Dirty (Sonic Youth album)

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Dirty
Sonic youth dirty original album cover.jpg
Studio album by Sonic Youth
Released July 21, 1992
Recorded Early 1992
Studio The Magic Shop and Sear Sound, New York City, New York, United States
Genre
Length 59:06
Label DGC
Producer
Sonic Youth chronology
Goo
(1990)Goo1990
Dirty
(1992)
TV Shit
(1993)TV Shit1993
Singles from Dirty
  1. "100%"
    Released: July, 1992
  2. "Youth Against Fascism"
    Released: December, 1992
  3. "Sugar Kane"
    Released: February, 1993
  4. "Drunken Butterfly"
    Released: August, 1993

Dirty is the seventh studio album by American alternative rock band Sonic Youth. It was released on July 21, 1992 by record label DGC. The band recorded and produced the album with Butch Vig in early 1992 at the Magic Shop studios. The sound on Dirty was inspired by the grunge scene of the time, and was described as avant-rock.[1] Some songs on the album mark the first appearance of three guitars in Sonic Youth songs. The album was remastered and released on quadruple vinyl and double CD in 2003.

The album spawned four singles. The first single was "100%"; it charted well, but was not the crossover hit the label anticipated. The next was "Youth Against Fascism", which did not chart well. The last two were "Sugar Kane" and "Drunken Butterfly", released in 1993. "Sugar Kane" did better commercially than "Youth Against Fascism". The album sold exceptionally well, reaching No. 6 in the UK Albums Chart (their highest charting album in the UK) and No. 83 in the US.

In support of the album, the band embarked on the "Pretty Fucking Dirty" tour of 1992 and 1993, where most of Dirty was played. In late 1992, they toured North America, and in early 1993, they toured New Zealand and Australia and released the Whores Moaning EP, which featured most of the "Sugar Kane" B-sides.

Background[edit]

Live in the Netherlands, 1991

Following the release of Daydream Nation in 1988, Sonic Youth were interested in signing with a new record label. By the middle of 1989, the top contenders for the band's new label were A&M Records, Atlantic Records and Mute Records.[2] Between late 1989 and early 1990, Geffen Records announced its interest in signing the band.[3] Sonic Youth eventually signed a five-album deal with Geffen for at an estimated $300,000.[4] However, the band was disappointed when they discovered that the albums would be released on the newly created Geffen sub-label, DGC Records.[5]

In 1990, the band released Goo, which achieved moderate commercial success, peaking at No. 96 on the Billboard 200 in the United States and charting in the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Critical reception to the album was positive. To support its release, Sonic Youth toured Europe and North America twice in 1990.[6] Following the mainstream breakthrough of alternative rock and grunge, the band toured Europe again in fall 1991 with Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr, Babes in Toyland and Gumball.[7] On this tour, they premiered "Orange Rolls, Angel's Spit" and "Chapel Hill". The latter tour was chronicled on the documentary 1991: The Year Punk Broke, directed by Dave Markey. In November, they began demoing songs on 8-track at their rehearsal space in Hoboken.[8]

Recording[edit]

For Dirty, Sonic Youth worked with producer Vig and mixer Andy Wallace, who both had worked in the same roles on Nirvana's Nevermind, although this was not why the band chose them.[9] On the album's sound, Pitchfork Media opined that "they weren't entirely catering to the new ears Nirvana's success was sending their way", but "were at least taking it into consideration on a semi-conscious level".[10] During his first meeting with the group, Vig told the band that he wanted to tighten the song arrangements and focus on crafting the guitar sounds. Vig quickly landed the producer job for the record.[11] During a visit to the apartment of Sonic Youth members Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, Moore told Vig he wanted the album to sound like an obscure Mecht Mensch single that Vig had produced.

The band sent a series of cassette tapes to Vig in late 1991, featuring its new compositions. Vig was pleased but also uncertain, as the tapes consisted of long instrumentals, and the producer was unable to discern the song structures.[12] The second batch of cassettes that Vig received demonstrated that the band had performed some self-editing with its compositions.[11] Vig moved to New York City for three months in early 1992 and the band began recording the album at the Magic Shop in March.[9] Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi contributed guest guitar on "Youth Against Fascism". The last song on the album, "Crème Brûlée", was recorded when Gordon was randomly playing guitar and singing with Shelley playing the drums, while Moore was trying to turn on his amplifier and guitarist Lee Ranaldo was recording the whole thing.[13]

After recording was completed, the album needed to be trimmed down from 18 tracks. Moore, Gordon and the band's A&R person, Gary Gersh, agreed that Ranaldo's song "Genetic" would be removed. Ranaldo did not react well to the decision; coupled with personal issues he was facing at the time, it led him to consider leaving the group. After a few weeks, the matter settled and Ranaldo stayed with the band.[14] "Genetic" and another omitted track, Gordon's "Hendrix Necro", were instead featured on the "100%" single. Another track recorded in the sessions, "Stalker", was added to the album's vinyl release.

Lyrics and themes[edit]

The opening song, "100%", was written about the murder of the band's friend, Joe Cole, and how it affected many people, including Sonic Youth.[15] The next song, "Swimsuit Issue", is about a then-current Geffen employee who was remanded to therapy for sexual harassment, hence the lyrics "Don't touch my breast, I'm just working at my desk." The last section of the song features Gordon naming all of the models in the March 1992 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.[16] The lyrics to "Drunken Butterfly" were taken wholly from song titles and lyrics of Heart songs, and the track was originally titled "Barracuda" after a Heart song.[17] The final title was taken from Heart song "Dog & Butterfly", which sounds a bit like "drunken butterfly". "Sugar Kane" is said to be about Marilyn Monroe.[18] "Chapel Hill," one of the first songs written for the album along with "Orange Rolls, Angel's Spit",[19] is about the town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and the 1991 murder of bookseller Bob Sheldon. "JC", like "100%", was written about Joe Cole. The song's working title was "Moonface".[20]

Packaging[edit]

The front cover of the album, a photograph taken by Gordon's friend Mike Kelley, depicted an orange stuffed toy with Sonic Youth written down the sides. The theme continued through the booklet with pictures of a teddy bear, rabbit and other plush animals. The credits were also included in the booklet. The back cover featured images of individual members of the band along with the track listing. The vinyl version differed, with the back cover featuring the stuffed toys and the band photos in the inserts. Some versions of the CD have a "dirty picture" of Bob Flanagan and Sheree Rose defiling stuffed toys while naked.[8]

Release[edit]

Prior to the album's release, Sonic Youth did a short Northeast tour in which most of Dirty was premiered. Dirty was released on July 21, 1992 on double LP vinyl, CD and Cassette. The LP version of the album came with an extra track titled "Stalker".[8] The album hit No. 6 in the UK Albums Chart (their highest charting album in the UK) and No. 83 in the US.[21][22] In the wake of the success of Nirvana's 1991 album Nevermind, DGC pushed Dirty heavily. In the same month as the album was issued, "100%" was released as a single, but was not the crossover hit the label anticipated. Geffen executive Mark Kates admitted it "was not a great radio song"; however, the single did chart well, reaching No. 4 in the Alternative Songs and No. 28 in the UK Singles Chart.[23][24] In September, the band appeared on Late Night with David Letterman, performing "100%".[25] At the urging of Kates, "Youth Against Fascism" was released in December as the album's second single. The single did not sell well or receive airplay (though it did chart at No. 52 in the UK), and Kates referred to the decision as "one of the biggest professional mistakes of my life".[26]

In late 1992, the band began their "Pretty Fucking Dirty" tour, starting in North America. All of the songs from Dirty were played at least once, except for "Crème Brûlée". They also played "Genetic," but occasionally swapped it for "Eric's Trip" or "Mote". They changed the setlists frequently, but kept "Shoot" as the opener. In November and December, they toured Europe, also appearing on Later with Jools Holland to perform "Drunken Butterfly", "Sugar Kane" and "JC".[8] In January and February 1993, Sonic Youth toured Australia and New Zealand, and released the "Sugar Kane" single, which performed much better than "Youth Against Fascism", reaching No. 26 in the UK Singles Chart. The same month, they released the Whores Moaning Australia-only EP to coincide with the tour. The EP included the "Sugar Kane" B-sides along with the track "Tamra". The last single from the album, "Drunken Butterfly", was released in August 1993.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[27]
Blender 4/5 stars[28]
Chicago Tribune 4/4 stars[29]
Entertainment Weekly A[30]
Los Angeles Times 4/4 stars[31]
NME 9/10[32]
Pitchfork 8.6/10[10]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[33]
Uncut 5/5 stars[34]
The Village Voice A[35]

Dirty was generally well-received by critics. AllMusic called it "a damn good rock album, and on those terms it ranks with Sonic Youth's best work".[27] Entertainment Weekly praised the album, calling it "possibly the finest hour (59 minutes, actually) from this New York noise & roll band. It is also much-needed proof that the old-fangled concept of a rock guitar band can still result in vital, undeniably moving music", and ending the review with, "At this point, every other rock & roll album that visits our planet this year will have a hard time topping [Dirty]".[30] Rolling Stone opined that Dirty "easily rank[s] with Daydream Nation and Sister" as "the band's most unified and unforgettable recorded works".[33]

Trouser Press saw Dirty as a big improvement over Goo, which the publication saw as "failing miserably".[36]

Accolades[edit]

Dirty was deemed the best album of 1992 by Entertainment Weekly.[37] The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[38]

Music videos[edit]

The first music video from Dirty was for "100%". It was directed by Tamra Davis and Spike Jonze, and shot in Los Angeles. Much of the video footage was shot by Jonze while riding on a skateboard, following others in the streets (including then-skateboarder, now-actor Jason Lee). The video also alluded to the shooting death of Cole, but is not specifically about him, and more about friendship between two skateboarders. Sonic Youth is shown playing a house party throughout the film. Gordon plays a yellow Fender bass guitar, which she borrowed from actor Keanu Reeves.[39][40]

The second music video, for "Youth Against Fascism", was directed by Nick Egan. The video was shot in the concrete flood control channel of the Los Angeles River with the band playing while FMX bikers ride around. Imagery of fascism, Nazism and communism was spliced into the video, plus an insurrection mixed with pictures of punk bands and fashion.[41]

The third music video was for "Sugar Kane"; like "Youth Against Fascism", it was directed by Egan. The video was shot in New York City and portrayed Sonic Youth performing in the midst of a fashion show that showcased "grunge" clothing. The clothing, in fact, was one of the collections ("Grunge Collection") done by Marc Jacobs for Perry Ellis in 1992.[42] Jacobs was a close friend of Gordon and the band. The video also marked the first film appearance of Chloë Sevigny.

The fourth video from Dirty was for "Drunken Butterfly", directed by Stephen Hellweg, the winner of an MTV 120 Minutes contest in which fans were asked to send in videos for any song on Dirty. It featured puppets and dolls made up to look like Sonic Youth performing the song onstage. The fifth (for "Swimsuit Issue", which featured shirtless men smoking together in a room listening to Dirty) and sixth (for "Nic Fit", showing someone running around in a field holding up a flaming stuffed animal) videos stemmed from the same contest.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Sonic Youth, except as noted.

No. Title Writer(s) Vocals Length
1. "100%"   Moore 2:28
2. "Swimsuit Issue"   Gordon 2:57
3. "Theresa's Sound-World"   Moore 5:27
4. "Drunken Butterfly"   Gordon 3:03
5. "Shoot"   Gordon 5:16
6. "Wish Fulfillment"   Ranaldo 3:24
7. "Sugar Kane"   Moore 5:56
8. "Orange Rolls, Angel's Spit"   Gordon 4:17
9. "Youth Against Fascism"   Moore 3:36
10. "Nic Fit" (Untouchables cover) Alec MacKaye Moore 0:59
11. "On the Strip"   Gordon 5:41
12. "Chapel Hill"   Moore 4:46
13. "JC"   Gordon 4:01
14. "Purr"   Moore 4:21
15. "Crème Brûlée"   Gordon 2:33

Personnel[edit]

Chart positions[edit]

Album[edit]

Chart (1992) Peak
Position
Australian ARIA Albums Chart 22[43]
Austrian Albums Chart 37[44]
German Media Control Charts 59[45]
New Zealand Albums Chart 5[46]
Swedish Sverigetopplistan 26[47]
UK Albums Chart 6[48]
U. S. Billboard 200 83[22]

Singles[edit]

Year Single Peak chart positions
US
Mod.
UK singles
1992 "100%" 4 28
"Youth Against Fascism" 52
1993 "Sugar Kane" 26
"Drunken Butterfly"

Release history[edit]

Region Date Distributing Label Format
US, UK, Canada 21 July 1992 DGC Records 12" vinyl, CD, Cassette
Europe, Japan, Australia 1992 Geffen, DGC 12" vinyl, CD
Australia 1995 Geffen CD (includes the "Burning Spear" 7")
US, UK 2003 Geffen 4 x 12" vinyl, 2 x CD

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bambarger, Bradley (April 1994). "Sonic Youth Looks Back to the Future". Billboard. 106 (14). 
  2. ^ Browne 2008, p. 194.
  3. ^ Browne 2008, p. 195.
  4. ^ Browne 2008, p. 197.
  5. ^ Browne 2008, p. 202.
  6. ^ "Sonic Youth Concert Chronology – 1990". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Sonic Youth Concert Chronology – 1991". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Sonic Youth Dirty". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Psychic Confusion: The Sonic Youth Story
  10. ^ a b Hreha, Scott (May 14, 2003). "Sonic Youth: Dirty: Deluxe Edition". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved April 17, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Browne 2008, p. 236.
  12. ^ Browne 2008, pp. 234–235.
  13. ^ "Sonic Youth Crème Brulee". The Sonic Youth information database. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  14. ^ Browne 2008, pp. 239–242.
  15. ^ "Sonic Youth 100%". The Sonic Youth information database. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  16. ^ "Sonic Youth Swimsuit Issue". The Sonic Youth information database. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  17. ^ "Sonic Youth Drunken Butterfly". The Sonic Youth information database. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  18. ^ "Sonic Youth Sugar Kane". The Sonic Youth information database. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  19. ^ "Sonic Youth Orange Rolls, Angel Spit". The Sonic Youth information database. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  20. ^ "Sonic Youth JC". The Sonic Youth information database. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  21. ^ "Sonic Youth | Artist | Official Charts". officialcharts.com. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  22. ^ a b "Dirty – Sonic Youth : Awards : AllMusic". AllMusic. AllRovi. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Sonic Youth Alternative Songs charts". Billboard.com. Retrieved 3 July 2013. 
  24. ^ "Sonic Youth | Artist | Official Charts". officialcharts.com. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Sonic Youth "100%" at Late Night with Letterman". Late Night with David Letterman. September 1992. 
  26. ^ Browne 2008, p. 260.
  27. ^ a b Deming, Mark. "Dirty – Sonic Youth". AllMusic. Retrieved April 17, 2013. 
  28. ^ Wolk, Douglas (October 2006). "Back Catalogue: Sonic Youth". Blender (52): 154–55. 
  29. ^ Kot, Greg (July 23, 1992). "Sonic Boom". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 21, 2013. 
  30. ^ a b Browne, David (August 14, 1992). "Dirty". Entertainment Weekly (131). Retrieved April 17, 2013. 
  31. ^ Gold, Jonathan (July 26, 1992). "Sonic Youth, 'Dirty'. DGC". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 27, 2015. 
  32. ^ Fadele, Dele (July 18, 1992). "Sonic Youth – Dirty". NME. Archived from the original on August 17, 2000. Retrieved January 27, 2015. 
  33. ^ a b Palmer, Robert (September 3, 1992). "Sonic Youth: Dirty". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on May 23, 2009. Retrieved April 17, 2013. 
  34. ^ "Sonic Youth – Dirty". Uncut (72): 114. May 2003. Retrieved January 27, 2015. 
  35. ^ Christgau, Robert (July 28, 1992). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved January 27, 2015. 
  36. ^ Kot, Greg; Leland, John; Sheridan, David; Robbins, Ira; Pattyn, Jay. "trouserpress.com :: Sonic Youth". trouserpress.com. Retrieved April 17, 2013. 
  37. ^ Browne, David (December 25, 1992). "1992: The Best & Worst Music | ew.com". ew.com. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  38. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2. 
  39. ^ Biography for Keanu Reeves on Internet Movie Database
  40. ^ "Sonic Youth - 100% music video". SonicYouthVEVO. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  41. ^ "Sonic Youth - Youth Against Fascism music video". SonicYouthVEVO. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  42. ^ "Sonic Youth - Sugar Kane music video". SonicYouthVEVO. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  43. ^ "australian-charts.com – Sonic Youth – Dirty". australian-charts.com. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  44. ^ "Sonic Youth – Dirty – austriancharts.at". austriancharts.at. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  45. ^ "charts.de". charts.de. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  46. ^ "charts.org.nz – Sonic Youth – Dirty". charts.org.nz. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  47. ^ "swedishcharts.com – Sonic YOuth – Dirty". swedishcharts.com. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 
  48. ^ "Sonic Youth | Artist | Official Charts". officialcharts.com. Retrieved April 18, 2013. 

Bibliography

External links[edit]