Walls Have Ears
“Culled from three 1985 gigs in the UK during a transitional and transcendent time in the band’s story, Sonic Youth’s The Walls Have Ears appeared/disappeared as a 2LP set in 1986, not just a live album but an artful tapestry full of live experimentation with songs, between-song tape segues, darkness, humour and audio verité. It’s now issued for the first time officially under the band’s auspices.
“The ’85 shows were the second time the band appeared on UK soil, Brits now getting juiced to the mythos of the emerging guitar-slinging American independent underground; an art/punk band from NYC sporting casual attitudes and tees sporting Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, and Prince made some good press copy on top of their bludgeoning stage appearance. Paul Smith of the newly-founded Blast First label acted as an overseas diplomatic envoy for Sonic Youth through their SST years and issued their classic 1988 Daydream Nation outside the USA.
However, the Smith-produced ‘bootleg’ of their ’85 UK gigs surfaced much to everyone’s surprise, just before EVOL was released. It turned out to be a marker of the group’s dissatisfaction that ultimately led to the release’s deletion and the band and Smith parting ways after Daydream. “In this 2LP set brimming with primitive classics like ‘The Burning Spear,’ ‘Death Valley 69,’ and ‘I’m Insane’ (uncredited on sleeve), segues and live guitar changes ooze together threaded by Madonna tapes and vocal loops off the board (somewhat a necessity for distraction until the band had a full fledged stage crew to prepare guitars).
The first two sides of 2 Walls are massive, cavernous, with newly-drafted drummer Steve Shelley. SY tear it up, especially on one trash-fi excerpt of ‘Blood On Brighton Beach’ (actually ‘Making The Nature Scene’) from a legendary outdoor gig November 8th where [Thurston] Moore, [Kim] Gordon and [Lee] Ranaldo’s guitars treble-blast dissonant shockwaves over the black-stoned beach of Quadrophenia fame. “The record’s second slab spotlights April 1985 at London’s Hammersmith Palais and was one of the final appearances live of Bob Bert on drums, again featuring some molten takes on ‘Brother James,’ ‘Flower’ (listed as ‘The Word (E.V.O.L.)’), and others. This document remains an essential representation of some lean and mean years of the quartet’s throttling march out into the world.”
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