Reviewed by Michael Chamy, Fri., April 4, 2003
Sonic YouthDirty Deluxe Edition (Geffen/Universal) Smash the PMRC. "I believe Anita Hill." The Year Punk Broke. Sassy magazine. Produced and mixed by Butch Vig and Andy Wallace only months after their earth-shaking work with Nirvana in 1992, Sonic Youth's Dirty was the soundtrack to an era. It was the only time NYC's gods of art-rock squall threw their discordant, mutant compositions into the big rock arena. While it's tempting to dismiss the band's silly fashions, trumped-up production, and overt politicisms of that time as part of a calculated money grab, the album's sheer explosiveness still yanks ears by the lobes. From the crunchy heartstring tug of Lee Ranaldo's "Wish Fulfillment" and the subversively demonic "Chapel Hill" to the venomous King Bush the First send-off "Youth Against Fascism," Dirty was the other side of summer, the sun-baked stereo jams for the alienated skeptics. As with all of Universal's Deluxe Editions, this one features a second disc of rare and unreleased material. Four album-quality B-sides, including Ranaldo's shimmering "Genetic," have been added to the original album on disc one. Disc two features more idiosyncratic B-sides, like Kim Gordon's acoustic-driven New York Dolls cover "Personality Crisis," and a big batch of loose jams and embryonic versions of the Dirty songs. Original cuts like "Little Jammy Thing" recall, at turns, the playfulness of Ciccone Youth, creative spontaneity of the SYR series, and the dry choppiness of the Made in USA film score. The early Dirty versions have their high points, but for the most part, disc two's cuts are half-baked, mostly notable for their historical value, which rises dramatically when coupled with the insightful liner notes by Ranaldo, Moore, and longtime cohort and scribe Byron Coley. If you don't own Dirty, now's your chance. If you do, temper your expectations for the unreleased material.