Wednesday, 6 March 2013
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 40. Sister.
Top 102 Albums⁺ No 40.
Sister - Sonic Youth.
Bridges sinking into the sea
You're a fading memory"
After EVOL it seemed that Sonic Youth were set to ride a wave which was carrying some of the more uncompromising outcrops of the no wave and hardcore movements in America into the mainstream. Sister was the follow up and it seemed set to take Sonic Youth one step closer to mainstream success. The album's energy is generated by tension between nostalgia and noise, between beauty and terror.
The whole album seems fractured by visions, religious guilt and simmering violence & horror. All are referenced in the opening song Schizophrenia. Apparently (I've just read in Wikipedia) there is a loose concept based around Philip K Dick and his twin sister, who died at six weeks of age and whose memory haunted the writer. Dick was given to visions and hallucinations in his real life as well as those that appear in his writings. Perhaps, just perhaps, these visions are the real world?
"She keeps coming closer saying I can feel it in my bones
Schizophrenia is taking me home"
Reading the Wikipedia notes I've just come across another reason to love this album. Apparently my copy is the uncensored first pressing which sell for $100 plus on eBay. Two of the images on the collage were blacked out / covered by a barcode in subsequent pressings. Not that I'm selling.
As well as haunting splintered art rock masterpieces this album also has some rough and ready rockers; the cover of Crime's Hotwire My Heart and White Kross which I often played to get my adrenaline pumping before a night out. One night out to see Sonic Youth really sticks in my memory - I saw them a few years after this album in McGonagles, a small venue in Dublin City Centre. The touts were offering over £100 for tickets - unheard of! The band's reputation was growing like a tsunami at the time. The venue was dangerously overcrowded and water dripped from the ceiling and flowed down the walls. Afterwards we all compared our wrinkled fingers and dropped jaws.
The next time I went to see them I stayed in a bar across the road drinking while the support band played. Foolish move. The support band was Nirvana and it was they who would surf the tsunami from alternity to ubiquity, and not Sonic Youth, although they did make it on to Geffen and only recently broke up after sixteen albums and countless spin offs and collaborations. For me, this remains their zenith. What about you?