Sonic Youth - ‘Corporate Ghost - The Videos: 1990-2002’ (Geffen)

07 Sep 2004

23 classic music videos; and 3 hours' worth of documentaries. take the weekend off, and put your feet up.
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Sonic Youth - 'Corporate Ghost'With a liner-note suggesting, 'SY's pre-sellout "independent" videography forthcoming', rejoice - Sonic Youth are back on our screens, and this is the start - 'Corporate Ghost', a collection of their videos from '90 to present-day, with documentaries in between.

And it's a gift. After all, it's not like the mainstream thoroughfare music-television are hot to trot on the NYC veterans' asses these days. (They should be - the band's latest, 'Sonic Nurse' is one of their finest.) So grab what you can.

They've always been such a visual treat: frustrating, challenging, witty, bizarre, often all at once. 'Corporate Ghost' is absolutely intoxicating a collection - you'll either be lolling in a dazed delirium at the hours of material, or be frantically stabbing at a voodoo doll mock-up you've made especially in Thurston Moore's honour.

Because, and we're entitled to drop it, few bands are as openly pretentious as Sonic Youth. Just look at the run of self-made videos from 'Goo' that line the first fifty minutes of this collection - OK, so it starts safe and sound with the epic, faux concert-footage of 'Dirty Boots' (wonderfully illustrating, if in a dated sense, the way in which girl meets boy during a rock-show, the Youth acting as the onstage backdrop to such anointment of reciprocal emotions), while 'Kool Thing' is similarly as produced.

But, jeez, 'Tunic (Song For Karen)' is more implausible and surreal than we care to recall (we're still recovering), and 'My Friend Goo' doesn't deserve recounting. Still, even when the imagery is lower than lo-fi and stranger than daytime television, the epic bombast and impact of the Sonics' fervour is not in dispute - if a band came out today unveiling the likes of 'Disappearer' in their canon, we'd be forever indebted.

Thereafter, it's the more 'conventional' likes (not that that's saying much with this lot - they're always weird) - '100%', an in-lounge, Spike Jonze-shot promo (note: look out for Jonze's photo-diary/commentary in the DVD on his relationship with the NYC foursome: quite fascinating); Macaulay Culkin starring in the wonderfully chilling 'Sunday'; and a fantastically frustrating 'The Empty Page', most of whose soundtrack is ruined by the hilarious, toiling discussion between members of an up-and-coming band journeying in their van to another show, and the frictions involved.

Then, extras - perhaps most terrifying is 'My Sonic Room': a 10-minute insight into super-fan Patty Orsini, who - quite frankly - is surreal-killer loopy. She documents converting a room into a Sonic Youth shrine, clearly with the intent of her idols seeing the end-result, narrating as she does her every motion in converting a suburban US teenage-girl's den into a 'Youth haven. Half-hilarious, half-distressing, it epitomises the whole work, and Sonic Youth, quite aptly. We wouldn't want them any other way.

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