Sonic Youth (EP)

Sonic Youth is the debut EP by American rock band Sonic Youth.[1] It was recorded between December 1981 and January 1982 and released in March 1982 by Glenn Branca's Neutral label. It is the only recording featuring the early Sonic Youth lineup with Richard Edson on drums. Sonic Youth differs stylistically from the band's later work in its greater incorporation of clean guitars, standard tuning, crisp production and a post-punk style.[1]

Sonic Youth
EP by
ReleasedMarch 1982
RecordedDecember 1981 – January 1982
StudioRadio City Music Hall Studios, New York City, New York, United States
ProducerSonic Youth
Sonic Youth chronology
Sonic Youth
Confusion Is Sex


Sonic Youth is the only Sonic Youth release in which the guitars predominantly use standard tuning.[2][3] James Jackson Toth of Stereogum stated that the album "sounds like the dark, post-punk cousin of Thurston's spunky new wave band the Coachmen."[4] Drum-wise, the songs feature the more "downtown" roto-tom-addled stylings of Richard Edson, approaching the quasi-funk/hip-hop rhythms of 99 Records bands like ESG and Liquid Liquid. The bass guitar, though often playing minor key riffs, is almost funk-based, which was a common feature of post-punk and no wave music. The clean guitar tones contain little of the trademark noise that Sonic Youth would eventually become known for.[5]

Although the original record clocks in at under 25 minutes in length, Sonic Youth is considered by the band to be their first studio album.[6] Kim Gordon has referred to it in her autobiography as an EP.[7]


Sonic Youth was released on 12" vinyl in March 1982 on then-mentor Branca's record label Neutral. It was released in Europe on the German Zensor label in 1984.

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [1]
Robert ChristgauC[8]
Head Heritagemildly favorable[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide     [11]
Trouser Pressunfavorable[12]

Sonic Youth has received a mixed reception from critics.

In his review of the 2006 reissue, Brandon Stosuy of Pitchfork gave the EP a grade of 8.2 out of 10, calling it "obviously more primitive than the quartet's later work [...] the recordings offer a ghostly, mesmerizing locked groove" and that "this is SY at their most icy; it's an erudite, windswept set, wrapping distortion inside danceable half-frozen Liquid Liquid beats."[10] Andy Kellman of AllMusic wrote, "Awkward and rather formative, the record sounds like a fusion of no wave and an early Factory band."[1] Trouser Press wrote of the album: "This disc is no fun."[12]


"She Is Not Alone" was covered by Slovenian band Borghesia, issued as a 1989 single by the Play It Again Sam label.


In 1987, SST reissued the album in its original vinyl format, as well as on cassette with all five tracks running on its first side. The flip side of the cassette featured the same five tracks on the other side, but played backwards from last to first, and the printing on both the J-card and cassette matched this: side 1 had the band name and song titles printed forwards, side 2 had them printed as a mirror image. That same year, the EP saw its first CD release by SST in the U.S. and by Blast First in the UK.[13]

Sonic Youth was reissued by Geffen Records in 2006 on CD and as a double LP, with a number of bonus tracks that brought the running time to 63:04. Added were seven songs from a live performance recorded on 18 September 1981. Most of the tracks played were based on pieces composed by the band for the Noisefest festival held earlier in 1981, while others predate the band itself, such as Gordon's song "Cosmopolitan Girl". Several of these pieces are quite different from their studio counterparts, in particular the noisy early version of "She Is Not Alone". Among the tracks is the instrumental "Destroyer", previously coveted by bootleg collectors. Also added was a studio recording of a song that also appeared in a live version, "Where the Red Fern Grows". The song, an early version of "I Dreamed I Dream", was recorded in October 1981 at a studio in Chelsea during the band's first recording session. The session did not go well due at least partially to an engineer who did not understand the band's music.[14] The studio version was an instrumental, while on the live take, Lee sang two lines towards the end. The 2006 booklet contains new photos and extensive liner notes from Branca, Edson and Byron Coley, as well as a "few notes" concerning the album from Thurston Moore. On the CD reissue, the tray card is double-sided – the side that faces out contains the track listing with a bar code and an RIAA anti-piracy notice, and the opposite side has the same track listing without a bar code or an RIAA warning. Despite the CD reissue on Geffen, logos for Neutral Records can still be found in numerous places in the package.

Track listingEdit

All tracks are written by Sonic Youth (Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo, Richard Edson).

Side A
1."The Burning Spear"MooreMoore3:28
2."I Dreamed I Dream"Edson, RanaldoGordon, Ranaldo5:12
3."She Is Not Alone"MooreMoore4:06
Side B
No.TitleLyrics Length
4."I Don't Want to Push It"GordonMoore3:35
5."The Good and the Bad"InstrumentalInstrumental7:55
2006 CD reissue bonus tracks
6."Hard Work (Live)"GordonMoore3:19
7."Where the Red Fern Grows (Live)"InstrumentalInstrumental5:47
8."The Burning Spear (Live)"MooreMoore3:23
9."Cosmopolitan Girl (Live)"GordonGordon3:35
10."Loud and Soft (Live)"RanaldoRanaldo6:48
11."Destroyer (Live)"InstrumentalInstrumental5:32
12."She Is Not Alone (Live)"MooreMoore3:29
13."Where the Red Fern Grows (Studio)"InstrumentalInstrumental6:45
  • The bonus tracks were recorded live at the Music for Millions Festival at the New Pilgrim Theatre in New York on September 18, 1981 except for the studio version of "Where the Red Fern Grows" which was "recorded Noise NY sessions, engineer unknown, October 1981" according to the liner notes.


Sonic Youth


  1. ^ a b c d Kellman, Andy. "Sonic Youth -– Sonic Youth | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved September 8, 2012.
  2. ^ Fanelli, Damian (6 April 2012). "Interview: Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo Discusses Gear and His New Album, 'Between the Times and the Tides'". Guitar World. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  3. ^ Lawrence, Lawrence (April 2014). "The Sonic Youth Tuning Tutotial". Sonic Youth. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  4. ^ Toth, James Jackson (September 6, 2012). "Sonic Youth Albums From Worst To Best: Sonic Youth EP". Stereogum. Retrieved July 13, 2015.
  5. ^ "Sonic Youth EP". Ultimate Guitar. July 25, 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2016.
  6. ^ " Discography – Album: Sonic Youth". Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  7. ^ Gordon, Kim (February 24, 2015). Girl in a Band: A Memoir. Dey Street Books.
  8. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Robert Christgau: CG: Sonic Youth". Retrieved September 8, 2012.
  9. ^ Parkes, Jason (20 March 2007). "Julian Cope Presents Head Heritage | Unsung | Reviews | Sonic Youth – Sonic Youth". Head Heritage. Retrieved 19 August 2016.
  10. ^ a b Stosuy, Brandon (5 April 2006). "Thurston Moore: Sonic Youth / The Whitey Album / Psychic Hearts | Album Reviews | Pitchfork". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 8, 2012.
  11. ^ "Sonic Youth: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on June 5, 2013. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  12. ^ a b Kot, Greg; Leland, John; Sheridan, David; Robbins, Ira; Pattyn, Jay. " :: Sonic Youth". Retrieved April 10, 2013.
  13. ^ " Discography". Retrieved February 28, 2013.
  14. ^ Browne, David (2008). Goodbye 20th century : a biography of Sonic Youth (First Da Capo Press ed.). New York. pp. 73–74. ISBN 9780306815157.

External linksEdit