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“Feminism is for Squares: Exposing Fraud and Potentiating Rock and Roll Mojoes in Sonic Youth”

I’m just writing about this, because I think Sonic Youth is one of the more misunderstood bands out there. And props to Eddie Vedder, by the way, for selecting “Teenage Riot” for Hits are for Squares, SY’s celebrity hand-picked greatest hits compilation depicting a young upwardly mobile New Yorker in a suit on the cover, the type of dude who in truth would probably rock out to Sister, albeit favoring Thurston Moore’s cryptic burp of machismo “Tuff Gnarl” over what’s in my opinion the real centerpiece, Kim Gordon’s frightening paean to dangerous lust, “Pacific Coast Highway.” Other selections on Hits: “100%”? “Sugar Kane”? These songs practically scream from within the stereo “I don’t fit you,” like Lano’s tank top in 8 Mile. They by all rights are laborious, hammy forays into the desultory which beg by their very presence certain questions of the necessity of their own existence.
Dirty is like Sonic Youth for the homophobic, for the frat-boy in us all, so it’s ironic that around this time, Kim Gordon was most heartily and robustly belting out obligatory messages to us men that we’re all evil pigs. Except, I have a theory about this. I don’t think that the grating feminist yawps of “Kool Thing” and “Swimsuit Issue” truly encapsulate how Gordon feels, and if they do, then I still don’t think that such statements were meant to represent the artist’s primary musical message. After all, as we’ve seen with projects like “Pacific Coast Highway” and Daydream Nation’s invincible “The Sprawl” she’s at her best when she is her most uncontrolled, when she is to the greatest extent a deranged banshee woman. In fact, with blow-hard (and equally hard-to-listen-to) crap like “Kool Thing” and “Swimsuit Issue,” she could very well be poking fun at militant, misanthropic feminists, the type of girls who wear tight, butt-hugging pants and then fault men for their attraction to them. If she’d ever fostered even the embryonic vision of presenting women as so superior and righteous, she wouldn’t have exploded with such arduous, but compelling, rancor, in the band’s formative noise years.
Indeed, Rather Ripped’s gender-nondescript “Jams Run Free” seems to tuck all feminist conflict in to bed with considerable authority: “We love the jams / And jams run free”, but the primary focus of this particular post is the low-profile, unassuming but potent post-Dirty LP, which is titled, are you ready: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star (likely the amalgamated result of a band listing of POSSIBLE album titles, then just slurried into one for finality). The album gets going after the prize fighting guitar/vox intro by Thurston Moore “Winner’s Blues,” with Kim Gordon’s primary cry “Bull in the Heather,” and let’s just say we know who the veritable bull in the china shop really is: Gordon announces herself with quintessential male boorishness as made for the exploratory, animalistic platform of rock and roll. The extent to which this music converses with its own band’s catalogue, too, is almost untraceable, and this is important, but only for reasons of our enjoyment. In other words, its ability to conjeal as organic and of-the-moment should be contrasted with other projects borne as the deliberate grafting of neat, packaged and convenient messages.
And, let’s get away from semantics for a second. This, of course, is a near inevitability dealing with an excursion into discussion of “Quest for the Cup,” once again androgynous for its allusion to sports, but more schizophrenic and fragmented than anything. It is not music for those in need: it is music tailor-made for those in need OF NEEDS, and for this reason would have ironically made for the perfect soundtrack for those “squares” appointed as primary clientele for the greatest hits comp. Still, for a band this good at crafting full albums, I take, I must admit, a certain sick pleasure in seeing their greatest hits desecrated on a semantic level as well as a componential one.

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