The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities
onic Youth seem to be, literally, aging awfully well: no one’s bald, Kim Gordon is still married to Thurston Moore and inarguably more put-together than she was 20 years ago, they have cool friends (Jim O’Rourke), and the baby-faced Steve Shelley, who looked 19 throughout most of the 90’s, still only looks about 23. The music’s been excellent too: The band’s recent three-album run, capped by 2006’s punky send-up Rather Ripped, eclipses any streak the band put together in the ‘90s, and their withered sphere of influence is the only reason we aren’t going to start talking ‘80s. In an effort, presumably, to stay lock-step with Ghostface in the holiday odds ’n’ sods market, the Yoof have put together The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities or More Fish for Balding White Music Critics.
Collecting tracks that have been hanging around since 1994’s Experimental Jet Set, Trash & No Star, Destroyed Room leans heavily on lengthy jams, opening with the atonal 10-minute instrumental “Fire Engine Dream” and ending, notably, with a 25-minute reprise of Washing Machine standout “The Diamond Sea” (still Thurston’s best closing salvo). Elsewhere, the ghostly repetitions of “Campfire” and “Loop Cat” recall their contribution to OHM: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music as well as their prodigious work on their own SYR label.
Gordon continues her millennial renaissance, sounding muted and comfortable on two of Destroyed Room’s ace inclusions: the surprising acoustic delta of “Razor Blade” and the screwed and chopped electric balladry of “Blink.” Likewise, “Kim’s Chords” rings more emphatically and soundly than any of the set’s instrumentals.
It’s always been tough to criticize Sonic Youth’s musical prowess. They employ a bunch of nerdy faves—weird tunings, tempo shifts, things “angular”—and their major missteps are almost always vocal. But Destroyed Room isn’t a gold mine. Actually, most of its tracks feel pretty sterile. Any randomly recorded sound check since 1988 could’ve turned into “Beautiful Plateau” or “Fire Engine Dream.” “The Diamond Sea,” which originally clocked in at 19 minutes, wasn’t exactly yearning for an extended mix.
If you own all this material, congratulations: you are probably David Fricke or Lee Ranaldo’s mother. For the rest of us, Destroyed Room is a convenient, though strange, packaging of some of Sonic Youth’s rare material. At 11 tracks, it doesn’t exactly famish the vaults, and its instrumental-heavy tracklist prohibits it from being a good newbie recommendation. The audience thirsting for Destroyed Room is probably very small, but the band’s resurgence does warrant some repackaging, even if the Destroyed Room’s primary purpose is to introduce fans of the band’s rock-heavy millennial trilogy to their cavernous experimental appetites.