The biggest problem for bands that revolutionize the milieu that spawned them is that their fans expect the revolution to go on forever. Sonic Youth offer a perfect example of a band shackled by their early innovations. The New York quartet’s transgressive formal and tonal experiments in the mid-80s on landmark albums like Bad Moon Rising, Evol, Sister, and Daydream Nation paved the way for countless bands who’ve attained considerably more celebrity, sales, and recognition–from Nirvana and Pavement to White Zombie. Since signing with DGC in 1990 the band hasn’t had the same radical insolence, but it hasn’t made anything approaching a bad record. Goo and last year’s difficult Experimental Jet Set, Trash, and No Star are uneven, and with hindsight Dirty’s punk homage seems like a strange gambit, but on all these 90s albums they gracefully grapple with middle age, letting the kids take over and then working out a way to assimilate their sounds. Their superb new album Washing Machine is Sonic Youth’s least reactionary record of the 90s. Whether stretching out the abstract soundscapes they helped pioneer (the epic “The Diamond Sea”), elaborating on transfixing drone grooves (the opener, “Becuz”), or coyly toying with old pop conventions (the girl-group-ish “Little Trouble Girl”), Sonic Youth still have lots to say, even if it won’t topple the status quo. As their impressive performance headlining Lollapalooza last summer proves, they still rip live, and this gig marks their first nonshed appearance since 1992. Kim Deal’s new band the Amps, whose forthcoming debut, Pacer (4AD), strips down the Breeders’ bouncy, twisted pop into a raw garagey romp, open, along with Helium. Thursday, October 26, 7:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine; 275-6800 or 559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Lavine.