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Sonic Youth offers old and new, but lacks vibrance

John Jacobs--The Tech
Guitarist Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth: Languid onstage demeanor complements polo shirt.

Sonic Youth

Featuring special guests Mistle Thrush and Helium.

MIT Student Center Committee Spring Concert.

Johnson Athletics Center.

April 22, 8 p.m.

By John Jacobs
Staff Reporter

Sonic Youth's style recently, it seems, has been not to grab its audiences with stellar performances. That is, if one were to generalize based on Friday night's performance at SCC's Spring Weekend concert.

They didn't play enough familiar songs (a mistake in any industry) for the audience to get into. Instead, they chose to introduce songs from their upcoming album. In fact, although I consider myself a "solid" fan, I only recognized four songs: "Schizophrenia," "Bull In the Heather," "Self-Obsessed and Sexxee," and "Candle," all of which were enthusiastically welcomed by the audience, dying as we were to hear some familiar SY songs. "Bull In the Heather," SY's hit (by SY standards, of course) single from their last album, Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star, went over particularly well. And I was psyched to hear anything off of Sister, which competes with Daydream Nation for the title of SY's best album ever. And, I wouldn't have minded if they'd played a few songs off of Dirty (the album on which they backslid into traditional rock conventions - power-chord riffing, etc.), songs which I had always imagined would sound better live.

Of course the unfamiliar songs didn't exactly fall flat. They were simply harder to relate to. What SY intended to do while unintentionally alienating their fans is unclear, in typical SY style, but the songs had the unmistakable SY "aura" about them, and it wasn't difficult to pretend I was listening to a better version of songs from Experimental Jet Set Trash and No Star. It is difficult, however, to imagine a version of that album that I would enjoy listening to.

All in all, their performance bordered on lively, perhaps because they had played a more energetic show that afternoon in Bridgewater; but it's possible, though, that their best days really are behind them, and fans like me are having trouble finding (or fabricating) evidence to the contrary. Celeste Winnant '95 noted that the band "looked a little dweeby in their cotton polo button-downs." I was disappointed to note that she was right. As our invited guests, the band had no right to make us feel underdressed.

As for Helium's performance I don't think is worth commenting on. Mistle Thrush, on the other hand, put on a surprisingly good show for such a new band (they only have one release, an EP). Mistle Thrush's exuberance onstage during their last song - with four band members playing drums while the fifth used a bottle as a guitar slide and reveled in five minutes' worth of feedback - redeemed their tendency toward the self-pitying style of the Cranberries.

So, in closing, we must hold SCC in high esteem for bringing such a revolutionary and influential band to our campus. They really had no way of knowing that Sonic Youth had tired of vivid performances.