The East Village bar I used to frequent during my New York City days had a copy of Sonic Youth's 1995 disc Washing Machine in the jukebox, and it was usually entertaining when the epic 20-minute closer "The Diamond Sea" would come on. (In my opinion, it's one of the top three songs the band has ever recorded.) The first four or five arrestingly melodic minutes would occasionally draw someone over to the machine, flipping through the CD covers trying to match up the number with this alt-rock gem they'd somehow overlooked. And then, as the song quickly descended into 15 blissful minutes of cascading skronk and feedback, said patron would retreat with a scowl and, sometimes, hands over the ears. I even saw one march over to the bartender, demanding he hit the skip button or pull the plug (in a laudable, tip-forsaking move, he refused). Although the Youth's last few albums, especially the tuneful new Sonic Nurse, have pushed accessibility over noise like never before, be warned (or delighted): the band will dip often, fully, and extendedly into its famously cacophonous side during the live set.
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