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“Unpacking the Lyrics to ‘Turquoise Boy’ and Hypothesizing on Any Presaging Qualities They Might Have Had”

It seems like anything that could possibly happen to a band probably happened to Sonic Youth at some point — and I don’t mean in terms of like their van breaking down, or getting dropped from their label or things like that, but rather in terms of just being EXAMINED AS everything under the sun. They started out in the mid-’80s as a thoroughly uncompromising, uncooperative outfit making noise rock that in my opinion no right-minded person would possibly want to listen to, yet still from what I understand developed a considerable following, evidenced if only by 1986’s EVOL garnering the band the ascension on to the Enigma label, and its profiled distribution. What’s more, they actually had a girl in them [1], which from pretty easy extrapolation seems to have caused them at least a lot of attention, some unwarranted or untoward [2]. Then as we all know, the ’90s were just a different animal [3]. Sonic Youth had the unfortunate stature of having developed artistically in the ’80s, which were a far harsher time for alternative rock commerce and wherein the mainstream was dominated by formulaic hair metal, even in Seattle [4]. By the time that a lot of loud, Beatles-influenced bands were cashing in on some genuine lyrical variegation into the earnest and the everyday, pardon the phrase, but Sonic Youth’s “load” had been “blown,” with epic songs like “Cotton Crown” and “Teenage Riot” already under their belts. Then there’s the theory that they actually would be more of a popular household name if they like Weezer had taken a ridiculous amount of time OFF after one of their first few albums and then reemerged in dramatic fashion, thereby creating a sort of reactive buzz, to which I also think there’s something.
Anyway, what I’m saying is, like Everlast, they’ve “seen the good side of bad / And the down side of up and everything between”. Their times of greatest fame haven’t NECESSARILY correlated, or even had anything to do, with times of greatest artistic output, and with this sort of chronic identity crisis plaguing them, they were still I feel mentally poised to put out their defining work in 2006 in Rather Ripped, which I feel they did.
Rather Ripped begins full-speed-ahead, with no introduction or fanfare, as concise indie pop. “Incinerate” and “Do You Believe in Rapture?” all but instil it as one of their best albums immediately, coaxing the listener in to an invigorating toggle of inhale and exhale. Most of the criticism on the album seems to weigh heavily on the band’s style (which is odd since it’s the same style they’d had since 1987, essentially). Well, anyway, to me “Turquoise Boy” is the centerpiece, and perhaps Kim Gordon’s informant outing as a lyricist, on the strength of its simple, compelling little blips of profundity. Butt actually, my main point has to do with the way people dress today, and how it’s sort of impossible for this world we live in to truly proffer any moral paradigm with the girls in those yoga pants, in purportedly professional settings, in cafes, and places like that which at least once brandished a fleeting semblance of class or respectability.
I’ve heard that it’s “liberating” for women to be naked. I suppose that’s the case. Sometimes I hear something and it’s just too true to be denied. Rather Ripped was always like that, to me. So for every time the government stops me from following my career path (which they do), I can at least look to this song to say THIS is how EXACTLY the world has said “fu** you” to you for no reason. The “You are a soldier in a side charade” line is beautiful, one of Kim Gordon’s best of her career (although the “I wanted to know the exact dimensions of he**” is no slouch either).
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[1] Of course, this technically shouldn’t have been all that unsettling in the wake of a little upstart group called Jefferson Airplane… I have a feeling a lot of the rancor sounding their both-sexes spawned from an unfortunate mixture of general, splayed antipathy for humanity and boredom.
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[2] There’s that charming Rapeman song “Kim Gordon’s Panties,” I was first thinking of, and then I just have the mental image of her in “Plastic Sun” bit**ing out the words “Subway slashers on my a** / Steal my money smoke my grass”.
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[3] Sonic Youth’s workmanlike, consistent proliferation in the ’90s calls to mind a great quote I read in Nirvana: the Biography from Kill Rock Stars founder Slim Moon: “‘If Sonic Youth had only made three or four records, they might be part of a list of the greatest American bands. Considering they’ve made 20 years of great records, they pretty much left everybody in their dust.’”
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[4] This handy little factoid comes correct from Backlash scribe Dawn Anderson, interviewed in the essential grunge documentary Hype!

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