Friday, July 17, 2009

Almost a Sonic Youth review

Playing right now: Burt Bacharach - Make It Easy On Yourself (Wanted to hear the version of "Do You Know Way to San Jose" because it's top-shelf exquisite pop, but man, even the slow poke title track and Burt's "rumpled baritone" sound good right now.)

Having said that...

I've had Sonic Youth on the brain for the past couple of weeks, in anticipation of getting their new album. We were talking about them at work a few weeks back, and discussing how their last few albums haven't exactly knocked it out the park like they used to. I remember liking Rather Ripped when I bought it, but it's been quite awhile since I played it. My friend Toby said that Washing Machine was one of his favorites, to which I said I bypassed that one completely at the time, due to a combination of lack of funds to buy it and feedback from friends that it wasn't very good. Toby loaned it to me and I listened to it in the car for a few days while driving around. It's not as lackluster as I heard, but it wasn't great. And it seemed like Kim Gordon hardly played bass on it at all.

Then a few nights ago, I decided to dig out Rather Ripped to check it out again. (I bought The Eternal in the meantime, but I'll get to that shortly.) While going through the Sonic Youth section of my CDs I came across Sonic Nurse. "What the hell is this," I thought when I saw the spine. When I looked at the cover I recognized it, but I had absolutely no recollection of what is on it or when I bought it. It came out in 2004, which was the year that Pulp shut down so it might've come as a promo to the paper or maybe I bought it during the time I was out of work. (For an unemployed person, I bought a fair share of records and CDs that summer.) But as far as the songs on it, the only thing that rang a bell was the title "Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream," because Kim was interviewed in Bust and she explained that saxophonist Doyle had given Thurston some hand cream at a show.

I listened to about half of it last night while picking up in the kitchen. Not bad, but not exactly memorable either. Sounds like every song is in D, just like most SY albums. I'll probably keep it since I have just about all of SY's "rock" albums. (I can't do without the improv stuff.) It's good to have for reference, I suppose.

But this brings up a subject I've been thinking about for quite awhile - what's more important: between owning an album or CD or simply hearing what's on it? This question started to congeal in my head about a month ago when I went to Carnegie Library and checked out the Mosaic box of Hank Mobley's '50s Blue Note sessions. I have about 1/3 of the set already on vinyl, having been obsessed with those early, valuable Blue Note albums. My intention was to burn copies of the rest of the stuff so I'd flush from my system the desire to keep searching eBay in hopes of finding copies of the other albums for a reasonable price. (Ain't gonna happen; it's a waste of time.) I know I could find just about all of that stuff on individual CDs too, but that runs into money, time, etc...

And when I did that, I realized it wasn't so much that I wanted to possess copies of all this music (although a Blue Note album with the W. 63rd Street address would make a nice addition to the collection), but to simply hear all of it. It's not as if I have time to just sit and listen to records like I once did. Look at the time I had the chance to listen to Sonic Nurse.

I really like buying CDs and records and I want to keep up with different artists since I write about music, but I'm looking at the Revenant Albert Ayler box and wondering when I'll get back to that. The most recent St. Vincent album is on the desk in front of me. I definitely bought that because she's gotten good press and I felt like I better check her out. And she's good but how often will I putting it on? I'll be lucky if I get to know that album intimately before I have to review something or buy the next "I should check this out" disc.

And those Mobley discs? I think I've listened to one since I burned them. Just in case anyone from Blue Note is reading, don't bust my chops about copying the discs. Yeah, it's wrong, but it's not as if I would've gone out and bought Peckin' Time anyway.

But back to Sonic Youth's new album The Eternal. After about two decades (say it with me: Jeez-oh-pete!) they're back on an independent label - Matador, one of the best. Not only that, they're rocking like they haven't in a long time. On a Goo or Dirty level. With Pavement's Mark Ibold joining the fold, things sound really inspired. If the album hadn't been $15 more than the CD, I probably would've sprung for it. I just hope I'm not missing out on any bonus, vinyl-only tracks

I think I'm going to replay some of that Bacharach album. 'Scuse me.

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