1990 – DGC
Alternative/ Noise-Rock/ Rock
New York noise band Sonic Youth’s sixth studio album Goo is a pulsating and raucous tribute to the group’s ability to stick around an remain relevant. After 1988’s abstract sound masterpiece Daydream Nation the shoe-gazing every-teens of America came back with this record to show the world that they still have what it takes, but I will say that the fruit of these labours doesn’t quite live up to expectations.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Goo is a great album with its catchy, bass heavy riffs and exploding noisiness, but, to my mind, there just seems to be something missing here. I mean, Mary-Christ, Kool Thing, and My Friend Goo work incredibly well in their bouncy, radio friendly way, but tracks like these also showcase the band’s move away from their earlier experimentalism towards a much more traditional rock sound and structure. Some tracks, like Mildred Pierce, do counter this somewhat, but, on the whole, there’s just this overwhelming feeling that Sonic Youth were working just a little bit too hard to make a record that was … well, enjoyable.
The whole thing kicks off with Dirty Boots which, at first glance, is full of the band’s characteristic jangly droning, but pretty quickly this dissolves into what some might call a hard-rock tune, and, while I have nothing in particular against hard-rock, Sonic Youth are really not the band that I want to hear playing it. From here on in the record more or less continues with this more accessible, traditional rock sound, sometimes trying vainly to hide it beneath a thin layer of feedback and muddiness, but just as often they wear their newfound pop sensibilities on their sleeves. Once again I’m going to say, however, that this new sound isn’t necessarily bad per se, but it is disappointing, especially because so many of the tracks just run on for so long.
There are, however, some tracks on here that do really stand out in the Sonic Youth catalogue either despite or because of the album’s watered down quality. Tunic (Song For Karen), for example, is just such a beautiful song with Kim Gordon’s dead-pan vocals verging on emotive and My Friend Goo is just too damned catchy not to like with all its punk rawness and throbbing bass. That said, a lot of the songs on the record sadly just don’t quite live up to one’s expectations.
I think that perhaps Goo is just striving a bit too hard to be that Kool Thing of which it sings with its attempts to hide catchiness beneath a veneer of ‘I-don’t-care’ attitude and its plethora of throw-away one liners which get stuck in your head but ultimately lack substance.
Yes, it appears that with Goo Sonic Youth have gone mainstream. No, they haven’t sold out, but a lot of the randomness and anarchy that made their earlier work so spectacular has been either downplayed or over-practiced that it’s nowhere near as hard-hitting as it once was.
All things considered, however, Goo is still a wonderful album compared to a lot of its contemporaries and all of its faults don’t seem to cheapen its charm all that much. I would definitely recommend giving it a listen.
Here is one of the deliciously grungy tracks from Sonic Youth’s 1990 record ‘Goo’
- Daydream Nation – Sonic Youth (ljfacesthemusic.wordpress.com)
- 12 Parodies Of Sonic Youth’s “Goo” Album Cover (buzzfeed.com)
- Sonic Youth – Sister (1987) (hypergraphreviews.wordpress.com)
- Sonic Youth’s taco recipe from a 1996 Sassy magazine article (lostateminor.com)
- Thurston Moore’s Crash Course in Poetry (dazeddigital.com)