MUSiC/MEDiA: Sonic Youth, From The Basement…

This promo pic captures Sonic Youth’s art-house rock energy!

This was an interesting watch. A trip down memory lane, and a blast from the past!

The date on the video, i.e. when it was posted to YouTube, is 2020. I was puzzled by the fact that altho’ Lee Renaldo is greying, Thurston and Kim look pretty much as they did back in the ‘80s. Nuts!? But… aha! That explains things; this was actually recorded back in 2007!

The lineup is the ‘classic’ quartet, plus a guy called Mark Ibold, who became an essential fifth member in the years before they split in 2011. So that’s Steve Shelley, drums, Kim Gordon, bass/vocs, Lee Ranaldo, guitar/vocs, Thurston Moore, guitar/vocs, and Ibold, doubling on bass!

The performance space is nice. Very old school rock club. Love that blood red carpet!

The setlist for this performance is three tracks from their album of the moment, Ripped, and The Sprawl and Hey Joni, from Daydream Nation. The last of these is one of my favourite numbers from what is probably also my most favourite of their albums.

The Daydream Nation pieces are easily the best. To my mind/ears. The overall performance is pretty good. Almost certainly best listened to, I assume, very loud. I was listening to this pretty quiet, lying abed around midnight! Not ideal. But it still came over pretty well.

I have to admit that there are some forms of music – anything from this to Beefheart or Slayer (but perhaps intense and weird music especially so?) – that seem inescapably the music of youth. And the idea of folk enjoying listening to, or even more strangely, performing such music, as they age, can seem a bit odd.

Ageing no-wave noise-rockers ageing pretty gracefully!

But maybe that’s totally spurious? I’ve seen Christian Zander and his Magma crew – several of whom are growing ever longer of tooth – doing their very weird very intense thing fairly recently, and thought it pretty compelling. Hmmm!?

Watching this reminded me how much I loved some of this sort of music once – particularly the Daydream Nation and earlier stuff (Evol and Sister); hadn’t heard any Rather Ripped stuff till I saw this! – and, to some extent, I still dig it. It also makes me think I’d like to hear more from their later catalogue. Perhaps especially when Jim O’Rourke joined? I like what he brought to Stereolab.

When this performance started, I was cringing a bit, at the very self-conscious and shoe-gazy vibe. But as it went on, the music re-captured my heart and mind. The Sprawl and Hey Joni in particular, because, as already attested to, Daydream Nation was a much loved and very familiar reference point for a former younger me.

A screenshot the setlist.

It looks like there are a number of From The Basement gigs on the YouTube archives. I’m now watching a Radiohead one. Not a band I’ve ever gotten into, to be honest. But their set is pretty cool. I like Thom Yorke’s total commitment to the music. But I sometimes find his fey delivery a bit much. But that’s for another post!

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