Noise Riot: 10 essential Sonic Youth records




The bewildering number of styles and movements that Sonic Youth have been associated with over their 30 year history is a testament to their legacy. In a career spanning 30 odd albums and 60 singles they rejected the grand rock and roll heritage, instead pursuing experimentalism and developing the notion of ‘alternative’.

Their unconventional guitar tunings, feedback and experiments with noise borrowed from the free-form style of Velvet Underground and The Stooges and paired it with the New York no wave aesthetic. In doing so they pioneered a new soundscape that typified a generation who connected with their awkwardness and abrasiveness. From their first album in 1982 all the way up to 2012, when the band went on “indefinite hiatus”, Sonic Youth put the ‘noise’ into noise rock – shaping the world of indie and paving the way for bands like Nirvana.

We invited Music Editor at DICE, BBC Three TV presenter and Kissability label boss Jen Long to share her passion for this generation-defining band with 10 records from her vinyl collection.

Words: Jen Long

I first heard Sonic Youth aged fourteen. I was babysitting at a neighbour’s house. They had MTV2. I guess I was hoping for KoRn videos, but instead I got an hour-long documentary about some band I’d never heard of. Instantly I was hooked. I think it was the opening slur of Kool Thing, the chugging guitars and Kim Gordon’s vocal, brimming in nonchalance. I just fell straight in love.

Since that day my respect and adoration has never dwindled. Sonic Youth are one of the most important and influential guitar bands of all time, and one of the most prolific. Theirs is not just a world of albums; it’s collaborations, films, books, art and everything in between. Being a Sonic Youth fan, you get an education.

So here my top ten Sonic Youth records I’ve picked up over the years.

Listen to 10 tracks from the records in the playlist below, or check them out individually on the next page.