. . .
A lot happened between the the 1990 release of Goo and the 1992 release of Dirty. And I mean a lot a lot. First off, they toured with Neil Young, a long time hero of both Steve Shelley and Lee Ranaldo. This was the first time Sonic Youth opened for someone of Neil’s stature, and it was during the tour for Ragged Glory, perhaps the noisiest album Neil ever made.
And while Neil’s crew gave the band problems at first, to the point where they wanted to leave the tour, Neil — who apparently loved “Expressway to Yr. Skull” — and helped them out.
It was on this tour where I saw Sonic Youth for the second time, opening for Neil at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, still one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen in my life, and while yeah, the Boomers in Neil’s audience didn’t quite get what Sonic Youth was up to, the Gen-Xers sure as shit did, and we were all very happy we went.
Also that summer, Sonic Youth took their new label-mates Nirvana and a bunch of other friends on an European festival tour that they jokingly dubbed “The Year Punk Broke,” all of which was filmed for a documentary that probably would have never seen the light of day had Nirvana’s Nevermind not . . . well, you know the story. I recently watched 1991: The Year Punk Broke, and it’s a combination of poorly-improvised skits — the kind of shit that friends get up to — and some of the best music anybody has ever performed.
Anyways, one of of the upshots of all of this was that the next Sonic Youth album would be produced by Butch Vig, who had helmed not just Nevermind, but also Smashing Pumpkins Gish album, a decision that was made prior to Nevermind becoming the biggest record in the known universe, and the result was my favorite Sonic Youth album, Dirty.
Dirty kicked off with two iconic tracks: the thrashing “100%,” Thurston Moore’s tribute to a band friend (and Henry Rollins’ roomie) Joe Cole, who’d been brutally murdered in Los Angeles the previous year, and Kim’s ferociously pointed “Swimsuit Issue,” but where it comes into focus for me is the first meditative track, “Teresa’s Sound-World,” which starts out with quietly pyschedelic guitars from Moore and Ranaldo and some cool bass hooks from Gordon.
Like girl come walking through the corn, free
Like blue vibration thru the sea
I know I’d love her to breathe, again
Light cubes are talking her down
I’ve been a wasted day
Like spinning round a saint
Like colored wild signs
Theresa talking in the rain
As Moore quietly and calmly sings those lyrics, the band slowly coalesces around him to the point where Steve Shelly does nothing but builds during the last couple of lines after which the song suddenly explodes, and we hear exactly what kind of sound-world Teresa is experiencing: a white heat hurricane of torrential sound. And it is gorgeous. So gorgeous that they do it a second time.
Dirty — which like Daydream Nation was a double album, though I just bought the CD — is kinda split between short sharp explosions, and longer artier songs, and while “Teresa’s Sound-World” definitely fits in with the latter, in the next few days, we’ll be looking at both types.
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