Well, Mother Nature has foiled my outside ride once again. Bitch. So, yeah, another Thursday evening sitting on a spin bike – uh-gain – cranking out the watts (modest as they may be this evening) and trying hard not to notice everyone else working hard at not noticing me while HRH is off at her Leaders Corp doing God knows what.
My soundtrack this evening is the ‘Dirty‘ album by Sonic Youth.
This album came out during High School and my friend Jeff played it religiously. In the car. At home. At my home. Everywhere. I’m not even sure he really liked it so much as he hated ‘Nevermind‘ which is what everyone else was listening to at the time.
After all, if everyone was going to zig then Jeff was inevitably going to zag.
The thing is, I didn’t even really care for Sonic Youth back then. Fortunately, my opinion has changed over the years.
I guess with age comes wisdom, right?
When DGC Records signed Nirvana in 1991, one of DGC’s A&R reps expressed the opinion that, with plenty of touring and the right promotion, the new act might sell as well as its labelmate and touring partner Sonic Youth. The surprise success of Nevermind upended previous commercial expectations for Sonic Youth (among other established alternative rock bands), and when ‘Dirty‘ was released in 1992, it was seen by many as the band’s big move toward the grunge market. Which doesn’t make a lot of sense if you actually listen to the album; while Butch Vig’s clean but full-bodied production certainly gave Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo’s guitars greater punch and presence than they had in the past, most of ‘Dirty‘ is a bit more jagged and purposefully discordant than its immediate precursors, while lacking the same hallucinatory grace as, say, ‘Daydream Nation‘ or the hard rock sheen of ‘Goo‘.
If anything, ‘Dirty‘ finds Sonic Youth revisiting the territory the band mapped out on ‘Sister‘ – merging the propulsive structures of rock (both punk and otherwise) with the gorgeous chaos of their approach to the electric guitar – and it shows how much better they’d gotten at it in the past five years, from the curiously beautiful ‘Wish Fulfillment‘ and ‘Theresa’s Sound World‘ to the brutal ‘Drunken Butterfly‘ and ‘Purr‘.
Oh, and Kelly, did you know they also have a song called ‘Creme Brule’? It’s true. They do.
And it’s delicious.
‘Dirty‘ was also Sonic Youth’s most overtly political album, railing against the abuses of the Reagan/Bush era on ‘Youth Against Fascism‘ (Jeff’s particular favorite), ‘Swimsuit Issue‘, and ‘Chapel Hill‘, a surprising move from a band so often in love with cryptic irony. Heard today, the album doesn’t sound like a masterpiece (like ‘Daydream Nation‘) or a gesture toward the mainstream audience (like ‘Goo‘) – it just sounds like a damn good rock album, and on those terms it ranks with Sonic Youth’s best work.
The gym was busy this evening so there was lots of people watching to be had; lots of people noticing each other not noticing each other that is. Thunder n’ Lightning felt a bit tired given this afternoon’s fartlek run so I kept it on the easy side.
Feel good now though.