-fi' nature of the master tapes - the version of "Shaking Hell" practically uses tape-hiss as an extra instrument and other tracks sound weirdly dislocated and distant.

Sonic Youth have just released their eponymous debut on CD, remastered with all manner of groovy extras. I really hope that they do the same with "Confusion is Sex" as it deserves better than it currently gets in it's shiny-beermat state. Hunt down a vinyl copy if you can.

Buy - "Confusion is Sex"
Visit - SonicYouth.com
Visit - Sonic Youth illustrated equipment guide


from the original comments

Anonymous - "I could never get into Confusion, must admit I sold it a few years ago - but EVOL is in my humble opinion hands-down the greatest thing they ever put out. Dreamy and atmospheric without being overblown, abrasive without raising hackles... rock and roll greatness, pure and simple.

marc-o -  "Never really got it, still don't really get it, it all seems so 'studied' to me. Enjoyed the gear list tho'."

stevedomino - "weirdly, in my opinion one of the strengths of "confusion..." is the fact that it seems really UN-studied - it's more punk rock than their other albums. to me, it just sounds like a band kicking out the (weird / disjointed / spiky / angular) jams.

i will say that, as someone who at the time was just starting to play the guitar, it was pretty liberating to see how far you could go with basic equipment, with regards to making interesting noises.

but hey, each to their own!"

oxbow - "Daydream Nation does it for me - but it's great to hear these again. Marc, please explain what you mean by 'studied'. I am not catching your drift.

The gear list is amazin'"

stevedomino - "sorry marc-o... 'contrived'? 'schtick'? you posted tracks by the dukes of bloody stratosphear! at least sonic youth ARE from a new york art school background, you little monkey"

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