The Joup Friday Album: Sonic Youth ‘Washing Machine’

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1995 was an integral year of my musical development. That summer I finished High School, and on the day I was heading to the Reading Festival I went back one last time to retrieve my exam results. It turns out bereavement, alcohol, LSD and first loves aren’t conducive to scholastic achievement. Neil Young, Soundgarden, Pavement, Mudhoney, Babes in Toyland, The Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, Hole, Teenage Fanclub, Beck, Björk,  and a first uk appearance by Foo Fighters and many more. The sun beat down and boots beat up the dust. I had a great time, but in the Wild West of tents, I didn’t find my tribe. People who’d appeared as friends in school started to lose their allure as their souls got gradually washed out by yellowing amphetamine, and my female friends had to elude the oubliette-tents of lone, middle class dreadlocked honkies. Aside from the amazing musical experiences, it was all about as icky as you’d expect a late 20th Century festival experience before the great washed infiltrated the scene. We rode home all night immediately after he festival’s end and got back to Manchester at dawn. I was excited to play a long promised cassette copy of Syd Barrett’s ‘The Madcap Laughs’ delivered by a friend on the day I went away, and I think I knew listening then that my path had diverged.

Sonic Youth were the mainstay from my alternative beginnings into more experimental avenues through to their dissolution, and in September 1995 when I was starting college, released what I consider to be their most mercurial, transcendent, emotional, surreal offering. It takes my imagination to places ‘Daydream’ cannot.  ‘Junkie’s Promise’ indirectly demystified Kurt Cobain’s tragic but ultimately selfish death, ‘Saucer Like’ echoed The Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High’ in its gliding overview of New York City, title track ‘Washing Machine’ tripped out of its introductory spiky psychosis in to a blissful epiphany, Thurston’s lullaby ‘Unwind’ hums lusciously like the space between daydreams in a tall, swaying summer field while maintaining a level of malevolence inherent in the undertow of the album as a whole, ‘Skip Tracer’ sounds like the song God plays to you when your chaotic consciousness spills out of your head and scatters on a City sidewalk and ‘The Diamond Sea’ is…well, The Diamond Sea.

Tag: Sonny

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks is a peripheral figure on the fringes of existence. Predominantly bothering the local music scene of his native Manchester, England, he has a very finely attuned Justice-button, and knows how to call a spade a ‘Multi-Purpose Murder/Concealment Device’.

One Response to The Joup Friday Album: Sonic Youth ‘Washing Machine’
  1. Shawn C. Baker Reply

    I’m always very hot and cold with Sonic Youth. Dirty made a huge impact, but subsequent albums I tried to crack did nothing or at least little comparatively. Based on Your descriptions, I’ll definitely try this one. “Skip Tracer’ sounds like the song God plays to you when your chaotic consciousness spills out of your head and scatters on a City sidewalk…” How could I not want to know what song god plays in such a situation?

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