It’s about time Sonic Youth made an appearance on this blog. They are, after all, a very influential band.
The music they’ve made has at times been so experimental that it goes a bit far. They’ve even been labelled a “noise rock” band, because the heavily distorted soundscapes in some of their more out their stuff is really just noise with some drums.
They popularised all sorts of interesting techniques, most notably preparing their guitars like John Cage did with pianos (just put stuff under the strings!).
Aside from that stuff, they were an accomplished alternative rock band at a time when that was not such a common label, or at least was just used to describe anything weird. There are a fair few catchy tunes that are Nirvana-esque in their ability to mesh gritty underground authenticity with mainstream appeal.
“Kool Thing” is inspired by an interview that Kim Gordon, the bassist/singer, did with LL Cool J. She misjudged what he was going to be like and her feminist views led to a very awkward interview where neither party really understood each other.
The song pokes fun at her naive big city liberalism, and also LL Cool J is called out subtly for his misogynistic views. It’s a deeply politicised record, and very self aware on the part of Gordon.
The music is riff driven guitar goodness, which is why it was such a big hit for the band. It was the lead single off 1990’s critically acclaimed Goo, which has become a hugely significant album.