Sounds - July 18, 1987


Harlesden Mean Fiddler

IT'S HOTTER than July. Another slippery body oozes by, momentarily obscuring the bright red shirt and upper torso of Rowland S. Howard (one time Birthday Party-goer).

The drawn out sound of his guitar and slow, Cavian drawl are met with mute appreciation; songs are followed by polite applause. Dancing seems both inappropriate and impossible - inside the Fiddler, it's like high noon in Death Valley.

Then something brighter is offered. A dash of jolly organ and a lyric about returning from the Catholic school accentuate the variety and expertise of These Immortal Souls. This is far away from the country eccentricities offered by Howard and drummer Epic Soundtracks' recent fusion with Jeremy Gluck on 'I Knew Buffalo Bill'.

Sonic Youth take the stage. with freight trays full of guitars and more electrical gadgetry than the FBI. As much time is squandered tuning up and guitar changing as playing. Fortunately. Guitar pit stops and Thurston Moore's frequent apologies provide scant relief from the wild frenzy which increases with the temperature.

Kim Gordon's bass is a power hammer, obliterating lyrics with its steely rhythm. Thurston can't be heard. Sometimes (only sometimes) words don't matter.

A steel heeled cowboy boot tenderly slips onto a small black bass pedal, unleashing an electric bolt which peels back skin and splinters bones. 'Top Dog' is piercing yet mesmeric, humble yet potent.

Sonic Youth bear none of the trite symbolism which generally accompanies loud, energetic music. They're gentle giants releasing a brutal beast. Talcum powdered amateur dramatists fall in their wake.

- Shaun Phillips