February 05, 2005



(Written last summer.)

I did two things while writing this that I have not done before. I played the “Corporate Ghost” DVD on my laptop while writing. It only sort of worked. I also listened to the Sonic YouthMixtape,” a streaming audio source available on the SY home page. I had never previously listened to anyone’s streaming audio.

The first thing I noticed in this series of twenty-three videos is that there is lots of making out, most of it committed by teens. The second thing I noticed is that Sonic Youth are good scouts. This DVD contains pre-peak appearances by Todd Haynes, Kathleen Hanna, Chloe Sevigny, Sleater-Kinney, and some French guy I know I should know. Should you watch “Corporate Ghost,” you will also see good post-peak appearances by Kim Deal, Eszter Balint and Macauly Culkin (though his appearance in the “Sunday” video might have been a second pre-peak peak for him). The third thing I thought was that being old is not just a hideous descent into neurosis and chronic pain and misery (though it is that, holler!) but it is also like adding a wing to your house. You fuck with your life conceptually, physically sledgehammer it into a pylon of memories and then clap it all back together. What’s left is neither this nor that. Steam from old dumplings rises through the silt of new drywall and the stinky sealant surrounding the new photo of the old days. More relevant: The electricity for one part of the house is connected to the electricity for the other part of the house. If you fuck with any part of the house, the whole thing goes dark. So it’s a bit hard for me to say anything about Sonic Youth. There’s a Big Mac’s worth of Sonic Youth documents piled up in my headhouse and I can barely take one out without fifteen others floating to the floor.

I kerblabbed about this in a piece which the Chicago Reader, friend of technology, has not seen fit to archive for you, you with the portable processing unit. If you don’t like Sonic Youth, you probably won’t like the piece. And “liking’ Sonic Youth is exactly the thing I can’t tell you about. I listened to “Sonic Nurse” in the summer. I can think of reasons to reject it and the band as easily as I can figure out where my left turn signal is. (Quick, I tell you, I am quick like bird.) And I never do. I never take the album off and I never stop getting little flushes of placedness, a pleasure that the world around me can turn into a blown bubble just because I played a record. I never thought Kim was up to much in any department, Thurston’s losing some of his considerable charm and Lee’s pop foot is not so good no more. They’re still motherpopping Sonic Youth and I still live in their country.

The fourth thing I thought is that almost all of these videos suck. You can’t blame Geffen—the band commentary makes clear that either through inability to market as a team, or by dint of will or just because of luck, the band called its own shots. So you get Friend Videos, which are even worse than Friend Rock, and Band Videos, over which charity begs us to skip. The only one I would show to a normal person is the Mark Romanek video for “Little Trouble Girl,” which features Kim Deal in a green dress and an alien. Your video, should you finally make it, should have both Kim Deal in a green dress and an alien, because these things work on TV. And on the laptop.

But wait, I have forgotten to tell you about my favorite video, because I don’t think it's a Sonic Youth video. It is the video for “Bull in The Heather,” which features Kathleen Hanna. The video gives us flashbulb glimpses of Hanna, because that’s what post-90s editing does. This is good for Sonic Youth, in a temporary way, because more than a glimpse of Hanna would powerpuff them right off the screen. She doesn’t exude or ooze or bleed star power—she fires it left and right, like someone squeezing on an omnidrectional shoulder-mounted Now Gun. She is Lolita and Iggy in the same sweater, flirting with everyone (except Lee), rocking pigtails and outside panties, hopping and frugging and pinky-ring pimping you out of your mindset. She can dance, she can hold the camera’s gaze, and she can make you breathless for what she’ll do next. Sonic Youth can’t do any of that. At all. They never did. Watching Hanna actually rock—and this feeds my suspicion that Sonic Youth were never, God bless then, a rock band—I realize I’ve been fucking up the electricity in my head by trying to make Sonic Youth 87 or 93 connect with Me 04. Was Sonic Youth an actual thing I needed to carry, or just the point of convergence I stumbled upon, the gelatin medium for the drink I needed to drink before I could see level twelve? In 1979, I liked a band at my school called Pandemonium because they played “Jumping Jack Flash” in the fourth floor auditorium and I had never heard amplified music so they were my favorite band until I saw another one. Were Sonic Youth just my fifteenth Pandemonium?

I can’t judge any of this using my 1988 head, the one that grew like moss around the Daydream Nation cassette and helped produce a collaborative resonance between music and brain that, I still think, melted some things in my head. (This is bad and good: Some mechanisms are permanently burned into the most efficient position while others can no longer swivel and, because of this, I will miss things.) That time is gone. I have long since decamped to The Place Where One Must Rock More Reliably, because life changes and I don’t have any quiet beanbags upon which to recline with my sistren youths. I know this, though, back in the here and now: You are asking for some comparison trouble when you invite someone over to your rock house and it turns out you have invited Kathleen Hanna at her cherriest and fieriest, sexier in retardo sneakers than a putative burlesque outfit, dropping dance routines like a truck bumping down a mountain road and disbursing ripe mangoes at the shock of every pothole. She steals more than the video. She takes the moment, the baton, the crown, the mandate, all of it. You can hit stop at that point, unless you really love Sonic Youth. I really love Sonic Youth. I love them so much I, a grown ass man, put the free sticker from the “Corporate Ghost” DVD on my laptop, today, even though this is a patently stupid thing to do. That’s love for you.

Posted by Sasha at February 5, 2005 08:54 AM | TrackBack