Back in college, there was a course on Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Students spent, like, 4 months or whatever dissecting a single book.
I rolled my eyes at the thought, but upon further reflection, I figured why not? Sure, Joyce didn’t know what it mean. I don’t know what it means. The Phd’s professor doesn’t know what it means. But why should that stop everyone from analyzing it and unearthing deeper elements of it, such that it makes you feel nice inside?
Admit it: the best art is stuff where you don’t know what it means.
Anyway, with Thurston Moore playing the Library this Thursday (info here,) it’s only natural for me to say that they should teach an entire college course on a single song: Sonic Youth’s “Schizophrenia.”
It’s the lead-track on their 1987 classic “Sister,” and it is one of the most stunning pieces of music ever committed to tape. In time, it’ll be up there with Cage, Glass, whatever.
What’s the song about? Who knows? Who cares? Well, I kinda care, and I think it’s pretty simple: Thurston, as the narrator, talks of a menacing, demonic woman/girl who happens to be the sister of his friend. She’s also bat-shit crazy. He sets up her presence like some sinister apparition (“she was laughing like crazy / at the trouble I’m in.”)
But then, he woman/girl speaks soon after, in the voice of Kim, and the insane gal comes across as sympathetic, a lost little girl, an out-of-focus child-seer (“My future is static / It’s already had it.”)
Who do we believe?
In the process we’re transported to this ethereal world of madness and, well, beauty, and that’s because the tonal constructs; the song is, essentially, a seamless suite of four mini-songs. It’s like your swimming around in her twisted id!
Good god this song is amazing!
In closing, in my opinion, I think they should teach a college course on “Schizophrenia.”