Sonic Youth Play “Teen Age Riot”

SonicYouthDaydreamNationalbumcoverListen to this track by experimental rock noise makers from New York City Sonic Youth. It’s “Teen Age Riot”, a breakthrough song from an equally breakthrough record in 1988’s Daydream Nation. This was the release that put the band on the map after having formed a full seven years before.

The band that included singer and guitarist Thurston Moore, bassist and singer Kim Gordon, guitarist Lee Renaldo, and drummer Steve Shelley built their sound on their experiments with distortion, re-thinking the traditional structures of rock music and distilling them into their component parts. Then, they added their own elements to those structures true to the American underground DIY approach that was growing steadily by the early eighties. They added in spoken word elements, and tying it all together with a ferocious guitar sound that opened up the possibilities for rock guitar into the 1990s.

But, in the meantime, they had their own reputations to build with alternative radio, pulling from influences that ranged from The Beatles, to Neil Young, to The Minutemen. As experimental as they continued to be by 1988, they also understood that traditional rock structures in a song were traditional for a reason; they resonate with listeners. But, this song goes beyond an embrace of standard structure still.
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Akron/Family Perform ‘Gone Beyond’

akron_family_meek_warriorListen to this track by Pennsylvanian-turned-New Yorker indie-folk outfit Akron/Family.  It’s their Jimmy Page-in-Davy-Graham-mode slice of acoustic guitar and percussion glory off of their 2006 album Meek Warrior. The track can also be found on the MOJO magazine compilation The Quiet Revolution, which corralled a number of so-called “nu-folk” tracks together that year.

This track leapt out at me just because to me it seemed, and seems, to suggest a greater meaning underneath its pristine simplicity.  And this is a very simply-constructed song, with sparse lyrics that sound almost like a hushed chant.  This is one of the things I like about it.  It seems to evoke a spiritual aspect without all of the distasteful baggage which is often associated with using music as a means to convey a spiritual message.

What does “gone beyond/gone completely beyond” actually mean? Well, it’s a translated Buddhist mantra – Heart Sutra – and placed into a decidedly Western musical motif.  Yet, because it’s been placed in this context, are there other meanings to be gleaned from it?

Maybe the song points to something as lofty as that the world as we know it is something that we can get beyond, to Heaven, or maybe more accurately to Nirvana.  Or, it could mean that the music itself has gone beyond what we think of it – not folk, not pop, not anything but what it is – music being played, with a value beyond simple labeling.  The band are certainly adventurous stylistically, with no one genre really being enough to contain their sound.

Or, maybe it’s not that either.

And speaking of spiritual matters, there are a number of murmurings about the spiritual element to this band, although their website is wonderfully evasive of any real hard facts about who they are or where they’re coming from.  That is, unless you can pull together the secrets of the universe from cash receipts, doodles, and bowling scores.  Yet, perhaps there is a zen value to be found in these things too, the remnants of time spent just existing without thought of anything higher, yet with the potential to attain that higher ground waiting all the same.

For more information about Akron/Family, check out the Akron/Family MySpace page.

And check out the Akron/Family official website.