A few words for a Sonic marriage's end
Cedar Point, for those who tragically may not know, is probably the fourth-greatest place on planet Earth — so it's worth noting that I have only two distinct memories of the first time I went there, on a chartered bus with about forty other middle-schoolers in 1994: One is tossing chunks of Babybel from the high point of the Magnum, which was at that point the tallest roller coaster in the world. The other is hearing, in the pre-dawn hours of the ride there, Sonic Youth for the first time. It was via cassette tape, a copy of 1992's Dirty via my buddy Noah's Walkman and shitty headphones — and from the opening screech of feedback on "100%," I thought, this is it.
I'm not going to act like I'm some obsessive Sonic Youth fan, though it's to their credit that I wish I was. I don't own any of their B-sides or limited editions — hell, I don't even own any of their less accessible work. The last Sonic Youth record I bought was Rather Ripped — arguably their most poppy release — and it hasn't exactly been in my heavy rotation. Still, there's hardly a band that I respect more, and so it was with great sadness that I heard the news that Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore are splitting up after 27 years of marriage and 30 years as a band. Truly, it's a loss.
For a little perspective on the awesome legacy of Sonic Youth, it's worth taking a look at another legendary band with a love story at its heart, a band that also got its start in 1981, a band that is still around today: Metallica. One, if you don't think Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield are totally gay for each other, you're fooling yourself. And two, once upon a time, Metallica was a great band. But like so many other great bands, Metallica's spirit atrophied somewhere along the way: They made a series of crass mass-market records, they began acting like little bitches (e.g., file-sharing and Some Kind of Monster), and then, in an equally crass move, they made a couple of records that sounded like their old records. But it wasn't the same.
In stark contrast, Sonic Youth never needed to be the same. Starting off mind-blowingly innovative — essentially inventing their own way to play guitar — the band only got better from there, developing a sound that got more accessible as it aged, but never any less compelling. It was always raw, always honest, and at its core, there was always Gordon and Moore and the undercurrent of a love as weird as the music they made, violently evident through the notes they penned to each other in song: "You doused my soul with gasoline/You flicked a match into my brain."
So whatever happens now — Gordon and Moore have announced that they'll at least finish their current tour — Sonic Youth has always been and will always be a great band. Maybe the last great band, even, a band that always stayed true to its name, a band that never lost its sense of wonder, even as it grew old.
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