There are several reasons why a band would release a rarities compilation, chief among them 1.) the band wants to fulfill a contractual obligation and 2.) they have a lot of unreleased or hard to find material, and thus there must certainly be a demand for it in a more palatable package. With a band like Sonic Youth, the real answer most likely lies somewhere between the two, but there’s no doubt that the latter reason is the more weighty of the two. A band that’s been around as long as Sonic Youth has will more than likely have their share of lost b-sides and outtakes, not to mention deleted flexi discs, Japanese edible 10″ singles, wax cylinders and musical slap bracelets. And to some degree, all that is explored on SY’s new rarities comp Destroyed Room, save for the dated fashion and edibility.
Containing only eleven tracks, it would seem that Kim, Thurston, Lee and Steve could have made this thing a lot longer, and it definitely could have been expanded into box set material. For the sake of keeping things simple, Destroyed Room is only one disc, but it’s by no means brief. Take into account the ten minute, droning “Fire Engine Dream” that opens the disc, the 25 minute extended version of “The Diamond Sea” that closes it, and the other 40 minutes sandwiched in between, and Destroyed Room actually comes out to be longer than some of their proper albums. Daydream Nation and A Thousand Leaves are still pretty fucking long, though.
Within this 77 minute span, da Yoof can be heard tackling a variety of different sounds, throughout various points in the last dozen years or so. The aforementioned “Fire Engine Dream” is dissonant, yet contained to an extent, and “Fauxhemians” makes for an interesting drone noir, almost funky in its no wave grooves. The one-minute twang of “Razor Blade” is a fun and pleasant surprise, segueing into “Blink,” a strangely serene track, in spite of its string scraping and spontaneous sound bursts.
“Kim’s Chords” is an extremely accessible highlight, a gorgeous instrumental with repetitive rhythmic structures offset with cascading sheets of clean guitar. And then there’s that monumental closer, the six minutes more “The Diamond Sea.” The song is pretty awesome to begin with, and this does nothing to change that; they just jam out a little more. There are most likely dozens of other songs that Sonic Youth could have chosen for this particular release, yet didn’t. Destroyed Room is, in a way, the perfect counter to Rather Ripped, as it focuses on the band’s more dissonant side, rather than their melodic one. It seems a bit scattered and incoherent at times, but such is the nature of the rarities compilation.
Sonic Youth – A Thousand Leaves
Sonic Youth – Goodbye 20th Century
Ciccone Youth – The Whitey Album
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.