Let's Be Honest: Sonic Youth Are Really Boring

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Thu, Jan 24, 2013 at 4:00 AM
click to enlarge Sonic "Youth"
  • Sonic "Youth"

In the annals of rock there are many bands that people pretend to like, bands with fandoms consisting entirely of people desperately wanting to appear interesting by proxy. Royal Trux is a good example, as are Ween. Basically any Burzum fan who isn't a corpse paint-wearing, basement-dwelling Nazi from the hinter regions of Norway fits neatly in this category. King among bands that no one actually likes, however, is Sonic Youth.

See also: Pearl Jam Are the Most Boring Band in 20 Years

I remember the first time I heard Sonic Youth. I was about 13 and somehow acquired a copy of the tape on SST that runs backward on one side and forward on another. I know, right? How creative. After about 10 minutes of atonal moaning and swirling noise, I went back to my Black Flag and Black Sabbath records. How pedestrian of me, right?

But back to Sonic Youth: Snooze time. I'll grant that their first sellout effort, 1990's Goo isn't bad. Not so with the follow up, 1992's Dirty, such a naked attempt at commercial success that Entertainment Weekly named it album of the year. The next album, Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star is mostly noteworthy for igniting puberty in teenage alt rockers via a video featuring Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna bouncing around in an approximation of irreverence.

But 1994 only happens once and while Sonic Youth might be boring as hell, they're also very shrewd. In 1995, the band cashed out while the cashing was good. Screaming Fields of Sonic Love recapped the band's 1982-1988 catalog, revisiting their penchant for doing things backwards. Made in USA unearthed material recorded in 1986 that was probably best left earthed. Washing Machine followed, with a cover featuring the infamous Sonic Youth washing machine shirts so popular among the high school football players and husky boys in bucket hats who populated 1995's Lollapalooza, which the band headlined.

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