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Sonic Youth
Battery Park, NYC: July 4, 2008 Brian Coney , June 17th, 2019 09:49

Three years before splitting up, Sonic Youth played Battery Park, New York. The recording originally came as a bonus disc with the first copies of their last album The Eternal. Now it receives a proper release. Brian Coney dives in

Midway through a show in their adopted home of New York in 2008, a flicker of doubt revealed the generation-spanning oneness of Sonic Youth. Unsure of who starts Daydream Nation peak ‘The Wonder’, Thurston Moore turned to fellow founding guitarist Lee Ranaldo. “We start it together, man,” replied Ranaldo. “Together, forever,” fires back Moore, prompting a rushing eagre of incandescent noise.

Throwaway though it may have seemed, Moore’s turn of phrase is loaded with pure candour. Three years shy of disbanding - of entering a narrow pantheon of bands that have irrevocably altered the terrain and argot of modern rock music - Sonic Youth were still the sound of unity and cohesion. Originally released as an accompaniment to the band’s swansong, 2009’s The Eternal, Battery Park, NYC: July 4, 2008 now exists in its own right to help transmit that fact.

One playback is all it takes. It’s all here. Nothing that defined the band’s feverish, nigh on alchemical sorcery since forming in 1982 feels amiss, much less absent. Where previous live albums such as 1987's Hold That Tiger zoned in on a current album cycle (Sister) or, in the case of 1984's Sonic Death, sacrificed fidelity in favour of the moment, Battery Park, NYC: July 4, 2008 feels every bit comprehensive and luminous as it does retrospective and present. Where myriad live albums have failed pull it off, the oddest feeling of actually being there, one of many happily rapt heads in the crowd, is potent. Space feels defined, presence feels distinct, Sonic Youth feel like they never went away.

Having recently finished an ATP-promoted Daydream Nation anniversary tour that took them across Europe and Australia, ‘The Sprawl’, ‘Hey Joni’ and an especially emphatic version of ‘Hyperstation’ emerge as searing, widescreen peaks. Fresh from having sifted gold from their recent past, the ferocity and intent of these songs - played alongside the likes of ‘She Is Not Alone’ and closer ‘Making The Nature Scene’ – make short work of the notion of a heyday. That’s truly the nostalgia-rupturing sell here: assuming it will be their final ever live release, Battery Park, NYC: July 4, 2008 feels vital and, best of all, timeless. Sonic Youth may never re-emerge but listening back, you can’t but shirk the notion that as long as the music exists, man, they will continue to be together forever.