Mp3 Killed the Vinyl DJ 12: Sonic Youth ∞ Locked Groove!

One of the areas in which post-punk was an improvement on punk lay in its willingness to look beyond nihilism. Artists like reformed hippie Michael Gira of SWANS and former Deadhead Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth weren't above contemplating eternity rather than oblivion. Sonic Youth saw noise as liberation, not as destruction per se. A positive more than a negative. Unlike grumpy punks, Sonic Youth and SWANS were about rapture, their ecstatic vision of sound psychedelic but for the '60s trappings of sitars, vocal harmonies and lyrics about smelling the purple of rectangles. At least punk had been good for something, stirring everything up after the old counter-culture had been coopted by the establishment and turned into a kitsch irrelevance, as hypocritical as it had become escapist.

In 1986, when Sonic Youth were still on a journey of discovery, they came out with evoL. On vinyl, of course. And with infinity on their minds, the last track was fitted with a locked groove at the end, the idea being that the drones finishing the song «Madonna, Sean & Me (The Crucifixion of Sean Penn/Expressway to Yr. Skull)» would go on forever.

Of course, the limitations of matter and physics, not to mention the impermanent nature of reality, ensure that it never could, whether it'd be the player or the needle or the vinyl or the energy source that would give first. But you get the idea. It's like, you know, conceptual. And fun. (Like the solo release by Lee Ranaldo where he'd punched holes in the vinyl at certain intervals, so that the needle would come crashing down on the surface of the turntable, creating jolts of shock noise.) To give you a feel for the song as it can only be experienced on vinyl, Toilet Guppies has ripped a 70 minute version. (One minute more would be excessive. No need to overdo things.) Note that if you do get through the entire thing in one, attentive sitting, you really should seek professional help.

But Toilet Guppies digresses again! Being 1986, postmodernism hadn't yet become the academic yawn it is today. And regardless of intellectual fads, Sonic Youth always did enjoy their references. «Madonna, Sean & Me» is no exception. (One might even say referencing and name dropping has been one of the band's career strategies, in order to position themselves as credible in an environment as commercial as it is artistic. Thus they've not only managed to garner acclaim by association, but even made friends through flattery. Clever bastards.) As for «Madonna, Sean & Me», the punk/hippie love/hate relationship is vented in a nod to Charles Manson's infamous connection with the Beach Boys («We're gonna kill the California girls»). Then there's Sonic Youth's familiar obsession with Madonna. How Sean Penn and Madonna's celebrity marriage connects to hippie murder I don't know. But I do know this: paying too much attention to Thurston Moore or Kim Gordon's lyrics is a waste of time.

evoL certainly is not.

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