A Musical Journey with Nicklas: Part 1 – Sonic Youth e.p 1982
I first discovered sonic youth in 1988 when my local record dealer just wouldn’t let me leave without having bought the two lp set Daydream Nation simply based on the fact that he knew how much I loved the jesus and mary chain’s debut Psychocandy and the more experimental and spacey aspects of Pink Floyd. After playing it front to back and back to front all day and all night I was back at his store the next day picking up both EVOL and Sister, (both of which are among my favourite Sonic Youth albums) along with the Death Valley 69 single/ep. From there on I was hooked like a swordfish on a harpoon. The rest could be said to be history. My own personal musical history that is and that’s the one we’re going to follow on this musical journey. I kept returning for more and I can still remember the anticipation tingling in my spine when I picked up my pre-ordered copy of Goo. Sweet mother of … wow. It felt like that singular moment before the first time you kiss someone you’re in love with beyond all reason, and what a kiss it was too but we’ll get back to that some other time.
Anyhow … Their eponymous debut ep/mini-lp always seemed to elude me somehow and I didn’t come into possession of it until the mid-90s. Hearing it for the first time after having experienced masterpieces such as: Confusion is Sex, Goo, EVOL, Sister, Washing Machine and of course Daydream Nation, came as something of a surprise I have to admit. I had expected it to be noisier, more in the same vein as Confusion or even Sonic Death [that I’d got hold of a few years earlier at a garage sale for something like 50p. The version/s of The Burning Spear that can be heard on it was probably a large part in my expectations of the debut]. In short I had expected the same raw primal energy from the studio output as from the live version I had encountered. Instead the energy that hit me with that combined single hit of drum/crash was completely different than anything I hade even thought imaginable but it was still quite intense and electrifying and that was really all it took for me to throw all expectations out the window. My auditory senses began to tingle and my spine began to shiver and then the bass riff had me dancing and then when the noise hit about halfway through The Burning Spear I simply knew without any doubt that I loved this record and that it had been well worth the wait. I gave myself completely to the music and danced away. Well dancing might be stretching it a bit. what I call dancing has been compared by some to an epileptic fit in slow-motion. As soon as I’d played it all the way through I flipped it back over and played it again, and again.
It is partly the sheer danceability and utter grooviness of this ep that sometimes still surprise me even today. Sure, Kim has doled out some pretty danceable funky grooves – like for instance becuz from Washing Machine – over the year but never as consistently or as funky as on this ep, or maybe that is just my mind playing tricks on me. It could very well be that it is. Either way; this is still one of my favourite dance records of all times, right up there along with Sandinista by The Clash and Screamadelica by Primal Scream.
To pick out any favourite tracks from this one is hard, not to say impossible. Somehow I always start with The Burning Spear and The Good and the Bad, then I’m like yea … but … I Dreamed I Dream is also an awesome song and so is She is Not Alone. and I Don’t Want To Push It is pretty cool too and there you have the “problem”. There are no fillers on this release and why should there be. It is after all an ep. Eps shouldn’t have fillers since they can’t really get away with it.
Some years later in 2003 as my local record dealer was forced to shut down, because of dwindling sales, he gave me this cassette version of the ep as a sort of reverse going away present I s’pose. He’d found it at the bottom of a box in the back of his storage room when he was doing his final inventory. At first I could hardly believe it. Could THIS be the infamous cassette version with the songs played backwards on the b-side??? It was! I almost kissed him right there, because words just could not say thank you enough. To me it was the closest thing to the holy grail. What these reversed tracks offer is in many ways just a novelty. It is however also, as I see it, an absolutely brilliant. almost ingenious idea for a cassette b-side.
As for my third version of this ep, the cd release from 2006 with outtakes and live tracks.
Hard Work is an early version of I Don’t Want To Push It which really doesn’t add or subtract much from the studioversion in my opinion.
The same can be said for the live version of Where The Red Ferns Grow, which is an early alternate version of I Dreamed I Dream.
The Burning Spear without that drum/crash intro that so defines it as a song. Yes it’s still good but compared to the finished studio version somewhat disappointing.
Cosmpolitan Girl and Destroyer appears to be the only songs that hasn’t been released before in one version or other and ever since I first heard Cosmopolitan Girl I’ve kinda wondered why it never made it onto the finished ep. No room for it perhaps? This is actually the only song among the bonus tracks that made me lift an eyebrow and go hmmm … Yea.
Loud and Soft seems to me to be an early version of The Good and the Bad that doesn’t add or subtract much of anything really.
Destroyer is well … to be perfectly honest I don’t know what it is really, a funky instrumental rocker that I think might have been a nice addition to a full length lp version of this ep, although it would probably also be the first but perhaps also the only filler.
The live version of She Is Not Alone is actually pretty darned good. It brings a bit more of that raw energy I was initially expecting from the original release and I say that without intentionally or otherwise diminishing the studio version in any way.
The studio version of Where the Red Ferns Grow is I think pretty cool and one of the finer moments of the bonus tracks.
While the value of these bonus tracks may not be of as much artistic value as they are of … umm … archaeological they show the band in the process of writing their debut ep and such things are of course almost always interesting. What also makes them interesting is the idea of what Sonic Youth’s debut could have been if they had finished songs like Cosmopolitan Girl and Destroyer. Perhaps neutral records just didn’t have the funds to put out a full length lp and the world will never know. But at least now we can close our eyes and imagine.
I read one review on [rateyourmusic.com] stating that this ep is almost like it was a completely different band from what would emerge on Confusion is Sex a year later and this is in all honesty true in many ways and yet all the ingredients are there. The one thing that I’ve been wondering about after having listened to the bonus tracks on the 2006 cd-release along with the live bootleg from Noise Fest, White Column, NY ’81, is what this might have sounded like had Ann De Marinis stayed with the band.
To listen to the e.p click: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKaH2XOrUAo
Av: Nicklas Ekström i Landskrona