Now that my initial enthusiasm for Sonic Youth’s Rather Ripped has waned a tad, I’m sorta-not-really crushing on the under-hyped, contract-fulfilling b-sides comp The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities. Made up of only songs that will entice diehard fans, The Destroyed Room is a record that also seems custom-made to annoy diehard fans. There are no cuts from before 1994, and the import-only tracks from Rather Ripped (e.g. the noisy “Helen Lundeberg” and “Eye Liner”) are suspiciously absent.
That said, The Destroyed Room is cover-to-cover awesome. The bulk of the record—as determined by duration, if not necessarily by sum-total of tracks—is made up of free-form jams from the Sonic Nurse sessions. Opener “Fire Engine Dream” and the dreamy “Kim’s Chords” are startlingly gorgeous improvisational compositions; not even Kevin Shields layers guitar tracks as stunningly as Sonic Youth (though, admittedly, they’ve got a few more decades of practice under their collective belt). The band began in New York’s intentionally inhospitable No Wave scene with skronkers like DNA and Teenage Jesus And The Jerks, but a quarter-century later, Sonic Youth presents themselves as uniters, not dividers. Come this holiday season, I’m going to try out The Destroyed Room‘s extended cut of “The Diamond Sea” (up from an already imposing 20-minute runtime to a nearly 26 minutes) on my String Cheese Incident-venerating younger brother.
But crossover potential aside (and the band swipes it aside itself, with the Kim Gordon-led let’s-see-if-we-can-make-an-acoustic-guitar-fart blues jam “Razor Blade”), something seems a little cheap about The Destroyed Room, and I don’t mean the $13.98 price tag. There are just 11 tracks here, as though Da Yoof is saving the best to come for those rumored extended editions of their pre-Geffen output. The Destroyed Room is certainly more than a hastily cobbled together stocking stuffer for indie snobs (the Pola X soundtrack is certainly a tough find, from which the haunting and essential “Blink” is drawn), but it still kind of feels like one. But far be it of me to be disappointed with this early Christmas gift. Sure, I’d rather have a new bike (read: expanded, remastered EVOL and Daydream Nation), but The Destroyed Room makes one hell of a sweater set.