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Screaming Fields of Sonic Love

Sonic Youth

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Album Review

Sonic Youth was never a singles band — they may have released many 7" singles, but they rarely paid attention to conventional song structure, which meant their ideas couldn't always be distilled in the form of one three-minute song. Consequently, the idea of a compilation of highlights from their peak years at SST Records is a little odd, since each of their recordings — from masterworks like Sister and Daydream Nation to one-offs like Ciccone Youth's The Whitey Album and their EPs — worked as a cohesive, individual entity. That said, the 17-track SST overview Screaming Fields of Sonic Love isn't nearly as bad as some die-hard fans might have suspected. It's true that it feels a little haphazard, but its ingenious sequencing — running backward from 1988's Daydream Nation — makes their noisier, atonal early recordings sound more accessible. And that means that the compilation is, in a weird way, a good choice for neophytes, since it does offer an easy introduction to the group's seminal '80s records. Longtime followers won't find anything unusual here, apart from edits of "Teen Age Riot" and "Candle," but it isn't designed for them — it's for the curious, and it will likely whet their appetites.


Formed: 1981 in New York, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Sonic Youth were one of the most unlikely success stories of underground American rock in the '80s. Where contemporaries R.E.M. and Hüsker Dü were fairly conventional in terms of song structure and melody, Sonic Youth began their career by abandoning any pretense of traditional rock & roll conventions. Borrowing heavily from the free-form noise experimentalism of the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, and melding it with a performance art aesthetic borrowed from the New York post-punk avant-garde,...
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