Sonic Youth: Goo (Deluxe Edition)

I don’t begrudge Sonic Youth’s status as godfathers (and godmother) of modern rock.

They’ve certainly earned it by the breadth of their unconventional work, from the bizarre tunings to the work with classical composers.

I’m interested in the work Sonic Youth does — I’m not necessarily interested in listening to it.

As such, my Sonic Youth collection is limited to the two most conventional albums in the band’s discography: Daydream Nation and Goo.

Goo was the first Sonic Youth album I bought by virtue of the fact it was the one most widely available. I grew up in Hawaiʻi, and it takes a while before things reach that far west.

I was 18 years old at the time, and I dug it for the simple fact it was beyond the tolerance threshold of my friends and family. They stuck with whatever was on the radio at the time, and hell if I remember what that was. (Milli Vanilli, perhaps?)

A few things did strike me odd about Goo, though.

I never understood why "Mary Christ" faded out just as "Kool Thing" started up, only to be followed by — "Kool Thing".

And the sound of the album sounded flat — as if the fuzz of guitars muddied any dimension to the sound.

I overlooked those flaws mainly because the songs were melodic but dense, raw but polished. It was an album with a lot of attitude, and for a major label release, it was a great balance between being accessible and being bugfuck.

It’s one of my favorite albums, and it holds a permanent spot in my collection.

When news came down that a deluxe edition would be released with bonus tracks and remastering, I made sure I was in the store when it hit the shelves.

It takes headphones to get a good sense of the remastering — the drums are sharper and the guitars are more pointed. The songs themselves are still pretty muddy, so the effects of the remastering can get lost on less-than-primal stereo systems.

The accompanying extended notes go into detail about Sonic Youth’s jump from indie obscurity to early ’90s alt-rock fame. The tone of notes can get cooler-than-thou, but they do provide some interesting comments by the band itself.

Thurston Moore would have liked to release the original demos of the songs as an album instead of what eventually became Goo.

Those demos fill the second disc of extras, and on some level, Moore is right. Recorded on an eight-track, the Goo demos, released with a fan magazine, have a lot more punch and immediacy.

The segue between "Mary Christ" and "Kool Thing" — titled "Animals" and "DV2" on the demo — should have been kept.

"Blowjob (Mildred Pierce)" is many times longer than the song it became, while the original version of "Mote", titled "Bookstore", is a full three minutes shorter — and better — than its final cut.

"Blowjob", by the way, was intended to be the original title of Goo, but the band decided it shouldn’t piss off the new label so soon.

Although not the ambitious watershed of Daydream Nation, Goo is an accomplished work. Sonic Youth reigned in its avant-garde modus operandi just enough to bring in listeners who may have otherwise been scared off.

The deluxe edition is great for fans of the band or the album in particular, but I hope one day the remastered album becomes a separate release itself.