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Goodbye 20th Century : A Biography of Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth's distinctive, uncompromising sounds have provided a map for innumerable musicians who followed, from '90s groundbreakers like Nirvana and Pavement to current faves like the Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. More than perhaps any other act, Sonic Youth has brought "fringe" art to the mainstream, helping spawn an alternative arts scene that prospers to this day: a world of punk rock, underground films and comics, experimental music, conceptual art, contemporary classical compositions, and even fashion. In Goodbye 20th Century, David Browne tells the full glorious story of "the Velvet Underground of their generation," an account based on extensive research, fresh interviews with the band and those who have worked with them (from Glenn Branca and Lydia Lunch to Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze), and unprecedented access to unreleased recordings and documents. This is a richly detailed portrait of an iconic band and the times they helped create.
Anchored by the married couple of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, and propelled by democratically distributed experiments from all four group members, underground music icons Sonic Youth, as chronicled by Browne in his compulsively readable new biography, are a model for how to sustain a career in the burnout-friendly world of rock music. Browne traces each phase of the band's career with the easy, anecdotal grace of an accomplished journalist: he sketches each band member's youth and initiation into the New York music scene, provides accounts of the years of day jobs and thrifty recording sessions, and gives a play-by-play account of the band's courting by labels following the independent success of the album Daydream Nation. The book is most engaging in its middle third, an in-depth account of the band's initial struggles and successes at Geffen, their major label home for the past two decades of their career. While Browne succeeds at capturing the personalities and debates that shape the band's character, at times the author's engagement with the band's actual music is not as incisive or comprehensive as it could be. (June)
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Da Capo Press
May 24, 2008
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