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Song Snack of the Day: Sugar Kane — Sonic Youth

April 6, 2011

In 1992, New York band Sonic Youth were at the forefront of the experimental and alternative rock scenes. Their seventh studio album, Dirty, was released that year by DGC, a subsidiary label of Geffen Records.

Sonic Youth's 'least expiremental' effort garnered them as high as the #82 spot in the U.S. Billboard 200. And yet, that was a sign of the times and a sign of Sonic Youth's self-respect.

“Sugar Kane,” the seventh track on the album and third single from the record, went on to become one of the group’s most underrated hits. There’s some credit to be given to legendary record producer Butch Vig, who harnessed the rebellious spirit of the Sonic Youth sound and truncated it into a more commonly appealing and accessible sound. At the time, Vig was a very hot commodity as a producer, having just earned immense praise for his work on Nirvana’s 1991 release Nevermind.

It was no secret that in 1992, Sonic Youth’s far-out sound was having a difficult time catching the ears of the mainstream and perhaps, they preferred it that way. That’s just the soul of this band.

While Sonic Youth often exchanged mic duties between bassist Kim Gordon and guitarists Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore, this track’s lyrics were appropriately handed to Moore, who even takes credit for their writing. Moore’s smoky sounding voice, to me, epitomized the Sonic Youth sound; at least in their more structural hits. I still prefer Gordon’s vocals on the more experimental numbers, such as “Mote” and “The Sprawl.”

Back to the hook, which lies beautifully on the guitar’s chorus. Ranaldo and Moore work flawlessly together, combining a fuzz-riddled rhythm section with a distinct lead layer precisely on top. All the while, drummer Steve Shelley reminds us why he’s one of the most underrated drummers working in perhaps one of the hardest drum chairs of any band.

That’s all for today’s Song Snack. Stay tuned for more coming soon!

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