NPR logo Sonic Youth: Killing Me Loudly

Sonic Youth: Killing Me Loudly

It feels a little lonely over here at Monitor Mix. After a two-week extravaganza wherein we covered all things related to the end of the decade in music, replete with about a dozen contributors, alas, it is now left solely to me to carry on.

Very well, then. Let's proceed!

Aside from hours spent listening to mixes on a drive to Ohio for Thanksgiving — then hearing Cherry Red's CD reissue of the Girls at Our Best album Pleasure (another prized piece in my vinyl collection; be sure to check out the reissue) — my only other musical venture since my last blog post was seeing Sonic Youth play at Terminal 5 in New York City.

Sonic Youth

Seeing Sonic Youth perform marked the perfect end to weeks spent writing about the last 10 years in music and pondering why a lot of music, particularly what has become popular amongst connoisseurs and purveyors of all things "indie," has gotten soft. Sonic Youth is LOUD. It is an all-caps, exclamation-point (points!!!), effed-up punctuation, good-luck-trying-to-form-a-sentence-or-concentrate-while-it's-playing loud. And while I've certainly been enjoying the subtler forms of rock and the sweet sounds of folk — freak or otherwise — and, in general, the not-so-discreet charm of the musical bourgeoisie, let's just say that I was elated to be pummeled by artful noise played at an unapologetically intrusive volume. Sonic Youth was a reminder that I don't always need to ponder or reflect while I listen to music. In fact, sometimes I want the songs to obliterate both the pleasantries and the contemplation.

Sonic Youth has nearly 30 years' worth of music to pour into a set list. The band's newer material, from The Eternal, sounds just as free and revelatory as anything it's ever done. But whether SY is playing "Sacred Trickster" or "Shadow of a Doubt," labels like "new" or "old" seem unnecessary. What I love about this band is that the story is ongoing. There are no chapters, no delineations between late period and early period, and that's not due to sameness, but rather fluidity. The songs unfold as part of a continuum — a dialog of guitars, voice, drums and the interstices therein — and they come in tidal waves. More bands should strive to be natural disasters.

What struck me most about seeing Sonic Youth was that I couldn't remember the last time I'd left a show with my ears ringing. (Did I mention that Dinosaur Jr. opened?) Actually, that's not the only thing that left an impact on me: Seeing SY made me feel more excited and certain about the dizzying, unambiguous and poetic powers of noise and volume and rock 'n' roll. I'm pretty sure there was even a mosh pit and a bunch of young kids freaking out who couldn't care less about 10 or 20 years ago, let alone five minutes ago. Long live Sonic Youth.