Has middle age finally caught up to Sonic Youth, the noisy New York art-rock quartet whose punky cartoon-selves once pilfered watermelon from Peter Frampton’s cooler on The Simpsons? Because it seems like the longtime fringy group is stealing from mainstream rock elder statesman Paul McCartney’s playbook.
Earlier this summer, Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore made the potentially indie-cred-killing announcement that the band is putting together a sort of greatest-hits compilation curated by various celebrities (Marc Jacobs, Chloë Sevigny, Michelle Williams) for sale at Starbucks stores in cities across the country. The news—which, given the group’s clamorous nature, generated an appropriate amount of feedback among music critics—arrived just as Sonic Youth was gearing up for a string of summer concerts devoted entirely to material from its most historic recording, 1988’s Daydream Nation. (This Saturday, the band brings the traveling self-tribute show back home, with a performance at McCarren Park Pool in Greenpoint.)
Ranked among Rolling Stone’s 500 all-time best albums, Daydream Nation last year also earned a spot in the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress, joining the likes of 1960’s standouts Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? and Frank Zappa’s We’re Only in It for the Money. Perhaps not surprisingly, the band responded with a newly revamped deluxe edition of the album, which is now in stores.
Indeed, it all sounds very “classic rock” for a group generally considered among modern music’s most avant-garde.
However, an expert on the baby-boomer-geared radio format from local station Q104.3 FM confirmed for The Observer that Mr. Moore and company have yet to join the Lynyrd Skynyrd- and Eagles-heavy rotation. “Sonic Youth is not considered classic rock by our audience,” the expert, who requested anonymity, wrote in an e-mail. “It’s not on their radar.”
Still, don’t be surprised to spot Saturday night’s opening act, the Slits, ransacking Sonic Youth’s cooler.
Sonic Youth performing Daydream Nation, McCarren Park Pool, Saturday, July 28, 7:30 p.m.