Intro and Titanium Expose

Goo-Album Sonic-YouthThe ferocious guitar attack at minute 3:30 still makes me want to mosh like there is no tomorrow. I wanted more.

Sonic-Youth 500

Welcome to the first installment of “Up Around the Bend.” I really have no point for this column, and the fine folks here at PLAYBACK:stl giving me free reign on what I want to include. Perfect. Sometimes I’ll prattle on about an oldish album that I would consider a lost gem, or I’ll just re-review an album to see if it has stood the test of time. I might just mindlessly ramble on about food, or running, or beer. And yes, those are 3 things I know a helluva lot of things about. I do drink a lot of beer (bless you STL and your craft brew revolution!), I sure do eat a lot, and I run an awful lot. Again, I have no point to this column other than I intend to have my tongue firmly planted in my cheek and hope to make at least one person laugh reading this sometimes. So, onward and upward, kids.

For many people, music is a release. Music is a doorway to a different and, possibly, a better world. It can also be a painful or a blessed reminder of past memories. Music is such a powerful force. It has made people laugh and moved grown men to tears. It can also change lives. As The Hold Steady sing, “certain songs get scratched into our souls,” and I certainly am no exception. There are several songs in my life that have hit me hard and made me change my thinking, my outlook on life, and even my tastes in music. The high school I went to was, well, I guess you could say it was an inner city school. Rap/Hip-hop ruled the airwaves in my high school parking lot. Hell, I had a bumpin’ stereo at one point just to show off da heavy bass. Well, late in 1990 something hit me when I saw the movie Pump Up the Volume—Yeah the Christian Slater tour de force. (Fantastic soundtrack by the way for those who have never heard it). Anyways, that’s where I first heard “Titanium Exposé” by Sonic Youth (Youtube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lWwdpBeZd0, Spotify link Sonic Youth – Titanium Expose). I went out and bought Goo immediately afterwards. And since 1990, it has remained my favorite Sonic Youth album. Nothing touches it for me.

I grew up in a house that was filled with music. My older brothers were huge music nuts, as was my dad. My dad brought classical music and big band to the mix…and a very strange obsession with Rob Halford and Judas Priest. My brothers brought classic rock and a certain eclectic nature (Cars, Miles Davis, and Parliament). I had been exposed to a lot musically. Hell, when one of my brothers went away to college, he sent me a copy of License to Ill and Raising Hell when they came out, so I knew things could be different. When I first heard the distorted guitars, that melodic noise on “Titanium Exposé,” something clicked in me, and I’ve never turned back. The squelch, the distortion, the just pure bliss of noise is art hit me like a full megaton bomb. Damn, 23 years later, and it still moves me. I didn’t think noise like this could sound beautiful, but it did. At that time I was heavily into rap and really wasn’t interested in a bunch of skinny white dudes making noise with guitars. Rock was for long haired, dirty kids we called Hessians in Omaha. Being an athlete, rap gave me something else to bond with teammates and friends over. Really, this was at the start of gangsta rap, and NWA, PE, and Eazy E ruled and everyone said fuck. I really didn’t know Sonic Youth until I heard “Titanium Exposé.” I saw Pump Up the Volume on a date and was giddy afterwards, sadly that didn’t translate into a good date…but hey, I discovered new music!

I immediately went and bought a copy of Goo just for this song and fell in love with everything on the album. I heard “Cool Thing” and was blown away as Chuck D was on it, and that was just cool. Here is the driving force behind PE and he’s flowin’ on a song sung by this goofy chick. But “Titanium Exposé,” in particular, just screamed to me. The slow wall of feedback at the start to the immediate rush of their duel guitar attack and thunderous drumming opened my eyes. The ferocious guitar attack at minute 3:30 still makes me want to mosh like there is no tomorrow. I wanted more. So much more of this. When I listened to this song, I didn’t feel like a poor white kid stuck in a shitty inner city high school in Omaha, Nebraska. I felt like there was more to this world, and I wanted part of something in it. I must have burned through three copies of that album on cassette within a year. By the time I arrived at my first freshman college class in 1991, I was a different person than the previous year with a different view on the world. In some ways that view was for the better. Rap was 99 percent gone, and I was firmly entrenched in alternative nation and have yet to leave.

I cannot say that all of that change was because of this one song, but this song sure as hell helped push me in that direction. It was my mile marker, my light of truth, whatever analogy you can think of. It was the start, and I do frequently go back to my start to relish in that thrilling feeling I got then when I first heard it all those years ago. If you have never heard it, please give it a whirl. At the very least, you will have heard something new and wonderful. | Mike Koehler

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