Sonic Youth: A Six-Minute Ode To Britney

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Thursday's Pick

  • Song: "Malibu Gas Station"
  • Artist: Sonic Youth
  • CD: The Eternal
  • Genre: Rock

Sonic Youth's "Malibu Gas Station" is almost certainly the greatest six-minute opus ever written about Britney Spears. That's assuming, of course, that the song is about Spears, an idea supported by lines that seem to refer to her childhood performing career and recent erratic behavior. There's also the guffaw-worthy song title — a Malibu resident, Spears has been famously photographed walking barefoot from a gas-station bathroom — as well as Sonic Youth's own description of the song as "an ode to the flash moment of the camera as you knowingly step from your SUV sans panties."

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Sonic Youth's "Malibu Gas Station" is almost certainly the greatest rock opus ever written about Britney Spears. courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth's "Malibu Gas Station" is almost certainly the greatest rock opus ever written about Britney Spears.

courtesy of the artist

Singer-guitarist Thurston Moore says that The Eternal, the noise-rock demi-gods' 16th album, focuses on "avant-garde rock 'n' roll." Like most songs on the album, the somewhat avant-sounding "Malibu Gas Station" doesn't exactly come up and give you a kiss, but it can certainly get under the skin. Kim Gordon dispenses a simple but memorable minor-key melody, and if Spears is the subject, it wouldn't be the first time Gordon has gotten inside the head of a troubled female pop star: 1990's creepy "Tunic (Song for Karen)" was partly written from the perspective of anorexia casualty Karen Carpenter. Here, lyrics like "The breasts are bangin' / Abdominal master" sound Britney-esque, though in Gordon's wicked purr, they're more eerie than funny.

Elsewhere, this is Sonic Youth at its most sleekly propulsive. The main groove is all minimalist forward-motion, with drummer Steve Shelley, who's increasingly been a force at recent SY live shows, playing an austere tom-tom beat. The wandering guitar lead around the three-minute mark makes for a somewhat conventional — and, therefore, not very Sonic Youth-y — solo. Much more satisfying is the grumbling noise jam near the song's end, as well as the spate of fluid, sexy guitar spills mixed throughout. Both of those elements are, happily, very Sonic Youth-y.

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This story originally ran on May 21, 2009.

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