Sonic Youth: "Helen Lundeberg" / "Eyeliner"
genre: indie rock
Surfacing alongside some key reissues, these two "lost" Sonic Youth tracks offer uncorked counterbalance to the forthcoming Rather Ripped
's pristine vibe. Committed to tape by the pre-Jim O'Rourke lineup, the on-edge anti-anthems, each sung by Thurston Moore in full-on "Death Valley '69" mode, are among the last tunes recorded at the band's Murray Street studio.
"Helen Lundeberg" is a cut-and-paste tribute to the "post-surrealist" titular American artist who died in 1999. The lyrics riff on her subject matter and titles of her works (e.g. "Landscape White and Orange"), turning the title of the catalogue, Helen Lundeberg and The Illusory Landscape: Five Decades of Painting
, into manifesto. Like its flipside, "Helen" is constructed with dogged energy, and Moore's vocal lines lumber in an almost, well, painterly one word/drum/one word/drum pattern. It's less expansive than "Eyeliner", but the guitar crunch and crash in the two channels makes for a pleasant barrage of sharp sliding feedback, as if the band's creating its own dark-lit, anxious, daydream landscape and then flittering around inside it.
Built around simple, arresting riffs, "Eyeliner", meanwhile, spews self-reflective, punk sex Lower East Side poetry. (In fact, it appeared as a poem in Moore's 2004 chapbook, Nice War
.) After opening with a one-channel noise downpour, Moore paints a romantic Bowery tableau with a waving build/release. Somewhere near the middle, the vocals take on an almost Black Sabbath intonation as he sing-shouts above a distortion brew: "Burnished hearts blind to/ Inevitable madness/ Take care of the devil, treat him with embrace/ Alive with Mary Magdalene's heart." A paean to a certain energy bouncing around pre-gentrified Manhattan-- the setting for SY's best material-- it's my favorite tune by Thurston and company in ages. [Brandon Stosuy]