Having successfully balanced atonal freak-outs with rock song structure on their previous release, EVOL, Sonic Youth went further towards convention with this concise, "all rock" (their words) album. Recorded on old tube e... more »quipment instead of then-emerging digital technology, the album's 10 songs have an impressively warm, cozy vibe even as they tear up the pavement underneath. "(I Got a) Catholic Block," "Pacific Coast Highway," and a vicious cover of Crime's "Hot Wire My Heart" are propelled by the newfound power of drummer Steve Shelley, who doesn't let the band's arty self-consciousness inhibit the songs' natural drive. --Rob O'Connor« less
Having successfully balanced atonal freak-outs with rock song structure on their previous release, EVOL, Sonic Youth went further towards convention with this concise, "all rock" (their words) album. Recorded on old tube equipment instead of then-emerging digital technology, the album's 10 songs have an impressively warm, cozy vibe even as they tear up the pavement underneath. "(I Got a) Catholic Block," "Pacific Coast Highway," and a vicious cover of Crime's "Hot Wire My Heart" are propelled by the newfound power of drummer Steve Shelley, who doesn't let the band's arty self-consciousness inhibit the songs' natural drive. --Rob O'Connor
"i think this is actually a BETTER introduction than Daydream Nation. it's more concice of an album (1/2 of the running time of DN) and just as adventerous. the first song alone contains more mind-bending guitar effects than most bands touch on in an album, or most guitarists can even play. this was alternative back when the word was understood to mean something. unflinching and uncompromising, one of the touchstone albums of the 80's. influential on a good many bands. when you hear this you feel a real sense of inspiration and empowerment. Daydream Nation is probably more brilliant, but more of a chore for just one sitting. this is the best Sonic Youth album to cut your teeth on. then be prepared, Daydream Nation is their peak. (though this is still my favorite!)"
Incredible Album From An Incredible Band...
Matthew Jaworski | Detroit, MI | 12/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sonic Youth is one of the more influential and revered bands of the last 20 years. They are rightfully known as the Godfathers of Indie Rock. I can think of no other band that has been consistently putting out quality music for as long as Sonic Youth. Some bands manage to string together 2 or 3 good albums, but then tend to fade into obscurity, break-up, or start to suck. Amazingly, Sonic Youth have yet to succumb to any of those fates. They have had the occasional slump (the mid-to-late 90's), yet they are still here- producing worthwhile, quality albums. In my mind, their creative peak was the late 80's; when they put out the amazing trilogy of `Evol', `Sister', and `Daydream Nation'. I love this band and own every single one of their albums. That being said, `Sister' is my favorite. `Sister' was initially released on SST records in 1987, and in my mind stands as the quintessential Sonic Youth release. There is a mythic, mystical undercurrent pulling the listener thru this delicious album. It is hard to quantify and explain. The guitar interplay of Thurston and Lee is something special- at times beautifully melodic, dissonant, violent, loving, and ethereal. These songs really speak to me. This awesome work open with `Schizophrenia' (you really need to hear this song live sometime). I like how both Kim and Thurston share vocals on this track- something they should do more often, which they do in fact numerous times on `Sister'. Lyrically this is one of Sonic Youth's finest efforts, which should be no surprise to anyone when they realize that the Youth were heavily into Philip K. Dick at the time this album was written. Feelings of insanity, isolation, loneliness, chaos, and love pervade `Sister'- for these were all themes with which Dick was intimately familiar. A number of Sonic Youth's best tracks appear on this album. `Stereo Sanctity' is dissonant, delirious, and wonderful. This is followed by the reflective and mysterious `Pipeline/ Kill Time', which makes use of Lee's poetic lyrics, rolling drums, and incredible feedback control. After this amazing track comes `Tuff Gnarl', which ends with a devastating and divinely dissonant guitar frenzy. Maintaining the momentum, next up is `Pacific Coast Highway', one of Kim Gordon's best tracks- she sounds genuinely scary at the outset, which serves as a perfect lead-in to more guitar beauty. This stretch here- tracks 4 through 7, marks one of the best I have heard on ANY album. `Cotton Crown' follows `Hot Wire My Heart' (which I could've done without). `Cotton Crown' is the closest thing Sonic Youth has to a love song, but don't let that deter you- I HATE love songs. The instrumental section in the middle of this song is a thing of beauty and power. Dissonant guitars have never sounded so soothing (with the exception of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless). `White Cross' follows this gem, ending the album on a rocking note. `Master-Dik' actually ends this version of `Sister' (I don't think it was on the original SST version). `Master-Dik' is a VERY tongue-in-cheek Sonic Youth take on Hip Hop, complete with lots of distorted guitars and even a KISS sample. If you are only familiar with recent Sonic Youth, and you find yourself wishing they would rock out more, than you need this album. This is probably the Youth's most rocking album. The guitar is blistering throughout. And all though it is blistering, distorted, and dissonant; it is highly soothing and quite trance inducing at times. The guitar interplay here paved the way for the amazing sonics exhibited on their next album, the undisputed masterpiece- `Daydream Nation'. The song writing on `Sister' is some of their best- cosmically poetic and mystically enchanting. This, in conjunction with the otherworldly music make for a fascinating listen. If you like Sonic Youth, but have yet to get this album, you must do so immediately. If you are only familiar with major label Youth (post-Goo), then you must IMMEDIATELY get this incredible album. And finally, if you are curious about Sonic Youth, but have yet to delve into their daunting catalogue, this might not be the best place to start. `Goo' & `Daydream Nation' might be better jumping off points. However, if you are musically adventurous, a guitarist, or a fan of interesting rock, you will most likely love this wonderfully dissonant work. After many years, and hundreds upon hundreds of CD's and vinyl albums, `Sister' remains one of my favorites."
The Bridge Between
cynic-youth | 08/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sister is one of the best go-between albums in the SY catalog. Like Washing Machine, Goo, and the SYR EP's, this album is a collection of excellent experimental rock that is not only a snapshot of the band's carreer at that time; it is also a transitional record that documents the period between EVOL and the formation of Daydream Nation. "Sister" is, to some extent, a concept album, like every other in the SY catalog. However, one of its greatest strengths lies in breaking out of this mold. It showcases gut-wrenching rock music, conceptual art pieces that slash and buzz and drone like an embryonic Daydream Nation, or a spacier Goo. It manages to encompass art and rock without sacrificing either. Rockers like "Stereo Sanctity" and "Tuff Gnarl" contain propulsive rock rhythms that secretly house eviscerating sonics; likewise, the Kim song "Beauty Lies" has an atmospheric swirl nudged along by modest beats. Sister's greatest moments come in intense moments of passion where anything can happen. Surprise is its greatest weapon. While listening, you'll hear a drum break out of nowhere, a full-stop that screams into a swirl of noise, a drop-out that pushes a feverish improv to the forefront. These are the moments of sonic paradise. Savor them well."
Jesus had a twin
Ethan J. Sawyer | Petaluma, CA | 10/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One thing i love about Sonic Youth is how successfully they can polorize people. People can just outright hate their music and write it off forever, and, adversely, people can love their music and be totally put off by some other wilder stuff just as someone can be put off by some of their commercail stuff. This is the album that highlights the fact that this was the golden age of Sonic Youth. The 80's spawned 5 flawless albums from the band, culminating with Daydream Nation.
Sister is one of my rotating SY favorites (Daybream, BMR, Evol and Goo are all there as is the horror captured within Confusion is Sex) and is the Sonic Youth album that people should hear first (along with Daydream Natio). It conveys the sound of EVOL, which is the band realizing that they can find the gray area of their choatic, destroy everything side and their softer, beat poetry love sound, into one cohesive whole. The songs on Sister speak for themselves, on one hand, with noticable SY classics such as Schizophrenia, Catholic Block (an awesome one-two punch that kickstarts the album), Stereo Sanctity, PCH, and Kotton Krown. But one the other hand, certain tracks grown on you beautifully like the awesome cover of Hot Wire My Heart and my personal favorite track of the album, Master-Dik.
The albums nuances show themselves in the little details. I'm a huge fan of Phillip K. Dick and the lyrics of this album are wonderfully inspired by him (my favorite example: "I can't get laid 'cuz everyone is dead" on Stereo Sanctity). SY are known just as much for their loudmouthed praising of avant garde geniouses like Dick, as well as artists like Raymond Pettibon and movements like the No-wave scene and the SST scene (which helped them get on the label), as much as for their music itself. Other little nuggets of enjoyment include the much imporved but totally underrated presence of drummer Steve Shelley (as with EVOL) who gave them a beastly propulsion that they just couldnt achieve with the tribal thumps of Bob Bert, as well as Lee Ranoldo's number Pipeline/Kill time with his usual spewing of high velocity beat poety, which some seem to detest. The music contained within this record shows its head and changes its face each time you listen to it, evn though its one of the more straight forward albums SY have ever done.
As their 80's stuff gets unanymous praise from all SY fans, their 90's stuff is greatly controvercial. While i feel albums like Goo and Dirty rank up there with the best of Sonik Tooth, some people seem to hate them, as well as Washing Machine (which i do like) and everything after. I do agree with most of those sentiments and find most of it uninspired and boring, with flashes of their former brilliance (Sonic Nurse returned the aging hipsters to their former glory though and is one of their best). But with all that controversy and weird, nerdy arguments, we can all come together and worship their peak with Sister. A classic and highly recommended. "