After seven rockin' years, Sonic Reducer bids adieu with a look back at some choice musical moments
SONIC REDUCER Who would have thunk that Sonic Reducer would rattle on for so long — unreduced, unredacted, Sonic even while covering Mr. Winkle or Mundane Journeys. It's been more than seven years since Cheetah Chrome gave me the casual A-OK to borrow the name of his song, and now the end is nigh: this is the final SR in the Guardian, but what a deliciously lengthy, rich, overwhelming run it has had.
Scanning the first Jan. 7, 2003, column — chock-full of New Year's Eve tidbits concerning one of Dengue Fever's first shows in SF, Bud E. Luv's turn as the Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne's NYE attraction (playing big band versions of "Iron Man," natch, amid strippers and absurdly outsized sex toys), and an evening out to the Coachwhips/Pink and Brown-reunion house party in a South Van Ness basement, trapped by a moat of mud, buffeted by revelers, and besieged by circuit-breaking blackouts. Lo, there was also scandalous news of rumored onstage fellatio at a Tigerbeat6 showcase and an update on Kimo's efforts to halt the sonic seepage at its ear-bleed noise shows.
The early '00s in SF were a giddy, madly experimental, and hyperfertile period for local music — a delirious convergence of imaginations cocked and loaded by the dot-com gold rush, exploded with the blizzard of pink slips and the onset of plentiful time and energy, and the excitement of so many ripe minds coming together — oof — at once, if from widely divergent corners of the cultural landscape: how else to explain the peaceful coexistence of Joanna Newsom and Caroliner, Deerhoof and Comets on Fire, Soft Pink Truth and Hunx and His Punx, Vetiver and Turf Talk, the Morning Benders and the Lovemakers, the Oh Sees and every other band John Dwyer has been involved in, in this fair citay?
Perhaps one day I'll boil down these 350-plus columns — snipes, jests, always-in-good-fun jabs, and all — and come up with a rough sketch of this equally rough and rewarding zero-hour decade's blurry contours. In the meantime, glancing hazily back over past columns, I unearthed a few highlights — from lowlifes or bright lights:
•Mark Pauline of Survival Research Laboratories on not performing in Europe, 2003: "We were good enough to cause national alerts and bad international events, so we never got asked back. Again, good work."
•eXtreme Elvis on SF, 2003: "Too much of culture that surrounds San Francisco has to do with that idea of no spectators. No spectators means everyone's a DJ, everyone plays didgeridoo, everyone has a band, everyone is a spoken-word artist. There's a kind of culture of narcissism — guilty as charged, right?"
•Inca Ore's Eva Saelens on touring, 2006: "When you break through, it's like being in another world. Sometimes I'll try to push an explosion or try to lose my mind, and if you do that on a nightly basis, it's unreliable and it's also abusive. You're pushing your emotions in an athletic way, almost."
•Nick Cave on Grinderman, 2007: "An overriding theme of mine is, I guess, a man and a woman against the world. But for this record, the woman seems to be down in the street, engaged in life, and the man is kind of left on his own, with, um, y'know, a tube of complimentary shampoo and a sock."
•The Cure's Robert Smith on dumb pop, 2007: "I'm saying that most good pop singles are stupid — otherwise they're not good pop singles. I'm from an age when disposable wasn't necessarily a bad thing."
•Joe Boyd on music book signings, 2007: "I can tell you what the queue looks like. There's a lot of beards. There's a lot of bald pates. There's a lot of gray hair, and every once in a while there's a 20-something woman in the queue, and then you kind of make sure your hair is combed straight. Then she comes up to the head of the queue and says, 'Will you please sign it "To Peter"? It's for my father for his 60th birthday.'"
•Lady Gaga on pop perfection, 2008: " If it isn't flawless, I gotta work myself up to where it is — otherwise I'm just another pop chick with blonde hair."
•Will Oldham on music, 2008: "You can find in music just about any ideal emotional landscape you crave, whether it's angst or rebellion or celebration or union or dissolution. It's all there, and none of it's going to call you back or text you at four o'clock in the morning or blame you for anything you did or didn't do or slap you with a paternity suit."
•Six Organs of Admittance's Ben Chasny on "Ewok Song," 2009: "I know it by heart, and it's the precursor to all these kids with wizard hats. It all comes down to the Ewoks singing around the fire. Akron/Family ain't got nothing on the Ewoks, man."
•Laurent Brancowitz of Phoenix on his old Daft Punk bandmates, 2009: "They decided to go to a lot of rave parties, and I didn't, because I didn't like the nightclub life. I'm a bit of a snob about it — I find it very vulgar."
•Jarvis Cocker on his song "Caucasian Blues," 2009: "I was interested in how blues music has gone from the music of protest, of the oppressed, to the blandest, safest music for white people to listen to in bars."
Oh, but that was then — and I loathe nostalgia, if that isn't already clear from the past seven years of cranky natterings and screams at the sky against boring, snorey Sha Na Na-style regurgitations. And this is now. Look for more from me in these and other pages, but never look back in regret.