Sonic Youth

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Sonic Youth
Gordon and Moore, Stockholm 2005
Gordon and Moore, Stockholm 2005
General information
origin New York City , United States
Genre (s) No wave (early stage),
noise rock , alternative rock , indie rock
founding 1981
resolution 2011
Founding members
Thurston Moore
Kim Gordon
Lee Ranaldo
Last occupation
Vocals, guitar
Thurston Moore
Bass, guitar,
Kim Gordon
Vocals, guitar
Lee Ranaldo
Steve Shelley (from 1985)
Bass, guitar
Mark Ibold (from 2006)
former members
Richard Edson (1981-1982)
Bob Bert (1982-1983, 1983-1985)
Jim Sclavunos (1983)
Bass, guitar
Jim O'Rourke (2000-2005)
Anne DeMarinis (1981-1982)

Sonic Youth was a rock band founded in New York City in 1981 and one of the most influential exponents of noise rock and no wave .

Band history

Sonic Youth performed under this name for the first time on June 18, 1981 at the Noise Festival in White Columns (New York) after Thurston Moore , Kim Gordon , Lee Ranaldo and keyboardist Ann DeMarinis had previously made appearances under several other names in the other area around New York. The name Sonic Youth is a combination of Big Youth , a Jamaican reggae deejay who became particularly famous in the 1970s, and Sonic's Rendezvous Band , a successor to MC5 , which guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith led from 1977 to 1979.

Ann DeMarinis left the band soon. Steve Shelley has played drums in the band since 1985. In 2000 bassist and guitarist Jim O'Rourke joined Sonic Youth. In 2001 they recorded two tracks (“Demie Clocharde”, “Kékéland”) for Fontaine’s album Kékéland with the French singer Brigitte Fontaine . In 2005, O'Rourke left Sonic Youth again to pursue his career as a film director. In 2006 Moore and Gordon starred in the television series Gilmore Girls with their daughter Coco Hayley .

After 18 years, the contract with Geffen Records expired in 2006 . In August 2008 the band announced that they would be releasing their upcoming album again on an independent label ( Matador ).

In October 2011, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore announced the end of their 27-year marriage, but an upcoming tour of South America at the time was not affected. The future of Sonic Youth is uncertain, but in 2015 Kim Gordon pointed to the end of the band several times in her book "Girl in a Band". She commented on the so far last public concert in 2011 at the SWU Music and Arts Festival in São Paulo: "After thirty years, tonight was Sonic Youth's final concert." ("After thirty years, Sonic Youth's last concert was tonight") and "After tonight, Sonic Youth was done." ("From tonight on, Sonic Youth was checked.").


Kim Gordon performing at Sonic Youth in 2005

The result of the band's creation was and is a rich soundscape of experimental, emotional-associative music . Many works are therefore more similar in their structure to classical music , which is not least due to the previous activity of the band members in Glenn Branca's electric guitar orchestra .

In the past, the band was primarily concerned with exploring dissonant boundaries - a characteristic feature are the feedback and Kim Gordon's shouting in particular - but the later albums were altogether more melodic and “poppy” . The development of the band seems to be moving in the direction of an even stronger combination of elements of experimental noise with catchy harmonies , if one looks at the albums that have been released by their "main commercial label" Geffen since 1990 . On the other hand, Sonic Youth have released a whole series of albums on their own label SYR since 1997 ( SYR1 to SYR6 as well as the Silver Sessions for Jason Knuth ), which - most clearly on SYR3 and the Silver Sessions - have a decidedly improvising character, some almost 30 Minutes-long sessions, which - instrumentally and technically, but at a much higher level - are very clearly linked to their own earlier musical periods and are completely different from their structurally in part relatively easy to grasp "commercial" Geffen albums. As a result, Sonic Youth have been able to attract a remarkably broad layer of fans who, on the one hand, can concentrate on certain facets of the music, but on the other hand also confront the fans with these different facets: because in a certain way more than has united a group under the name Sonic Youth, the listeners get to hear more and more diverse music than in other groups, which cannot enjoy the same creative abilities and freedom as Sonic Youth.

The lyrics of Sonic Youth are not entirely political , but over the whole time you can find explicitly politically critical pieces with titles like Youth Against Fascism or (as on the album Sonic Nurse ) Peace Attack . Numerous songs deal with societal, social and psychological topics.

Beyond the band framework, the band members have various side projects in which they also use other forms of artistic expression (Moore and Ranaldo have each published books and fanzines ), the solo albums by Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, then the projects with, are particularly worth mentioning other musicians like Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon each with Lydia Lunch as well as Kim Gordon with Julie Cafritz (formerly with the group Pussy Galore) as group Free Kitten and Kim Gordon with Ikue Mori and DJ Olive (on SYR5 ).

Almost all of Sonic Youth's members also work as producers of artists and groups they want to promote. So z. B. Thurston Moore the label Ecstatic Peace, Lee Ranaldo produced a. a. False Virgins and Kim Gordon the all-women punk band Erase Errata. In addition, Sonic Youth run their own label SYR (Sonic Youth Records).

In the history of the band, musicians friends have often played a part, including a .:

A comprehensive overview of the members and the history of Sonic Youth through to the album Experimental Jetset, Trash and No Star can be found at Alec Foege: Confusion is Next - The Story of Sonic Youth , St. Martin's Press, 1993.

Guitar tunings

It is a characteristic of the band not to change the moods of their guitars anymore, a legacy of their time with Glenn Branca. Each song therefore has its own guitars, which means that at concerts there is a constant change of instruments. The band's guitar collection is immense.

The fact that it is not exactly easy to rehearse even a single piece is not least due to Sonic Youth's willingness to experiment. In all of their studio albums, they almost exclusively use alternative tunings on the guitars and even edit them afterwards in order to obtain even more modified sounds. The most important moods include (sample songs in brackets):

  • F # F # GGAA (Schizophrenia, Tom Violence, White Kross)
  • DDDDAA (Schizophrenia, Catholic Block)
  • GGDDGG (Teen Age Riot)
  • ACCGG # C (Silver Rocket)
  • CCEBGD (The Sprawl, Cross The Breeze)
  • F # F # F # F # EB (Catholic Block, Kool Thing, Death Valley '69, Shadow Of A Doubt)
  • EGDGED (Dirty Boots, Titanium Expose, Tunic)
  • CGDGCD (Rain On Tin, Plastic Sun, The Empty Page)

Sonic Youth & Kurt Cobain / Nirvana

Nirvana became famous indirectly through Sonic Youth, as Kim Gordon recommended Geffen Records the relatively unknown band that had just released their debut Bleach on the Seattle label Sub Pop . In cooperation with Sub Pop, Geffen Records took over the distribution of the second long player Nevermind , which went on sale worldwide with 40,000 copies. Nirvana played in 1991 in the opening act of Sonic Youth on their European tour for the first time in front of a larger live audience, before their great success began in late 1991. These days together are documented in the 1991 tour video : The Year Punk Broke . In addition, Nirvana and Sonic Youth combined a common artistic-political attitude ; the artistic struggle against entrenched power structures such as sexism or homophobia was reflected in not a few songs - such as B. Rape Me (Nirvana) or Kool Thing (Sonic Youth) - made clear.

Sonic Youth & REM

When REM were working on their album Monster in 1994 and singer Michael Stipe wrote the lyrics for the song Crush with Eyeliner , he had the feeling that he had taken one or the other part of a Sonic Youth record. He then invited Thurston Moore into the studio, who then appeared as a background singer on Crush with Eyeliner . In retrospect, however, Stipe said that he might have taken this line of text unconsciously from an advertisement for Coca-Cola . Nevertheless, Sonic Youth appeared on REM's 1995 world tour, the Monster Tour , as the opening act.

Guitar Moonlander , Lee Ranaldo , Sonic Youth, by Yuri Landman , 2007



year title Top ranking, total weeks, awardChart placementsChart placements
(Year, title, rankings, weeks, awards, notes)
1988 Daydream Nation - - UK99 (1 week)
Enigma / Blast First
1990 Goo - - UK32

(2 weeks)UK
US96 (15 weeks)
DGC / Geffen
1992 Dirty DE59 (11 weeks)
- UK6 (5 weeks)
US83 (11 weeks)
DGC / Geffen
1994 Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star - - UK10 (2 weeks)
US34 (10 weeks)
DGC / Geffen
1995 Washing machine - - UK39 (1 week)
US58 (3 weeks)
DGC / Geffen
1998 A thousand leaves - - UK38 (1 week)
US85 (2 weeks)
DGC / Geffen
2000 NYC Ghosts & Flowers - - - US172 (1 week)
2002 Murray Street - - - US126 (1 week)
2004 Sonic Nurse - - - US64 (2 weeks)
2006 Rather ripped - - UK64 (1 week)
US71 (4 weeks)
2009 The Eternal DE29 (3 weeks)
CH31 (2 weeks)
UK42 (1 week)
US18 (2 weeks)
Matador / Beggars / Indigo

More albums

  • 1982: Sonic Youth (Neutral / Censor )
  • 1983: Confusion Is Sex (Neutral / Censor)
  • 1984: Kill Your Idols (in D: Zensor)
  • 1984: Sonic Death (Ecstatic Peace)
  • 1985: Bad Moon Rising (Homestead / Blast First)
  • 1986: Made in USA (Rhino, released in 1994)
  • 1986: Evol ( SST / Blast First)
  • 1987: Sister (SST / Blast First)
  • 1988: The Whitey Album (Enigma / Blast First) as Ciccone Youth (with Suzanne Sasic, J Mascis and Mike Watt )
  • 1994: Screaming Fields of Sonic Love (DGC / Geffen)
  • 1997: SYR1: Anagrama (Sonic Youth Records)
  • 1997: SYR2: Slaapkamers met slagroom (Sonic Youth Records)
  • 1997: SYR3: Invito al Ĉielo ('Invitation to Heaven' in Esperanto ; Sonic Youth Records)
  • 1999: SYR4: Goodbye 20th Century (Sonic Youth Records)
  • 2000: SYR5 : Kim Gordon with Ikue Mori and DJ Olive (Sonic Youth Records)
  • 2005: SYR6: Koncertas Stan Brakhage Prisiminimui (Sonic Youth Records)
  • 2006: Destroyed Room: B-Sides And Rarities (Geffen)
  • 2008: SYR7: J'accuse Ted Hughes (Sonic Youth Records)
  • 2008: SYR8: Andre sider af Sonic Youth (Sonic Youth Records)
  • 2011: SYR9: Simon Werner a disparu (Sonic Youth Records; Soundtrack )


year Title
Top ranking, total weeks, awardChartsChart placements
(Year, title, album , rankings, weeks, awards, notes)
1990 Kool Thing
UK81 (8 weeks)
1992 100%
UK28 (4 weeks)
Youth Against Fascism
UK52 (2 weeks)
1993 Sugar Kane
UK26 (3 weeks)
1994 Bull in the Heather
Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star
UK24 (5 weeks)
If I Were a Carpenter
UK45 (3 weeks)
1996 Little Trouble Girl
Washing Machine
UK81 (1 week)
1998 Sunday
A Thousand Leaves
UK72 (2 weeks)

More singles

  • 1984: Death Valley '69
  • 1985: Flower / Halloween
  • 1986: Flower / Satan Is Boring
  • 1986: Star power
  • 1986: Into the Groove (y) (as Ciccone Youth)
  • 1988: Teen Age Riot
  • 1988: Silver Rocket
  • 1989: Candle
  • 1989: Providence
  • 1989: Touch Me I'm Sick / Halloween
  • 1990: Disappearer
  • 1991: Dirty Boots
  • 1993: Drunken Butterfly
  • 1995: The Diamond Sea
  • 2000: Nevermind (What Was It Anyway)
  • 2003: Kim Gordon & The Arthur Doyle Hand Cream
  • 2006: Helen Lundeberg / Eyeliner
  • 2006: Incinerate
  • 2006: Beautiful Plateau
  • 2019: Bull in the Heather


Sonic Youth Etc .: Sensational Fix

  • Life, Saint-Nazaire, June 18 to September 7, 2008
  • Museion , Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bolzano, October 10th to January 4th, 2009
  • Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and KIT - Art in the Tunnel, January 31 to May 10, 2009
  • Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Móstoles (Madrid), February 3 to May 2, 2010


  • David Browne: Goodbye 20th Century - The Story of Sonic Youth . From the American English by Ralf Niemczyk with Imke Trainer. Kiepenheuer & Witsch, KiWi Paperback 1132, Cologne 2009. ISBN 978-3-462-04162-0 .
  • Kim Gordon : Girl in a Band . Kiepenheuer & Witsch; April 2, 2015; ISBN 978-3-462-04748-6 .

Individual evidence

  1. Sonic Youth: Kim Gordon & Thurston Moore Announce Divorce. (No longer available online.) Motor Music , October 17, 2011, archived from the original on November 19, 2011 ; Retrieved October 18, 2011 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. a b Chart sources: DE CH UK US
  3. Music Sales Awards: UK

Web links

Commons : Sonic Youth  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files