Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sonic Youth: Live in Los Angeles 1998 [Bandcamp, 2019]
Having always found live albums messy and preferred to spread my net wider rather than sink it deeper, I'm not inclined to stream much less review the plethora of concert tapes Steve Shelly has spent his quarantine selecting, grooming, and preparing for sale. I made this exception for two reasons. One, it showcases 1998's underrated A Thousand Leaves, a personal favorite. And two, it was hyped not just by deep-diving Joe Yanosik, whose Perfect Sound Forever rundown of live SY is recommended to completists, but wide-ranging Joe Levy, whose finds in a more historically compelling field of discourse I praise just below. Predictably, it seldom equals the studio original's lyricism. But almost as predictably on a live album worth preserving, especially by this band, the guitars are fire--including the true finale, which long predates A Thousand Leaves and which we'll pretend was chosen for geographical proximity: a "Death Valley '69" far more searing and practiced than the original. B+