Destroyed Room: B-Sides And Rarities Best of
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A band-chosen collection of near-hidden Sonic Youth gems, this album brings together tracks from throughout the band's career focusing on tracks previously available only on vinyl, limited-release compilations, or as b-sides to international singles. Remastered here for the first time, it's a chance for fans to complete their Sonic Youth collection with pristine versions of tracks they'd been going nuts trying to find on their own. They asked for it... and now they're getting it.
After years of making fans track down out-of-print singles, obscure compilations, and odd Japanese import pressings, Sonic Youth have decided to take a little mercy on their hardcore fans. The Destroyed Room is a rarities album that truly lives up to the label, not just settling on a few radio edits and soundtrack cuts, but gathering songs from the band's recent back catalog that are genuinely hard to find: "Campfire" from the Grand Royal At Home with the Groovebox collection; "Razor Blade," a B-side to the "Bull in the Heather" single; and several cuts from the Noho Furniture Sessions, including the intriguingly titled "Three Part Sectional Love Seat" and "Queen Anne Chair." Fans and casual enthusiasts will no doubt be bewildered by the extra experimental outings of an already daunting band--but for completists, this is the last word. --Aidin Vaziri
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
While it pains me to give anything less than 5 stars to a recording by what is after all the Greatest American Rock Band of the Last 25 Years--nay, the Greatest Rock Band Period of the Last 25 Years--I'll respectfully knock off one star for this collection of B-sides, demos and other sonic effluvia. This collection, you see, is mainly geared to fans of the band and other related music obsessives--newbies need not apply. If you're just looking to dip a toe into the band's very deep waters, it's better to start with SY's best-of-the-early-years collection, "Screaming Fields of Sonic Love." Those wanting to try a proper album should head straight for "Sister" (which most fans agree is actually their best album) or the epochal "Daydream Nation." The material on "The Destroyed Room" dates back no further than 1994, around the time of the underappreciated "Washing Machine" album, with the majority much more recent than that. In fact, only three of the songs here even have vocals, and one of those ("Razor Blade") is just a brief out-take. If you're already a fan, however, nothing except lack of funds should stop you from diving in, as there are plenty of Kool Things to be found, especially if you share the band's love of free improv. The lengthy instrumental workout that opens the album, "Fire Engine Dream" lets the band stretch out and just explore; needless to say, it's filled with oddly tuned textures and feedback, but also something of a groove courtesy of drummer Steve Shelley, who never receives enough credit. Naturally, SY's guitarists, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo (the real Glimmer Twins, if you ask me) are usually front and center, trading melodic ideas, drones and all-out Sonic abandon with glee. The Kim Gordon penned "Blink" is a surprisingly subtle song that would've fit right into one of the bands proper albums, and "Campfire" is an interesting excursion into abstract electronica. Unlike many latter-day noise merchants such as Wolf Eyes and Sightings, the Youth take a more laid-back, even friendly approach to horrible noise. The days of Sonic Death have been replaced by Sonic Life (an early title for the album now known as "Rather Ripped"), which is, of all things, sunny and positive. This isn't to say that it's "easy listening" (much of the stuff here will cause most "normal" folks to run for the exits). It's just that SY aim to transport listeners rather than smother them. While that approach draws sneering comparisons to so-called "jam bands," they're far more daring than the likes of Phish. If "The Destroyed Room" were released as an "all-new" album, it would definitely be considered the ballsiest release by a major rock band in years.
The biggest treat here, at least for yours truly, is the complete, uncut version of "Washing Machine's" epic coda, "The Diamond Sea." Mind you, the original version clocked in at a huge 19+ minutes--now we get to hear it at a mind-blowing 25:48! That it never feels bloated or wasteful is testament to the band's powere. Of course it's self indulgent, as is much of this album in general, but from them, too much is never enough.
The subtitle tells you exactly what's here...b-sides and rarities. The emphasis, however, is on instrumental rarities that are ultra-tuff to come by. For me, mood pieces like "Campfire" and "Loop Cat" are definite highlights here. SY took the adventurous route with 'Destroyed Room'...they could've opted for some "safer" choices like "My Arena", "Superstar" or the cover of Nirvana's "Moist Vagina" from the "Sunday" 7-inch. But no. This record will challenge you straight outta the box with the 10-plus minute "Fire Engine Dream", which manages to sound exactly like what the title suggests. Oh, and the track-by-track notes are entertaining, too.
But let me say this. When I found out that 'Destroyed Room' was going to contain the full 26-minute version of "The Diamond Sea" complete with alternate ending, I just about "done a double backflip", to quote Roger Miller. I listened to this track today while fighting my way through Tulsa Christmas shopping traffic, and it prevented me from losing my patience and killing fellow motorists. God, what a song.
You may be saying, "Well, if it's so damn good, why only 4 stars and not 5?" I like to keep the 5-star rating meaningful, so I don't give it to every record that blows my skirt up. 5 Stars means 'Blonde on Blonde'. 'Velvet Underground & Nico'. 'Fun House'. You get the idea. Surely you will understand.
It's reasonable to state that SY's website description to "Destroyed Room" was a bit misleading. Often times a b-sides/rarities comp is an uncohesive stew of songs 'not good enough' or 'too different' from a particular group's current art mindset. While The Youth has already tagged 2nd disc outtakes unto "Goo" and "Dirty", this release looked to be a culmination of the throwaways from SY's most recent seven albums.
Thankfully in a twist of rote expectations, "Detroyed Room" is different from hodge-podged outtake anthologies and plays very similar to the stylings of the inward-looking SYR series. Only three of the eleven songs on "Destroyed Room" contain lyrics (2 by Kim, 1 by Thurston) and the other eight are somewhat challenging instrumental compositions that stemmed from album session jams or focused peices specifically meant for concept compilation albums. The mind-bending instrumentals, most notably from the "Sonic Nurse" era, are angluar and rare-tuned oddysseys that demonstrate how this band glides into recording a new record.
In addition to quality music, the "Destroyed Room" booklet is not closet material for you portable cd-casers and/or I-Poders. With a track-by-track analysis, the mystery behind the sounds is explained well enough to leave the listener to do just that, LISTEN, and not question the band's intentions. Having read the band commentary, it'S obvious what The Youth has opted out to offer on this release; straight up experimental jamming.
FYI - Depending on what kind of SY fan you are this could be a warning or a letdown; this disc DOES NOT contain any noise freakouts. But on the otherhand, this disc does not offer great insight to polished outtake songs that are complete with verse/chorus/verse structures. Overall, this disc is good middle-of-the-road material. Spend the money and vote for peace (see the booklet for that reference).
The final track is 25 minutes of Diamond Sea/heaven. Worth the price of admission alone, even if just to hear Thurston say the words "blood crystallize to sand". Great progressions, wonderful noise - love it dearly!!!!!
The booklet is nice, with a gorgeous picture of a destroyed room on the cover, and every page after that devoted to two songs on the album, with a close-up of some part of the album cover (not sure if they have any connection to the songs or not, or if they're just random).