This would be the very first EP by the band that soon became the Greatest American Rock Band of the last 25 years. It's kind of the band's misbegotten son, the ne'er-do-well. When they recorded it, they were young, still developing their sound, and relatively unfamiliar with the studio environment. As a result, the band (and many of their fans) felt it came out rather tepid: a watered down, somewhat sterile version of what they actually wanted to do. When Geffen started reissuing SY's indie albums in the mid-90's, this was conspicuously left out. One the "best of" collection "Screaming Fields of Sonic Love," Only "I Dreamed I Dream" was included, event though I for one always preferred "She Is Not Alone" (side note: if you hunger for SY-related rarities, try to track down a rather decent cover version of that tune by an industrial outfit named Borghesia). Well, they've finally gotten around to a reissue, only a few month's before the brand new album "Rather Ripped," drops. I'll be sure to review that, and I can tell you're waiting with bated breath.
Now, however, is the time to re-evaluate the EP that broke Sonic ground in 1982 (has it really been that long? Sweet Evil Jesus, these guys are almost eligible for the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame!). If you're expecting to hear a rowdy punk beast along the lines of Black Flag's "Damaged" (one of their faves from that era), you'll be disappointed. While the chiming, otherworldly guitar textures that made the band's name are in full evidence, here it is indeed restrained somewhat. What's really different is the drumming. Like many bands, Sonic Youth went through a few drummers, including future Pussy Galore pounder Bob Bert, before settling in with Steve Shelley. In '82, the drummer of choice was Richard Edson, who contributed a more tightly rhythmic backbone to the band's guitar explorations. The resulting sound more closely recalls a lot to the now-legendary post-punk of the era, such as the early work of Gang Of Four and Public Image Ltd. As such, this is a fascinating document of what could have been. For a while now, detractors have accused the band of becoming sort of an alt-rock Jam Band. This of course can be disputed, but I think if they stuck with the sound of this early material, that barb would have never come up. Mind you, I couldn't hold the band to higher regard as it is, but I find myself loving this album nonetheless. No, it doesn't come close to equalling later maasterworks such as "Bad Moon Rising," "Sister," "Daydream Nation" and yes, even later period albums like "Sonic Nurse," but it's really just two views of a pretty damn excellent picture.
Not content with just re-releasing the EP, this remastered edition also comes with more than a half-hour's worth of live material from the era, also remastered with remarkable sound quality, considering when it was recorded and where (various hole in the wall clubs). The live stuff, as you would guess, is a lot noisier than the studio versions, but also surprisingly as tight as Steve Albini's butt cheeks. You also get a booklet with rare pictures (look for a rather tomboy-ish Kim Gordon) and extensive liner notes/essays by the likes of Avant-Garde composer Glenn Branca, underground rock critic Byron Coley, and even Richard Edson himself, who left the rock world altogether to become an actor (he was in Spike Lee's seminal "Do The Right Thing" among many others).
Again, if you prefer the whirlwinds of noise that Sonic Youth perfected, which influeced countless bands since, this may not be your cup o' poison. If you're a rabid Sonic Youth fan to the point of irrationality, well, you probably already have this. Still, if you find yourself sitting on the fence wondering whether you need this in your life: yes, you do. Especially at a price like just ten bucks. What are you waiting for, a personal invitation?