Sonic Youth: Nurse/Washing Machine/1000 Leaves?
This might be a long one.
Sonic Youth are my favourite band at the moment, and have been since 2002 when i heard their Muray Street album. Trouble is, they've been about for years and years and have about 156 albums so how am i supposed to choose a favourite? You could say they're a bit Bob Dylan in that respect. They've also had certain 'periods' in their career which help me break them down: Early Doors, Geffen, and These Days.
Early Doors. Unfortunatly, i dont know much from this period. I have a live bootleg which f**king rocks but i dont actually own any albums (except for Daydream Nation). Its on my long list of things to get, but so far so bootleg. Schizophrenia is an excellent tune, Teenage Riot is brilliant but other than that i'm a bit naive. I dont really like Daydream Nation which is odd because its Sonic Youth's 'Classic Album'. Its the one everyone says about, the one that made them great rather than good, and the album that got them signed. But i dont really like it much.
Geffen. The Geffen Years are where Sonic Youth went a bit mainstream, but that was more a fault of the mainstream than the band. SY were signed, released 2 classic indiepunk albums (Goo and Dirty) which had noise-pop songs on and made videos with Cool Skate Directors like Spike Jones. Dirty was my 1st SY album (awww) and tracks like Sugar Kane and 100% really hit home for me more than the Mudhoney's or Soundgardens of the time. Even though SY weren't 'Grunge' it was common for the media at the time to lump all american bands together into 1 genre which meant that they did get more media attention than maybe they would have otherwise got. They then released Experimental JetSet Trash and No Star which was only notable for Bull in the Heather and some of Steve Shelley's best drumming. Then things all started to change....
Washing Machine (which might be my favourite SY record) was a big change for SY. They changed the way they approached song writing and began creating vast sprawling improvised tracks like The Diamon Sea, Washing Machine and Becuz (Becuz actually got split in 2 by Geffen because they thought it was too long to have as an opening track). Kim Gordon stopped playing bass and picked up a 3rd guitar and the songs grew and breathed and chilled out, allmost relieved to be free from the constraints of the noise scene. It was a sign of things to come...
These Days. The mood and feel of Washing Machine continued as the group really started getting their teeth into Improvised works. They'd built their own studio with the money they'd made and this allowed them the freedom to record what they wanted, which led to the SYR series (a set of EP's that were too strange/noisey/avant garde for Geffen to release). Ideas brought up in these free jams turned into songs released on 1000 Leaves (which also might be my favourite SY record). It is packed with odd little things hidden under washes of noise and bizzare repeated ideas/melodies and i'm still finding new things to this day. Its not a particulaly easy album to listen too, but then Sy aren't a particulaly easy band to listen to, but if you can put up with Kim's droning, there are some absolute gems on there. Some absolute beauty moments and some of the best music i've ever heard.
The theme was continued with New York City Ghosts and Flowers which was a bit less User Friendly than 1000 leaves and famously got a score of 0.0 from Pitchfork. It still has 3 stunning tracks which piss all over most of the stuff released today and i still enjoy listening to it, but as with many of their albums, the good is in with the bad. The way they played the guitars seemed to have evolved too, delicate pickings/hittings. Theres hardly a strummed chord to be heard.
Then Murray Street was released and mixed the 2 side of Sonic Youth perfectly. 10 minute free jams sat alongside perfect pop tunes. Guitar noise with blissed out crescendos. I've just decided that Murray Street is my favourite SY record (and i'm sticking to it).
Which makes the last section of These Days pretty irrelevant, except to say that Sonic Nurse is rare in that every track is amazing, especially I Love You Golden Blue (best song ever?) (!) and that Rather Ripped seems to look back further to their punkier roots, and has freshened the band for it