1. Free City Rhymes 7:33
2. Renegade Princess 5:49
3. Nevermind (What Was It Anyway?) 5:37
4. Small Flowers Crack Concrete 5:12
5. Side2Side 3:34
6. StreamXSonik Subway 2:51
7. NYC Ghosts & Flowers 7:52
8. Lightnin' 3:52

1. Free City Rhymes 7:33
2. Nevermind (What Was It Anyway?) 5:37
3. Small Flowers Crack Concrete 5:12
4. StreamXSonik Subway 2:51
5. Side2Side 3:34
6. Renegade Princess 5:49
7. NYC Ghosts & Flowers 7:52
8. Lightnin' 3:52


"NYC Ghosts & Flowers" is Sonic Youth's thirteenth album, and yet manages to sound fresh and familiar at the same time -- probably largely due to the theft of an extensive amount of their gear directly prior to the album's composition. It's also their shortest record in years, a fact that shouldn't be interpreted as lack of new ideas -- instead, Sonic Youth offer a fury of chaotic, melodic, and psychotic soundwaves that leave you wanting more, more, more.....!


The first songs written for "NYC Ghosts & Flowers" were "Free City Rhymes" and "Renegade Princess" -- simply known as "1" and "2" at their debut on June 13th, 1999 in NYC. The songs were played again at their next show, on July 2nd in Berkeley, the first of 6 west/southwest gigs, and then the unexpected happened -- prior to the next scheduled show, a Ryder truck containing all of the band's touring equipment was stolen from outside their hotel, robbing them of 20 years worth of unique, modified gear that the band has yet to see return (aside from one guitar which was recovered -- for more information on this whole situation, click the "gear guide" link in the frame at the top). This incident proved to be a considerable roadblock -- but rather than cancelling the remaining dates and sulking back home, they borrowed or purchased some new gear, and finished the remaining 5 shows (though "1" and "2" were not performed again). Upon returning home, the band found themselves having to dig thru their seemingly infinite supply of old guitars in their studio, unearthing instruments they hadn't used in years -- this gear, along with equipment purchased to fulfill the remaining July dates, would serve as the foundation for six new songs written over the next month.

On August 26th at the Knitting Factory in NYC, Sonic Youth debuted these six songs along with the previously existing "1" and "2" (at this point, their set list read: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10 -- don't ask me what happened to 7 and 8, either they just really sucked or it was simply a band joke). All but "10" were instrumental, and truly did sound unlike anything the band had done previously -- Thurston had seriously taken to playing a Les Paul for the first time, tuned ridiculously low. Lee dug out some 12-string electrics. Kim played bass on 3 songs, and guitar on the rest, along with trumpet (previously restricted to the SYR releases and her solo gigs w/ the SYR5 band) on "10", which also featured Lee on synthesizer and Steve on Groovebox (and Thurston on bike horn!). Their next live performance was at the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, Washington, where they once again performed all 8 new pieces (and "She Is Not Alone")... some of you might be familiar w/ my front-row recording which circulated online long before the record was released. Sonic Youth would later insist that the gear theft was somewhat of a blessing, if not a rather unwelcome and unpleasant one, in that it truly forced them to "start over" and approach creating music with brand new boundaries. In November '99 they participated in 2 shows arranged as a tribute for Harry Smith, who compiled the "Anthology of American Folk Music" box set (essential listening, by the way). In addition to performing new instrumentals "1" and "3", they joined Roswell Rudd on a tune from the box set, "Dry Bones".

At this point, they had already recorded the bulk of the new material in Echo Canyon with Wharton Tiers assisting once again, before bringing in Jim O'Rourke to further process the tapes and record additional tracks. Sonic Youth had enjoyed a previous working relationship w/ O'Rourke on the SYR3 and SYR4 projects, but it was at this point that he was truly integrated into the band -- not only does he play bass on 2 songs, he contributes electronics to another and his unique style of mixing/processing is apparent on several tracks. Other guests during the session were Rafael Toral (guitar) and William Winant (percussion). As was the case with "A Thousand Leaves", SY had fleshed the songs out live instrumentally and were now faced with the task of assigning vocals to the tracks -- this likely went down during early 2000. At this point, the songs were titled -- "1" became "Free City Rhymes", "2" became "Renegade Princess", "3" became "Nevermind (What Was It Anyway?)" and so on, in the exact same order they had been premiered live. The tracks had to be rearranged due to side length conflicts to fit on one 12" for the vinyl release.

Sonic Youth's first live performance in 2000 was at the first "All Tomorrow's Parties" festival -- they opened with the brand new 23-minute sonic assault "J'Accuse Ted Hughes" (then titled "New Drone" and sadly not played since) and performed the bulk of the new album, excluding "Small Flowers Crack Concrete" and "StreamXSonik Subway" (which would never be played live again following Bumbershoot). Though they certainly had vocals by this point, "Free City Rhymes" and "Renegade Princess" were played instrumentally. Kim sang "Nevermind" and "Side2Side" (the latter sounded rather empty without Kim's cascading vocal backdrop, which would be remedied shortly), Lee sang (most of) "NYC Ghosts & Flowers". The encore was "Lightnin" and the (obligatory?) "Sunday". By most reports, the crowd was not amused. This would be Sonic Youth's last show as a quartet.

"NYC Ghosts & Flowers" was released on May 16th, 2000, and SY did several non-album shows prior to the tour, including a one-off night of improvisation and experimentation in Paris in May, and an appearance at Roswell Rudd's "Broad Strokes" album release party, joining Rudd on his song "Theme From BABE" which they also backed him on in the studio. The first leg of the North American "NYC Ghosts & Flowers" tour began in June and the shows once again featured a healthy mix of old and new material -- "Free City Rhymes" "Nevermind" "Side2Side" & "NYC Ghosts & Flowers" were played nightly. "Renegade Princess" and "Small Flowers Crack Concrete" were usually rotated on opposite nights. "Lightnin" was the typical encore, sometimes replaced with a "song" (to quote Thurston in Philadelphia: 'Do you guys want to hear a song, or a "song"?' -- they replaced "Lightnin" with "Kool Thing" that night, but I'm still not sure which was the quote-unquote "song"!). Speaking of "Kool Thing", it was also performed every night, after a 7-year hibernation, only this time Jim O'Rourke, now a full-fledged touring member, played bass, freeing Kim to dance all over the stage and tease the first few rows with her microphone during the song's midsection. If anybody had any doubts regarding Jim's addition to the band, they were immediately extinguished once his contributions became apparent -- in addition to playing guitar (sometimes even in standard tuning!) and bass (when Kim played guitar), he offered insane analog synth abrasions and controlled Kim's backing vocals on "side2side" on his powerbook, proving himself to be delightfully versatile and 100% welcome. The North American tour was followed by a European jaunt, after which they returned home for their second appearance on "Late Night w/ Conan O'Brien", this time performing proposed first single "Nevermind" (the single never was released). Two days later they were in Seattle, kicking off a 5-date west coast tour, then over to Japan for a set at the Fuji Festival.

In August, Sonic Youth headed out on their first tour as openers since the 1995 R.E.M. tour -- and like the '95 tour, there was some uncertainty as to whether the tour would even happen. This time around they were opening for Pearl Jam, who were touring Europe to support their new LP "Binaural" in June. During their set at the Roskilde Festival, 9 fans were tragically crushed in the audience (which was in no way Pearl Jam's fault, but rather a cross between security issues and faulty loudspeakers, it's been suggested). The band was so distraught that they cancelled the few remaining dates of their European tour, and strongly considered cancelling both legs of their North American tour. Ultimately, they felt it would be best to proceed as planned, and when the first leg of their North American tour began on August 3rd, Sonic Youth were there too. The typical crowd reaction (statistically proven to be 99.9% Pearl Jam fans, 0.1% frightened Sonic Youth fans) was comparable to the Crazy Horse tour in early '91, but SY made the most of their 7-song sets, showcasing "NYC Ghosts" material and a mixture of old favourites. On 3 off-nights along the way, Sonic Youth did exclusive club shows, billed as "PERSPECTIVE MUSICALES" events (aka SYR shows), each of which featured a unique mixture of solo performances/combinations and climaxed with a full Sonic Youth set (Eddie Vedder joined the band on E-bow guitar for their performance of "Lightnin" in Memphis).

The tour wrapped up in September, and in October they were in Ystad, Sweden for a full week of shows commencing with 2 Sonic Youth shows + featured a mixture of improvisation, guest appearances, and special performances over the remaining week, with each night curated by a different member of the band. This festival was celebrated by the release of the extremely limited "Black Box" set. A week or so later Sonic Youth were in South America for the first time ever, playing in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Buenos Aires. These were their final shows of 2000. In February 2001 they finished off their NYC Ghosts & Flowers tour with 5 dates in Japan. Following 6 stray US gigs in April and May, they embarked on the "Goodbye 20th Century" tour in June, showcasing SYR4 material (see the entry for "SYR4" for more details). Following this tour, the band took a break from playing live to work on new material, this time around with Jim as a fully integrated member -- this material would end up on the follow-up to "NYC Ghosts & Flowers": "Murray Street".


The cover image is of William S. Burroughs' 1992 "X-Ray Man". The back cover depicts Joe Brainard's "Flower Painting IV" and the track list, with individual times and the total running time for the album, as if to emphasize its brevity (something Sonic Youth aren't exactly known for). The CD insert is a four-page, double-sided fold out, with lyrics for all songs except "Lightnin", some drawings by Kim Gordon and d.a. levy (the inspiration behind "Small Flowers Crack Concrete"), photographs by Lee R., a video still from "Rock My Religion", and a Robert Mooney painting of an illuminated priest gettin' down with a DJ. The manhole art on the disc itself is supposedly a nod to Mudhoney's "Tomorrow Hit Today" album.


sonic youth:
Kim Gordon
Thurston Moore
Lee Ranaldo
Steve Shelley

Jim O'Rourke: bass on 1, 4; electronics on 5
Rafael Toral: spacestatic guitar on 2
William Winant: percussion on 5

Recorded by Wharton Tiers, August 1999, NYC
Additional Recording & Mixing by/with
Jim O'Rourke, October 1999-February 2000, NYC

Produced by Sonic Youth & Jim O'Rourke

All songs written by Sonic Youth

Mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound, February 2000

Art Direction by Frank Olinsky

Published by Sonik Tooth, administered by Zomba Songs, INC/BMI

Management by G.A.S. Entertainment Co.

Sonic Youth
PO Box 1679
Hoboken, NJ 07030


X-Ray Man by William S. Burroughs
(c) 1992, 2000 by James W. Grauerholz, Trustee,
The William S. Burroughs Trust,
and Lococo-Mulder Fine Art Publishing

NYC pix by Lee Ranaldo, 1998

Girl drawing by Kim Gordon, 2000

Spiral drawing by d.a. levy, circa 1967

Untitled painting by Robert Mooney, 1992

Flower Painting IV by Joe Brainaird, 1967
Private collection
Courtesy Tibor de Nagy Gallery, NYC

Video still from Rock My Religion by Dan Graham, 1980


From FILTER magazine 2006 SY discography self-commentary:

"1999 album glancing back at our fair New York City from about mid-century on--taking a long look at the creative soulsólost generations, Beats, beatniks, hippies, Yippies, punks, poets, painters writers and musicians--who have helped make NYC the cultural nexus that it is--and drew us all to come live here. [LR]"

"Renegade Princess" and "Small Flowers Crack Concrete" feature the band's first significant use of "group vocals" on an album. Rafael Toral's "spacestatic guitar" on the former track is showcased during the outro, playing the melodic overtones that mirror the "midnight princess" jam.

An instrumental version of "side2side" (retitled "side2side2") was released on the "Elysian Fields Soundtrack" compilation.

For more information on songs (including lyrics, who played what, when the songs were first and last performed, and other trivia), please visit the Song Database.


  • NEVERMIND -- the proposed first single, which never actually found its way into stores...



    US: 069490650-1
    EU: 490 650-1
    NOTES: 12" w/ alternate track list above.
    US: B0023478-01
    EU: 00602547413857
    NOTES: reissue 12" w/ alternate track list above.
    Remastered from original stereo analog masters
    Includes download card for 320mbps MP4 AAC files

    NOTES: advance promo disc
    US: 069490650-2
    EU: 490 650-2
    NOTES: CD release.
    NOTES: CD release.

    NOTES: cassette release.


  • Please write me w/ anything that's missing!

  • cd insert panels 1 + 2 (cover)

    cd insert panels 3 + 4

    cd insert panels 5 + 6

    cd insert panels 7 + 8


    cd back

    vinyl cover

    vinyl back

    vinyl insert side 1

    vinyl insert side 2

    vinyl label (this side)

    vinyl label (that side)

    vinyl back

    advance promo tape

    chinese CD front

    chinese CD back

    german promo CD

    cassette covers (poland)

    cassette liners

    euro CD back