The Thin Line between Interesting and Boring

Over at Tone Glow, a typically in-depth interview with David Lance Callahan, formerly of the Wolfhounds and Moonshake. As Callahan comments, Moonshake were a schizophrenic band, the sneering edge of his songs rubbing up awkwardly against the breathy sensuality of Margaret Fiedler’s. For me, Moonshake were always outshone by the brilliance of her subsequent work with Laika, but listening to the songs laced through the interview reminded me that even if Moonshake weren’t the easiest band to listen to, they were consistently inventive, never dull. Stacks of interesting detail in the interview, the remastered Eva Luna went straight to the top of my shopping list.

Burning Ambulance runs the ruler over Sonic Youth’s first decade. It can hardly be controversial to suggest that their early work is far and away Sonic Youth’s best, a dislocating, psychedelic collision of noise, dissonance and rock. The further they travelled from their roots in no wave and Glenn Branca–esque drang, the more musicianly they became, the less individual they sounded, until the last reminders of their former abrasiveness and darkness were Kim Gordon’s vocals. The decision to hive off their experimental and improvisatory tendencies into the SYR series probably did much to keep Geffen on side, but surrendered the essential tension between pop and avant-garde that fired their eighties work. You could argue that the arrival of Steve Shelley was as much a curse as a blessing: without his power and fluidity, Sonic Youth could never have rocked like they did on Sister and Daydream Nation, but it’s hard to imagine they would have gone on to become so mature and assimilable with Bob Bert still on drums. In 1990, Sonic Youth were my favourite band by a country mile; does anyone say that about the Sonic Youth of ten or twenty years later?

Thoughts, hopes, exhortations?