Friday, February 21, 2014

Sonic Youth - 4 Tunna Brix EP

Here's an odd little release of covers of songs originally done by my all-time favorite band . . .

In October 1988, Sonic Youth went into the studios of BBC Radio 1 in London to record a session with legendary DJ John Peel (the first of five sessions the band would record with Peel over the next dozen years). Their critically-acclaimed breakthrough album Daydream Nation has just been released earlier that month, so it should have been expected that the group would play selected cuts off of that disc on Peel's show. Instead, Sonic Youth went in an entirely different direction, spending their entire session playing four covers as an homage of sorts to the English band The Fall - who, incidentally, were one of Peel's favorite groups.

The Fall tracks SY covered were as follows:
1. Rowche Rumble
2. My New House
3. Victoria (yes, I know that this is a Kinks original, but The Fall released their own take of this song earlier that year on their album The Frenz Experiment . . . so essentially Sonic Youth did a cover version of a cover version)
4. Psycho Mafia
The results were . . . strange, to say the least. The tunes sound exactly like you would expect them to sound - a combination of The Fall thrown into Sonic Youth's guitar/feedback/sludge rock buzzsaw. It's all a bit ramshackle and tongue-in-cheek, but overall not bad.

Upon broadcast, the reaction to the session was fairly positive in most quarters, with one crucial exception - when Fall majordomo Mark E. Smith found out about Sonic Youth 'meddling' with his songs, he was (predictably) more than a bit ticked off. He was so upset about it that he refused to sanction the session's commercial release - not that that particularly mattered; this Peel session was quickly bootlegged in England in the following month (on yellow vinyl!) on a 7" EP entitled All Fall Down. Only three songs were on this EP; the "Victoria" cover was left off.

A year and a half later, an outfit called Goofin' Records put out their own vinyl "bootleg" of this session, now including all four songs. I say "bootleg" in quotes, because the sound of this disc is suspiciously pristine, as though it were produced from the original master tapes . . . Nowadays, it's generally acknowledged that Sonic Youth themselves put together the Goofin' release, probably as a way to get back at Smith for being such a dick about the whole thing. For his part, for the past two decades Smith has never missed an opportunity to disparage Sonic Youth, a few years back telling a London Times reporter that Thurston Moore, SY's lead singer, should "have his rock license revoked" (then again, Mark E. Smith slags off pretty much every group and musician nowadays, so it's hard to take his criticism of Sonic Youth seriously).

I recall reading about this disc back in the mid-1990s, and of course being a big Fall fan, I HAD to have a copy. However, it took me quite a while to find this one; I finally tracked one down on eBay about fifteen years ago, being sold by a guy in South Carolina. I enjoy pretty much every song on the EP, although in my opinion the band's version of "Victoria" sounds like an English football chant. Anyway, the music I'm presenting here was burned off of my own copy.

So here you go - here's the four-song 'official bootleg' 4 Tunna Brix EP from Sonic Youth, originally recorded as a John Peel Session on October 19th, 1988, and released on the band's own Goofin' Records label in 1990. Enjoy and as always, let me know what you think of it.

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  1. great album thanks a lot for sharing good music :D

  2. I'd been looking for this for quite some time. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for the link! Downloading it right now!!

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