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Confusion Is Sex
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Après un excellent premier album éponyme publié par le label du compositeur contemporain new-yorkais Glenn Branca, Neutral, Sonic Youth réalise avec Confusion Is Sex un projet encore plus fidèle à ses obsessions. Les deux guitaristes Thurston Moore et Lee Ranaldo sont des fans de free jazz, de musique contemporaine, de krautrock mais aussi de punk et de hardcore. L'influence de Branca et de ses symphonies pour guitares électriques comme de Theoretical Girls, groupe punk qu'il anime dès 1978 avec Wharton Tiers, qui deviendra le fidèle ingénieur du son de Sonic Youth, est aisément identifiable sur l'accordage dissonant des guitares, ici plus souvent en roue libre que sur le précédent disque. Un morceau comme "The World Looks Red" évoque la pulsation hypnotique du groupe allemand Can – le second batteur de la formation, Bob Bert qui remplace Richard Edson, y est pour beaucoup avec son jeu qui évoque l'immense Jaki Leibezeit –, et Kim Gordon quant à elle a un débit présentement proche de Damo Suzuki ! D'autres titres, comme "Bad Mood" ou "Protect Me You", montrent que le groupe était également sensible aux new et cold wave de Gang Of Four et Wire. Quant à la reprise de "I Wanna Be Your Dog" des Stooges, c'est une des meilleures qui aient été enregistrées avec celle de Jac Berrocal. En CD l'ensemble est complété par Kill Yr. Idols et les notes de pochette sont signées Greil Marcus. Un des sommets de la no wave – pour en savoir plus sur ce mouvement : chercher à Mars, DNA, Lydia Lunch, James White Chance & The Contortions… --Philippe Robert
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Ce disque sera un choc pour ceux qui ne connaissent de Sonic Youth que ses morceaux rock acidulés, parsemés d'embûches mais au bout du compte assez normaux. Avant de dompter ses guitares, de maitriser la dissonance et le feedback, d'infecter la pop avec des idées d'avant-garde, d'empoisonner le rock avec le free-jazz et de se soucier d'écrire des mélodies qu'on fredonne, les 3 new-yorkais (qui avaient alors bien du mal à trouver et conserver un batteur) ont, littéralement, expérimenté. Ils se sont livrés à des expériences, sans réellement savoir où elles les mèneraient. Influencés en partie par le hardcore fleurissant au début des années 80, en partie par la no-wave, écartelés entre le monde de l'art, les symphonies pour guitare électrique de Glenn Branca et la volonté de percer, de conquérir un public, ils ont abouti à ceci : Confusion is Sex, un disque extraordinaire auquel on serait bien en peine d'associer une autre étiquette que : Sonic Youth.Lire la suite ›
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The bonus EP "Kill Yr. Idols" included in this set is no less experimental in texture, yet is perhaps a bit more song oriented and conventional in its overall structure, well some of it is. Overall it sounds a bit more like the Sonic Youth we came to know on Bad Moon or EVOL. It's also recorded better. This first album/EP package is not for the casual listener: its challenging, abrasive, poorly recorded, but has a kind of ugly beauty about it. Confusion is Sex is one of the most experimental and least accesible albums of Sonic Youth's career, and I find it very rewarding for it reminds me of the amazing possibilities inherent in music and the joy that comes from pushing the limits of art.
I think Craig Luft described the album best with his 7/12/03 review: "This album's strength is that it would rather sound interesting than sound good. The music is like colorful garbage artfully thrown upon yr. lawn." Precisely.
Back in '83, Sonic Youth were a gaggle of cynical no-wave punks who gleefully set out to destroy virtually any musical convention they could. Whereas feedback and noise experiments on later albums like Sister and Daydream Nation kinda drone along, Confusion Is Sex/Kill Yr. Idols uses the noises to eviscerate your eardrums. The lyrics are dark, moody, and very beat poetry-like, evoking some truly scary and bizarre imagery ("people with fish eyes"...yikes). Kim's normally awful voice actually works pretty well in this context--could you picture anyone else singing the creepy Protect Me You or disturbing Shaking Hell? Their cover of The Stooges' I Wanna Be Your Dog rips, and Kill Yr. Idols, Confusion Is Next, and Brother James all shred wallpaper at three miles.
This isn't the same bunch of 40-somethings that recorded Murray Street, that's for sure. Confusion Is Sex/Kill Yr. Idols is definitely an acquired taste, but if you seek an album perfectly suitable for fraternity hazing ceremononies, breaking stuff, playing on Halloween to scare the hell out of children, or simply need an excursion from the usual indie pop this is the record you've been looking for.
As good as recent efforts like Murray Street and Sonic Nurse are, however, I will always have a soft spot for the early albums (the self-titled EP, Confusion is Sex (plus Kill yr. idols), and to a lesser extent, Bad Moon Rising). Somehow, four "kids" (all in their mid-20s at this point, I believe) didn't need to know how to play their instruments. There is something utterly natural about these dozen-or-so songs... as if they represent the swirling chaos in the minds of musicians everywhere. Despite the tuneless shouting, the untuned guitars, the absence of professionalism (see: the brutally lo-fi version of "I Wanna Be Your Dog"), this album isn't as inaccessible as you might think. Somehow, the songs just move. I've always thought the addition of drummer Steve Shelley seriously crippled the band-- he brought in an Apollonian strictness that has focused (but at the same time, narrowed) the band's wild creativity. Believe it or not, you can actually DANCE to a few of the songs here (the same is the case for the nearly-forgotten (but brilliant) debut EP).
I could, at this point, go through a track-by-track analysis of the album, telling you what to listen for. But I really want to leave that pleasure of discovery for you. Essentially, if you really love Sonic Youth, you will eventually find this album. And if there is a dark, chaotic section of your brain that has been begging for something different-- this album will eventually find you. You've been warned.
For the uninitiated, this would be a great place to start, at least if you like feeling deeply uneasy. Recorded in a damp basement for next to nothing under conditions that many P.O.W.s would find deplorable, the album is as raw as a freshly killed wildebeast and twice as mean as the lion that killed it. The opener, "She's in a bad mood," pitches and rolls with feedback and drones, never settling for something so predictable as a groove (the band would later find their inner groove, and to this day it has remained their own, though many have tried and failed to copy it). The ending feedback hum will drill right through your skull, depending on the volume it is experienced in. Elsewhere, there is a truly messed up cover of the Stooges' "I Wanna be your Dog" and "Shaking Hell," which features bassist Kim Gordon screaming sweet nothings like "I'll Shake off your flesh!" It could be either a sexual come-on or a physical threat, or more probably both. "Inhuman" starts out with a robotic, distorted laugh and goes on to show that yes, there are things that are far more extreme than punk. "Confusion Is Next" would be the de facto "anthem," though our heroes were already too sly for such blatant pandering. "I maintain that chaos is the future," starts out guitarist Thurston Moore portentously, but soon he's just shouting "Sonic Tooth!" like a hellfire preacher obsessed with dentristry, turning the opening pronouncement into a self-aware joke. Sonic Youth's particular brand of irony has always been a problem for some critics, but to me it's obvious that for SY, irony IS sincerity, not in any way a contradiction. How can anyone be raised in an embryonic bath of American pop culture and not have some irony? It's just adaptation; survival of the snarkiest.
The guitars, of course, are always the center of the Sonic show. After all, who cares about lyrics when an F train is clattering and squealing through your brainpan? Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo are the true glimmer twins of rock n' roll, making their axes sound like anything from a swarm of giant bees to the soft tolling of bells and Tibetan gongs. The guitar nerds who pine over Joe Satriani and his ilk still can't wrap their heads around this stuff; let's hope they never do.
The Geffen reissue of this classic helpfully adds on the Subsequent "Kill Yr Idols" EP, the title track of which is one of the greatest punk rawk songs ever committed to tape (in fact, there's a mediocre hardcore band who took the title as their name). There are underground bands to this day, like Mouthus and Magik Markers, who use this early material as a touchstone, and Sonic Youth are still right there to help them along. It may never win mass appeal, but if you've got a cast iron stomach, "Confusion is Sex" is a feast.
Despite the above mentioned flaws, this cd still rocks and is a nice testimony to Sonic Youth's early indulgences in very dark and cathartic scenery..."(She's In A) Bad Mood", "Shaking Hell", "The World Is Red" (very stream-of-conciousness lyrics), and "Inhuman" all provide a raw wild crazy very punk sound in their music, making the cd thrilling..."Protect Me You" is an early tour de force, the same meandering tab repeated endlessly while Kim half-sings/half-whispers premonitions and fears of demons and things that go bump in the night, actually more like admirations than fears, it's about the creepiest song they've ever done...many of the songs fit right inbetween soft chaos and exploding chaos, such as "Confusion Is Next"...
The lyrics range from confrontational political ideas ("Confusion Is Next" espescially with its promise of confusion, chaos, and then truth) to apocalyptic bruised imagination ('Push it away/The world looks red/People with fish eyes/ The ground sucks"-"The World Looks Red", or the alienation of "Inhuman", the rape fantasy that is "Shaking Hell").
The overall effect of the album is frieghtening, even darker and more howling than its predecessor, BAD MOON RISING...
My version (which may be the same as this, although not all the tracks are listed) includes a live version of 'Shaking Hell' as well the "Brother James", "Kill Yr. Idols", and "Early American", all good songs that continue the twisted mood of the record. This should be the last album SY fans get, but if you can gaze past the bad quality, there's some good horriffic stuff here...