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Sonic Youth - Smart Bar-Chicago 1985

  by Paul Waller

published: 12 / 1 / 2013

Sonic Youth - Smart Bar-Chicago 1985
Label: Goofin' Records
Format: CD


Forceful and raw live album from Sonic Youth, recorded at a 1985 Chicago club gig, which will be of appeal only to hardened fans

This album may well be aimed at Sonic Youth obsessives only, but if you happen to fall into this artsy punk rock pool then with this record Christmas come early for you. With a sound that verges on poor to middling (still better than a few of those early SY official albums though). New York’s finest deliver a set which instantly falls into the ‘I wish I was there’ category. When Kim Gordon steps up to the mic to deliver the pulsing vocals to 'Ghost Bitch' I get tingles on the nape of my neck. This is so raw and real; imagine the feeling moments before the outer radius of an atom bomb hits you, the vile hot wind pressing down on you before the inevitable happens. In the mid 80’s during the height of the Cold War, Sonic Youth did this to an audience with song after song, night after night. The proof is here on disc that this group meant to deliver a sonic war to the crowd. It’s spooky at times (even Thurston Moore tuning his guitar pre 'Brother James' gives me the creeps) and foreboding, but sometimes though it’s downright murderous. Just check out the dark stoner riff on set opener 'Hallowe’en' or the stabbing thrusts at the beginning of 'Kill Yr Idols'. How they managed to grasp onto a major label deal just four years after this show is anyone’s guess. At no point is the music listener friendly. Yet if you are not already a hardened fan, listening to this show will not turn you into one. Matador Records’ Gerard Cosloy’s rambling liner notes go someplace to setting the scene but if you don’t know the band's history, if you haven’t absorbed the intricacies of Lee Renaldo’s insane guitar technique then this live document is not a great place to start I can tell you that. For the uninitiated and the intrigued may I recommend 'Bad Moon Rising' also from 1985 where as well as featuring some of the best tracks from this performance you will find the band discovering their true potential on tape for the very first time.

Track Listing:-
1 Hallowe'en
2 Death Valley '69
3 Intro / Brave Men Run (In My Family)
4 I Love Her All The Time
5 Ghost Bitch
6 I'm Insane
7 Kat 'n' Hat
8 Brother James
9 Kill Yr Idols
10 Secret Girl
11 Flower
12 The Burning Spear
13 Expressway To Yr Skull
14 Making the Nature Scene

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