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Bring the Noise- Why I Love Noise Rock. From Sonic Youth to No Age.

October 23, 2011

As I approached my 40’s  I began a nascent appreciation of noise rock that now at 42 is in full guitar shredding bloom.

How did this happen?

I guess aside from Sonic Youth (growing up in NYC you really couldn’t miss SY) most of the bands that are considered exemplars of the noise rock genre went by me during my early youth (I’m in my late youth now F.Y.I). And Sonic Youth was really my gateway drug into the scene.

Some years ago I revisited Day Dream Nation the classic SY record and all around top 20 list member of anyone attempting to enumerate greatest records of all time. The genius that eluded me when it first came out in 1988 when I was but a lad of 19 was now apparent.

When I first heard the record as a teenager aside from “Teenage Riot”‘s poppy riffs the rest of the record came across as sonic peas and carrots. Things I was required to consume and digest because they were supposed to be good for me.

Then one day in 2008 I picked up the 20th anniversary edition that came out that year and heard it with new ears.

The way “Silver Rocket” creates this awesome riff and then in the middle of the song the band breaks it down to its component parts then puts it all back together again deconstructing and reconstructing the tune.

The way they do the same thing with the almost pure pop of “Total Trash” as if creating such a catchy melody is not enough. They have to find the noise and discordance and chaos lying just underneath somewhere. For most bands just being able to come up with a song as melodic and hooky as “Total Trash” would be enough. SY had to destroy it to make a point.

The way Hey Joni STARTS at 10 then somewhere in the middle Lee Ranaldo sends it into the stratosphere just when you think we couldn’t get much higher.

And don’t get me started on the closing Trilogy. I’ll have that speak for it’s self-

“And then my mind split open!”

From there I went back to the Velvets and White Light\White Heat. It all comes back to the Velvet Underground anyway.

For an atonal distorted monster like this to creep into an unsuspecting public’s ear hole in 1968 is nothing short of extraordinary.

When Lou yells  “And then my mind split open” and then proceeds with a screeching sloppy wail from the depths of a guitar solo that plays till the whole band almost threatens to fall apart, your mind has been split open as well and will never be the same again.

After Lou split my mind bands starting coming in. At first there were the early pioneers. The Stooges. MC5.Neil Young with Crazy Horse.

Then later I started working my way to the present.

When I first heard Fuck Button’s “Sweet Love for Planet Earth”  I was listening to satellite  radio (cuz hey are you really gonna hear a song by a band with that name on regular radio or MTV?) driving in my then new hometown of Charlotte. I was lost in the drone and monotony and almost Phillip Glass-like repetitiveness that when it finally explodes in other worldly screeches and screams that come from some primordial abyss that you can’t help but take the song’s title literally. This was a eulogy for our planet. And it nearly drove me into a ditch.

That clinched it. Noise was for me.

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of No Age and their latest record Everything in Between. An apt title as it pretty much covers all the well worn territory in between the Velvets and Sonic Youth to the Fuck Buttons and beyond. At least for me.

The record marries the atonal noise to early 70’s pop punk and skate boarded trash and makes a pretty potent fix for a noise addict.

Of course none of the above answers the titular question.

Why noise rock and why now?

As a 42 year old dad to 3 young kids there is something almost child-like about playing loud and discordant without concern for melody. I see a lot of the power and energy of the music in all my kids and I can’t help but feel younger and empowered by it.

As a 42 year old I still have that inner 16 year old rebellious snot nosed teenager dictating some of my actions (more than i should allow probably) and dying to get out. That kid needs a soundtrack.

As a 42 year old dad and husband there is a certain amount of comfort and escapism to be found in your headphones awash in the sonic womb of Phil Spector Wall of Sound  guitars.

The shit just rocks.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 23, 2011 8:35 pm

    as someone in their 20s poised for postmodernist greatness, i worshiped at the altar of noise. now that i know i’ll never see 60, there’s something to be said for thurston & kim calling it quits…..on a high note. ain’t life grand?

  2. October 23, 2011 8:59 pm

    I love SY and they are in my list of top 10 all time fave bands but they had an awesome run. Longer than most and with consistently great output up till the end. So its not too sad for the band (however I haven’t heard anything official about a breakup).

    As to the marriage, 27 years is a long time not only in rock land but for us mortals too and that does sadden me.

    But I’m a hopeless romantic till the end.

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