Hot Best Seller

Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth

Availability: Ready to download

Sonic Youth’s distinctive, uncompromising sounds have provided a map for innumerable musicians who followed, from ’90s groundbreakers like Nirvana and Pavement to current faves like the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. More than perhaps any other act, Sonic Youth has brought “fringe” art to the mainstream, helping spawn an alternative arts scene that prospers to this day: Sonic Youth’s distinctive, uncompromising sounds have provided a map for innumerable musicians who followed, from ’90s groundbreakers like Nirvana and Pavement to current faves like the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. More than perhaps any other act, Sonic Youth has brought “fringe” art to the mainstream, helping spawn an alternative arts scene that prospers to this day: a world of punk rock, underground films and comics, experimental music, conceptual art, contemporary classical compositions, and even fashion. In Goodbye 20th Century, David Browne tells the full glorious story of “the Velvet Underground of their generation,” an account based on extensive research, fresh interviews with the band and those who have worked with them (from Glenn Branca and Lydia Lunch to Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze), and unprecedented access to unreleased recordings and documents. This is a richly detailed portrait of an iconic band and the times they helped create.


Compare

Sonic Youth’s distinctive, uncompromising sounds have provided a map for innumerable musicians who followed, from ’90s groundbreakers like Nirvana and Pavement to current faves like the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. More than perhaps any other act, Sonic Youth has brought “fringe” art to the mainstream, helping spawn an alternative arts scene that prospers to this day: Sonic Youth’s distinctive, uncompromising sounds have provided a map for innumerable musicians who followed, from ’90s groundbreakers like Nirvana and Pavement to current faves like the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. More than perhaps any other act, Sonic Youth has brought “fringe” art to the mainstream, helping spawn an alternative arts scene that prospers to this day: a world of punk rock, underground films and comics, experimental music, conceptual art, contemporary classical compositions, and even fashion. In Goodbye 20th Century, David Browne tells the full glorious story of “the Velvet Underground of their generation,” an account based on extensive research, fresh interviews with the band and those who have worked with them (from Glenn Branca and Lydia Lunch to Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze), and unprecedented access to unreleased recordings and documents. This is a richly detailed portrait of an iconic band and the times they helped create.

30 review for Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ian "Marvin" Graye

    Soundtrack Part I ("Taking in the Sun in an Exaltation to You") Hey, indie music fans, listen to this (start with the first five minutes, the rest is noise, about which more later), while you read the first part of this review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdeTQP... "Looking for a Man with a Focus and a Temper" This 422 page book is jam packed with information about one of my favourite indie bands, Sonic Youth. Do I need to know all of these facts about Sonic Youth? Of course, I do. Would I like Soundtrack Part I ("Taking in the Sun in an Exaltation to You") Hey, indie music fans, listen to this (start with the first five minutes, the rest is noise, about which more later), while you read the first part of this review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdeTQP... "Looking for a Man with a Focus and a Temper" This 422 page book is jam packed with information about one of my favourite indie bands, Sonic Youth. Do I need to know all of these facts about Sonic Youth? Of course, I do. Would I like some opinions about them and their music? Some analysis of their musical appeal and their cultural importance? Some reasons to vindicate my 30 year old passion? Of course, I would. Am I alone in craving opinion and analysis? Maybe. Would I be just as passionate, if nobody else liked them as much as I do? Of course, I would. Still, did this book give me the opinions and analysis I craved for? Nuh. Did it give me just one outrageous opinion? Just a teeny weeny hint of how much David Browne loves the music of Sonic Youth more than the detail of their career trajectory? Perhaps, but I don’t remember it. David Browne is a man with a focus and no temper. Am I just going to crank up some Sonic Youth, listen to it through my headphones and not write a review of this book? Well, yes, yes, no. Artist: Justin Hampton http://www.justinhampton.com/index.html "Got a Foghorn and a Drum and a Hammer That’s Rockin’" I can’t read music or play an instrument. I don’t understand the difference between open tunings and standard tunings. So I’ll try to explain what I thought was happening in Sonic Youth’s music in the only way I can - with words (sorry if I get it wrong). I assumed that an open tuning was just the guitar strung normally, but no chords were being shaped by fingers being placed on the frets. Therefore, if the guitar was strummed, it would make no particular chord, so the music it created might be dissonant. I read everywhere that the music of Sonic Youth was dissonant, sometimes just noise, and I assumed that this was the explanation. But I was wrong. An open tuning can be set so that without placing your fingers on any frets, you would play a chord when you strummed all of the open strings. You are automatically within a chord or key. This makes it relatively easier to create melodies within that key by using your fingers on the frets. There is nothing intrinsically dissonant about this approach at all, although it’s possible to set up alternative tunings that just sound unusual or different from what we’re used to. For me, just trying to understand this was important, because I didn’t regard Sonic Youth’s music as particularly un-melodic. I detected melodies, light and shade, and I liked it. Music is a relationship between notes. As Thelonious Monk (and/or Art Tatum) said, there are no bum notes. All notes depend on how you resolve them, how they form a consonance with other notes. I don’t mean that Sonic Youth are all consonance, just that they’re not all dissonance. Their music creates a sense of pleasure, even when they utilise dissonance. "Looking for a Ride to Your Secret Location" A good example of what I [think I] mean is this live version of "Teenage Riot" from 2005 (the studio version dates from their 1988 album "Daydream Nation"): Sonic Youth - "Teenage Riot" (Live - Eurockéennes 2005) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdeTQP... This is the song from the start of my review. However, here is a second version: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x63v... The first is the full version with an extended feedback instrumental at the end. The second is just the song without the feedback. It seems to be better synchronized as well. "Teenage Riot" is not regarded as typical of Sonic Youth’s music. It uses a traditional verse/chorus structure and lacks much of the feedback they normally use in their songs. However, the extended version of this song has everything. This version is so amazing, it confirms my suspicion that it is their equivalent of the Rolling Stones’ "Satisfaction" or the Velvet Underground’s "Sweet Jane". It really is that good a song. Just observe and enjoy: • Lee in the left speaker, Thurston in the right (Jim O’Rourke on third guitar in there somewhere as well) • Lee’s power chords at 1:15 and 1:20 • Steve driving the song the whole way through • Kim’s frock strap slips off around 1:17 • Kim swaying at 1:30 • Jim O’Rourke on third guitar at 1:40 and 1:50 • Lee letting loose an amazing solo from 2:40 onwards • Everybody letting loose from 3:53 onwards • The feedback symphony that starts at 4:50 (in the longer version) Tabs: Here are some tabs for this song: http://www.911tabs.com/link/?3609096 Thurston’s Church Kicker T-shirt: Here's where you can get a t-shirt like the one Thurston was wearing in that show: http://evolvefish.com/fish/product306... Australian Tour: I saw Sonic Youth play the Enmore Theatre in Sydney on the Australian leg of this tour. On the flight back to Brisbane the following day, I realised that the band were on the same plane. I introduced myself to Thurston and Kim, and said how much I enjoyed the show. Thurston asked me for some advice about bookshops in Brisbane. He was looking for poetry, and I was able to send him off to two shops that might have what he was looking for. IanHeartKim Dream #9: Kim looked so hot and smart on the plane, and I promised to email her if they ever broke up as a couple. Of course, I've been tempted to follow up on my promise, since I learned that they had actually parted company. I'm older than Thurston, but younger than Kim. I don't know if this matters. To be honest, I'm afraid I mightn't be brainy enough for her. No other woman has ever fallen for my intellect before, so why would she? After a lot of cogitation and other big words, I drew a picture of Kim instead and I placed it in a prominent place in my Sonic Youth shrine. In the meantime, I try to enhance my intellect by reading difficult novels and hanging around anybody on GoodReads who lives in Manhattan or maybe Brooklyn at a pinch (as long as they like Don DeLillo and/or Paul Auster and/or Siri Hustvedt). I figure they must be really smart, if they can afford the rent. I hope you like my drawing. You're the only one I've showed it to. I'm not very good at fingers, but neither is Matt Groening. The tits are all right (if you don't mind me paraphrasing Lisa Cholodenko). Soundtrack Part II ("You're Perfect in the Way, a Perfect End Today") OK, now, stop for a moment and watch and listen to this video: Sonic Youth - "Sugar Kane" (Live - Jools Holland Show '92) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Hwbhd... Another classic, also in the vein of "Sweet Jane". Until finding the live version of "Teenage Riot" on YouTube, I probably would have said this was my favourite Sonic Youth song and possibly one of my top three songs of the nineties. Lee plays guitar with Steve’s chopsticks at 3:25. Yeah, OK, that’s dissonance. Soundtrack Part III ("Time Takes Its Crazy Toll") One more song for your listening pleasure: Sonic Youth - "Diamond Sea" (Live) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7x8jpQ... A more atmospheric use of feedback and effects on a seven minute live version of a song from their 1995 album, "Washing Machine". The alternative studio versions were 19 and 25 minutes long. [image error] "Everybody’s Sound is Round It" Apart from their music, the most significant characteristics of Sonic Youth are their longevity and their influence (what David Browne calls their "senior statesman" role). The band formed in 1981 and existed continuously until at least November, 2011, when Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon broke up their personal relationship, which was as old as the band itself (thirty years). As at mid-2012, the band is on hiatus, although some members and fans are confident that they’ll reform and release new music within the foreseeable future. Sonic Youth were a big influence on Kurt Cobain and Nirvana and were instrumental in getting them a deal with DGC Records (David Geffen Company Records) in 1990, only to see them eclipse their commercial success almost immediately with "Nevermind". The band also kickstarted Beck’s career with Geffen. "I Remember Our Youth, Our High Ideals" Sonic Youth never enjoyed the popularity and commercial success of other bands that joined them under the label "alternative rock" in the early 1990’s. They almost seemed to be too individualistic to be swept up in the wave that brought some bands a modicum of commercial success. The band always seemed to be one generation older, one step ahead and one step to the left of their peer group. It’s ironic that the subtitle of the book is "Sonic Youth and the Rise of the Alternative Nation". There is no explanation of the term "Alternative Nation" in the book. How widely was it ever used on the street? Was it just a commercial label for a TV show about the music? Does it imply that there was a nation of indie fans within the USA? Why does it sound so restricted to America, instead of reaching out to Canada, the UK, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand? Whatever the merits of the term, if you didn’t know better, you would assume that Sonic Youth were part of the rise of this Alternative Nation. However, within the body of the book, it soon becomes clear that the band stood part from the rise, and the rise occurred without them. Their fortunes stood opposed to the rise of the other bands. They missed out. They were in the slow lane and they were overtaken. "You Can Buy Some More and More and More and More" The book charts the decline in their record sales from a peak of around 300,000 to 70,000 copies by the time of "Rather Ripped". Of the fans who bought "Dirty", only one in four would buy "Murray Street", "Sonic Nurse", "Rather Ripped" or "The Eternal". When you speculate on their total record sales and the income they could have generated from sales, you have to question how a band of at least four members could survive financially in Manhattan. It’s difficult to see how they could have generated enough revenue from playing live and selling merchandising to make a decent living. "I Hope It Works Out My Way" Within this financial context, the book has little to trumpet about the success of Sonic Youth. The main sense of "accomplishment" is the simple fact that they [have] stayed together for so long, despite not making much money. Most, if not all, other bands would have fallen apart from the financial pressures, especially once band members got married, bought a home and had kids who needed to be raised and educated. This is the subject that needs to be examined, but isn’t. "Everybody Wants to be Proud to Choose" Sonic Youth formed in an era within popular culture when artistic integrity was valued and bands weren’t seen as commodities or brands within a market economy. To accept an offer from a major label was to "sell out", an accusation that was made against Sonic Youth when they joined David Geffen’s label. Ultimately, Sonic Youth fought for the right to make their music exactly the way they envisaged it for the whole of their career. Unlike punk musicians before them, there was an expectation that they could make a living out of their creativity. Unfortunately, as popular culture and commerce changed around Sonic Youth, fewer and fewer people cared enough about the music the band wanted to make to spend money on acquiring it. To the extent that any popular culture is an act of communication, they communicated with less and less people. I don’t want to suggest that they became egotistical or self-absorbed in the pursuit of their musical vision. However, one way or another, the band and their audience went separate ways. They pushed the envelope and nobody was there to fill it full of cash and return it to the sender. They asserted their integrity, they exercised their freedom, they made a choice, they were proud of their choice, but their financial return was commensurate with the limits of an audience of their own making. "Hits Are For Squares" The name of a recent compilation reveals their attitude to the concept of Hits: Here is the "Hits Are For Squares" Press Release: http://www.contactmusic.com/press/son... Note which artists selected which tracks for the compilation. Perhaps, Sonic Youth were less interested in the size of their audience than having the right audience. However, by taking this approach, they took the risk that they might not have the right size audience. "Where'd You Get Your Light, Your Smilin' Sugar Life?" It’s arguable that nobody is out there making music like this anymore, that fans too have changed in what they are seeking, that they are less patient with labels like “Alternative Music” or “Alternative Nation” and the implied attempts to build sub-cultures around a taste or a genre. If anything, fans, consumers, just see these terms as marketing labels. Sonic Youth also came from a generation that was equally comfortable producing or consuming music, art, photography, film, literature, fashion. They were polymorphous in their interests. They were true Renaissance men and women. However, it’s questionable whether the marketing machine that attempts to drive sales of today’s cultural commodities can handle such polymorphism, at least until, like Lady Gaga, an artist reaches a pinnacle of success that allows them to diversify. The only hope is that this type of independent artist will find an audience intuitively on the internet. David Browne hints, without actually saying it, that Sonic Youth are some kind of role model for a different way of making music. Part of me wants to agree with him, but then part of me believes that he is being too sentimental. Because music is such a physically demanding activity (unlike for example writing), there is a real risk that being in a band will continue to be something that people do in their youth and end up moving on to a “real job”. Only the very lucky (not necessarily the very talented) will make enough money from their creativity to sustain a lifestyle for the rest of their lives. Most, if they’re any good at all, will shine brightly for a moment in time, or perhaps a few moments, but few will enjoy a "smilin’ sugar life". I’m just grateful that Sonic Youth shone so brightly for as long as they did, and that the best minds of my generation were not destroyed by madness (or drugs). "You're Perfect in the Way, a Perfect End Today"

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kirsten

    The amount of nerding-out I did over this book was incredible. While there were a few incorrect details that I spotted here and there (and one that stuck out to me so much, I actually sent an email to David Browne - no word back yet, and none expected), overall the writing was incredibly cohesive, and although Browne had conducted interviews with the bands many years prior to taking on this project, his presence in the work was completely invisible. I actually borrowed this book, and have decide The amount of nerding-out I did over this book was incredible. While there were a few incorrect details that I spotted here and there (and one that stuck out to me so much, I actually sent an email to David Browne - no word back yet, and none expected), overall the writing was incredibly cohesive, and although Browne had conducted interviews with the bands many years prior to taking on this project, his presence in the work was completely invisible. I actually borrowed this book, and have decided it is a vital thing to have in my own book collection, and plan on purchasing my own copy soon - not only can I imagine myself reading it again in a year or two from now, it's a rich pop culture resource, seeing as you cannot have a worthwhile conversation about Sonic Youth without discussing their influences as well. While reading, I found myself desperately wanting to drop the book at times to immediately delve into any number of artists mentioned during one period or another of their career, but putting it down was simply impossible to do. I'm also quite excited to check out Browne's other biography of Jeff Buckley, in a schoolgirl-squee sort of way.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    Sonic Youth is one of the last bands I would have expected to be the impetus for an excellent biography. They're arty, obscure and almost entirely free of drama, drugs, angst or any of the other typical trappings befitting a book-worthy band. All the same, I was in Northampton, Mass. recently, where Sonic Youth's leading couple, Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon live (well, former couple - they recently separated after decades of marriage) and I was browsing in this terrific little mom 'n' pop bookst Sonic Youth is one of the last bands I would have expected to be the impetus for an excellent biography. They're arty, obscure and almost entirely free of drama, drugs, angst or any of the other typical trappings befitting a book-worthy band. All the same, I was in Northampton, Mass. recently, where Sonic Youth's leading couple, Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon live (well, former couple - they recently separated after decades of marriage) and I was browsing in this terrific little mom 'n' pop bookstore and I came across David Browne's Goodbye 20th Century, and the spirit just moved me. (Also, it was on sale in hardcover for $10.) As if the gods of Sonic Youth were smiling on me for my purchase, not 10 minutes later, I was sitting in a little basement cafe with my girlfriend and her sister, and who should walk by but the man himself, Thurston! We flagged him down and he very kindly signed the book for us. Moore's easy going reaction to us annoying fans shouting for his autograph in the middle of a crowded restaurant sums up the whole career of Sonic Youth in a nutshell. I've always known he was an awesome, extremely intelligent dude with a great sense of humor and a fervent supporter of underground music and literature, but as I learned from Browne's book, the band as a whole has always operated along a similar vibe, have never been particularly moved by the promise of fame and fortune, and have always done whatever the hell they want, professionally and artistically. As Browne's book makes clear, not only are they an unlikely subject for a biography, they were an unlikely band to have ever achieved the level of success that they did. Actually listening to their music, you can see why: with a few exceptions (the album "Rather Ripped," several individual tracks over dozens of other albums) it's loud, long, meandering, sometimes viciously so. They're obviously extremely unique and talented (Moore especially is one of the most innovative guitarists in history) but they're not particularly "fun" to listen to. Still, Sonic Youth achieved success. They were never quite a household name (though there was a time, amazingly, when major labels thought they could be) but they made enough money to buy houses, to raise families and along the way, they became one of the most revered "underground" acts in the world. (I put underground in quotes because though they've always had the spirit of an indie/underground act, they have also released more than half of their music on major labels.) Browne's book is great because he makes you realize all this through simply laying down the details of their career, brick by brick. There's nothing flowery about his writing. It's concise and articulate, yet packed with so much information, somehow 400 pages goes by before you know it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sophia Ordaz

    Wow, what an educational and comprehensive biography. The book boasts solid writing, illumating quotes from the band, and countless factoids that will enrich your listening experience of Sonic Youth to no end. Browne is clearly a shrewd music writer who does his research. I only wish I could have caught more glimpses of Browne's personality! I needed some attitude to liven things up because, at times, this biography begins resembling a history textbook with its lengthy rehashing of time, date, a Wow, what an educational and comprehensive biography. The book boasts solid writing, illumating quotes from the band, and countless factoids that will enrich your listening experience of Sonic Youth to no end. Browne is clearly a shrewd music writer who does his research. I only wish I could have caught more glimpses of Browne's personality! I needed some attitude to liven things up because, at times, this biography begins resembling a history textbook with its lengthy rehashing of time, date, and place. Still, if you're a Sonic Youth fan, you've got to read this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Less_cunning

    overall, this book reads like a very conventional biography but there are enough back-stories & anecdotes to keep fans of SY interested. "Goodbye 20th Century" does an effective job at revealing the internal dynamics of the band, which are very interesting & unique. it could have easily glossed over later-period SY but wisely does not. comprehensive & informative, but it seems to lack the compelling prose of "This Band Could Be Your Life" & "Rip It Up & Start It Again" or the stripped-down acade overall, this book reads like a very conventional biography but there are enough back-stories & anecdotes to keep fans of SY interested. "Goodbye 20th Century" does an effective job at revealing the internal dynamics of the band, which are very interesting & unique. it could have easily glossed over later-period SY but wisely does not. comprehensive & informative, but it seems to lack the compelling prose of "This Band Could Be Your Life" & "Rip It Up & Start It Again" or the stripped-down academic wonderment & red-hot cultural references of "Lipstick Traces." die-hard fans will love this book & those new to Sonic Youth will value "Goodbye 20th Century" as a valuable introduction. there is enough information online about discographies & gear lists, so that is demystified, but "Goodbye 20th Century" offers a start-to-finish narrative that is worth reading. it is a good book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mmleta

    Very dryly written. It almost hurt to finish.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Although it took me forever to finish it, I enjoyed reading about SY. Now I need to do the same with their music. I find their music difficult to enjoy, but I admire their lives and work as musicians. The author and various interviewees speculate that although their influence is hard to detect in later bands' music, their commitment to doing music their way is what inspired so many. I dig that.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tom Choi

    As biographies of musicians and bands go, this one is no "Hammer of the Gods." David Browne tastefully avoids the clichéd hyperboles of rock journalism and manages to present a detailed and well-rounded portrait of that band that everyone has heard of--but perhaps one that not too many people have actually listened. Admittedly, the story of Sonic Youth is rather boring as far as rock and roll biographies go: no sex, no drugs; no punchouts, walk-outs, and black outs; just rock and roll (and somet As biographies of musicians and bands go, this one is no "Hammer of the Gods." David Browne tastefully avoids the clichéd hyperboles of rock journalism and manages to present a detailed and well-rounded portrait of that band that everyone has heard of--but perhaps one that not too many people have actually listened. Admittedly, the story of Sonic Youth is rather boring as far as rock and roll biographies go: no sex, no drugs; no punchouts, walk-outs, and black outs; just rock and roll (and sometimes more, sometimes less). The robust story of the band in "Goodbye 20th Century" is a nice contrast to the Sonic Youth story as previously told by Michael Azzerad in "Our Band Could Be Your Life." In that book Azzerad portrays Sonic Youth as modern-day indie rock heroes: professionally ambitious, artistically focused, and resolute in all facets of their career. In David Browne's more nuanced biography, culled from many intimate interviews of band members (present and past), friends, associates, and family members, Sonic Youth comes across as less monolithic but a band that is fraught with setbacks, letdowns, and many happy accidents. The two author's contrasting views may very well be due to the stage in the career of Sonic Youth that the story was told. For Azzerad, writing at the end of the 1990s about the handful of iconic of indie rock of the 1980s, the fact that SY broke out (albeit briefly) into the mainstream and have endured for so long (with a major label backing, to boot) is a story in itself. Along with R.E.M., Sonic Youth represent the fortunate few who broke out from the shadows of the independent musicians. For Browne, who writes in the period after SY leaves its major label backer Geffen Records (DGC), the band's success isn't entirely triumphant but a series of small growths--artistic, critical and financial--not unlike the tale of the outsider bohemian artist gradually adapting to a middle-class lifestyle. The words of Flaubert resound: Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work. As the years pile on, a portrait of the band gradually appears in the four principal members: Lee Ranaldo is the nice guy, alpha male who loves to tinker with everything; Thurston Moore is the slightly aloof genius man-child whose various interests and daydreams fuel the band's every move; Kim Gordon is the reserved, de facto "voice" of the band who serves as the guardian of "Sonic Youth" as an idea, brand and business; and Steve Shelley is the unassuming go-getter whose work ethic mirrors its formation in indie and punk rock and the lone member who seems most closely connected to this day to the band's humble beginnings. Not quite a democracy--after all the band got it's name from Thurston and 1/2 of the band is married to each other--despite disagreements and occasional tensions, you get the sense that this band is decent in all aspects: loyal to their roots, respectful of its own history and influences, generous with its friends and fellow artists, and conscientious and scrupulous in their business dealings. The fact that the words "Sonic Youth" carries any cultural weight despite having a relatively small audience of people actually listen to them is attributed to the band's greatest strength: that of elevating the band "Sonic Youth" as a philosophical ideal that is higher than any individual ambition, monetary or critical success. To synthesize the chaos and dregs of his age into a higher ideal, Hegel created the State; fortunately for us, we have Sonic Youth.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Horton

    This book makes a great counterpart to Alec Foege's now-outdated "Confusion is Next: the Sonic Youth Story." While it doesn't capture the same grimy early-NYC vibe as that book - and frankly, the culture out of which SY sprung is incredibly important to truly "getting" the band's origins - it's significantly more comprehensive as a career overview. No element, tour, record, side project, etc. is slighted, with the exception of Made in U.S.A. and a few ephemeral side projects like the Velvet Monk This book makes a great counterpart to Alec Foege's now-outdated "Confusion is Next: the Sonic Youth Story." While it doesn't capture the same grimy early-NYC vibe as that book - and frankly, the culture out of which SY sprung is incredibly important to truly "getting" the band's origins - it's significantly more comprehensive as a career overview. No element, tour, record, side project, etc. is slighted, with the exception of Made in U.S.A. and a few ephemeral side projects like the Velvet Monkeys and Desperate Teenage Lovedolls, and all of the info in the book is derived from first-hand interviews with everyone in and around the band. Indispensable for SY aficionados.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    Not unlike one excruciatingly-long wikipedia article. It is upsetting to read the relegation of Lee Ranaldo to the back burner, he is truly the brains behind the band. For such interesting music, Sonic Youth certainly have a boring biography. Maybe it was just the author's take on the whole situation, but this offered no insight. The moral of the story: don't sign with an independent label, the major label will screw you over too, if you try to do it on your own - you will also fail. This book c Not unlike one excruciatingly-long wikipedia article. It is upsetting to read the relegation of Lee Ranaldo to the back burner, he is truly the brains behind the band. For such interesting music, Sonic Youth certainly have a boring biography. Maybe it was just the author's take on the whole situation, but this offered no insight. The moral of the story: don't sign with an independent label, the major label will screw you over too, if you try to do it on your own - you will also fail. This book could have benefited from more interaction with the members. I can't recommend it. Seriously, just let Sonic Youth remain as this detached mystery, you don't want to read about them changing dirty diapers.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Well put together with serious, intelligent writing. Browne really shows us the personalities of the band members and how their interpersonal dynamics have coalesced over the years. His commentary on their actual music is not exactly deep or revelatory, but he does cover all of it. The first part of the book is definitely the stronger, as it really gives you a sense of how the outsider music scene in new york in the late 70's and early 80's developed and how a group of people managed to create s Well put together with serious, intelligent writing. Browne really shows us the personalities of the band members and how their interpersonal dynamics have coalesced over the years. His commentary on their actual music is not exactly deep or revelatory, but he does cover all of it. The first part of the book is definitely the stronger, as it really gives you a sense of how the outsider music scene in new york in the late 70's and early 80's developed and how a group of people managed to create something approximating an actual community out of the drug-riddled urban wasteland that New York was in that era.

  12. 4 out of 5

    tim

    There were moments I wished this book had been written by someone less distant and more of a fan, but kudos are due to David Browne for his copious research and meticulous organization. The strongest parts of the book for me are the chapters covering Sonic Youth's formation and early years as well as their more recent projects including everything from their brief collaboration with Jim O'Rourke on. The middle section borders on dull regurgitation of facts, however, there is enough fun informati There were moments I wished this book had been written by someone less distant and more of a fan, but kudos are due to David Browne for his copious research and meticulous organization. The strongest parts of the book for me are the chapters covering Sonic Youth's formation and early years as well as their more recent projects including everything from their brief collaboration with Jim O'Rourke on. The middle section borders on dull regurgitation of facts, however, there is enough fun information throughout for any fan.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Brown

    Like many books of its kind, this suffers from a "then they recorded this. then they recorded this. then they recorded this..." repetition. Still, I loved reading about the early years of Sonic Youth, back when Richard Edson was their drummer (long before he played Vito in Do the Right Thing), when Paul Smith was hanging around the band, and before Kim Gordon became an uber-fashionista. A good read about one of the more interesting bands of my time.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    CURRENTLY READING REVIEW: I'm rating this 4 stars having only read about 50-60 pages. This book NEEDED to be written. I read "Confusion is Next" and wasn't totally thrilled by it because it WASN'T THIS BOOK. I'll be taking this one as slow as the TALKING HEADS book just so I can stretch it out. READ REVIEW: This is a MUST for any SY fan out there. So much amazing detail outlined in this thing. Every nook & cranny of their career is laid out. Just a long, fantastic read, worth every page turn. CURRENTLY READING REVIEW: I'm rating this 4 stars having only read about 50-60 pages. This book NEEDED to be written. I read "Confusion is Next" and wasn't totally thrilled by it because it WASN'T THIS BOOK. I'll be taking this one as slow as the TALKING HEADS book just so I can stretch it out. READ REVIEW: This is a MUST for any SY fan out there. So much amazing detail outlined in this thing. Every nook & cranny of their career is laid out. Just a long, fantastic read, worth every page turn.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Greg Swallow

    The major problem with this book is that it dwells on the band's recording career, and what the band could have been (which people are just coming around to). The biographical bits of this book are a minor theme, which I was more interested in. Overall it's a great read. It's especially fun to steal/borrow/buy the albums as you go along, comparing your impressions of each album with the author's narrative.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Arthur Cravan

    Okay, I'm writing this a little later than I maybe should have (& am about to start writing some reviews a lot later than I definitely should have), but I'll throw in my main feelings & add anything extra later if it comes to me. I liked this book because it told the story of Sonic Youth. I got a great history leading up to circa Rather Ripped era & learned a lot, because I really didn't know much. It opened me up to listening to some of their earlier stuff which I'd earlier been afraid of (heath Okay, I'm writing this a little later than I maybe should have (& am about to start writing some reviews a lot later than I definitely should have), but I'll throw in my main feelings & add anything extra later if it comes to me. I liked this book because it told the story of Sonic Youth. I got a great history leading up to circa Rather Ripped era & learned a lot, because I really didn't know much. It opened me up to listening to some of their earlier stuff which I'd earlier been afraid of (heathenish acts of the phoney fan, I know). But I had an issue with Browne's writing style. He has no flair, which is no cardinal sin in a biography, but the problem is it seems he thinks he has, & ends up doing things I find silly (example: beginning of Ch5, introduction to Steve Shelley). This doesn't happen too often, but enough to grate on me. More noticeably, I find he tries to fit in shit that has no business being fit in - I get the feeling he interviewed some people & almost added some stuff they said in there as some kind of acknowledgement/bread-breaking with them (from memory, an example is towards the end of the Shelley section where they include this quote from his dad - I know this is all vague, but I'm just tryna back myself up with the shifting sand of memory I have at my disposal). Adding to that, there are numerous little things I found ridiculous - especially in the context of my upcoming complaint - like mentioning "Jim Belushi walked in some night they were playing" - (this is not an exact quote) - "& said he'd come back, but he didn't." Or later, talking about which execs were at some party, he mentions a bunch of names including "x may have been there." You know, like, a) who gives a shit & b) you're not even sure if he was there. So how could this possibly impact the story of Sonic Youth? It's not a particularly gossipy book, but shit like this doesn't make it seem like it wouldn't have been if Browne could have helped it. & though those are more stylistic (I guess) choices, my main complaint was the lack of credence given to their solo albums. In the timeline - & the book is generally very linear & chronological - once it got past a certain point, I was like "Huh, maybe I got my own dates wrong, maybe the solo albums came later", because they weren't mentioned at all. When Browne's talking about random people who may or may not have been at some party, I figure he's trying to be as inclusive & tell-all as possible, so it's impossible he'd miss actual crucial steps in the growth of the band members such as whole albums they were recording by themselves & what that meant for them, or the band dynamic, right? Wrong. In the last section of the book some of these projects get rather cursory mentions ("This proved Thurston could make acoustic music after all! Fin."), & when I realized this cat just didn't seem to give a shit or understand what this must have meant for the people involved - while he will tell the most mundane - &, yes, sometimes gossipy - stories in earlier sections... I just couldn't believe it. So, while I'm spending a lot of time complaining here, I did enjoy the book & did learn a lot. I just obviously have some issues with the way things were handled. & while it's no fault of Browne's, it's a shame we weren't able to get a history all the way up to their dissolution - their story as a band is, for all intents & purposes, now officially over.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    After a college show back in the early 2000s, a member of the audience came up to me and said our band sounded like Sonic Youth. I had no idea who Sonic Youth was at the time and I wouldn't for a quite a few years. I am not sure why this book or this band took so long to ever check out. In a way, I'm disappointed it took this long to explore. At any rate, this book was a great view in the world of Sonic Youth and highly recommend it to anyone interested in pop culture, music, or art. Great persp After a college show back in the early 2000s, a member of the audience came up to me and said our band sounded like Sonic Youth. I had no idea who Sonic Youth was at the time and I wouldn't for a quite a few years. I am not sure why this book or this band took so long to ever check out. In a way, I'm disappointed it took this long to explore. At any rate, this book was a great view in the world of Sonic Youth and highly recommend it to anyone interested in pop culture, music, or art. Great perspective into the way things shook out. After reading this book, I am left with hoping that maybe I can have an impact like they did at some point in my own life.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Neil Vanderwerf

    Recommended to Sonic Youth fans, fans of noise rock, alternative rock, experimental rock, indie rock, post-punk and no wave. As someone who spent many years in record stores, talking to fellow fans of the non-mainstream I was shocked to learn how few records SY sold. Immensely influential, perhaps more in terms of attitude than the actual music, Sonic Youth is an IMPORTANT band. David Browne does a great job of taking us from the origins to almost the end of their run (2006's Rather Ripped). Rec Recommended to Sonic Youth fans, fans of noise rock, alternative rock, experimental rock, indie rock, post-punk and no wave. As someone who spent many years in record stores, talking to fellow fans of the non-mainstream I was shocked to learn how few records SY sold. Immensely influential, perhaps more in terms of attitude than the actual music, Sonic Youth is an IMPORTANT band. David Browne does a great job of taking us from the origins to almost the end of their run (2006's Rather Ripped). Recommended.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Michael Brown

    A good straight up history of the indie/avant garde rock band.The aesthetic analyses of the music are good, as far as they go. Unfortunately it's very US centric. Browne tends to skate over SY's non-US and indeed non-NYC influences, as well as their broader global impact on the indie scene which has been considerable. Theres nothing about their overseas tours, except of Europe. But as a story of career survival over 30 odd years it's pretty interesting.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hamish

    really informative for someone who only had a surface level knowledge of the band, just a shame it ended before things REALLY got interesting in the band... very well written and i appreciate that it didn't take too long to get stuck into things. a respectable bio.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Shauna

    Fairly journalistic-styled comprehensive story of Sonic Youth (though ending before the ultimate finish of their journey as a band). A lot of information, some of it somewhat superfluous, but interesting nonetheless.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Eric Gilliland

    Good overview of Sonic Youth and their music. Writing style is clear, but a bit ponderous at times.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Great

  24. 4 out of 5

    Scott

    A fast read and very informative look at one of the most important bands of independent music of the past half century. Also a rare look into the internal workings of SY.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Eric Cartier

    "The Sonic Youth saga is the tale of a young couple who meet, start a band, find equally driven and compatible musicians to further their vision, and then proceed on a winding creative journey now entering its third decade." Any SY fans who have and love at least a few of the group's albums will enjoy this book. Biographer David Browne does a particularly fine job of capturing Moore, Gordon and Ranaldo when they were young, describing the grim atmosphere of New York City in the 70s and 80s, and c "The Sonic Youth saga is the tale of a young couple who meet, start a band, find equally driven and compatible musicians to further their vision, and then proceed on a winding creative journey now entering its third decade." Any SY fans who have and love at least a few of the group's albums will enjoy this book. Biographer David Browne does a particularly fine job of capturing Moore, Gordon and Ranaldo when they were young, describing the grim atmosphere of New York City in the 70s and 80s, and charting the struggles the group faced when it decided to sign to a major label. He also interviewed almost every person in the SY universe: filmmakers, artists, musicians, designers, producers, family members, friends, hangers-on, etc. Although the book, published in 2008, concludes too hastily, it's the most comprehensive biography of the group to date. The book is not, as one of the blurb-contributors opined, "exquisitely written." There are too many clunky lines, cliches, and consecutive sentences beginning with the same word; the editor is not to be praised. Poor fact-checking also upsets its claim to be "the definitive biography," even if its glossy pages include "more than 60 rare photos" (e.g., Nick Cave is Australian, not British, and William S. Burroughs lived in Kansas, not Nebraska). Worst of all, Browne relegates SY's soundtrack work to a single paragraph in the final quarter of the 400-page book, neglects to mention "Silver Sessions" and fails to include even a basic discography. Not cool, dude. Nevertheless, the book offers a fascinating view into the lives of extraordinarily productive, responsible adults who have created compelling, organized chaos on record and on stage, all of which has inspired an untold number of artists. Browne elicited some revealing quotes from the group and its sprawling network, and spun some fine sentences, too, a few of which are below. To casual fans who haven't yet listened to "Sister," "EVOL," "Sonic Nurse" or "Rather Ripped," attend to them first. For the initiated, add this bio to your to-read list. - Thurston Moore, on the group's initial approach to its sound: "'What if we really just played anything on the guitar?' It totally destroyed any preconceived idea of rock and roll as a rhythm-and-blues-based music. It was totally liberating." - Browne, on Moore and Ranaldo harnessing feedback: "At some point, one or another of them would turn around and begin waving his guitar in front of an amp--twisting and turning the instrument, sacrificing it to the amplifier, until an ungodly din would overtake whatever song they were playing." - CS's perfect observation: "With O'Rourke still handling a number of the bass parts, as well as guitar and effects pedals, Gordon was able to dance onstage during the songs she sang, doing what Chloe Sevigny admiringly referred to her as her 'jump-rope' move." - Browne, on "Daydream Nation": "The material had a wide-open, panoramic feel, as if the songs were taking their time to get to where they wanted to go and then revving to full power once they arrived."

  26. 4 out of 5

    Marcelo F.

    A essential complement if you read Girl In A Band

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    I thumbed through this book recently at a record store, to kill time while my friends combed through the vinyl section (I don't have a record player). The book had two strikes against it before I picked it up: 1) It'd been at least ten years since I considered myself a Sonic Youth fan, and 2) I already read a book about them when I was in high school (Alec Foege's Confusion Is Next). After skimming through it for a few minutes, though, I was hooked and had to buy it. In a nutshell, this is one o I thumbed through this book recently at a record store, to kill time while my friends combed through the vinyl section (I don't have a record player). The book had two strikes against it before I picked it up: 1) It'd been at least ten years since I considered myself a Sonic Youth fan, and 2) I already read a book about them when I was in high school (Alec Foege's Confusion Is Next). After skimming through it for a few minutes, though, I was hooked and had to buy it. In a nutshell, this is one of the best music biographies I've ever read. It cuts through their hip mystique to reveal the hardworking, somewhat-square (in a good way), and thoughtful artists beneath. It reignited my respect and love for this music (except for their last 3 proper albums, which I still think show them going through the motions -- their hearts were more in their solo and side projects by then). Even to a former superfan, it's also packed with facts and stories I never knew about. One side note: this book ends at the Rather Ripped era, and the elephant in the room while reading it now is that it was obviously written before Kim and Thurston's divorce and the band's indefinite hiatus. This unfortunately gives the book a bittersweet and/or awkward feeling at times, not that this is the author's fault. The highlights of this book for me were: - Thurston's story about being hired to play at Keanu Reeves' 30th birthday party, which resulted in Thurston and bassist Mike Watt playing in the middle of an ice-skating rink in Burbank, while movie stars skated around them. - Jim O'Rourke's intense 9/11 story -- he was sleeping at Sonic Youth's studio 2 blocks from the WTC and, convinced he was about to die, hugged the two stuffed animals he always travels with. The story of Jim and other friends of the band all gathering and temporary living at Kim and Thurston's Northampton house after 9/11 was also very moving, and pretty much sums up what this band was all about.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    I picked up this book pretty cheap in New York after hearing Sonic Youth being played pretty much everywhere I went in the city. Was a good book to read after being in NY given that so much of the band's history is based there - however, I can't say it was the most gripping rock biog i've read. Part of the problem was that Sonic Youth don't really have a terribly exciting back story, and to be fair to the author he acknowledges as much in the introduction, stating that "do not expect any sex, dru I picked up this book pretty cheap in New York after hearing Sonic Youth being played pretty much everywhere I went in the city. Was a good book to read after being in NY given that so much of the band's history is based there - however, I can't say it was the most gripping rock biog i've read. Part of the problem was that Sonic Youth don't really have a terribly exciting back story, and to be fair to the author he acknowledges as much in the introduction, stating that "do not expect any sex, drugs and rock & roll". However, the things that were pretty interesting about the band (such as their friendships with Kurt Cobain, Mike Watt and other, as well as their interactions with A listers like Macaulay Culkin and Chloe Sevigny) are glossed over in favour of extended descriptions of the recording sessions for each album (interesting enough for Bad Moon Rising and EVOL, but pretty tedious by the time you get to 1000 Leaves). Would also have been good if the author got more under of the skin of those in the band and the personal relationships between them, but he may have been restricted by the information available to him. However, it was pretty readible and the stuff about the band's early days was particularly interesting, especially the initial links with the No Wave and avant-garde art scenes in early 80s New York. Worth reading if you're a fan of the band, but otherwise, there are more interesting music books you could read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steven

    I was curious to see what this book could be about since Sonic Youth have lead a relatively quiet life in regards to a limelight focused on outrageous antics. So what you get are the goods: the insights on each band member including Bob Bert and O'rourke. You get to read about each album, the studios, the recordings, the tours, all the way up to Rather Ripped. And of course the many many people who have come to revolve around SY. I was especially amused to read about a young Keaunu Reeves smitte I was curious to see what this book could be about since Sonic Youth have lead a relatively quiet life in regards to a limelight focused on outrageous antics. So what you get are the goods: the insights on each band member including Bob Bert and O'rourke. You get to read about each album, the studios, the recordings, the tours, all the way up to Rather Ripped. And of course the many many people who have come to revolve around SY. I was especially amused to read about a young Keaunu Reeves smitten with Kim Gordon and any story involving Richard Kern has heaps of violence and sex. David Browne's writing is invigorating and keeps the text pushing forward. His description of songs is superb, even convincing me to give re-listens to albums that I wasn't the biggest fan of. And really what more could you ask from a book than to be reconnected to music, videos, and memories. I couldn't help but think about my trips back in the mid-90s to Princeton Record Exchange where my friend and I would argue vehemently and with disappointment that Sonic Youth was over. Now it's practically 2009- we were kids- what did we know?

  30. 5 out of 5

    10thumbs

    A very interesting look at a band I've admired more than loved. A good look into the life and times of Sonic Youth -- spanning more than 20 years. The one thing that kept it from 4-stars is that Browne overloads the first 75 pages or so (detailing the forming of the bad) with a confusing web of names -- many of whom seem largely inconsequential in the larger story of SY -- to the point where it was hard to keep straight who was who and how they related. But the book opens up, and finds it's pace A very interesting look at a band I've admired more than loved. A good look into the life and times of Sonic Youth -- spanning more than 20 years. The one thing that kept it from 4-stars is that Browne overloads the first 75 pages or so (detailing the forming of the bad) with a confusing web of names -- many of whom seem largely inconsequential in the larger story of SY -- to the point where it was hard to keep straight who was who and how they related. But the book opens up, and finds it's pace nicely. The last 6 years or so of the band cover only about that same amount of pages (75 or so) making for an equally odd conclusion. But overall recommended for anyone who's followed along but not very closely with SY's rich history.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.