Saturday, 13 December 2008



In many ways Kool Thing was the first Sonic Youth swing at scratching the mainstream.  Now on a major label their music gained real push.  And the results were infinitely worthy.

Kool Thing is an exhilarating and pulsating jaunt.  It is also quite droll and surface sarcastic as the band exhibits an immediate knowing on arrival at the big stage, the show.

This is a Kim song with a message (as most of hers tend to be).  It came from an interview she conducted with LL Cool J for Spin magazine in which the pair clashed.  Going into the interview supposedly she was a fan but then it transpired they had nothing in common personally or professionally.  She liked The Stooges and he liked Bon Jovi.  She was a boy, he was a girl.  Then we really went did it by stating “the guy has to have control over his woman”.  Basically she could only conclude that the New York rock and rap scenes “might as well exist on different planets.”  Enter Chuck D to make amends who just happened to be at Greene Street studio when required.

The guitars are positively tethered.  In other words just as they begin flying, a jarring tug on the strings is made creating a crunching response from the guitar akin to a screaming animal.  This is what makes the Sonic Youth sound so inventive and uncomfortable.

With genuine bounce the song is actually pretty breezy considering the aggression attached to the lyrics and meaning.  And when Chuck D drops in with a few wise words heard by an indie audience he might as well have been Louis Farrakhan.  The conversation sculpted between them during Kim’s spoken section is equal part awesome equal part cringe.  That said her closing spoken declaration of “when you’re a star, I know you will fix anything” is exceptionally sarcastic.

And with that the song flies to an amazing climax.  This is four minutes of near perfection.

In addition to the video featuring a purring Gordon looking alluring while playing with a cat (as opposed with her original designs on dressing like a tooled up Black Panther), the song both gained and lent real cred appearing in Simple Men by Hal Hartley.  Arriving at the one hour, four minute and forty eight second mark a frustrating Martin Donovan emerges from his pick up kicking his baseball cap screaming “I can’t stand the quiet!”  This leads to an internal shot of a bar where first Elina Lowensohn dances ferociously to the track as she is slowly joined by Bill Sage and Donovan followed by Karen Sillas and Robert Burke as at that exact moment the coolest people on earth danced undisrupted onscreen.  Then one fast cut later the same characters sit discussing Madonna exploiting her sexuality in an exchange not necessarily essential to the plot.  This was it, as good as things got in a superior era.

Remaining loyal to New York the band covers “That’s All I Know (Right Now)” by the Neon Boys on the b-side as they rev up early music and words from Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell.

Thesaurus moment: imperturbable.

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