June 20th, 2006

In Which I Loop Back on My Love

Well, I've listened to the new Sonic Youth album over fifty times in the past week and it more than holds up to the scrutiny. I'm a huge fan to begin with, so feel free to savor the salsa on that chip of judgment. I'm confident, though, that anyone who likes the band already will be more than satisfied. By shortening the length of their songs, they were able to include a higher percentage of peaks and valleys without losing the density of the space in between. The other quality that sets Rather Ripped apart is that it sometimes sounds like a particular musical period, but in an abstract, self-reflexive way. It's sort of like what Frederic Jameson describes in his account of the film Body Heat's postmodernism. The film isn't set in the past, but it feels that way. This effect works on Rather Ripped. Or it works for me, anyway. The best example is "The Neutral," which runs through a number of periods in rapid succession, including the simulacral 80s that Interpol and The Killers capture so well.

As an added bonus -- note the double-dipping ahead -- two of the tracks, "Jams Run Free" and "Turquoise Boy" come with a Pavement chaser, fashioning a torus knot out of history. When I first heard Slanted and Enchanted on the day of its release back in 1991, my appetite whetted by Simon Reynolds and the Spin feature on promising new bands from the previous winter, I thought, "Sonic Youth + Velvet Underground," an equation that still applies to Stockton's finest, once you sift through all the other influences. Then I saw Pavement open for Sonic Youth at the Warfield, making the similarities between the two bands even more apparent. Later, Kim, John, and I talked to original Pavement drummer Gary Young as he leaned against a chain-link fence in the Tenderloin, just around the corner from the Warfield, after attending a Sonic Youth show. He had already been fired, but didn't know it yet.

At any rate, it makes sense for Sonic Youth to repay the tribute Pavement provided them. But, since they had already done so on Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star, the current reference refers to their own referencing of a band that referenced them. It makes my sun-addled head hurt to contemplate. Sure sounds sweet, though. Have a listen to "Jams Run Free" if you want to hear what I mean.