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Sonic Youth: The First Quarter-Century

Sonic Youth.
Sonic Youth.

When the members of what was to become Sonic Youth first began playing together in 1981, the critical and commercial success they would achieve was unimaginable. Though it began as more of an experiment in guitar noise and feedback than a rock band, Sonic Youth has cemented its legacy as one of the most important acts of its era, influencing countless performers both directly and indirectly.

Heavily influenced by the guitar-ensemble performances of Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham, the band's first two records, Confusion Is Sex and Kill Yr Idols, were both released in 1983. Sonic Youth's radical use of dissonance and alternate tunings seemed revolutionary at the time. The group grew in popularity as the '80s progressed, and 1988's Daydream Nation was widely hailed as a masterpiece of noise-influenced art-rock. Sonic Youth continued to refine its use of noise in an increasingly pop-driven songwriting context, greatly expanding its commercial success in the '90s.

On the new Rather Ripped, Sonic Youth has crafted arguably its tightest and most refined set of songs: Reining in the jammy tendencies of its recent predecessors, the album is more song-oriented, with comparatively little in the way of the noisy experimentalism that characterized the band's early work. The guitars, however, sound as raw and vital as ever. This segment originally aired on July 7, 2006.

Copyright 2006 XPN

David Dye is a longtime Philadelphia radio personality whose music enthusiasm has captivated listeners of World Cafe® since 1991. World Cafe is produced by WXPN, the public radio service of the University of Pennsylvania.