by carl wilson

For Those Who Think (Sonic) Young


Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore at Kool Haus in Toronto on Tuesday, photo via Globochem on Flickr.

Today in The Globe and Mail, a review from me of the Sonic Youth/Go! Team show at the (goddam mutherfrakin') Kool Haus on Tuesday night, in the form of a guide to aging rockers to avoid that unsightly "dinosaur" look: The Sonic Youth self-help book.

Consider it in part a rebuttal to Aaron's post a few weeks ago claiming that it's impossible for over-35 rock stars to avoid "becoming something of a joke." As Alan Licht has written in the past, that axiom may apply to Aaron's Brit-pop idols, but much of the post-punk generation has dodged it: "The real punk-rock dream was not that the world would be a better place if punk was popular; it was for your heroes to not suck ten to fifteen years down the line, like the Sixties rock aristocracy did. As far as Im concerned, these guys have fulfilled that dream." (He was speaking of Mike Watt, Fugazi, Calvin Johnson and Shellac, for instance.) Of course, the real trick may be never to become really famous. Cf., the Sex Pistols.

Then again any artist of any age might seem ridiculous from time to time - it's really part of the job descrip. And Sonic Youth also demonstrate that, all sarcastic remarks notwithstanding, that's no reason to go changing your name, like, uh, Issa. Let me sum up that debate in one word: Starship.

Memo to Kool Haus and/or SY crew: If you spend the entire time between the main set and the encores with several guys on stage checking and setting up equipment for the next encore, it destroys the ritual, and makes us feel like maroons clapping and cheering for a foregone conclusion. Leave the stage empty. They can tune their guitars when they get back.

| Posted by zoilus on Thursday, August 10 at 02:14 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (21)

 

COMMENTS

you could call that the old stepping in joke on those bands parts..

however...couldn't the generation before them have done the same thing?

simply re-release the byrds and garage rock and the jeapordy theme and some early film scores instead of releasing almost any of them..

it seems like a double standard?

Posted by worids on August 16, 2006 07:56 PM

 

 

of course, another odd consideration: college radio seems to feature almost the same line up as it did in the late 1980's. Somewhat the opposite of the way radio was then, when the bands were all different. Then again, some of those 80's bands, had been 70's bands that had already released a best of. Some of them went onto to work in the context of other projects, or left music and went on to other jobs. Some contiuned with the same name.

As those bands became coprorations and the industry seemed to take itself seriously ...

some are fine with them carrying that banner, and sparing them.

Posted by wgat on August 16, 2006 07:51 PM

 

 

what might be frustrating..if you think of the way a band corresponds to demographics...


there probably are a lot of sonic youth fans..at least from the last 10 years set..that are still straggling to make it to a manager just at their day job....that might be their own fault..given drug use..yet..at the same time another consideration...

can sonic youth afford to stop touring?

Posted by arsung on August 16, 2006 07:49 PM

 

 

If you think about it the amount of time that passed between the Byrds and what turned into Bauhaus, was, to some, about the amount of time you have between an early high school band and a band just a year or so after college. You could have two bands doing sets of 5 albums each in that amount of time.

Sonic Youth, whom showed influences of both sets, have been together as long as the entire progression at this point. Of course, those bands re-united in a way. Sonic Youth manages to occupy the space without dominating all of the aesthetics. Some people from The Byrds seemed to show up in the public eye to a greater degree than others. However commodified the styles might have been, socially a few of them seemed to do other types of work and occupy a position to the left of center stage. So, weirdly, despite the complaints..other than a few of the stadium acts...quite a few of them did a better job of contiuing yet moving on to a different stage of development...than some of the 80's acts..

or mabye one could say the bands labels did a better job of refraining from a deludge of re-releases as a bit etc...

Posted by ytreo on August 16, 2006 07:41 PM

 

 

some think of Sonic Youth as an american 50's rockabilly band with a european 40's detuned composer and a 60's folk look...yet with fresh faces...

Posted by darlw on August 16, 2006 09:04 AM

 

 

there was beck and radiohead?

not as many bands by that point as in the 80's...

when it seemed like every jazzercize and fruit bar in the world was...?...

Posted by sckra on August 16, 2006 08:56 AM

 

 

what happened to the generation between sonic youth and the blow monkeys?

malkmus was born in the mid 60's....

who were the early to mid 70's aged bands i the alterna scene?

Posted by wondey on August 16, 2006 08:55 AM

 

 

at the time...some might have thought even of sonic youth...

as a band being like some obscure 50's albums just with a different generations look on it...

would that younger set gets it's own sound up?

like wilco, would they find themselves in an early 20th century tex arcana mode?

It can all be fun?

If you think of the early 20th centry tex arcana's..some of them did work really hard for a long time..without making much money..

and they probably would have disliked the tunings?

Then again, could any of the younger sets make their rent?

How many people had houses etc...?

Then again, that's other than a "punk" way of thinking..

was Sonic Youth "punk" or weirdly...

with the era they came up in..were they "post-punk" with some other, really non-punk academic voicings and theories mixed in?..

Posted by harty on August 16, 2006 08:42 AM

 

 

it's interesting to note that some of the 80's bands..included sonic youth..featured influences.. some of whom had had albums available on the shelves years before the audience had even been born yet.

Keep in mind that some of the musicians in the 80's bands...had been working musicians..and in bands...

before the set of kids had even been born in the 70's...

Posted by bruen on August 16, 2006 08:32 AM

 

 

How old was the person that came up with the idea of singling out any band as "sucking"?

If it becomes a job, some bands break up their and...go to other jobs, though?

Maybe some bands do lose it, or even keep a good pace, yet stay in the wrong stage of development too long though. Sometimes it's other than their decision.

In the 80's, a few of the people in some of the late 60's bands, had still yet to make to having their rent and benefits.


Posted by calkie on August 16, 2006 08:17 AM

 

 

You could add to that the age or some of the acts that had already been on stage and continued to be on stage, in comparision to any of them. It's weird when those acts are the ones that seem to be making the arguments about the late 20's set, at times.
The ones that stuck around, yet do other than argue about the younger ones? Maybe that's less difficult to handle? Sonic Youth doesn't seem to attack the younger bands, even when you feel like there would be some differences in taste.

Posted by zords on August 16, 2006 08:08 AM

 

 

Sonic Youth has been together longer than a few of those 60's bands had been. Some of them, the younger ones, had only been in their late 20's when some of the early 80's albums were realeased. Understanding that might help some of us to understand the dudes in the door t-shirts at the jangle band shows.
Did they suck? They might disagree with suicide, and were with it enough to live through some other things. Maybe a few of them even worked at the instrument enough to learn a few other chords. Some of them probably wouldn't have been allowed to have said the word "s*ck" when they were young, and went through a lot of difficult times with the integration debacles. And some of them refused to give into the archie bunkerisms about younger sets resorting to the name calling, about people that had live through other things. Sonic Youth do seem to be something other than a band that's overly controlling or the negative version of an aged touring band, that's paid its dues and earned a living at music as a job.

There's a time when musicians have to step aside a little, to let other sets up. And there's always the question...will the next set of bands as interesting as that be able to be that interesting? It's a biz, though.

Many of the early surf albums were produced by Morton Downey Jr. who has only recently
died.

The roots for some of the 60's bands can be found in albums from the 40's and 50's..even the 20's and 10's if you include folk elements.

It's been 30 years since post punk, the mid 70's.

Posted by that weather ghost on August 16, 2006 08:02 AM

 

 

"Or else to play a much shorter set and then make the encore a whole second round that concentrates on favourites: You want more? You'll get more!"

The couple of times I saw Guided By Voices were illustrious examples of this.

Posted by mike on August 13, 2006 11:45 AM

 

 

My pragmatist stance:

I think it's great when bands subvert the encore ritual one way or another, whether that's to say openly "there won't be an encore" - and only violate that pledge if the crowd goes startlingly crazy. Or else to play a much shorter set and then make the encore a whole second round that concentrates on favourites: You want more? You'll get more! (The Bottle Rockets did a great job of this at Twangfest this year, eg.)

However, if you're going to enact the ritual, let us all enjoy the ritual, with its inherent theatricality, as a group. Yes, we all know what's going on, but if you want to play the game, then make the game *fun*.

A concert, after all, is almost never a spontaneous accidental event. It is a ritual, a game, a constructed situation. Art, you know? So if you want us to suspend our disbelief, you have all the responsibilities of a good suspense novelist or filmmaker to stagemanage the illusion. If, on the other hand, you want to go Brechtian with it, showing us the pulleys and wires, then play that stance artfully throughout your show. The in-between position just comes off as cynical.

Exeunt.

Posted by zoilus on August 10, 2006 02:13 PM

 

 

Hmmm. Since I turned 40 this year, I guess I'm just an angry old man now...As always, loved your article today...yes we finally get to read Carl out here on the Pacific Rim on the front page of the section, no less. Can't get too worked up about the encore issue. But, in the words of Ed Grimley, I must say Sonic Youth always looked kind of ridiculous on stage. Their bookish appeal has always kind of clashed with their teen rebellion rep. Lest we forget, Lee Ranaldo's template for the band was the Grateful Dead...not MC5. Don't let the name fool you...it's all part of "the joke." Remember Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style from 2002's Murray Street? I rest my case...

Posted by Phil on August 10, 2006 01:18 PM

 

 

a lot of crowds in toronto seem especially flaccid in their encore enthusiasm, beaten only by my experiences in (proto-flaccid?) L.A.

Posted by PG on August 10, 2006 12:54 PM

 

 

As for those wags who make snide remarks about the band's name, I've always thought of the band being about "Youth", rather than claiming to be "youth".

Posted by David on August 10, 2006 12:16 PM

 

 

Encores serve their purpose.
People are not good at maintaining concentration for an entire 2 hour show. The encore provides a useful break. In an ideal world most bands would do 2 or 3 sets of 25 to 30 minutes (the avg. length of the human attention span).

As for age. I remember seeing Kim Gordon play the massonic temple 14 years ago when i was below 20 and she was about 40 and thinking she and the SY were the coolest thing ever. Whats more interesting to me is that older I get the less I want to see shows of some drooling 20 year old kids who think they are hot shit (cf. arctic monkeys).

Posted by guy tanentzapf on August 10, 2006 12:15 PM

 

 

Man, love your blog, but...

Believing in encores is like believeing in the tooth fairy. PLease.

Clap your hands then just wait. You know they left that one hit that is obviously misssing form the setlist for the encore.

I would rather have bands cut out the bullshit and just leave (seen a couple of those recently, some eevn letting you know in advance "thanks guys, but we will not come back, thanks again"). Or a honest encore. Come back and do something obscure or a cover. The Posies, last time i saw them did 3 encores (or was it 4?).

Again, encores are bullshit. And this applies to teh bands you like (Zoilus), me and i guess you readers. Imagine how it is when you are talking U2 or Goo Goo Dolls or some shit. You just know what the encore is going to be.

Anyway, take care man.

-G.

Posted by juepucta on August 10, 2006 12:04 PM

 

 

i don't understand the whole issue with roadies tuning guitars before an encore. someone was bitching about this on stillepost, too.
while a tad nauseating, this happens at pretty much any venue larger than lee's palace all the time. it's not at all exclusive to sonic youth or the kool haus, and happens at every big show i can think of.
of course, it calls into question the fallacy of the entire encore concept, which is a tired notion that needs to be retired now. play everything you intend to, and then if the crowd is overwhelming enough (not merely perfunctory), come back for a deserved encore. i'm tired of clapping like a lapdog for five minutes knowing exactly what's going to happen next.
the only genuine encore i've seen in recent memory was holy fuck at hillside, where the ravenous crowd refused to let them leave despite the tight festival schedule.

Posted by barclay on August 10, 2006 09:02 AM

 

 

It was nice to see many under 30 types at the concert. Is it the legend? cause there's really no airplay for SY in Toronto, other than the occasional college radio show.

Why nothing from "Dirty" was my issue. (Though I got my fill at the Masonic Temple in 93.)

Posted by Robert on August 10, 2006 08:53 AM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson