A Record Named Goo

It's all 'Goo': Everything old is new again for Sonic Youth
Christian Lantry

Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth are the new Led Zeppelin. No, really! If you don't believe me, peek past their bin card at the nearest record store and check out the sticker on the new double disc of their 1990 major-label debut, Goo: "Reissued. Remastered. Bonus Disc." Some might assume that Sonic Youth have simply adopted the music industry standard of milking an established audience by teasing out the (re)issuance of everything ever recorded in slow, perpetual, purchasable skeet, dropping fancy versions of your old favorites (warped vinyl copies of which are currently mildewing in your parents' basement in Anoka) just in time for the holidays. But as a band, Sonic Youth have always maintained a commitment to archiving, preserving, and making their work accessible to anyone who wants to have her life changed by their post-wave clangery.

Also, unlike most bands, their "alternate takes" are often radical reworkings, their bootlegs and B-sides as visceral and vital as official commercial releases. Still, they follow the reissue protocols to a T: A bonus disc of rare material and a booklet featuring a zillion pages of color photos are accompanied by hyperbolic, true-believer liner notes written by a compadre (Does Byron Coley even have another job?) about how this album changed the world! How it perfectly encapsulated a moment in time! Nostalgia can eat it, but Coley has a point. Goo is worth preserving under glass.

It was, by all accounts, the band's turning point, and the album that became the rationale for every punk/post-punk band that has signed to a major label since. Listening to it now, in the context of mainstream pop, even Goo's singles, "Dirty Boots" and "Kool Thing," seem outré. The blast 'n' scrape of "Scooter + Jinx" or Confusion Is Sex-era throwback "Mildred Pierce" are downright Promethean. Unlike almost every album of the era they helped usher in (see: "grunge"), Goo sounds undated. But it's also as dualistically sweet and violent as the SST albums that established Sonic Youth, despite its reputation as the group's most "straight" work. This reissue's second disc dishes some shizz that's been floating around for some time, like a collection of eight-track demos from back when the album was almost titled Blowjob (which collector scum know as a 1991 vinyl-only fan club release). Its curdled, messy smallness makes the rejiggered Goo seem that much more incandescent, but the bonus meed that makes disc two worth it is "Interview Soundsheet." Originally issued as a promo-only flexi disc, it features Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon explaining a few choice lyrical concepts. "Every song is a dirty boot, now wave suit, electric scoot. Yeah, it's...[sighs] proletariat laughter," Moore whispers in a post-coital husk, trailing off, then riffing about Avenue A and Patti Smith, and outro-ing by scatting "hey" a dozen times. Gordon's interview is rife with feminist pop culture riffing and bons mots like "What did Patti Hearst dream about in that closet?," "Aerobics could have saved Karen Carpenter's life," and the killer kiss-off, "Girls invented punk, not the English."

Word from on high is the band is compiling a Daydream Nation box set for a 2006 release. Live albums, outtakes, offish bootlegs, and now box sets will be ours. Prepare to be milked.

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