Published May 30, 2008After nearly 30 years in rock, Sonic Youth are getting some much-deserved biography treatment via Goodbye 20th Century, a book based on the life and times of the influential experimental pioneers.
Author David Brownes new book, which came out earlier this week on Da Capo, paints a detailed portrait of the iconic N.Y. band through extensive research, interviews with the band and their various collaborators, such as Spike Jonze, Glenn Branca, Lydia Lunch and Sofia Coppola. It also starts from the very beginnings of Sonic Youths career to modern day, covering everything from the bands start with two female vocalists and a keyboard player to impact of Daydream Nation to their years as alterna-rock superstars to the Jim ORourke era and becoming rocknrolls elder statesmen.
"The interesting thing about the Sonic Youth story to me, outside of their music and career, is that theyre probably one of the most influential bands in rock history but not in the normal way you measure influence, Browne recently told Rolling Stone. "Their influence is in that you can make this weird music and make a career and sustain yourself, but also in the way you see the impact of the people theyve brought along.
Interestingly enough, Goodbye 20th Century also explores Sonic Youths mentoring of other once-obscure artists, mostly notably Nirvana and Beck. "Most of these people were not known to anybody until Sonic Youth ushered them into the mainstream, Browne says. "Their footprints are just as much in their music as it is in their legacy in bringing this alternative arts world with them.
For many fans, they will recognise the books title, Goodbye 20th Century, as one of the bands avant-garde session EPs. For Browne, he said he feels Sonic Youth "were the start of a real paradigm shift in rock in the early 80s when they said Our building blocks arent going to be what everyone says they should be: blues, country, R&B, folk. Were starting from ground zero. If you want to go on stage and plug a drill into a wah-wah pedal and scream into the microphone for 10 minutes, thats a song. So I feel the title of the book summed up their approach to their art.
Sonic Youth "Dirty Boots"