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'Hits Are For Squares' plus '1991: The Year Punk Broke' DVD
(Universal Music)

Phil Kane

phil kane

'Hits Are For Squares' was originally released in 2008 on the Starbucks label. It is a compilation of sixteen tracks, the first fifteen being chosen by celebrities commissioned by Sonic Youth for the project. These tracks vary widely from the spiky Americana of 'Stones' through the punky buzz of 'Mary-Christ' to the avant-garde industrial clang of 'Tuff Gnarl'. The last track, 'Slow Revolution' was specially written for the album by the band. The best track on the album is the comparatively smooth and lush interpretation of 'Superstar'; ironically a cover of the Carpenters song (itself being a cover of a Delaney and Bonnie original).


Despite the album having a deep vein of experimental industrial punk Metal running through it, the music generally remains undemanding. Although the tracks have been chosen by a disparate bunch of people, there is a groove to the album that perfectly illustrates how Sonic Youth's joyous brand of eclectic rock has become established Americana rather than the shoe gazing racket that passes for indie these days.

Over all, apart from the specially recorded drone of 'Slow Revolution', 'Hits Are For Squares' holds nothing new for the hardcore Sonic fan but as a painless and unchallenging introduction to the richly eclectic back catalogue of this iconic American band, it is pretty damn good.

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Available on DVD for the first time, '1991: The Year Punk Broke' is billed as a pivotal film centred on life on the road during Sonic Youth's 1991 European tour. This may well prove more interesting to Nirvana fans because it shows the band performing some of the Nevermind album a few months before its release and their sudden meteoric ascension to the heady heights of superstardom.

The live tracks are separated by short monologues or vaguely choreographed skits filmed on a camcorder as they do the sights between gigs that offer none of the insights the blurb promises. It all just seems to be an excuse to be 'whacky' and far too clever for their own shirts whilst uttering mundane profundities in front of a camera.

Even the title of the DVD is ambiguous; does '1991: The Year Punk Broke' refer to punk becoming main stream or becoming FUBB? Like I said before, far too clever for their own good.

Sonic Youth's performances alternate with those of The Ramones, Nirvana, Babes In Toyland, Dinosaur Jr. and Gumball, all filmed as they ranged across Europe from one festival to another. The overall sound quality, despite being fully restored, re-synced and re-mastered in uncompressed PCM stereo is at best good bootleg quality but the performances themselves are fascinating and Sonic Youth's patronage and influence on bands that will soon pass them by is quite touching.

The edgy fly-on-the-wall camera work, skilful editing and production style betrays the DVD's yearning to have been at Woodstock, giving it a washed out, grainy sixties feel. There is over an hours worth of bonus material that includes the previously unreleased featurette '(This Is Known As) The Blues Scale' plus extra live Sonic footage and a rare performance of 'In Bloom' by Nirvana.

Maybe there is some sort of joke or message that this reviewer has missed but there is a scene on the DVD where Sonic's Thurston Moore takes the piss out of two little German girls as he interviews them. They cannot understand a word he is saying and I think that pretty much sums up this DVD in particular and Sonic Youth in general.

With this package Sonic Youth seem to not only go out of their way to take pot shots at those who have bought, or will buy this album (with its unflattering title), they also seem to contradict themselves. The band involving celebrity, the album being released on Universal Music and the original collaboration with Starbucks all seem to jar with their apparent anti corporate stand.

Fortunately for the band, the joke is so obscure that like the two little girls, no one will have the slightest idea what the band are babbling on about and so will nod their ersatz comprehension, smile and buy the album and/or DVD to use as coffee table bling anyway.

Job done then!




Wacken Winter Nights 2018 takes place between February 23rd and 25th 2018 and the great news is that you can now experience a full-on, top class German Metal Festival easily and affordably.

It only takes an hour to fly to Hamburg from London and we've had longer journeys than that within the capital and they were certainly more expensive than the £33 air ticket that just appeared in our 'flights to Wacken Winter Nights' search.


Wacken Winter Nights is organised by the same team who are responsible for the world's greatest Metal festival, Wacken-Open-Air and the 2018 bill includes Skyclad, Orphaned Land, Elvenking, Finntroll, Grave Digger, Aeverium, Comes Vagantes, Coppelius, Corvus Corax, Die Pressgëng, Elvellon, Heimataerde, Hell-O-Matic, Ignis Fatuu, Ingrimm, Irdorath, Johnny Deathshadow, Krayenzeit, Letzte Instanz, Mr Hurley und die Pulveraffen, Pampatut, Pat Razket, Schandmaul, Sündenrausch, The Aberlour's, The Moon And The Nightspirit, Torfrock, Visions Of Atlantis, Vroudenspil, Wind Rose and more.

Besides this rich billing of superb Metal bands, there is so much more to see in the festival area including the medieval market and also the walking acts and jugglers you will meet at the theme worlds, including Robert Blake, three-time World Cup winner of street magic.

Wacken Winter Nights is something not to be missed and you can check out the amazing ticket and accommodation prices right here.

We just priced up the whole four day trip with hotels, flights, shuttles and festival tickets for less than £300 and we don't think you will get a better value festival than that, anywhere.


MetalTalk recently sat down with Wacken founder and owner Thomas Jensen and that interview will be online next week and it's a fascinating insight into how Wacken originated from nothing to become the world's premiere Heavy Metal event.


Wacken 2018 takes place from 2nd to 4th August 20218 and as with Wacken Winter Nights, if you have never experienced all it has to offer, then you owe it to yourself to remedy that.

Already announced for Wacken 2018 are Judas Priest, Nightwish, Running Wild (exclusive), Arch Enemy, Dirkschneider, Doro (Special Anniversary Show), In Extremo, Sepultura, Amorphis, Amaranthe, Firewind, W.A.R., Belphegor, Mantar, Knorkator, Deserted Fear, Watain, Night Demon, Epica, Knorkator, Belphegor, Firewind, Deserted Fear and many more and we'll have more Wacken 2018 announcements during December.

As well as being the greatest Heavy Metal festival in the world, it is without a doubt the Mecca of Metal and the one thing that every single person who loves our music should have on their bucket list.

For 2018, MetalTalk have joined forces with Wacken-Open-Air to help you get to Wacken easily and inexpensively and you can peruse the ticket and travel options right here.

If you are interested in going to Wacken 2018 and have questions, please fill out the form below and we will contact you with answers to all your enquiries. You are under no obligation whatsoever by filling this form out. We won't add you to any mailing lists or send you loads of spam - all we will do is help you get to Wacken as easily and inexpensively as possible.



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