The Whitey Album (Remastered)
Even 20 years after its original release, Sonic Youth’s one-off “side project” is still a confusing enigma. It was recorded in 1988, the same year as the seminal album Daydream Nation, but it shares nothing with that release. The title refers to the band’s desire to put out its own version of the Beatles masterpiece, but there is not a single Fab Four reference within. And the band name, Ciccone Youth, comes from an obsession with Madonna shared by both Thurston Moore and Minutemen’s Mike Watt. In the context of the original single (Watt doing a garage-band cover of “Burning Up,” Sonic Youth covering “Into the Groove”) the name made sense. But then this full album came out, with a cover featuring a blown-up Xerox of her face but not a single Material Girl note more. And the only other pop culture reference comes as a version of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” recorded by Kim Gordon in a two-dollar mall karaoke machine. The rest of the album is pure art-school noise/beat-box experimentalism that shifts from seriously bad, white b-boy rap (“Tuff Titty Rap”), a radio edit of John Cage’s “4’ 33” titled “(silence)” to the mesmerizing and hypnotic noise jam “Macbeth.” As a whole it works best in pieces, but will forever remain one of those early Sonic Youth albums that is cool to love.