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This Day: March 2

March 1, 2010

The radio keeps reminding me today is the birthday of Dr Sues, but there aren’t too many songs about him. But it is also the birthday of Philip K Dick, whose work has influenced many a muso.

To be perfectly frank though, I’ve read a couple of his books, seen a couple of movie adaptations and am not well versed in his philosophy and mystique. During my SF reading years, I preferred Asimov and Doctor Who novelisations.

Sonic Youth know a lot more than I do, and their 1987 album “Sister” is, according to a number of sources, heavily influenced by Dick’s work. I’m not well versed on Sonic Youth’s mystique either. I’ve seen them live, I own a few albums (some of which I enjoy), but I’m not a SY tragic. My favourite album is “Murray St”, but I do consider “EVOL” and “Sister” to be better albums than the much vaunted “Daydream Nation”.

I especially enjoy “Sister”. The song structures are cleaner than their earlier albums, while losing nothing of their explorative nature. The opener, Schizophrenia, is a work of restraint – a simple drumbeat allowing plenty of room for the guitars to mooch and brood. This is the first time Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon share vocal duties, though Gordon is especially calm. Even the closing guitar noise is kept on a leash, straining; it’s not quite Talk Talk’s After the Flood guitar solo, but still impressive.

The tension created is released on the following (I’ve Got a) Catholic Block as the album gets into gear. But nothing quite matches Schizophrenia for pure presence.

Exactly how Dick fits into the album is a question for others: apparently he is quoted verbatim in lyrics throughout the album, but I can’t find a cast iron example. Feel free to comment if you know more.

Apparently, too, “Sister” is named after Dick’s fraternal twin, who died a few weeks after birth, something which haunted Dick for the rest of his life.

So Happy Birthday to both Dick twins, wherever you may be…

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