NYC Ghosts & Flowers

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NYC Ghosts & Flowers
NYCGhosts.jpg
Studio album by Sonic Youth
Released May 16, 2000
Recorded August 1999 – February 2000 in New York City, United States
Genre Noise rock, experimental rock
Length 42:18
Label DGC
Producer Sonic Youth, Jim O'Rourke
Sonic Youth chronology
SYR4: Goodbye 20th Century
(1999)
NYC Ghosts & Flowers
(2000)
SYR5
(2000)

NYC Ghosts & Flowers is the 11th studio album by American noise rock/alternative rock band Sonic Youth. It was released on May 16, 2000 by record label DGC. The album was very experimental and can be considered as a reaction to the theft of their instruments in July 1999, in which many irreplaceable guitars and effects pedals were stolen. This is also the first album since Bad Moon Rising in which Sonic Youth used John Cage-like prepared guitar, for example using a bicycle horn between the strings on Lightnin, a lime between the strings and the first pickup and a file inserted over the neck pickup on Small Flowers Crack Concrete and a drum stick between the strings in Free City Rhymes.

Background[edit]

As a result of the theft, the members of Sonic Youth relied upon "old guitars in their studio, unearthing instruments they hadn't used in years" which "along with equipment purchased to fulfill the remaining [...] dates [of the tour], would serve as the foundation for six new songs written over the next month", in addition to "Free City Rhymes" and "Renegade Princess", which were written prior to the tour. The band members later acknowledged that "the gear theft was somewhat of a blessing, if not a rather unwelcome and unpleasant one, in that it truly forced them to 'start over' and approach creating music with brand new boundaries".[1]

Content[edit]

On this album, the influence of beat poetry on the band was strongly evident: The lyrics to most songs resembled the beat style; Lenny Bruce and D. A. Levy were name-checked; and the cover art was based on a painting by William S. Burroughs.

Release[edit]

NYC Ghosts & Flowers was released on May 16, 2000 by record label DGC.[1]

A music video was released for the track "Nevermind (What Was It Anyway)". According to the band's official website, it was a proposed single that "never actually found its way into stores."[1]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 66/100[2]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 2.5/5 stars[3]
Alternative Press 3/5[4]
Blender 3/5 stars[5]
Entertainment Weekly B[6]
The Guardian 3/5 stars[7]
NME 8/10[8]
Pitchfork Media 0.0/10[9]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[10]
Spin 8/10[11]
The Village Voice A[12]

The album received an approval rating of 66 out of 100 on review aggregator website Metacritic, signifying "generally favorable reviews".[2]

Billboard gave the album a positive review and said it "either encapsulates Sonic Youth's most endearing or annoying qualities, depending on how one feels about the band and the spoken-word poetics from Kim Gordon."[13] Salon.com also gave the album a positive review and stated, "Even while there isn't a single song here that holds together from beginning to end, even as the music makes only itself felt in halting jigsaw fashion... the album has a gloomy, unaccommodating tenacity that's hard to shake."[14] Robert Christgau gave the album an "A" grade upon its release, though he later claimed to have misjudged it and came to view it in a less favorable light.[15] Mojo stated that "in the end, it's surprisingly worth it for the few great, strange tracks."[2]

Brent DiCrescenzo of Pitchfork infamously gave the album a grade of 0.0 out of 10, calling it "an unfathomable album which will be heard in the squash courts and open mic nights of deepest Hell." Commenting on the album's avant-garde roots, he said, "These are not new ideas. These are ideas that were arrogant and unlistenable upon birth thirty years ago."[9] DiCrescenzo later reevaluated his opinion of the album and, in 2013, remarked on the higher esteem with which he now held it: "I now love the record. It's unlike anything else; eerie and beautiful. [...] No, the lesson here is: beware the opinions of a kid right out of college." He also described Pitchfork's decimal scale as "knowingly silly" and "arbitrary".[16] Select wrote that "The songs suffer from a lazy approach and the relentless repetition of unengaging chord patterns."[2]

Greg Kot, writing in the Chicago Tribune, said: "Though Sonic Youth flirted with alternative-rock songcraft in the early '90s, these noise-rock renegades are once again happily viewing their guitars as hunks of wood, wire and infinite possibility," adding, "No rock band makes the avant-garde sound quite this tactile and sensual."[17]

Track listing[edit]

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

No. Title Lyrics Vocals Length
1. "Free City Rhymes"   Moore Moore 7:32
2. "Renegade Princess"   Moore Moore, Gordon, Ranaldo 5:49
3. "Nevermind (What Was It Anyway)"   Gordon Gordon 5:37
4. "Small Flowers Crack Concrete"   Moore Moore, Gordon, Ranaldo 5:12
5. "Side2Side"   Gordon Gordon 3:34
6. "StreamXSonik Subway"   Moore Moore 2:51
7. "NYC Ghosts & Flowers"   Ranaldo Ranaldo 7:52
8. "Lightnin'"   Gordon Gordon 3:51
Total length:
42:18

Charts[edit]

Year Chart Position
2000 French Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique 61[18]
Norwegian VG-lista 37[19]
UK Albums Chart 113[20]
US Billboard 200 172[21]

Personnel[edit]

Sonic Youth
Additional personnel
  • Jim O'Rourke – bass guitar ("Free City Rhymes", "Small Flowers Crack Concrete"), electronics ("Side2Side"), production, additional recording, additional mixing
  • William Winant – percussion ("Side2Side")
  • Rafael Toral – Spacestatic guitar ("Renegade Princess")
Technical
  • Wharton Tiers – recording
  • Greg Calbimastering
  • Frank Olinsky – sleeve art direction
  • Dan Graham – sleeve artwork (video still from Rock My Religion, 1980)
  • D. A. Levy – sleeve spiral drawing (1967)
  • Joe Brainard – sleeve painting (Flower Painting IV, 1967)
  • Robert Mooney – sleeve painting (untitled, 1992)
  • William S. Burroughs – sleeve painting (X-Ray Man, 1992)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "sonicyouth.com Discography – Album: NYC Ghosts & Flowers". sonicyouth.com. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Reviews for NYC Ghosts & Flowers by Sonic Youth". Metacritic. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  3. ^ Phares, Heather. "NYC Ghosts & Flowers – Sonic Youth". AllMusic. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  4. ^ Burgess, Aaron (July 2000). "Sonic Youth: NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Alternative Press (144): 81. Archived from the original on April 30, 2001. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  5. ^ Wolk, Douglas (October 2006). "Back Catalogue: Sonic Youth". Blender (52): 154–55. 
  6. ^ Brunner, Rob (May 26, 2000). "NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Entertainment Weekly (542): 74. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Pop roundup". The Guardian. June 2, 2000. Retrieved February 22, 2016. 
  8. ^ "NYC Ghosts & Flowers". NME: 41. May 23, 2000. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b DiCrescenzo, Brent (April 30, 2000). "Sonic Youth: NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  10. ^ Kot, Greg (June 8, 2000). "NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  11. ^ Wolk, Douglas (July 2000). "Sonic Youth: NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Spin. 16 (7): 149–50. Retrieved January 27, 2016. 
  12. ^ Christgau, Robert (August 22, 2000). "Consumer Guide: Getting Them Straight". The Village Voice. Retrieved January 27, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Sonic Youth: NYC Ghosts & Flowers". Billboard. June 3, 2000. Archived from the original on October 29, 2000. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  14. ^ Hampton, Howard (July 20, 2000). "Sharps & Flats". Salon.com. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  15. ^ Christgau, Robert (June 13, 2006). "Rather Exhilarating". The Village Voice. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  16. ^ DiCrescenzo, Brent (January 10, 2013). ""I Gave Sonic Youth a 0.0 Rating on Pitchfork." – Arts + Culture – Time Out Chicago". Time Out. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  17. ^ Kot, Greg (June 4, 2000). "Sonic Youth NYC Ghosts & Flowers (Geffen)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 22, 2013. 
  18. ^ "lescharts.com – Sonic Youth – NYC Ghosts & Flowers". lescharts.com. Retrieved April 27, 2013. 
  19. ^ "norwegiancharts.com – Sonic Youth – NYC Ghosts & Flowers". norwegiancharts.com. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Sonic Youth | Artist | Official Charts". officialcharts.com. Retrieved April 27, 2013. 
  21. ^ "NYC Ghosts & Flowers – Sonic Youth | Billboard". billboard.com. Retrieved January 20, 2013.