.
http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/32c6c0fd6b241115f3796e31d3e3d7fed6b8aec8.jpg Washing Machine

Sonic Youth

Washing Machine

DCD Records Distribution
Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 4 0
October 19, 1995

Sick of faceless corporate alternative rock yet? So are Sonic Youth. They've spent years watching other bands mangle their ideas and turn the often narrow-minded results into a cause célèbre (or a million seller). Now this patient New York foursome fires-back with a sardonic, wise-ass, indulgent and totally captivating album, Washing Machine. It differs from the band's last few DGC releases in one important respect: It's defiantly anti-hook. This album disavows (and sometimes mocks) the conventional post-Nirvana wisdom. It contains gently cooing backing vocals ("Saucer-Like") and a spoof of the Phil Spector girl-group hits ("Trouble Girl"). It contains mellow guitars and lacerating guitars. One song, "The Diamond Sea," is a suite that lasts more than 19 minutes.

Recognizing that overdriven guitar distortion only goes so far, Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore change tactics with every track, summoning beautifully spare, pointillistic melodies one minute and haywire polytonality the next. With surgical skill and a desire to stretch if not demolish the frontier, they've developed an attack that is astonishingly intricate and jazzlike in its extreme flexibility.

While bassist Kim Gordon's songs on 1994's Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star addressed gender roles and stereotypes, her contributions to Washing Machine are more girl oriented. The title track is an odd, earnest love song; "Panty Lies" is a playground taunt blown to absurd extremes; and "Trouble Girl," the Spector sendup, is a dramatic, earnest coming-of-age story.

Most of all, Sonic Youth have maintained their arch attitude — an irreverence that vanished from alterna-rock when the big money came in. "The guitar guy played real good feedback and supersounding riffs," Ranaldo sings with mock enthusiasm on "Skip Tracer." And just when the tirade threatens to veer into generic alterna-ville, the guitars kick in. Suddenly the satire becomes more biting, because while anybody can sling pointed barbs, it takes skill to imitate commonplace three-chord rhythm-guitar phrases while simultaneously sending those phrases out of the galaxy.

Which is, of course, a thing Sonic Youth do particularly well. One minute the rhythm crunch feels reassuringly conventional, the next minute it's all strung out and droning — a triumph of deconstruction.

prev
Album Review Main Next

ADD A COMMENT

Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...

COMMENTS

Sort by:
    Read More
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.

    X

    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Money For Nothing”

    Dire Straits | 1984

    Mark Knopfler wrote this song with Sting, and it wasn’t without controversy. The Dire Straits frontman's original lyric used the word “faggot” to describe a singer who got their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” Even though the slur was edited out in many versions, the band, and Knopfler, still took plenty of criticism for the term. “I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London--he actually said it was below the belt,” Knopfler told Rolling Stone. Still, "Money For Nothing," undoubtedly augmented by its innovative early computer-animated video, stayed at Number One for three weeks.

    More Song Stories entries »
    www.expandtheroom.com