Sonic Youth – EVOL

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EVOL is, in my mind at least, the high point of Sonic Youth’s career. The opening chords of “Tom Violence” chime in in an odd, twisted manner, and as you allow Thurston Moore’s dragging vocals to take effect, you really feel the full force of what this album is about – it creates atmosphere in abundance, and allows Sonic Youth’s left field song writing style to set in without feeling out of place – a breakthrough for the band. Whilst albums such as “Confusion is Sex” and “Bad Moon Rising” certainly have their merits and are not the worthless relics of the band’s past that some writers would have you believe, it is truly with EVOL that Sonic Youth took a massive step into the history books, and it is unlikely that they will ever look back.

Kim Gordon, who can often be heard offering banshee like shrieks on various tracks in the bands catalogue contributes one of her best efforts on “Shadow of a Doubt”, a suitable follow up to “Tom Violence”, and one that reinforces the album’s dream-like soundscape, her soft whispering vocals being backed by an instrumental track that flips from the ritualistic chord progression of the first track to the subtle, sugar coated guitar line that render Kim’s whispers more likeable than chilling or alienating. The following track, sole single “Star Power” was not an immediate stand out, but soon enough the frantic, rapid fire sweeps of guitar will get stuck in your head – Sonic Youth doing what they do best and providing an instrumental hook that is equally as catchy  Kim’s casual vocal delivery. Lee Ranaldo offers one of his distinctive tracks with the spoken word piece “In The Kingdom #19”, showcasing the band’s more art influenced roots, and generally adding to the overall impact of the album whilst being a strong track in itself. What’s noticeable about the album as a whole is that, unlike on follow ups “Sister and “Daydream Nation” (which both follow the general formula of this album to a degree), the instrumental passages and guitar feedback never disrupt the flow of the album – not to say that those two albums aren’t stellar in their own right, but on this album one feels Sonic Youth harnessed these exercises most effectively into the album’s overall vision.

Even the “less than amazing” tracks here – midway duo “Green Light” and “Death to Our Friends” contribute to the album as a whole – although they may lack obvious killer hooks, melody, atmosphere or downright crazy moments (think of the anguished scream on “Marilyn Monroe”), they do not disrupt the flow of the album or beg you to skip over them, and in a way the extended feedback noise sections found on the likes of “Green Light” show how the band has recognised, in the most obvious way, how these exercises are better served as supplements to the whole rather than the whole itself.

“Secret Girl”, with its lone piano and sombre vocal line, starts an incredible run through to the end of album, whether or not your copy has the cover track “Bubblegum” at the end. “Marilyn Monroe” is host to the kind of chiming, auspicious sounds that for some reason seem to interest me to no end, its cinematic style and characteristic sound playing perfectly into the hands of stunning album “closer” “Expressway to Yr Skull”, a sprawling, hooky song that perfectly sums up the sound and tone of the album.

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