I had a very brief flirtation with Sonic Youth in the mid-'90s. I enjoyed the caustic Richard Kern-directed, Charles Manson-themed music video for their song "Death Valley '69". It was a time of CD-Buying frenzy, and I purchased a few of their releases. I rather liked Sister. I also bought Evol; Goo; and Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, but I didn't listen to them much. While I enjoyed and respected their dissonant guitar work and offbeat sound, the albums sounded too similar. Always literary-minded, the songwriting never spoke to me in any real, meaningful way.

I decided to read founding Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore's memoirs after hearing an interview with the man on Marc Maron's podcast. Moore came off as smart, easy-going, and passionate.

The most vivid parts of the book deal with the early daze of Punk in NYC. Moore was there, a gawky kid in love with the music and the whole lifestyle of the movement. Unlike others I've heard from, Thurston Moore articulates his feelings with intelligence, passion, and childlike enthusiasm.

I'm sure many latter day suburban wanna-be punkers yearn to have been there for the excitement of the days when The Ramones, Suicide, Blondie, and others ripped up the stage. I found his accounts fascinating, but I have no regret about missing the ear-splitting noise, the spitting, the pushing and shoving, and choking on clouds of tobacco smoke.

I wasn't much of a fan. My motto about Punk was always: Not my circus, not my monkeys. I certainly have little use for the aggression of Hardcore, and the political screeds bored me. I do enjoy the ones who emulated Beat poetry: Richard Hell, Patti Smith, X.

While Moore was gaining illicit access to Punk shows in his teens, I was sneaking into a drive-in, watching Death Race 2000, Rabid, Piranha, and The Slumber Party Massacre. I wouldn't trade the memories for a thousand pogo dances.

Moore writes of the Art scene in New York of the late seventies and early eighties. Again, I feel no regret of missing poetry readings, confrontational performance artists, or noise musicians. Many of the latter couldn't properly play their instruments, much less tune them.

The biggest disappointment about Sonic Life was the lack of details about Moore's association with the Cinema of Transgression and the making of "Death Valley '69". He barely mentions R. Kern and there is too much information about Lydia Lunch. Maybe readers of mass market books published by Doubleday aren't ready for Kern or Nick Zedd.

All that said, Thurston Moore can write, and his book moves with the speed of a raucous punk song. I read it in a few days and it kept my interest.

I had a miserable time whenever I was dragged to a club to see a Punk act. Like many readers I am a loner. Amid the noise, the chaos, and the bad behavior I quickly became homesick and wished I was home with my books and videotapes. Sonic Life is a longish book, and I became a bit homesick for my beloved horror novels while reading it. This isn't always the case. The biography of Malcolm McLaren is twice the length of Moore's book, and I was sad to see it end. Sonic Life left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. Much like the aftermath of an unsanitary night in a club with the punks.

I guess I've never been cool. Thank God.

Written by Mark Sieber

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