Listen to Sonic Youth’s “Death Valley ’69” to hear some messed up

Listen to Sonic Youth’s “Death Valley ’69” to hear some messed up rock music. It’s mayhem that makes sense, or at least paints a compelling picture of something bad and wrong. I’m a sucker for a big, repetitive riff, and you hear that, but this is Sonic Youth – a group that takes electric guitars so far away from convention, they seem to be falling apart. Yes, Sonic Youth can be Punk art, but they’re essentially Punk Rock. It’s where they came from. I’ve seen many of the band’s gigs from the side of the stage when Nirvana used to open for them. Some guitars were missing strings – on purpose – there was one with a screwdriver jammed through the strings. The guitars each had unique tunings. Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo would weave these sounds together, their guitars combined into a dissonance that was as expansive as a symphony. Kim Gordon played a Gibson Thunderbird bass, a strange instrument by design. It’s a challenge to keep the tuning heads on those beasts themselves, but that’s another story. Kim handily managed the giant four string, holding down the rhythm section with drummer Steve Shelley.The band came out of the 1980s hardcore scene, and their work during that period are an important contribution to American punk. But they were much more than that and transitioned into the next decade with grace. They signed to the major label DGC. Nirvana was courted by the label, and it was a big deal for Kim to call and encourage to join up. Sonic Youth rose to the occasion with their major label release Goo. The song “Kool Thing” has got a sexy beat, while Kim asks, “Are you going to liberate us girls from male, white, corporate oppression?” with Public Enemy’s Chuck D in the background saying, “Word up”. That’s open for interpretation, but listen to the music and you’ll hear a great band in top form while you ponder the implications of statements in the tune.So much great music! Sonic Youth are on tour – check ’em out if you can and you’ll see what I mean. Also, Steve has blog on interesting music called Vampire Blues.