Song 286: Sonic Youth, “The Diamond Sea” (1995)Posted: October 13, 2013
“The Diamond Sea” was the first song I heard by Sonic Youth. It was when they performed the song on Letterman in 1995. This was yet another instance when I thought to myself, “This is what they sound like?” Based only on descriptions, I thought Sonic Youth would be too inaccessible, too loud, too chaotic for my tastes. But this song was… pretty.
Shortly after seeing that performance, I bought Washing Machine, an album full of pop songs disguised as noise rock. Of the Sonic Youth records I’ve heard, this one is still my favorite. It accomplishes that near-impossible thing of a record that has a consistent sound but wildly different songs.
“The Diamond Sea” closes out Washing Machine in true Sonic Youth style: it’s a catchy 20-minute freakout. The single version featured below is only five minutes long, and as much as I love me some Sonic Youth freakouts, I think this shorter cut is the definitive version. However, it’s to Sonic Youth’s credit that the song can work so effectively in both settings; it can serve as a Crazy Horse-style marathon or as an acoustic cover by Yeah Yeah Yeahs.