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Sonic Youth - Goo [Deluxe Edition]

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Artist: Sonic Youth

Album: Goo [Deluxe Edition]

Label: Geffen

Review date: Oct. 28, 2005


The "Deluxe Edition" of Goo is a particularly welcome one, as it's an opportunity to revisit a particularly noteworthy item in Sonic Youth's catalog their step from indie to major label. Coming just at the end of the 80s, the band was fortunate that the notion of "selling out" wasn't as much an issue as in prior years. Other resolutely independent bands like R.E.M. and the Replacements had preceded them, and while the results were mixed, thankfully SY's fans were wise enough to wait and see.

That the waiting resulted in Goo showed that they were even wiser than they knew. I'll be honest and admit that SY lost me for a little while. After Sister, Daydream Nation seemed too safe a record for my experimental and noise tastes of the time, and it wasn't until Washing Machine and "The Diamond Sea" that SY once again entered my radar. Revisiting Goo again now and with a superb remastering job exposing the craggy riffs and crystalline edges of these songs I regret having waited so long to get back to it. As Byron Coley notices in his liner notes, SY always rocked, but within an ever-changing vocabulary. Perhaps it took this polishing to make a more clearly audible connection between the band's early, raw attacks and the evolved riffs on this album.

For the time, certainly, this was still what the majority of their newly-increased audience would consider a "challenging" rock album. This was made evident by the decidedly mixed reaction SY received on tour opening for Neil Young (although, granted, the band made a habit of stretching these songs to the breaking point in live context). Having opted for full creative control over a larger paycheck, they were under no obligation to clean up their act, and we can all be thankful that they didn't seem to suffer from much in the way of self-imposed "major label expectations" either. Mixing raucous guitar high jinks with murky layered riffs, songs like "Dirty Boots" and "Kool Thing" are just as much a rocket-fueled brain cleaner as anything on Sister, and gorgeous string interplay on tracks like "Tunic (Song for Karen)" harkens back to the prettier moments on Evol. And then there's Chuck D's appearance on "Kool Thing," predating the rest of the rock mainstream's awareness of rap by nearly 10 years.

The bulk of the bonus material on this two-disc set comprises the original 8-track demos (also nicely remastered), which were immediately bootlegged and then, in the band's typical open-minded way, released through their fan club. The similarities with the final album are perhaps more surprising than the differences, but we get to hear more elongated versions of "Mildred Pierce" (originally called "Blowjob, the original proposed title of the album) and "Cinderella's Big Score". Unexpectedly, the original demo version of "Mote" is actually shorter than the final released version, which includes one of the album's most abstract forays.

Additional material includes the Beach Boys cover "I Know There's An Answer, a previously unreleased version of "Lee #2" featuring vocals, "Dr. Benway's House" from the sessions for the William Burroughs Dead City Radio album, and "That's All I Know (Right Now), a Neon Boys cover, as well as several other early recordings. Add in an extensive booklet and nice fold-out package, and you've got all you could want.

If Goo flew under (or, in my case, sort of over) your radar back in 1990, here's your chance to explore it in a remastered form that realizes its full power; a welcome chance to re-evaluate the past. What with this and the equally phenomenal deluxe reissues of The Stooges and Raw Power, this year's a noise-rockist's dream come true.

By Mason Jones

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