Wednesday, May 9, 2007
With all of the awesome hullabaloo surrounding the record this year, I've been doing a lot of fantasizing about a fluffy cloudland roster for the imaginary Daydream Nation tribute/cover album that lives in my head.
Following is the current working lineup:
1. "Teen Age Riot" by Pavement during Wowee Zowee sessions, with Liz Phair, in her Exile/Whip Smart days, doing Kim's vocals from the intro
2. "Silver Rocket" by Wire circa Pink Flag after doing a bunch of speed
3. "The Sprawl" by Autechre (Tri Repetae era) with vocals from Nico (post-heroin)
4. "'Cross the Breeze" by Royal Trux (1991)
5. "Eric's Trip" by Leonard Cohen with Nirvana: So he can concentrate on extracting feedback from his guitar, Cobain relinquishes vocal responsibilities to Leonard.
6. "Total Trash" by David Bowie (Scary Monsters period) backed by T Rex (1972)
7. "Hey Joni" by the Beach Boys (Pet Sounds outtake)
8. "Providence" by Godspeed You Black Emperor
9. "Candle" by The Sea and Cake, before the release of Oui, but after the release of The Fawn
10. "Rain King" by Tool (!!!)
11. "Kissability" by The Slits
12. "The Wonder" by Rocket From the Tombs
13. "Hyperstation" by Radiohead with London Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus
14. "Eliminator Jr" by Boredoms (1992)
Friday, April 13, 2007
The combination of the track's stinging surfaces, shredding pace, and head-spinning language imbues "Silver Rocket" with a coruscating quality that sets it apart from most other songs on Daydream Nation (it's closest relative being the creepy and eviscerating "Eliminator Jr") Although particularly gratifying to write about, "Silver Rocket" does pose certain explicative problems. Given the recent disclosure of a mortifying transcription botch (duly pointed out by some dude named Thurston Moore) committed by your faithful author (in my brand new 33 and 1/3 book) of a phrase from Daydream's famously cryptic second track, I thought it might be appropriate to put together a list of the all-time top ten most compelling anagrams for "Silver Rocket."
Here they are:
1. Restock Liver
2. Tickler Rovers
3. Lick Over Rest
4. Sick Lever Rot
5. Tick Love Errs
6. Rock Rile Vest
7. Sock Let River
8. Clots Ever Irk
9. Sicker Revolt
10. Or Trick Elves
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Alright, people! My little Sonic 33.3 book has been loosed upon the world and she's ready, come what may, for your incisive critical assessments, ruthless deconstructions, and sharp-eyed errata inquests!
It was a bumpy delivery, but she's got most of her toes and fingers and, certainly, her ticker is in the right place. Go easy on her, friends, as she's still a little tender from birthing complications.
Any corrections/peevements? Voice them here or, better yet, send them to my publicist. (Her kindness and enthusiasm is my secret weapon against any surprise attacks! *Thanks Wendy*)
Note to you Youth freakers out there who dwell within the harder-core regions of the Greater Sonic Universe: you will absolutely take issue with some of my interpretations/representations of the record's tracks and lyrics. Which, of course, is very ok. As I'm sure you'd all agree, part of the fun/point of Sonic Youthing derives from sussing out different layers of meaning in/ways of listening to their music. And given that, I look forward to many delightful hermeneutic throwdowns with all of you.
Let's fight about Sonic Youth songs!
Thanks everybody. I hope you dig it...
Thursday, March 1, 2007
The long, arcing shadows, cast at sharp angles of declination from building to building amidst the avenue canyons of lower Manhattan, gave the lounge-y front room of Sonic Youth's studio on Murray Street a supple dimness. Along with the dissipation of sunlight, the day's stubborn layer of humidity also started it's retreat. These atmospheric shifts provided a natural signal, a gentle cosmic suggestion, that it may be time to start winding things up: Lee and I had been talking for the better part of two hours about the heady tectonics of Sonic Youth's late-early period and its resultant yield of recorded output--that astonishing rip of records from Bad Moon Rising, to EVOL, to Sister, culminating in '88 with the Almighty Daydream Nation.
We found an appropriate stop-point in our discussion and began that series of motions and gestures that collectively mark the end of an interview. I admitted to Lee that I could use a restroom break and made my way back through the studio to find relief. (What strange evocations happen under such circumstances; walking alone through the creative command center of a band whose music had sunk in so deep, resonated so thoroughly, over so many years: "Look, there's Steve's drumkit; and there're all the guitars; now passing the tape archives...")
Looking back, I can't recall if I had given it a second thought at the time, but when I left Lee sitting there alone on the couch in the front room, I neglected (deliberately?) to turn off my tape recorder, leaving it running right there on the table where it had been doing its thing for the past two hours.
Not until months later, back in Seattle, when I finally got down to transcribing the session, did I discover one of the coolest hidden interview moments I've ever unintentionally recorded. At the point on the tape when I get up to take my bathroom break, there's an extended period of empty hiss--a minute and a half or so--and then, from the silence, at a near-whisper, Lee's voice comes in, as he sings to himself:
...A crystal crackin'...
....I can't wait...
These line fragments are from "Candle"--one of Thurston's songs on Daydream--and, in the abbreviated version I caught on tape, Lee sings them in a key and at a tempo that differs drastically from the album take. It's a beautiful, fleeting moment that manages to capture the mutual admiration inherent to the Sonic Youth aesthetic, a bittersweet nostalgia for a period in the band's history that's necessarily lost to time but still resonant, and Lee's relentless experimentalism (i.e. new key/new tempo) all at once.
I kept this anecdote out of the book for some reason. I think sharing it here is as public as I wanted to get with this little gem.
Thanks for reading,
Thursday, February 15, 2007
It appears as though the Universe has ordained 2007 as the Year of Convergence of All Things Daydream. Apart from the release of my 33.3 volume, rumor has it that Daydream Nation will get the deluxe reissue treatment sometime later this year. And (this next bit is as unconfirmed as it is exciting) there's been talk of Sonic Youth scheduling a few "special engagement" live shows wherein they play DN in its entirety.
Add the likely admittance of The Sonics into the Rock Hall of Fame and you're talking some crazy, nutzoid, wowzer type year for Youthery.
I guess '07 is the year the Universe smiles upon those who make bold-n-beautiful rackets!
(ps- The image above is the cover of the Russian vinyl release of Daydream--which, inexplicably, included a version of the album that had been chopped down from its original 2xLP length to fit on a single record. The cover features a weird photographic approximation of Gerhard Richter's oil-on-canvas candle image from the US/UK release.)
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
With condolences to all of you Novemberists out there--the Bricks have won the Sonic Book Cover Tournament. We've pulled the trigger on the red version, and the book is at the printer as I type.
If you November people want to get mad at anyone, get mad at Sonic Youth (except you can't get mad at Steve, as he was on your side from the beginning): they voted overwhelmingly (well, 3:1) in favor of the brick.
Thanks for your help! I was beside myself over how articulate you all were in your arguments for or against each option. Here are a couple choice excerpts, each of which reflects how traumatizing this decision was:
Bill Hitchner (Seattle, WA) wrote:
"I'm feeling November--the nom de couleur alludes to the oxidized beauty of decay encapsulated in the wistful auricles within. Brick on the front is very tight, and that back cover wants to hurt me. You don't want to hurt me, do you? Although November is a bit staid, I don't think you need to go for glaring sexiness. Maybe sober package needs to belie the spurt contained between its cloth? [But] the brick is very nice. It's like the pink esophageal mucus of a nubile pixie. Fuck staid and sober! Go for the throat!"
From Al Schneider (Valencia, CA):
"Oh shit, I'm confused too. All my design sense says November, especially since it matches the candle. The downside is that it also blends in with my memory of EVERY 33 1/3rd book I've seen, and it's kind of bland like a text book. The brick reminds me of strawberry ice cream, and it's not a color I would associate with that album, however it jumps out a bit more. The first is definitely more elegant. I also like that, on November, your name is bracketed between the black text for Daydream Nation and the black Continuum logo, whereas, on the brick, both your name AND the logo are brick colored (which was the right choice in both cases). But your name is bolder on the second cover. JESUS CHRIST!!! Now I'm thinking the second one is better. Just shoot yourself!"
Well, thanks to all of you, there are no bullets in my brains today, and we have a brick hued Daydream tome en route to bookstores around the world!
Thanks for reading!
Sunday, February 4, 2007
Here we go. Right about now my decision-making disorder is sinking its teeth in deep, shaking me around like limp meat. I was hoping this new cover version would seal the deal one way or the other.
But I'm crippled.
November or Brick (see below)?
(Ignore red formatting lines on the image above please)
Friday, February 2, 2007
After two plus years of birthing throes, my installment in Continuum's 33 and 1/3 series on Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation, is headed to press! It's true--Gabriella, Continuum's awesome production coordinator, has confirmed: we will see bound copies by April 1st at the latest. And it appears as though, based on the image above, the book will even have a cover. Be warned, however, there are some unresolved, dramatic tensions currently surrounding the layout and color scheme!...More on that in a bit.
First, look closely! Located beneath the 33.3 logo and album cover shot, in fine print, you'll notice an announcement indicating that the volume comes fully loaded with a foreword from Lee Ranaldo. I'm totally thrilled to include his piece in this project. Lee strikes just the right tone, properly setting the mood for the rest of the book. If his foreword isn't incentive enough for you to preorder multiple copies, then maybe this will help: If you order now, I promise to inscribe each copy with a personalized, secret author's message!
A couple of intrigues concerning cover elements:
Careful observers will notice that the layout version above deviates from the standard 33.3 format. Usually, color elements from the respective album's front cover art are matched and reproduced on the book's cover. Opening up the palette a bit, this model includes the crimson-ish red Sonic Youth used for the spine, back, and inserts of the DGC and Blast First releases of Daydream. Gerhard Richter's candle image, for all its stark power, leaves little in the way of color options for the purposes of the book's design; unless, of course, you count vapor, tears, and November as colors. Anyway, to give the layout some impact, we're trying out this brick-y scheme. What do you think; vapor/tears/November or bricks? I'll post the alternate, standard-format version soon...Then we can have a fight about which one to use!
Color fights! Fun!
Also, the author bio you see on the cover will have its cheekiness chopped out in the printed version. For now, enjoy it here as an online content exclusive! In the end, I feared the snarky quality of this entry would wear me out over the years (50, 100 reprints down the line). So it's being brutally axed before we publish.
I guess it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: I'm not asking you to read my book (but you should!) so much as I'm asking you to buy ungodly quantities of it. That said, should you wind up cracking its spine, I hope you'll find yourselves pleasantly surprised by its readability. I tried very hard to make it zippy and accessible for both the seasoned music crit freakers of the world and those of you who have more important things to do with your time than sit around reading books about and listening to amazing records all day long (though it's beyond me as to what those things could possibly be).
By way of further enticement, here's a short list, left tantalizingly vague, of some items you can expect to encounter within the book's pages:
Anyway, we're getting real close to this baby actually hitting shelves! I'll be using this site as a venue for posting urgent updates, emergency reading announcements, and more must-see, web-only exclusives (including extra transcript material from my interviews with Sonic Youth).
Thanks for reading!