Sonic Youth – Evol (1986): Review


Produced by Martin Bisi and Sonic Youth
Label – SST

“EVOL” is the apparent point at which the New York four piece moved away from the stark experimentalism of previous recordings in favour of song structures with a minimal direction towards traditional alternative rock. The introduction of full time drummer Steve Shelley, along with less emphasis on retuned guitars and deliberate anti-melodies meant that many regarded the collection as vitally important in laying the sonic foundation for later, more popular works. The tangled, often uncomfortable detritus at the heart of the recording leaves one feeling that if this is termed progress, all things before must have a cruel, soulless impasse for even the most patient listener. That it is termed “music” is a misleading characterization, and one feels that there needs to be a new word to categorize this bewildering use of instrumentation and amplification that doesn’t sully a glorious art form. It’s the caustic deliverance of a pretentious, deeply dark noise that warps some unfortunate individuals’ minds into thinking of it as some intellectually high art form.


From the disconnected Thurston Moore vocal on “Tom Violence”, and Kim Gordon’s remorselessly dreary delivery of “Shadow Of A Doubt”, one suddenly realizes this is going to be a mountainous struggle to get through. “Starpower” temporarily raises the interest level, with a half decent tune and credible chorus, only to be dashed by Lee Renaldo’s nonsense spoken word poem (“In The Kingdom #19”) backed by shards of aimless guitar drone, and Minutemen’s Mike Watt sounding thoroughly compromised as he comes to terms with the loss of his band mate D. Boon. The supposed “peak” of the record is the slow, tumescent, and repetitive “Expressway To Yr Skull”.

Determinedly dull and painfully uninteresting, Sonic Youth have somehow contrived to fill a whole album with almost nothing. The only achievement the listener can glean from this void on vinyl is confusion that it ever got a following.


Track Rating
1 – Tom Violence (4)
2 – Shadow Of Doubt (3)
3 – Starpower (5)
4 – In The Kingdom #19 (3)
5 – Green Light (3)
6 – Death To Our Friends (4)
7 – Secret Girl (3)
8 – Marilyn Moore (3)
9 – Expressway To Yr Skull (3)

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