Sonic Youth

Smart Bar – Chicago 1985
Goofin’ Records

Live albums don’t always capture the energy, or fidelity of a band’s performance, but in this newly released recording of a 1985 Sonic Youth gig, the haunting vibrancy is more than audible. Littered with strained, delayed guitar and caverns’ worth of space, it’s easy to hear this and lose your mind to the dingy images of the Chicago music venue.

Featuring much of Bad Moon Rising and some later material, the angst and furious playing are key to Sonic Youth’s charm. The recording isn’t perfect, but it’s most certainly not meant to be. Secret Girl eases the tension before the groaning of The Burning Spear reminds you of the rich texture of torment your ears are ingesting.

The whole album is up to the neck in vibe, and extremely industrial, grim and spaced out, none more so than the nine-minute epic rendition of Expressway To Yr Skull. Dipping and diving between fuzzy effects pedals, feedback and background crowd-to-band banter, Smart Bar – Chicago 1985 epitomises an album that feels truly live.

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Corin Douieb