The Body Lovers | Number One of Three | Review

FM Outlook #49 | Danen Jobe

New York Noise Has A Mid Life Crisis

Sonic Youth—A Thousand Leaves (DGC)
The Body Lovers—One of Three (Young God/Atavistic)

Sixteen years ago an amazing movement began in New York City. This was a movement which came out of Glenn Branca's infamous guitar orchestras, and was quickly dubbed the New York Noise movement. Most famous of these original groups (which also included Live Skull and 8 Eyed Spy) were Sonic Youth and Swans, who were often found touring together, making people's ears hurt all over the east coast. Sonic Youth captured the spooky tunings and hammered effects of Branca's symphonies, while Swans preferred the pounding thud, with Michael Gira's basso profundo screaming tales of greed and horror. Amazingly, both survived and evolved. Gira added female vocalist Jarboe and began exploring soft/hard and even industrial ("Time is Money (Bastard)" is the great Nine Inch Nails predecessor) styles. Sonic Youth added poppy hooks and long dreamy passages on albums like "Evol" and "Sister." In the late eighties, the groups hit their peaks with Sonic Youth's "Daydream Nation" and Swans' "Children of God." From there, Sonic Youth became media darlings and headlined Lollapalooza while Swans hit the underground and tried folkier sounds, ending it all with last year's brilliant "Soundtracks for the Blind." Now Michael Gira has two new projects (the acoustic-tinged Angels of Light is due this fall) and Sonic Youth (having been booed off of R.E.M.'s opening stage) has returned to the noise of yore. So how is New York Noise surviving sixteen years later?

Think of Sonic Youth's as a sort of mid life crisis. Like that doctor that buys a sports car and has an affair, trying to recapture a youth gone away. Sure, "A Thousand Leaves" offers all the noise you'd want, but if you have "Bad Moon Rising" already, why bother? Only "Sunday" truly moves the band ahead, and it sounds more like the Velvets than Lou Reed's latest work.

As for Gira, his Body Lovers fares better. He calls it "psycho ambient" and why not? Some tracks stretch flugelhorn, guitar, and keyboards for ten plus minutes. Others mix samples and loud noise back and forth into a strange cacophony. Not perfect yet, but then this is his first real shot at it (some later Swans music included some instrumentals like this, but not to this degree)and later albums may improve on what is already a unique, and often mesmerizing document. Check this out if most electronica bores you, and see how some truly evolve. Guess not everybody has to have a dull middle age....