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Sonic Youth – Hits Are For Squares

Nichola Eastwood


This Halloween sees the re release of Sonic Youth’s ‘Hits Are For Squares’.  Originally unleashed in 1998, this sixteen song catalogue of the band’s best work is handpicked by celebrity fans, including Radiohead, Beck and Diablo Cody.  If, like myself, your encounter with the punk legends has been brief and somewhat limited this collection serves as a thorough introduction, showcasing the highlights of the band’s lengthy and illustrious career.

Kim Gordon’s vocals open the album with Bull In The Heather, a jarring and discordant track in the best possible way.  100% sees Thurston Moore on vocal duties, its ominous punk with dark and brooding lyrics, a kind of organised chaos akin to The Pixies, and that, is not a bad thing.  Beck’s selection is the quirky Sugar Cane, surprisingly upbeat guitar and irresistibly catchy.  Kool Thing is a track that doesn’t take itself seriously, complete with ridiculous voice overs and Kim expertly brandishing her moody, guttural vocals to gorgeous effect.  Diablo Cody (of Juno fame) contributes to this collection with Superstar.  It’s a stripped down and frankly beautiful moment.  Sonic Youth shed their punk skin here and entrance with haunting vocals and retro guitar.

Rain On Tin is a largely instrumental track with subdued and mellow guitar, it’s the choice of Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Flea and you couldn’t blame him.  It’s enough to hold you rapt from beginning to end.  Mary Christ is the essence of angst ridden punk.  Thurston sounds like a testosterone fuelled teenager, while Kim screams incoherently in the background.  The World Looks Red is a swirling, trippy masterpiece.  Opening with unexpected sound effects, before plunging into jarring guitar like something from a nightmare, the vocals take a backseat here as the band let their instruments do the talking.  Expressway To Yr Skull, as you might expect, given the title, continues the psychedelic vibe.  Slow Revolution brings the collection to a haunting close, laid back, melodic guitar and echoing vocals, it’s an apt end to this mammoth and impressive volume of work.

Perhaps this re release and its accompanying DVD will give Sonic Youth fans a ray of sunshine on the bands present uncertain future, following the separation of Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore.  For those as yet unfamiliar with the punk stylings of Sonic Youth, this collection will introduce you and leave you wanting more.