Sonic Youth Overview

Sonic Youth is an American rock rock music band from New York City, formed in 1981. The current lineup consists of Thurston Moore (vocals singing and guitar), Kim Gordon (vocals, bass bass guitar , guitar), Lee Ranaldo (vocals and guitar), Mark Ibold (bass) and Steve Shelley (drums Drum kit ).

In their early career, Sonic Youth was associated with the No Wave art and music scene in New York City. Part of the first wave of American noise rock groups, the band carried out their interpretation of the hardcore punk ethos throughout the evolving American underground underground music that focused more on the DIY ethic of the genre rather than its specific sound. As a result, some consider Sonic Youth as pivotal in the rise of the alternative rock movement. The band has experienced success and critical acclaim throughout the last three decades, continuing into the new millennium, including signing to major label DGC DGC Records in 1990, and headlining the 1995 Lollapalooza festival.

Sonic Youth have expressed a wide variety of influences, ranging from the influential protopunk musician Patti Smith to composer John Cage. The band has been praised for having "redefined what rock guitar could do", using a wide variety of unorthodox guitar tuning scordatura s, and preparing guitar prepared guitar s with objects like drumsticks and screwdrivers to alter the instruments' timbre.


Formation and early history: 1977-1981

Sonic Youth's history began when guitarist Thurston Moore moved to New York City in early 1976. Interested in punk, Moore joined the Coachmen, a guitar-based quartet, after arriving in the city. Lee Ranaldo, an art student at Binghamton University State University of New York at Binghamton , became a fan of the Coachmen, and he and Moore were soon friends. Ranaldo was a member of Glenn Branca's electric guitar ensemble, touring throughout the United States and Europe. After the breakup of the Coachmen, Moore began jamming with Stanton Miranda, whose band, CKM, featured local artist Kim Gordon.

Moore and Gordon formed a band, appearing under names like Male Bonding and Red Milk before agreeing upon the Arcadians in late 1980. The band had recently changed their name to Sonic Youth by the time they played Noise Fest in June 1981 at New York's White Columns gallery. Branca's ensemble played at the festival. Their performance impressed Moore, who described them as "the most ferocious guitar band that I had ever seen in my life." After Branca's set, Moore asked Ranaldo if he wanted to join the band. Ranaldo accepted; the band played three songs at the festival later in the week without a drummer. Each band member took turns playing the drums, until they met drummer Richard Edson.

The name Sonic Youth came from combining the nickname of MC5's Fred "Sonic" Smith with the trend of reggae artists, such as Big Youth, featuring the word "Youth" in their names. Gordon later recalled that "as soon as Thurston came up with the name Sonic Youth, a certain sound that was more of what we wanted to do came about."

Early releases: 1982-1985

Branca Glenn Branca signed Sonic Youth as the first act on his record label Neutral Records. In December 1981 the group recorded five songs in a studio in New York's Radio City Music Hall. The material was a released as the Sonic Youth Sonic Youth (album) mini-LP that, while largely ignored, was sent to a few key members of the US press that gave it uniformly favorable reviews. After their first record, Edson quit the group for a modestly successful acting career and was replaced by Bob Bert.

During their early days as part of the New York music scene, Sonic Youth formed a friendship with noisy New Yorkers Swans Swans (band) . The bands came to share the same rehearsal space, and Sonic Youth embarked on its first tour, a two-week journey through the southern United States starting in November 1982, supporting Swans Swans (band) . During a second tour with Swans of the Midwest American Midwest the following month, tensions ran high and Moore constantly criticized Bert's drumming, which he felt wasn't "in the pocket". Bert was fired afterwards and replaced by Jim Sclavunos, who played drums on the band's 1983 album Confusion Is ***. Sonic Youth set up a two-week tour of Europe for the summer of 1983. Sclavunos, however, quit after only a few months. The group asked Bert to rejoin, and he agreed, on the condition that he would not be fired again after the tour's conclusion.

Sonic Youth found themselves well-received in Europe, but the New York press largely ignored the local noise rock scene. Eventually, as the press began to take notice of the genre, Sonic Youth was grouped along with bands like Big Black, the Butthole Surfers and Pussy Galore Pussy Galore (band) under the "pig***er" label by Village Voice music critic Robert Christgau. (Christgau saw these bands as sharing an abrasive, noisy and confrontational aesthetic.) Based on this classification, and on a negative live review by Christgau, a feud developed between Moore and the critic, with Moore renaming the song "Kill Yr Idols" to "I Killed Christgau With My Big *** Dick" before the two sorted out their differences amicably.

During another tour of Europe in 1984, Sonic Youth's disastrous London debut (where the band's equipment malfunctioned and Moore consequently destroyed the equipment onstage in frustration) actually resulted in rave reviews in Sounds Sounds (magazine) and the NME. By the time they returned to New York, they were so po***r they played shows practically every week. That same year Moore and Gordon were married and Sonic Youth released Bad Moon Rising Bad Moon Rising (album) , a self-described "Americana" album that served as a reaction to the state of the nation at the time. The album, recorded by Martin Bisi, was built around transitional pieces that Moore and Ranaldo had come up with in order to take up time onstage while the other guitarist was busy tuning his instrument; While even the New York press ignored Bad Moon Rising upon its release, now viewing the band as too arty and pretentious, Sonic Youth was becoming quite critically acclaimed in the United Kingdom, where the new album had sold 5,000 copies in just six months.

Claiming he was bored with playing Bad Moon Rising live in its entirety for over a year, Bert quit the group and was replaced by Steve Shelley, formerly of the hardcore group Cruci***s. The band was so impressed with Shelley's drumming after seeing him play live they hired him without an audition. Bert has remained on good terms with the group; he and Shelley both appeared in the music video for "Death Valley '69", as Bert performed the drums on the song, but Shelley was the group's drummer when the video was made.

SST and Enigma: 1986-1989

Sonic Youth had a long fascination with influential indie label SST Records. Ranaldo said, "It was the first record company we were on that we really would have given anything to be on." Sonic Youth eventually signed to the label in early 1986 and began recording Evol with Martin Bisi in March of that year.

Evol itself represented an evolution of sorts for the band: in addition to increasingly melodic material and the impact of new drummer Shelley's playing, the record also dealt with themes of celebrity, particularly with songs like "Expressway To Yr Skull" (called "a classic" by Neil Young")
On 1987's Sister Sister (Sonic Youth album) , Sonic Youth continued refining their blend of pop pop music song structures with uncompromising experimentalism. Another loose concept album, Sister is partly inspired by the life and works of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick (the "sister" of the title was Dick's fraternal twin, who died shortly after her birth, and whose memory haunted Dick his entire life). Sister sold 60,000 copies and received very positive reviews, becoming the first Sonic Youth album to crack the Top 20 of the Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics poll.

Despite the critical success, the band was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with SST due to concerns about payment and other administrative practices. Sonic Youth decided to release their next record on Enigma Records, which was distributed by Capitol Records and partly owned by EMI. The 1988 double LP Daydream Nation was a critical success that earned Sonic Youth substantial acclaim. The album came in second on the Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll and topped the year-end album lists of the NME, CMJ, and Melody Maker. In 2006, it was one of 50 recordings chosen that year by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. The lead single from the album, "Teen Age Riot", was the first song from the band to reach significant success, receiving heavy airplay in modern and college rock stations. A number of prominent music periodicals including Rolling Stone hailed Daydream Nation as one of the best albums of the decade and named Sonic Youth as the "Hot Band" in its "Hot" issue. Unfortunately, distribution problems arose and Daydream Nation was often difficult to find in stores. Moore considered Enigma a "cheap-jack Mafioso outfit" and the band began looking for a major label deal.

Major label career and alternative icons: 1990-1999

In 1990, Sonic Youth released Goo Goo (album) (their first album for Geffen Geffen Records ), which featured the single "Kool Thing" on which Chuck D from rap group rapping Public Enemy Public Enemy (band) guested. "Kool Thing" became the song that many casual music fans associate with the band; it was later featured in the video game Guitar Hero III and was made available as a paid download for the Rock Band video game. The record is considered much more accessible than their previous work.

In 1992, the band released Dirty Dirty (album) on the DGC DGC Records label. Their influence as tastemakers continued with their discovery of acclaimed skateboard video music video director Spike Jonze, who they recruited for the video for "100%", which also featured skateboarder turned actor Jason Lee Jason Lee (actor) . This song, along with the Gordon tune "JC" contain lyrical references to the murder of Joe Cole Joe Cole (roadie) , a friend who worked with the band as a roadie. The album features artwork by Los Angeles-based artist Mike Kelley Mike Kelley (artist) . "Dirty" features a guest appearance by Ian McKaye (Minor Threat and Fugazi) playing guitar on the track "Youth Against Fascism".

In 1994 the band released Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, their best charting release in the United States, which peaked at #34 on the Billboard 200 Billboard 200 . The album was filled with low-key melodies and even produced a hit single, "Bull in the Heather". Moore and Gordon's daughter, Coco Hayley Gordon Moore was born earlier in the year, and many of the songs from the album were never played live because there was never a full tour to support the album due to Gordon's pregnancy. In 1994, the band also released a cover of The Carpenters 1971 hit "Superstar Superstar (Delaney and Bonnie song)#Carpenters version " for the tribute album If I Were a Carpenter If I Were a Carpenter (album) , which would later be featured in the 2007 film Juno Juno (film) .

The band headlined the 1995 Lollapalooza festival. due to potential copyright issues. Sonic Nurse had decent sales, in part due to performances on TV talk shows including Late Night with Conan O'Brien and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (1992 TV series) . The band was also slated to perform in 2004's Lollapalooza tour along with acts such as The Pixies Pixies (band) and The Flaming Lips, but the concert was canceled due to lackluster ticket sales. When the band toured later that year, they played extensively from their 1980s catalog.

On October 6, 2005, Los Angeles CityBeat reported that some of the gear stolen in 1999 was surprisingly recovered and that it might be used for recording of the next album, then tentatively titled Sonic Life. The report also said that Jim O'Rourke might be leaving the band soon; his departure was confirmed by Lee Ranaldo in an interview to Pitchfork Media. In May 2006, the group announced on their website that ex-Pavement Pavement (band) member Mark Ibold would play bass for the band on their upcoming tour.

Rather Ripped was released in Europe on June 5, 2006 and in the USA on June 13, 2006. Compared to previous Sonic Youth recordings, the album features many short, conventionally structured, melodic songs and fewer feedback audio feedback -fuelled left field improvisations (the band's avant-garde tendencies nowadays have been largely exorcised through SYR releases and solo outings rather than band albums). Later that summer, Sonic Youth played the 2006 Bonnaroo Festival, as well as Lollapalooza, promoting the album. In December, Rolling Stone made it their number three Album of the Year 2006.

The band released The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities in December 2006. It features tracks previously available only on vinyl gramophone record , limited-release compilations, b-sides to international singles, and some material that had never before been released. This marked the band's final Geffen release.

Independent agents and signing to Matador: 2007–present

In 2008 the band independently re-released Master-Dik for the first time on CD in March exclusively at their online store. They also released two more editions to the SYR Sonic Youth Recordings , SYR7: J'Accuse Ted Hughes, and SYR8: Andre Sider Af Sonic Youth. SYR7 was released on April 22, and SYR8 was released July 28. On June 10, they also released a compilation album on Starbucks Music, called Hits Are for Squares. The first 15 tracks were selected by other celebrities, and track 16, "Slow Revolution", is a new recording by Sonic Youth.

Also in June, the band was the subject of an intensively researched biography, Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth written by music journalist David Browne. The book was cited as "compelling" (Salon), "compulsively readable" (Publishers Weekly), and "an expressway to the soul of the influential band" (Vanity Fair). The book featured new interviews with the band as well as nearly 100 friends, family members, and peers. It was published by Da Capo and included over 60 rare photos.

On August 30, 2008, the band premiered two new songs at the final McCarren Park Pool show. Thurston Moore stated that in November 2008 the band will start recording a new studio album. The band did not continue their contract with Geffen Geffen Records , being discontent at the way Geffen handled their last four or five albums. On September 8, 2008, it was confirmed by Matador's Matablog that Sonic Youth will release its sixteenth album (titled The Eternal) in spring, 2009, on Matador Records.. In December 2008 it was also announced that the group had recently collaborated with John Paul Jones John Paul Jones (musician) (of Led Zeppelin fame) on a piece that served as the soundtrack for a new Merce Cunningham Dance Company piece. This work was performed by the company on April 16–19, 2009, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in celebration of Cunningham's 90th birthday. On February 12, the band revealed the cover art for The Eternal The Eternal (album) via their website and blog. The album, produced by John Agnello, was released on June 9, 2009. With the release Matador Records also offered an exclusive live LP only available to those who preordered the album.
Alternative tunings

during a 1991 performance in the Netherlands.
Sonic Youth's sound relies heavily on the use of alternative tunings Guitar_tunings#Alternative_tunings . Scordatura on stringed instruments has been used for centuries and alternative guitar tunings had been used for decades in blues music, and to a limited degree in rock music (such as with Lou Reed's Ostrich guitar on The Velvet Underground & Nico), but Sonic Youth began using a variety of tunings more radical than nearly anything in rock music history. Azerrad writes that early in their career,

The tunings were painstakingly developed by Moore and Ranaldo during the band's rehearsals; Moore once reported that the odd tunings were an attempt to introduce new sounds: "When you're playing in standard tuning all the time ... things sound pretty standard." Rather than re-tune for every song, Sonic Youth generally use a particular guitar for one or two songs, and can take dozens of instruments on tour. This can be the source of much trouble for the band, as some songs rely on specific guitars that have been uniquely prepared prepared guitar .


Besides Branca Glenn Branca , French avant-gardist Brigitte Fontaine, Patti Smith, Public Image Ltd (PiL) and The Stooges, another influence was 1980s-era hardcore punk; after seeing Minor Threat perform in May 1982, Moore declared them "the greatest live band I have ever seen". While recognizing that their own music was very different from hardcore, Moore and Gordon, especially, were impressed by hardcore's speed and intensity, and by the nationwide network of musicians and fans. "It was great," said Moore, "the whole thing with slam dancing moshing and stage diving, that was far more exciting than pogoing and spitting.... I thought hardcore was very musical and very radical."

Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo have expressed on numerous occasions their admiration for the music of Joni Mitchell, such as this quote by Thurston Moore: "Joni Mitchell! I’ve used elements of her songwriting and guitar playing, and no one would ever know about it." Unique_guitar_style

Members of the band have also maintained relationships with other avant-garde artists from other genres and even other media, drawing influence from the work of John Cage and Henry Cowell. For a 1988 Peel John Peel Session, Sonic Youth covered three songs by The Fall The Fall (band) and "Victoria" by The Kinks, also covered by The Fall. Sonic Youth has featured album art by several well-known avant-garde visual artists, such as Mike Kelley Mike Kelley (artist) and Gerhard Richter, whose paintings from his "Candles" series was used as artwork on Daydream Nation.
Studio albums



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