Rewind: Sonic Youth’s Goo

Rewind: Sonic Youth’s Goo

With TIDAL Rewind, we blow the dust off an old album that’s begging to be heard again. Here, we look back at Sonic Youth’s iconic sixth album, Goo, which turned 25 last week. 

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What is Goo?

Released on June 26, 1990, Goo is the sixth studio album by American alternative punk and noise pioneers, Sonic Youth. This experimental milestone, recorded over a short period in early 1990, was the band’s first release on a major record label (DGC). The album was recorded at Sorcerer Sound Recording Studios and Greene St. Recording.

Even though, Goo is a major label release, it stands today as a symbol of aversion towards mainstream musical values and attitudes. With a wide mix of spoken word, feedback and idiosyncratic chord progressions, Goo is dripping with slacker attitude and pop cultural references to Karen Carpenter, UFOs and dating Jesus’ mom.  It’s a timeless Sonic Youth classic, and one many consider the their most approachable.

What does it sound like?

Even 25 years after it’s release, Goo still sounds fresh, compelling and explorative. The album spread with cool melodic riffs (“Kool Thing”), floating atmospheres (“Tunic”), straight punk rock (“Mary-Christ”) and a variety of simple and complex song structures.

Combining three different lead vocalists (Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo) with the band’s use of cheap guitars, weird tunings and a strong will to approach music with open-minded creativity and unlimited curiosity, the sound of Sonic Youth is very distinct from any other bands.

Goo is one of the band’s most straight forward albums when it comes to melodies and song structures, but it still expresses a cacophonous unity of punk rock, art, experimental noise rock and much more.

Why should I care?

Simply put, Goo is a touchstone album and a progressive masterpiece of the alternative music canon. The album is an crucial piece of the puzzle to understand how and why other alternative artists (like Nirvana) were able to bring the underground to the mainstream and challenge the dominant music industry hegemony.

And from a more sonic perspective, Goo is a flawless illustration of how to control chaotic sounds and capture uncapturable noises and turn them into iconic melodies and everlasting songs.

Where do I hear more?

Sonic Youth’s eleventh studio album, NYC Ghosts & Flowers (2000), is a stylistic departure for the band, after many of the band’s irreplaceable guitars and modified effects pedals were stolen during a tour in 1999. The band later acknowledged that the stolen gear was an unpleasant blessing, because it forced the them to start over and create music with a new set of tools. The result was one of the band’s most exiting and urban albums.

Two years later Sonic Youth released Murray Street, which is a very melodic and muted album compared to much of the band’s early releases. Opening track “The Empty Page” is highly illustrative in setting the mood for the entire album.

On October 14, 2011, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore announced that they had separated after 27 years of marriage, bringing to a halt a 20-plus year run for Sonic Youth. Though neither have said will never music again, we think it’s wise to not hold our breath, instead enjoying Goo and all the other great albums in the Sonic Youth catalog.

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