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In the mid-'80s, NYC's Sonic Youth had been slowly expanding from its initial drones and feedback to incorporate more conventional rock-song structures into its alternate tunings and tough rhythmic scrapes. The band was still determined to play things loud and dirty, but the arrival of drummer Steve Shelley gave Sonic Youth an elastic dimension that was immediately clear with its powerful new material. The opener here, "Tom Violence," plods with a heavy metal band's intensity in its ringing discordance, while "Shadow of a Doubt" follows with whispered and spoken intentions that enforce the group's noir cadences. However, it's the album's original finale, "Expressway to Yr. Skull" (also known to fans as "Madonna, Sean and Me")—with its reverberating feedback and death-grip tension—that signaled the band's dynamic control. The addition of the positively poppy bonus cut "Bubblegum" points to the band's further move into modern garage rock, where vocal harmonies and other "pretty" touches like consonant guitar chords spruce up Sonic Youth's once-drab industrial tones without losing the grit or grime of its essence.

Customer Reviews

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This is a fantastic album by Sonic Youth and you should certainly listen to it, or at the very least "Madonna, Sean, and Me" a.k.a. "Expressway to Yr. Skull".


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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