As fixtures of New York City for the entirety of their existence, Sonic Youth witnessed a lot of change in America’s largest metropolis, from the city’s dystopian period to its continuingly controversial revitalization from the ’90s onward. In 2001, that connection brought them into intense proximity with one of America’s most infamous events in modern history, the September 11th World Trade Center attacks.
At the time, the band had been in the middle of tracking what would become their 2002 release, “Murray Street,” eponymous with the location of the band’s studio, mere blocks from Ground Zero (from “Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth”). Following the album’s release, the band became plagued by the album’s context, which, as they explained in an interview with SFGATE, had little concrete bearing on the content of the release, even despite the back cover — a photo of a street sign outside their studio with evocative damage — fully cementing its closeness to the event.
As the group told SFGATE, what the album instead became for them was a return to their home and a rebuilding of their neighborhood. For months after 9/11, everyone, including the band, was barred from entering the neighborhood, after which they were required to have permits. The effect was a community in shambles, further traumatized well past the actual attack. As they resumed recording that winter, doing something joyful amidst the destruction became a much needed catharsis for the group.