It always seems a little uncharacteristic when a band of considerable alternative appeal opts to release a Greatest Hits album; there’s something about the lo-fi, shambolic aesthetic of the likes of Pavement and Sonic Youth that jars with the commercially-released, market-tested afterbirth of a career. But Sonic Youth’s foray into retrospect seems even more absurd: unlike Pavement, this not part of any reunion vehicle, and though the recent split between Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon signals bumps in the road, as yet, there’s no full stop at the end of their paragraph in the slack-rock canon.
But rest-assured, in spite of the album being co-opted by Starbucks (a move too bizarre to even attempt comprehending), this release is more a curiosity than an exercise in cynicism. The chin-strokingly wry title shows the band’s reluctance to fully engage in the tracklisting; so much so that they leave the running order to their showbiz pals.
It’s here that the album finds its charm. Sifting through liner notes to find which bands chose which song as their Sonic Youth gem in an increasingly muddied back-catalog is an enjoyable endeavour indeed. Eddie Vedder, in between Pearl Jamming, listens to ‘Teenage Riot’, David Eggers – hip and happening as he is – likes ‘Tuff Gnarl’, and Radiohead dig ‘Kool Thing’, a song antithetical to their creative output over the last ten years.
With contributions from uber-cool director Gus Van Sant, Arrested Development’s David Cross, and of course Flea (is there no sacred place where Flea won’t get?); this is not so much a career retrospective in the corporate sense, but rather a trip down memory lane, looking at the clandestine past not all of us can be privy to. Much like a school reunion, rather than a band reformation, this record – in spite of all stacked against it – isn’t cynical, but instead a look into the harmlessly cronyistic listening habits of alternative culture’s main players. And as a bonus, the previously unreleased ‘Slow Revolution’ is ace too.
So, I’d love a copy of Hits Are For Squares with my soy latte please.