. . .
I’d been either ignoring or disliking Sonic Youth for four years when they came out with 1986’s EVOL, which confused the shit out of me because it suddenly had some songs that were, well, kinda sorta songs, I guess.
Prior to that, when I dropped the needle at KFSR looking for something to play from their 1982 self-titled debut, 1983’s Confusion is Sex or 1985’s Bad Moon Rising, it just all sounded like self-indulgent noise. Though I will admit Bad Moon Rising did have one of the greatest album covers ever. It just all reminded me of all of those other bands with fantastic names — I still think that. Blind Idiot God is the single greatest band name ever — and unlistenable music.
It’s hard to access exactly what 1986 Jim though of EVOL, because I’m now looking back from the vantage point 35 years later; during which all of Sonic Youth’s sonic innovations have been absorbed into the alt-rock zeitgeist. All I know is that even though I remained suspicious of them, “Starpower” caught my ear, as bassist Kim Gordon’s drony voice sang the lyrics that her partner, guitarist Thurston Moore, wrote.
Spinning dreams with angel wings
Torn blue jeans, a foolish grin
Burning down in the night
So cool, so right
Star power, star power
Star power over me
She knows how to make love to me
She knows how to make love
And maybe Gordon’s chant of “star power, star power” was more of an incantation than an actual hook; within the context of the massive guitars of Moore and Lee Ranaldo, it worked as both: it hooked itself into your brain while also summoning the guitar frenzy that followed. With new drummer Steve Shelley challenging the band to rave up even when they wanted to break down, “Starpower” never lets up even when it almost comes to full stop.
And so, looking back, “Starpower” wasn’t exactly where my full-blown love affair with Sonic Youth started — we’ll get to that in a few days — but it definitely laid the groundwork. And, it was no surprise that it was the song from EVOL that they decided to make a single out of, though, it’s not like that single got airplay anywhere but college radio.
Did you miss a Certain Song? Follow me on Twitter: @barefootjim
The Certain Songs Database
A filterable, searchable & sortable somewhat up to date database with links to every “Certain Song” post I’ve ever written.
Certain Songs Spotify playlist
(It’s recommended that you listen to this on Spotify as their embed only has 200 songs.)
Support “Certain Songs” with a donation on Patreon
Go to my Patreon page