Courtesy Matador Records
Sonic Youth home
Last night, as to be expected, Sonic Youth scared the crowd at Razzmatazz. The quartet rocked heavy, performing their music with an inscrutable assault that was often times more animalistic than musical, as if the music were a means to channel the inner beast.
Kim Gordon kept her head low most of the show, bobbing her blonde tresses around as she danced a lurching lunge to her band's intensity. Watching her throw her sculpted arms around and shriek, "Shake off your flesh!" was particularly terrifying. I've never seen someone act out a scary lyric like it was some sort of 'Stop! In the name of love' routine. Thurston Moore posed 'cock rock', pelvis forward as he attacked his instrument, at times shaking his head, as if supplicating to his rock demon. Lee Renaldo employed the most avant-garde instrument play—turning over his guitar to tap out songs off the back, sawwing a violin bow across the strings. Perhaps the most 'tame', drummer Steve Shelley carved out the songs with expert specificity. Often, his was the only sound that made sense.
A dissonant experimentation flavoured the show with an art rock/noise sentiment that wore a little thin. Or maybe it was a little thick: the sounds mooshed together a bit too much, articulating nothing in particular in the midst of a lot of loudness. I was not surprised by their drone-y meets metal resonance. I've seen Sonic Youth a few times before and I'm drawn to their elongated, muddy, body buzzing jams and super intense rocking. That said, in previous shows, they've sprinkled in mellow moods or pop diddies that gave me ground to stand on. Part of the problem was the sound set-up. Vocals could hardly be distinguished. At one point I grabbed my pen to scribble, "Thurston sings like a guitar", an observation I cannot easily translate now. This was my first show at Razzmatazz, so I can't say whether the garbled sound was a Sonic Youth trick or a drawback of the venue.
In any case, maybe if I'd never seen them before, I'd be more jazzed about last night's concert. But, as it was, I left after the last song and didn't wait for the encore. Their final super extended jam brought Gordon to her knees, scraping her bass across the stage in a rock offering I just couldn't get into.