Sunday, May 06, 2018

"Marmite music, par excellence"

It's become standard practice for music publications and websites to mark any kind of significant anniversary with an article or two. Some are tedious eulogies; others are savage benefit-of-hindsight reassessments. Stevie Chick's recent piece for the Quietus on Sonic Youth's A Thousand Leaves, which turned 20 last week, is neither; instead, it offers a far more nuanced perspective - teasing out the album's particular strengths while acknowledging its flaws and placing it within the context of their other work.

Ultimately, Chick sees A Thousand Leaves as a "transitionary set without which Sonic Youth couldn't have escaped the Lollapalooza era for the creative freedoms that followed". As he concedes, though, that transition had already begun with 1995's Washing Machine, and indeed arguably with 1994's Experimental Jet Set, Trash And No Star, and culminated in 2000's way-out-there NYC Ghosts & Flowers. My own view is that their output was cyclical: they started out in the leftfield, gradually edged closer to the mainstream until the release of Dirty, then drifted back out again, before finally moving in once more.

Perhaps most tellingly, Chick's article soon had me listening to A Thousand Leaves again. It'll never be my favourite record of theirs, but it's been a rewarding experience to look at it through fresh eyes.

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