Sonic Youth – Smart Bar: Chicago 1985

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The supposed first of many planned live albums, one for each era of the band (quoting Ranaldo: “The idea to present a definitive Daydream live set, or Washing Machine-era live set or NYC Ghosts & Flowers, or Sister, The Eternal etc, seems pretty cool to us. So this set is hopefully the first of many such archival releases” – I say supposed because it’s been three and a half years and we haven’t heard a peep. This one’s pretty useless, not only because Sonic Youth Mark I (a.k.a. Glenn Branca in more song form) was always the least interesting Sonic Youth, and also because the recording quality of the set is what you’d expect. Only one song here doesn’t appear in any Sonic Youth album, and it’s a rather useless instrumental (“Kat ‘n’ Hat”). Otherwise, nothing here matches its studio counterparts, certainly not the two early EVOL numbers or the Bad Moon Rising highlight which is missing the person who made it a highlight (Lydia Lunch on “Death Valley ‘69”). The best part of the record is hearing the audience member mutter “I don’t know that much about them” before “Hallowe’en” starts and wondering to yourself if they made it all the way through.

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