Sonic Fountain of Eternal Youth


Voted by Subnormal Magazine as the best rock band of all time, Thurston Moore (vocals and guitar), Kim Gordon (vocals, guitar, and bass), Lee Ronaldo (vocals and guitar), and Steve Shelley (drums), round out to form the band that has influenced more modern rock indie bands since the 80’s, including Nirvana, the so called grunge scene, and currently the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, than perhaps any other band around.

Blasting out of New York City’s underground punk rock scene of 1976 and 77, influenced by the scene happening at CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City with bands including the MC5, Iggy and the Stooges, Patti Smith, and The Ramones, Sonic Youth stormed constellations when Kim, who was in art school in L.A., met Thurston and Lee, and they started destroying and creating music together in 78 and 79. With bands including Television, Voivod, James Chance and the Contortions, Lydia Lunch with Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, and more- blowing minds, Sonic Youth became the unofficial forerunner of the so called No Wave scene, in reaction to New Wave’s safe pretty boy image, and also in reaction to punk rock’s growing ‘3 chord, blues based predictability.’ Sonic Youth’s so called no wave trip, which was theirs and others artistic philosophy, rather than a trend, found their way on to the album of the same title (No Wave), that changed the face of rock music forever.

After witnessing Steve Shelley’s blasphemous band, Steve was recruited and replaced Bob Bert on drums in 1984.The four piece went on to bring their avant’ garde influences of free jazz (John Zorn), experimental (Brian Eno), classical renegades (as Glen Branca, who put out their first EP), and minimalist artists, and infused this in to their own concoction of potent, poetic, psychedelic guitar driven rock (ala Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Syd Barrett) with the filth and fury of punk. Souped up sonics, tricked out distortion pedals, and stripped down hot rotted guitars- with lots of six string shredding with drumsticks like an electric violin on acid- made Sonic Youth unlike any thing the world has ever heard before. Countless imitators crawled out trying the same, and crawled back quietly never coming close to matching their greatness. One talented band, Nirvana jumped on the coat tails, and the rest is mud fest history.

At first listen, many critics hated Sonic Youth, dismissing them as noise makers who could not play. Upon further examination however, those smart enough to go beneath the surface, realized that not only could they play, and not only were they playing minor chords and skipping normal chord progressions on purpose, but they were deconstructing the very structure of music and rock, and inventing it their own way. Silence was used for punctuation of effect, minor chord distortions would tear away in to dissonance and reverb, becoming a deliberated melody unto itself, with multiple guitars doing the same, on the same or similar frequency, shooting off like rockets in opposite directions of chaos, and returning magically back in a frenzy of a self contained whole of musical bliss and rock perfection. Sonic Youth, the wise learned, were geniuses. It was as if Hendrix himself went on stage multiplied, and was blowing every ones mind yet again. Sonic Youth’s 16th studio album, The Eternal, is out now on vinyl, cd, and digital via Matador, and as to be expected, it is nothing short of brilliance.

Text By Bruce Edwin

Subnormal Magazine © 2009, ©The Hollywood Sentinel.