Sister (Sonic Youth album)

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Sister
Studio album by Sonic Youth
Released June 1987
Recorded 1987 at Sear Sound, New York, United States
Genre Noise pop, art rock
Length 42:49
Label SST
Producer Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth chronology
EVOL
(1986)
Sister
(1987)
Master=Dik
(1987)
Singles from Sister
  1. "Cotton Crown (bootleg)[1]"
    Released: September 1993

Sister is the fourth studio album by American alternative rock band Sonic Youth. It was released in June 1987, through record label SST. The album furthers the band's move away from no wave towards more traditional song structures, while maintaining an aggressively experimental approach. The album was re-issued in 2011 on 180gram purple-marble vinyl.

Like Sonic Youth's previous records, Sister wasn't very successful at the time, but garnered critical praise later on in their career. Slant Magazine called it "the last great punk album of the Reagan era, and the first great pop album to emerge from the American underground";[2] The magazine listed Sister at number 72 in its list of the best albums of the 1980s.[2] Pitchfork Media listed Sister as the fourteenth best album of the 1980s.[3]

Background and recording[edit]

Sonic Youth released their third album, EVOL, in October/November 1986. During the tour of the album, the band began writing material for a new album, except "White Kross", which was written around May 1986. Sister was recorded to 16-track in March and April 1987 at Sear Sound, with Walter Sear entirely on analog tube equipment, giving it its characteristic "warm", vintage feel.[4][5]

Sister is a loose concept album (like its follow-up Daydream Nation). Sister was in part inspired by the life and works of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. The original titles for the album were Kitty Magic, Humpy Pumpy, and Sol-Fuc[4] but it was named "sister" as a reference to Dick's fraternal twin, who died shortly after her birth, and whose memory haunted Dick his entire life.[6] "Sister" was also the original title for "Schizophrenia", and Moore often introduced it as "Sister".[7]

Music and lyrics[edit]

According to Sputnikmusic's Adam Downer, Sister deviated from the frenetic sound of the band's previous work for a refined style of noise pop that would typify their subsequent music.[8] The album features aggressive noise songs such as "White Kross" and "Catholic Block", as well as a menacing noir ode, "Pacific Coast Highway" although moves towards more traditional song structures. Some of the lyrics on "Schizophrenia" were originally written for early song "Come Around" ("Your future is static, It's already had it/But I got a hunch, it's coming back to me").[9] "Sister" was the original title for "Schizophrenia", a live recording of the song from 4 June, 1987 at Town & Country in London was released on the B-side of a bootleg 7" single under the title "Sister", the A-side featured their cover of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" with Iggy Pop.[7]

The band used acoustic guitars on some songs on the album for "melodic" purposes, one of the first being "(I Got a) Catholic Block",[10] another was "Beauty Lies in the Eye" which used three or four guitars.[11] "Pipeline/Kill Time", sang by Ranaldo, was written on 5 April 1987, although several lyrics were not included in the final song.[12] "Tuff Gnarl"'s working titles were "Sea-Sik" and "Smart and Fast", but the band ultimately decided to call it "Tuff Gnarl", inspired by the line "He's running on a tuff gnarl in his head". Mike Watt covered the song on his album Ball-Hog or Tugboat? with Sonic Youth members Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley performing it with him.[13] For the eighth song on the album, the band covered Crime's song "Hotwire My Heart". "Kotton Krown" (or "Cotton Crown") is the first Gordon and Moore duet, although Moore usually sang it during live performances.[14] The last song on the album, "White Kross", was the oldest song off the album and was featured on an NME 7". On the European tour in 1987, the band extended the song with five or six minutes of white noise at the end of it; this outro was later named "Broken Eye".[15]

Packaging[edit]

The artwork of the original front cover contained a photograph of 12-year-old Sandra Bennett, taken by Richard Avedon on August 23, 1980,[16] but it was censored for later releases after a threat of a lawsuit.[17] At first the picture was merely covered up with a black sticker, but on later pressings it was removed, only showing a black area. Similarly, a photo of Disney's Magic Kingdom on the back cover was later obscured by a UPC code.[17] Very early promotional posters and pressings of the album do feature these photos, but later ones do not.

Release and promotion[edit]

Sister was released in June 1987 through SST Records (US) and Blast First (UK) on vinyl, CD and Cassette. After its release, the band began their European tour, during which a part of the Master=Dik EP was recorded at a radio session in Geneva. They toured the US in September and October, replacing their usual encores of "Hotwire My Heart" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" with four Ramones covers. The recording of the concert the band played on October 14 in Chicago was officially released as Hold That Tiger.[18]

Videos were shot for "Beauty Lies in the Eye" and "Stereo Sanctity". The black-and-white "Stereo Sanctity" video, featuring clips of whirring factory machinery and brief live shots of the band, can only be seen on a rare 1980s SST video compilation entitled Over 35 Videos Never Before Released. The band didn't release a real single from the album, but a bootleg single of "Cotton Crown" was released in 1993.[19]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[20]
Chicago Tribune 3.5/4 stars[21]
Robert Christgau A[22]
eMusic 4.5/5 stars[23]
Los Angeles Times 3.5/4 stars[24]
Q 4/5 stars[25]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[26]
Sputnikmusic 5/5[8]

In a contemporary review for The Village Voice, music critic Robert Christgau called Sister an album that is finally worthy of the band's aesthetic and felt that, while they have learned to temper their absent-minded musings and penchant for "insanity", their guitar sound is still "almost unique in its capacity to evoke rock and roll without implicating them in a history few youngish bands can bear up under these days."[22] In a negative review, Spin magazine said that the band fails to successfully mix their previous "nonsense" with "real rock tunage", as the more tempered musical approach lacks riffs and leaves their ideas sounding poorly thought-out.[27] The album was voted the twelfth best album of the year in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll for 1987.[28] Christgau, the poll's creator, ranked it fifth on his own list.[29]

In his retrospective review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine called the album "a masterpiece" and "one of the singular art rock records of the '80s, surpassed only by Sonic Youth's next album, Daydream Nation."[20] Slant Magazine called it "the last great punk album of the Reagan era, and the first great pop album to emerge from the American underground."[2] Pitchfork Media listed Sister as the fourteenth best album of the 1980s.[3] NME rated it number 80 in their list of the greatest albums ever, and number 37 in their list of the 50 greatest albums of the 1980s.[30] In July 1995, Alternative Press magazine voted Sister the third best album of the decade spanning 1985–1995.[31] Slant Magazine listed the album at number 72 in its list of the best albums of the 1980s.[2]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Sonic Youth (Lee Ranaldo, Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, Steve Shelley), except as indicated. 

No. Title Writer(s) Lyrics/vocals Length
1. "Schizophrenia"     Gordon, Moore 4:38
2. "(I Got A) Catholic Block"     Moore 3:26
3. "Beauty Lies in the Eye"     Gordon 2:20
4. "Stereo Sanctity"     Moore 3:50
5. "Pipeline/Kill Time"     Ranaldo 4:35
6. "Tuff Gnarl"     Moore 3:15
7. "Pacific Coast Highway"     Gordon 4:18
8. "Hot Wire My Heart" (Crime cover) Johnny Strike Moore, Gordon, Ranaldo 3:23
9. "Kotton Krown[a]"     Gordon, Moore 5:08
10. "White Kross[b]"     Moore 2:59

Personnel[edit]

Sonic Youth
Technical

Release history[edit]

Region Date Distributing Label Format
US, UK June, 1987 SST Records, Blast First Vinyl, CD, Cassette
Brazil 1989 Stileto Vinyl
US, Europe 1994 DGC, Geffen CD, Cassette
UK 1996 Mute vinyl
US 2011 ORG Music Purple marble vinyl

[4]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ This track was named "Kotton Krown" on the original SST/Blast First release, but was renamed "Cotton Crown" on the DGC reissue and subsequent Blast First releases.
  2. ^ This track was named "White Kross" on the original SST/Blast First release, but was renamed "White Cross" on the DGC reissue and subsequent Blast First releases.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Sonic Youth Cotton Crown". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Best Albums of the 1980s | Music | Slant Magazine". Slant Magazine. March 5, 2012. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Staff Lists: Top 100 Albums of the 1980s | Features | Pitchfork". Pitchfork. November 20, 2002. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c "Sonic Youth Sister". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  5. ^ Kot, Greg; Leland, John; Sheridan, David; Robbins, Ira; Pattyn, Jay. "trouserpress.com :: Sonic Youth". trouserpress.com. Retrieved April 14, 2013. 
  6. ^ Browne, David (June 2, 2009). Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306816032. 
  7. ^ a b "Sonic Youth Schizophrenia". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Downer, Adam (April 21, 2007). "Review: Sonic Youth - Sister". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Sonic Youth Come Around". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  10. ^ "Sonic Youth Catholic Block". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  11. ^ "Sonic Youth Beauty Lies in the Eye". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  12. ^ "Sonic Youth Pipeline/Kill Time". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  13. ^ "Sonic Youth Tuff Gnarl". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  14. ^ "Sonic Youth Kotton Krown". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  15. ^ "Sonic Youth White Kross". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  16. ^ http://www.sonicyouth.com/mustang/lp/lp05a.jpg
  17. ^ a b "SISTER". SONICYOUTH.COM. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  18. ^ "Sonic Youth Sister". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved 12 May 2013. 
  19. ^ "Sonic Youth Cotton Crown". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved 12 May 2013. 
  20. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Sister – Sonic Youth : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  21. ^ Kot, Greg (September 27, 1992). "The Evolution Of Sonic Youth". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 20, 2013. 
  22. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (September 1, 1987). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  23. ^ O'Donnell, Kevin (April 18, 2012). "Sonic Youth, Sister". eMusic. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  24. ^ Hochman, Steve (July 5, 1987). "Catholic, Cathartic". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 20, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Review: Sister". Q (London): 144. July 1996. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Sonic Youth: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 20, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Spin-Offs". Spin (New York): 31. August 1987. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  28. ^ "The 1987 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice (New York). March 1, 1988. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  29. ^ Christgau, Robert (March 1, 1988). "Pazz & Jop 1987: Dean's List". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Rocklist.net....NME Greates Albums of 60's 70's & 80's". rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Rocklist.net..Alternative Press..". rocklistmusic.co.uk. Retrieved October 15, 2012. 

External links[edit]