Sonic Youth


Sonic Youth (formed 1981)

Sonic Youth are an American alternative rock band. They formed in New York City and the most recent line-up of the band consists of Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo, Steve Shelley and Mark Ibold.

Sonic Youth: Formation

Sonic Youth started out in New York, as part of the No Wave noise scene along with the likes of Swans. Glenn Branca signed Sonic Youth to his Neutral Records label and released their mini-LP Sonic Youth.

In 1983, they released Confusion Is Sex, with Jim Sclavunos on drums, though he quit after just a few months. Sonic Youth became well-respected in Europe, along with the likes of Big Black, the Butthole Surfers and Pussy Galore. Their 1984 tour earned them a degree of notoriety in UK publications such as NME and Sounds. Later that year, they released Bad Moon Rising. One track on the album, 'Death Valley '69' was inspired by Charles Manson and featured Lydia Lunch. After falling out with Glenn Branca, they signed to Blast First in the UK - a label formed by Paul Smith primarily so that he could release Sonic Youth's records in the UK.

In 1986, Sonic Youth signed to SST Records and started to record their next album, Evol, which saw the introduction of more melodic material from the band. As the band started to gain more recognition in the US, the New York Times writer Robert Palmer said that the band were making the most 'original guitar-based music since Jimi Hendrix'.

Sister was released in 1987 and saw the band continuing to mix traditional song structures with a more experimental sound. The album is supposedly inspired by the writings of Philip K Dick. After becoming frustrated with their label once more, they then released 1988's Daydream Nation on Enigma Records (partly owned by EMI). The album became a critical success on both sides of the Atlantic. 'Teen Age Riot' was the breakthrough single rom the album and earned the band the most radio airplay that they had received to this point.

After signing to Geffen Records, Sonic Youth released Goo, which contained the single 'Kool Thing', featuring Chuck D from Public Enemy. The next album from the band was 1992's Dirty, again on Geffen. Their influence on an array of underground cultures continued when Spike Jonze directed their music video for 100%, which starred the skateboarder / actor Jason Lee. Also featuring on the album was Minor Threat/ Fugazi guitarist Ian McKaye, on the track 'Youth Against Fascism'.

1994 saw the band release Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, which peaked at number 34 on the Billboard 200. That same year, they released a cover version of The Carpenter's 'Superstar' for a tribute album. The track was later featured in the film Juno, which starred Ellen Page and Michael Cera. The following year, they headlined the Lollapalooza festival and lent their voices to the Simpsons special, entitled Homerpalooza. In the 1990s, Kim Gordon also played in Free Kitten and Steve Shelley often played in Cat Power's backing band.

Washing Machine saw the band shifting back towards a more experimental sound, with one track lasting almost 20 minutes. This was followed by the semi-improvised album A Thousand Leaves, released in 1998. The only single from the album, 'Sunday', was accompanied by a video directed by Harmony Korine and starring Macaulay Culkin.

In 1999, Sonic Youth's gear was all stolen whilst they were in tour in California. They were forced to start out again, using new instruments and eventually recorded NYC Ghosts & Flowers, followed by a tour opening for Pearl Jam.

2002 saw the release of Murray Street, which saw the addition of Jim O'Rourke on bass, guitar and synthesizer. Then, in 2004, they released Sonic Nurse, with the song 'Pattern Recognition' named after a William Gibson novel. Following the release of the album, they were announced as joining the Pixies and Flaming Lips on a Lollapalooza tour but the tour was cancelled due to poor ticket sales.

Having recovered some of the equipment that was stolen from them in 1999, Mark Ibold (of the band Pavement) joined on bass and the released the album Rather Ripped in 2006. Two years later, the book Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth was released, written by the music journalist David Browne.

2008 saw another shift in record label, from Sonic Youth and joined the respected label Matador to release their next album The Eternal. They also collaborated with the Led Zeppelin guitarist John Paul Jones, on a new piece for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Sonic Youth have forged close links over the years, including Hole, Nirvana and Patti Smith.

Sonic Youth: Personal Lives

In October 2011, Kim Gordon announced that they were separating, after 27 years of marriage. They have a daughter together, Coco Hayley Gordon Moore.

Read More

Sonic Youth - Hits Are For Squares

1st November 2011 -


When Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon recently announced their separation after twenty-seven years of marriage, many commentators were busy writing their obituaries for Sonic Youth. While it's anyone's guess what the future holds, or if...

Sonic Youth - The Eternal

9th June 2009 -


Review of Sonic Youth's album The Eternal released through Matador. If any other band who'd been around for the best part of the past three decades announced the release of their latest album, many -...

Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped

5th June 2006 -


Sonic Youth Rather RippedAlbum ReviewFor a band to be able to get to the point in their career where they release their 21st album, whilst similarly being able to defy what is expected of them...

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