If there’s one word that I could choose to be erased from the vernacular of everyone associated with underground music, it’s right there. Jumping to a major label, or even an imprint of one, is seen in no better light by the punk community than the acts of Benedict Arnold himself. Kids grow to have such a connection with these bands, seeing them in sweaty basements, having the band sleep on their floors, that this jump to a major is seen as personal disrespect. The equivalent to having your face spit in after the knife is removed from your back. But who are we, as fans, to dissect a band's actions, and pretend that we know the motives and thoughts behind their decisions?
This is something that Sonic Youth knows all too well. A beacon in the underground music community after their landmark 1988 release Daydream Nation, the band was the indie music world's pride and joy. So inevitably, when the band jumped ship to fledgling Geffen records before Goo's recording, the underground was up in arms. So Sonic Youth had one avenue to travel, and that was take their major label budget and release the best record they knew how.
Mission successful. No, it’ll never touch what it’s predecessor was, but in its own way, Goo truly has a lot to offer. They didn’t tone things down, they didn’t adhere to mainstream standards, they stuck with what they knew, and the result was as noisy and sonically diverse as anything previously written. Their avant-garde musings and punk backbone are firmly in place, and they let it be known immediately. “Dirty Boots” starts out in a fairly ordinary manner, a laidback track with some quirky rhythms, but by the end Thurston Moore has transformed the track into an instrumental, but he strays away from anything outlandish at the moment. “Kool Thing” is the first track on the album where the string bending, feedback driven guitar work really begins, and this contrasts surprisingly well with the spoken word vocals of song guest Chuck D. The followup, “Mote” is nothing more than seven minutes of free-form instrumentation, with the heightening reverb being momentarily cut into by streaky chord progressions and slinky bass lines. It’s not all spastic, though. The haunting sound of Moore’s vocals in “Disappearer” is a terrific segue into the great instrumentals that take the song out. Just the layers upon layers of these songs are staggering. Just some subtle strumming on the top is only the tip of the iceberg, as below there’s so much to listen for, and so much to take in that even on the seventh and eighth listens you’re finding something new. It’s a true listening experience.
In addition to the original album, there’s not only some extra music on this album, but an entire nother disc to accompany the first. The first disc has some rough B-sides and outtakes, as well as a terrific live version of “The Bedroom” that’s able to really capture the essence of the band live in a very enjoyable manner. The real draw though, with the extra content, is on disc number two. Containing extremely rough 8-track demos of the original Goo album, you’re able to track all the subtle tweaks and progressions between these rough cuts, and what actually appears on the record. Some songs appear far different from others, some you’ll barely be able to tell the difference at all, but if nothing else it’s an interesting listen.
There’s really just so much to say about any Sonic Youth album that I could write three times this much with ease, but that detracts from the point, which is that there’s no reason you shouldn’t be at the store tomorrow to pick this up. The sheer amount of extra content is worth it alone. Go on, get it, sellout.