An Album a Day: #1 Murray Street

14 03 2013

Sonic Youth - Murray StreetI approached this first review in my series with some trepidation. This is due in part to my own feelings regarding Sonic Youth. I own two albums by the New York alt rockers and neither have ever featured highly on my listening list and both just garnering a few listens over time.

I think I fell in love with the idea of Sonic Youth and what they as a band represented rather than the actual sound of Sonic Youth, which has to be said at times alternates between melodic, noisy and chaotic.

The album opens with one of the more accessible and radio-friendly tracks on the album, The Empty Page, not that Sonic Youth have ever been about being radio-friendly. Simple layered guitars with Thurston Moore’s relaxed vocals that builds to a medium tempo and a more layered bridge section before rounding off with a cacophony of noise at around the halfway point only to bring you back down to the original style of the track with some nice delicate guitar playing which explores the motif of the starting riff.

One of the biggest things about this album is the contrast not only within tracks but across tracks and also between Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon’s vocals. Gordon’s strained, off-kilter sound is none more prevalent on the very post-punk sounding Plastic Sun which at 2:14 is the shortest track on the album. I was going to be kind of defamatory towards Gordon but changed my tact, I was going to say that at times the vocal is out of key, but in fact it is not and it is just part of the way the track is supposed to build and if it was sung in any other manner it just wouldn’t work.

There is no doubt that Sonic Youth has a distinct sound that is very lo-fi in the recording technique, more about a raw sound, almost like a live recording at times, but that is what creates and adds to the appeal. I think this is most obvious in a track like Plastic Sun but also with the layering and flowing of Sympathy for the Strawberry – the last track on my version of the album. It builds magnificently, with just lovely layered guitars, drums and bass for the first 3 minutes before a very naive and innocent sounding Gordon comes in with the vocals.

Overall I have enjoyed giving this album a thorough listening to, part of what this project was about it has to be said. I don’t think it will get into my top 10 albums of all time but it is definitely growing on me.

Album Score: 7 out of 10

Sleeve Notes/Artwork:  5 out of 10

The sleeve notes are somewhat lacking with a few band and live fan pictures in the interior and the usual track listing and production notes, I like lyrics but they haven’t been re-produced on this album. I would probably have marked this lower but for the cover image of two young girls picking what looks like strawberry’s under a blue netting.

Track Listing:

  1. The Empty Page
  2. Disconnection Notice
  3. Rain on Tin
  4. Karen Revisited
  5. Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style
  6. Plastic Sun
  7. Sympathy for the Strawberry

Tomorrow’s Review: Green, REM

Tomorrow’s Selection: Your New Favourite Band – The Hives


Bitten Off More Than I Can Chew?

13 03 2013

It was only yesterday that I announced my “An Album a Day” project and already I am wondering whether I have bitten off more than I can chew. I approached the first album today with a little bit of trepidation, it is not the listening that is difficult that of course is supremely simple. What has given me that tiny seed of doubt is the writing. Will I find the time to write every day for a year? Now whilst I don’t expect to be writing essays there does need to be more than just a few words said, so we will see how it goes.

The first album review in the project, Murray Street by Sonic Youth will appear on the blog tomorrow, I have so far listened to it 4 times today, luckily I had a meeting to go to so I stuck it in the car!

Listening Selection for tomorrow: Green, REM – will appear on the blog on Friday 15th March.

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