Sonic Youth's NYC Ghosts & Flowers

Sonic Youth's NYC Ghosts & Flowers was released in May of 2000 by Geffen Records. I didn't get the CD until the fall of that year. At the time I was finishing up my master's degree and had been on a big Sonic Youth kick for the duration of grad school. I was more of a casual fan of the band until about 1998. I knew their music from various skateboard videos, MTV, and friends listening to their albums, but I'd never invested in owning their discography before then. I collected most of the Sonic Youth albums and got a sense of the band. Even though I hadn't been obsessive about them, I realized I already knew a good bulk of the songs from over the years so there was a large degree of familiarity with the music already.

I know I listened to NYC Ghosts & Flowers a bunch in the studio after I got the disc. However, it didn't register with me and I didn't remember much about the music. It didn't have the sticking power of some of Sonic Youth's previous records. The only thing I did remember about the album was that it got a few bad to mediocre reviews at the time. That was probably about the last I thought of this particular Sonic Youth release.

I did some reorganizing of my music collection this past summer and I decided to give NYC Ghosts & Flowers another listen for the sake of curiosity. I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. The music sticks to the more experimental side of Sonic Youth. There's prepared guitar, spoken word vocals, and electronics. This is an arty record. I'm inclined to think that after enjoying a decade of alternative success the band was interested in reinvestigating a few things from their early days since they were getting older. The couple of noise jams off A Thousand Leaves from 1998 could be considered an example of this historical investigation as well.

If you're looking for another Daydream Nation or Washing Machine or even a Sonic Nurse, then this probably isn't the album for you. One thing to keep in mind is that Sonic Youth were around for a long time and everybody in the band kept up with the variety of things that were happening in underground music. Some of these things don't always turn up on their proper albums, but the influences are always there. The listener just needs to know how to interpret them because many of these sounds are drawn from difficult, lesser known places such as no wave, noise, musique concrète, and avant-garde composition. It's not always going to be straight forward alternative rock songs with a little bit of guitar weirdness.

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