Unplayed no. 1
“Right, it’s Charlie Mingus’s The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady. It’s Neutral Milk Hotel’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. It’s also Flaming Lips’ Transmissions From The Satellite Heart. It’s Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, it’s De La Soul’s 3 Feet High And Rising and De La Soul Is Dead. It’s Dinosaur Jr’s Bug and Slint’s Spiderland. It’s Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain and Slanted And Enchanted, but it’s also Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks…”
I was reading a recent Guardian article about TV On The Radio (in attempt to understand why people like them – they don’t work for me). The TV guys were enlivened by their interviewer asking them what they thought was the greatest record ever made. Understandably they had trouble limiting their choice to one, coming up with the above list – and Sonic Youth’s Washing machine. I had no idea it was so highly regarded. This was the album of theirs that I bought for 80 pence six or seven years ago, rescuing one from among multiple copies swimming for their lives in a charity shop box; the album of theirs that I have not listened to until today.
The Hawkwind-ish, grunge-y elements I can leave. The sonically beautiful guitar sounds, the appropriately undistinguished singing and the sense of this being a razor-blade tightrope act at work I will take. ‘Becuz’ and ‘Junkie’s promise’ display both hands in spades, with the latter going into a fast spin that begins to make sense of the album’s title. ‘Saucer-like’ and ‘Washing machine’ itself offer up the full range of guitar beauty and abuse, from poised stillness to phased whirwind. ‘Unwind’ unwinds into an orchestral deluge of guitar and percussion. ‘Little trouble girl’ drafts in a choir of little trouble girls including Kim Deal for a low key girl-group sing-song. After that I confess I lost track until the vaguley hectoring tones of ‘Skip tracer’ kicked in, which means on reviewing the CD that I missed track number 9, an instrumental uncredited and untitled on the sleeve. I drifted off again at an early stage of the 19 and a half minutes of ‘The diamond sea’. Seeing the album’s length on the CD player’s preview panel was probably what put me off listening to it in the first place. If I ever got that far.
Though this album dates from the mid-nineties, Sonic Youth’s washing machine is an old-fashioned top-loading one; it doesn’t seem to differ significantly from my memory of the one other LP of theirs that I own, 1987’s Sister. Maybe a little less unhinged.
Play again factor: 7/10. I might even give Sister another listen on the strength of it.