It may not be a new release, but Sonic Youth’s show at Battery Park, NYC on July 4th 2008 is out now commercially and is a document of a band at their very height of its power. At one point, when trying to work out who starts one of the tracks, Thurston Moore echoes Lee Ranaldo, saying ‘We start together, man’ before adding ‘together, forever’. Sadly, that wasn’t to be, by 2011 the band had ended.
Originally given away with pre-orders of ‘The Eternal’, the bands final album, maybe only a band like Sonic Youth were big enough and bold enough to do a free show on Fourth of July anyway, and the way they attack the songs and the set is, at times, thrilling. As is the want of a band who did so much to pull audiences into difficult, experimental rock, the album opens with She is Not Alone, with its extended moments of arching noise and determined sound expression.
That’s not to say it’s wilfully obtuse in the selection of songs that the band play, although follow on The Sprawl is, largely, that. It’s drawn across their discography but largely from Daydream Nation although there are tracks from Dirty and a couple from 1983’s Confusion is Sex. Nothing at all from the record with which it was first released, it has to be said.
The band are on the money throughout, with the squealing guitars in World Looks Red leaving you gasping for air, and Hey Joni’s shards of noise and stuttering tempos showing the likes of Pixies that theirs was a road already trodden. Best of all is the incredible Bull in the Heather, one of the bands (and album Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star’s) finest moments.
Listening to the band, Kim Gordon’s terrific vocals, the spectacular guitar playing of Thurston Moore, and the delightful yet belligerent rhythm section that drives this particular car, it seems such a shame that the ending of the band seemed too soon (even after 30 years) following the breakdown of Gordon and Moores marriage. Despite this being essentially a show that look back (way back) there was still, in a lot of ways, so much to come.