Thursday, April 14, 2022

Album Review: Sonic Youth - In/Out/In

Sonic Youth
*** out of *****

When it comes to most band's practice tapes, they should be discarded as soon as they are no longer needed, however Sonic Youth's jams can always be examined for interesting sounds. In/Out/In is billed as a "compilation album of five songs recorded between 200 and 2010" but really these feel like practice sessions, song sketches and experiments that never proceeded to complete songs for release.

And that is OK. Sonic Youth perhaps more than any jamband, uses the studio to talk musically to each other, structuring "jams" into "songs" with weird tunings, styles and freak-outs. 

The opening "Basement Contender" sounds as if it was recorded during the Murray Street era of the group as the beautiful guitar tones and blissful jams float out around the soft drum rolls. Drummer Steve Shelley is the clear MVP on this release as the questioning interplay of the strings needs a foundation to coalesce around and Shelley provides it expertly on all of these efforts.   

"In & Out" uses breathy holding vocals from Kim Gordon but doesn't really go anywhere with the droning despite Shelley's upbeat drums. The growly rock and roll of Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore's guitars push "Machine" but it never rises up to the high levels of the band's 2000's strong output, while "Social Static" is just that, experimental feedback that dulls over the almost twelve minute run time. 

The album wraps up with the best track here, "Out & In". The ominous meddling rock tone set by Moore and Ranaldo around warbling guitars starts hot with distortion as boiling tension climbs then drops back down in to the muck. Picking right back up, the guitars fluctuate with a bass bumping finale on a track that could run on infinitely in classic SY style.     

In/Out/In will not create new fans, and isn't even a truly major release, (the band's periodic live show releases on bandcamp are much more fulfilling) but for longtime fans (RtBE firmly included) any time spent with one of the most underrated bands in history is time well spent.   
Support the artists, buy the album and peeps some video below:

1 comment:

  1. Sonic Youth never quite fit into that circuit, but the nearly-all-instrumental In/Out/In, released after their death, demonstrates the New York band's spiritual kinship with the post-Dead tradition, which has been astonishingly stable since the 1990s. The five tracks here could be called "jams," but Ranaldo (an avowed longtime Dead fan) recently refuted, preferring to refer to them as "extrapolations." That's fair, because these often repetitive, often solo-less pieces owe more to Glenn Branca's forward-driving guitar symphonies than to the Dead's more languid excursions.