Sonic Youth is Important, and a lot of other "I" words. Independent. Innovative. Idolized by cool kids and cognoscenti. The band reconceived what noise means, reconsidered what guitars do, and redrew the intersection of art and rock. All well and good, until it's time to listen.
I never could. For a long time I chalked it up to some personal deficiency: I don't like Sonic Youth, ergo I must be missing a good-taste chip. Maybe a happy childhood ruined my chances for embracing the caustic and chaotic. I like melody. (So, increasingly, does Sonic Youth.) I don't like feeling assaulted by a song, no matter how much inspiration and integrity is backing up the blows. (Neither, increasingly, does Sonic Youth.) But the die was cast during the band's '80s heyday, when SY's death grip on feedback, fondness for alternate tunings, and aversion to structure cast aspersions on my beloved verses and hooks. It doesn't matter how smart or original the music is. Sonic Youth alternately bores me and pains me, and life is too short to indulge either of those options.
-- Joan Anderman