Sonic Youth – Battery Park, NYC: July 4, 2008

Over the course of a feedback-heavy career spanning 30 years, Sonic Youth journeyed from callow, underground no wave noiseniks to experienced major label mainstream hit-makers, but, to their credit, somehow never lost their own sense of effortless cool along the way.

Maybe it was a New York City thing, maybe it was a testament to the power of a good pair of sunglasses and a stripy t-shirt; whatever it was, the band’s legacy and reputation have always remained intact. Such long-lasting stature is founded not only on the band’s wildly varied, always-evolving discography but also the quality and commitment afforded to their live gigs. This live show recording is a strong case in point.

Originally released as a bonus gift with their final full-length record, 2009’s The Eternal, the 10-track album is now available as a standalone album for the first time. Battery Park, NYC: July 4, 2008 was recorded at the River To River Festival in lower Manhattan over a decade ago.
The career-spanning, crowd-pleasing collection features a clutch of tracks from Daydream Nation (The Sprawl, Hey Joni and two-thirds of The Trilogy with the pairing of The Wonder and Hyperstation). It also includes 100% from Dirty and early favourite She Is Not Alone from 1982’s Sonic Youth EP. Experimental Jet Set, Trash And No Star’s Bull In The Heather is another cacophonous highlight.
As experimental art-rock live albums go, it serves as a tremendously coherent, professional document with the band well-rehearsed and the Thurston Moore/Lee Ranaldo axis in total control of the incandescent, discordant guitar noise constantly wailing out of the sound system. Drummer Steve Shelley offers up pulsing rock rhythms and atmospheric trip-hop beats, while bassist Kim Gordon’s vocals brim with atonal attitude.
Fast forward the clock three years and the band had split, with marital rather than musical differences to blame.
Gary Tipp