Review of Hits Are For Squares Album by Sonic Youth

When Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon recently announced their separation after twenty-seven years of marriage, many commentators were busy writing their obituaries for Sonic Youth. While it's anyone's guess what the future holds, or if there is to be one at all, their legacy as arguably the most forward-thinking, occasionally groundbreaking and universally influential rock band of the past three decades is guaranteed.

Sonic Youth Hits Are For Squares Album

From their humble beginnings having emerged from New York's vibrant hardcore scene of the early 1980s, there was always something inherently different about Sonic Youth. Not just content to go with the flow and follow their peers, even their earliest recordings highlight a band determined to push as many boundaries as possible, even if it initially brought them a spate of negative reviews, hardly imaginable now in light of their mostly flawless recorded output since.

Their sixteenth and most recent long player, 2009's 'The Eternal', seemed to only illustrate their hunger and desire to continue making challenging music even further, while the subsequent live shows to promote that album culminating in last December's New Year's Eve soiree taught many an aspiring band half their age a timely lesson in performance both from a sonic and visual perspective.

Moving onto 'Hits Are For Squares', a compilation that originally saw the light of day in 2008, albeit as a Stateside release only. Now, having finally issued their excellent documentary '1991 - The Year Punk Broke' on DVD, 'Hits Are For Squares' also receives a timely worldwide re-issue to coincide. Compiling sixteen tracks in total, fifteen of which were handpicked by a diverse selection of artists, actors and celebrities stretching across all eras of the band's career. It's quite interesting realising that Sonic Youth have picked up several generations of fans along the way at various junctures, many probably unaware of their past or indeed for those of a more experimental, noise-induced fascination, the present either. The odd one out here is the closing 'Slow Revolution', recorded in the early part of 2007 and previously unreleased prior to 'Hits Are For Squares'. For those that haven't heard it Gordon's ethereal vocals coupled with the repetitive nature of Moore and Lee Ranaldo's guitars make for a dreamy epilogue not a million miles away from 'Daydream Nation''s 'Cross The Breeze'.

While its difficult to envisage any compilation of Sonic Youth material not being worth the admission fee alone, it must be said that any long term obsessive of the band will already possess the lion's share of 'Hits Are For Squares'. However, there are some interesting selections here, particularly the Beastie Boys Mike D and Beck Hansen both favouring cuts from the band's most commercially successful record to date, 1992's 'Dirty' ('100%' and 'Sugar Kane' respectively). Elsewhere, Radiohead proffer the Chuck D assisted 'Kool Thing' from 'Dirty''s predecessor 'Goo', while Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder goes for 'Daydream Nation', arguably the band's definitive seven minutes from their most critically revered record, 'Daydream Nation'. Add selections by the likes of Chloe Sevigny ('The World Looks Red' from debut 'Confusion Is Sex'), Arrested Development's David Cross ('Mary-Christ', also from 'Goo'), and Ally McBeal's Portia De Rossi ('Disappearer', again from 'Goo') and you're more than halfway to a career defining 'Best Of' in itself.


Dom Gourlay

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