July 25, 2002

Some more excellent PopMatters writing, this time in the form of Scott Thill's Murray Street review. An excerpt:

"In the midst of their tonal shifts and sonic experimentation is a recurring penchant for quiet, even one filled with noise, as if they were worried about disturbing their neighbors.

Which is understandable, considering that Murray Street -- both the album and physical space -- were in a constant state of repair and disrepair due to the fact that they were so near Ground Zero. Although some of the album was recorded prior to the September 11th attacks, that tragedy's immediate impact, its bracing reality check, its demand for endless moments of coping silence are subtexts found within each tune of Murray Street; no matter what some may call them, Sonic Youth are dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers, after all. And the creative process of complex construction (something they've never shied away from, even on the more straight-ahead rock of Goo) must have felt odd in such negative space, in a geography that was destroyed, abandoned, uninhabited and in continual flux.

Indeed, you can tell by the title alone that Sonic Youth felt like concretizing the historical Moment: once the northern edge of Queen's Farm and the original site of Columbia College in 1787, Murray Street is also where an engine from one of the planes that hit the Twin Towers landed, the birthplace of Lionel Trains, a terminus for Beach's Pneumatic Subway, as well as the name of Sonic Youth's studio. In short, it is as much a cultural geography as it is an album title."

By the time Thill gets to the phrase "Beach's Pneumatic Subway," I'm in tears. The image is one that aligns perfectly with the exhaustive humidity and sooty capital-of-the-working-world urban squalor of Murray Street's sound -- the slow clang of the Industrial Era as it wheezes forth into Progress, from one darkened end of the tunnel to another dark end. Murray Street isn't really about progress, though... it's about that disassociative feeling a lot of New Yorkers get when they stop and take stock of it all and try to figure out what it is they're disconnected from. 16 years ago, Sonic Youth wrote that "schizophrenia is takin' me home," and now Murray Street finds that schizophrenia signed, sealed, and delivered to their very mailbox.

I'm feeling pretty disconnected too -- I heard "London Calling" in a Jaguar commercial tonight. Working-class hero Joe Strummer has become the spokesman for the nose-thumbing, valet-parking elite. Gimme a few days to get REALLY upset about this; right now, I refuse to accept it as fact.