CONFUSION IS SEX
   
TRACK LIST:

1. She's In A Bad Mood 5:36
2. Protect Me You 5:28
3. Freezer Burn/I Wanna Be Your Dog 3:39
4. Shaking Hell 4:06
5. Inhuman 4:06
--
6. The World Looks Red 2:43
7. Confusion Is Next 3:28
8. Making The Nature Scene 3:01
9. Lee Is Free 3:37
 
10. Kill Yr Idols [DGC reissue only] 2:51
11. Brother James [DGC reissue only] 3:17
12. Early American [DGC reissue only] 6:07
13. Shaking Hell (live) [DGC reissue only] 3:15
 

NOTES

"Confusion Is Sex" was Sonic Youth's second release, this time with interim drummer Jim Sclavunos behind the kit, aside from two tracks which feature Bob Bert. The album was originally conceived as a quickie single, but as more songs were written they decided to record all of their new material instead, laying the foundation for their first full-length release (though the five-song self-titled record is technically considered an album).

HISTORY

The album was released in early 1983, following Sonic Youth's first tour (the "Savage Blunder" tour w/ the Swans) in late 1982. At the time boths bands each had one EP to support, though SY definitely had an arsenal of new material at the time. Uunfortunately, few 1982 set lists are available to allow us to pinpoint the evolution of the Confusion songs. It's from this tour (specifically the November 15th show at The Pier in Raleigh, NC) that the live version of the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Yr Dog" was recorded. Bob Bert had taken over for Richard Edson on drums in 1982, but left the band in early '83, and was replaced by Jim Sclavunos (Bert did play on "Making The Nature Scene" and the aforementioned "Dog"). The band intended on following up the "Sonic Youth" record with a single, but the project expanded to a full-length LP. In early '83, "Confusion Is Sex" was recorded on 8-track by Wharton Tiers at his studio, except Lee Is Free which was recorded at Lee's home on cassette (and "Freezer Burn" which was recorded in a freezer). The band has continued to enjoy a long-standing relationship w/ Tiers. The Neutral release party was held on April 30th, and about a year later Zensor issued the album in Germany (after SY toured Europe extensively throughout 1983). Their sets that year featured the bulk of "Confusion Is Sex" ("Protect Me You" was rarely played, "Freezer Burn" and "Lee Is Free" were never recreated live), material from the first EP, and several new compositions which would end up on the "Kill Yr Idols" EP. The album was reissued on SST in 1987, on 12" again but also on CD and cassette for the first time. In 1995 the album was once again reissued, this time on DGC w/ liner notes by Greil Marcus and 4 songs from the "Kill Yr Idols" EP as bonus tracks.

PACKAGING

The cover features a sketch of Thurston by Kim, taken from an early gig poster, which was technically taken from an even earlier poster. Note that "SONIC-YOUTH" is crudely pasted over "THE ARCADIANS" and "DOG EAT DOG" is scratched out entirely for the May '81 poster, where "CONFUSION IS SEX" is scrawled for the finished LP (and later revised again for "KILL YR IDOLS"!). The back cover features a heavily xeroxed photograph of SY in live action. A lyric sheet was included, featuring the minimal album credits and a picture of a young Kim w/ her brother, taken from another gig poster. Side one's label has the cover of the album, and side two's label has the track list, beginning with side 2 (labelled "this:") and then side 1 (labelled "that:"). The SST CD features the same cover, and copies the track list as printed on side 2 of the vinyl, which adds some 'confusion' since the songs are out of sequence. The booklet's back cover is the same as the original vinyl version, and the inside features the shrunken lyric sheet and another xeroxed live shot of the band. The disc itself just has the cover images + a track list w/ times. The cassette liner condenses all of this. The DGC reissue had the text "Plus KILL YR. IDOLS" added to the cover art, and the back cover was changed to white w/ cut-outs of the original track listing + logo and the Kill Yr Idols track list typed up (and a helpful note to "see label for sequence"). The booklet had some additional pages, including liner notes by Greil Marcus, and a panel recreating the back cover of the Kill Yr Idols EP w/ credits for those tracks.

CREDITS/LINERS

SONIC YOUTH is:

Kim Gordon
Lee Ranaldo
Thurston Moore
Jim Sclavunos--drums

drums on DOG and NATURE SCENE--
Bob Bert

VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO CATHERINE BACHMANN AND NICOLAS CERESOLE WITHOUT WHOM THIS RECORD WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE!

Engineer: Wharton Tiers
Assistant Engineer: John Erskine
Recorded at Wharton's Studio in 8 tracks
 except DOG--rec. live at The Pier, Raleigh, N.C.,
during the SONIC YOUTH/SWANS Savage Blunder Tour--Nov. 1982
 and LEE IS FREE--recorded at Lee's on cassette
Produced by Sonic Youth w/ Wharton and John

LINER NOTES

About the time Sonic Youth recorded their version of the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog" - in November 1982, onstage at the Pier in Raleigh, North Carolina - bassist and singer Kim Gordon was writing a piece about Glenn Branca. She started off talking about something more basic:

"People pay to see others believe in themselves. Many people don't know whether they can experience the erotic or whether it exists only in commercials; but on stage, in the midst of rock 'n' roll, many things happen and anything can happen, whether people come as voyeurs or come to submit to the moment... Performers appear to be submitting to the audience, but in the process they gain control of the audience's emotions. They begin to dominate the situation through the awe inspired by their total submission to it."

 "'I'm Really Scared When I Kill in My Dreams'"
      Artforum, January 1983

That's where Gordon's howling dive into "I Wanna Be Your Dog" begins - in your awe at her own submission to the music, unless it's Gordon's awe at her own submission, or her awe-struck anticipation of yours. The performance is absolutely unstable, three minutes of panic, and it still bubbles like a witches' cauldron; it'll dissolve anything. This was a kind of fire nobody was playing with in 1982 and 1983 - not that I heard, anyway.

Following the five-song 12" Sonic Youth from 1982, the 1983 Confusion Is Sex was Sonic Youth's first full-length album. Both came out on the tiny New York label Neutral, but the noise traveled quickly enough. The music was moody, shapely, meandering from songs that resembled nothing so much as the sort of chants little kids come up with when they've been sent to their rooms without supper ("Protect Me You," sung by Gordon; "Confusion Is Next," sung by guitarist Thurston Moore) to trances that seemed neither to begin nor end. The shapeliness of the music was internal. Without exact borders, the songs rose up, staked a claim on your attentions, fears, or desires, and then turned into air.

That still left "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and the following number, "Shaking Hell," as ambushes, doors slammed in your face as you drifted in the other music. "Shaking Hell" - Gordon seemingly singing to the mirror - starts out as another mood piece. It chases its title, catches it, and then slowly, deliberately erases the lines between submission and domination, fantasy and rape, performance and violence, crimes and punishment.

"I'll take off your dress/I'll shake off your flesh" - Gordon and Moore, guitarist Lee Ranaldo, and drummer Jim Sclavunos, soon replaced by Bob Bert, made the lines thrilling, like any great music, but not exactly fun. No fun, in fact. It's even less fun in the live version included on Kill Yr. Idols, he five-song 1983 12" the band put out as a follow-up to Confusion Is Sex. Here a rumble builds all through the performance; by the end the rumble almost has a body, a face, a recognizably human voice - but not quite. People don't really sound like that - want like that, hate like that - do they?

In 1983, Sonic Youth was going to extremes most other bands didn't know existed; in a certain way, they were issuing a challenge to the rest of pop music. As things turned out, they pretty much had to answer it themselves.

    Greil Marcus

ADDITIONAL NOTES

From FILTER magazine 2006 SY discography self-commentary:

"out of the gallery and into the mosh pit. what started out as a cheapo single idea turned into the first full length killer. way away from the generic buzz of the day, this lp opened our doors that are still and forever unhinged and blown. features the timeless "Lee Is Free". Cover art by Kim G.- TM"

SCREAMING FIELDS OF SONIC LOVE liner notes:

1983
CONFUSION IS SEX
out of the gallery and into the mosh put. what started out as a cheapo single idea turned into the first full length killer. way away from the generic buzz of the day, this lp opened doors still and forever unhinged and blown. further havoc is wreaked by the inclusion of the super-rare KILL YR IDOLS ep. features the timeless "Lee Is Free." cover art by Kim G. liner notes by Greil Marcus.

Sonic Youth are credited as "SONIC-YOUTH" on this release, which also appeared on "Sonic Death" "Bad Moon Rising" & "Sister" (as well as several early posters, the Noisefest '81 press release, etc).

In their early days SY had few instruments to work with, and Confusion Is Sex marks the first instance of them using alternate tunings. Thurston actually plays bass on about half the album, including Inhuman, Making The Nature Scene, I Wanna Be Your Dog, and Shaking Hell. Of these, Kim plays guitar on only Inhuman and Shaking Hell. Lee plays bass on one song (in SY history, even!) - Protect Me You (and plucks a modified zither on Inhuman).

For some insight on the evolution of this project (originally intended as a single), check out the unlisted conversation between Lee and Wharton Tiers at the end of the Candle 12". You can read a transcript here.

  • Vinyl etchings (Neutral):
    • Side 1: "White Noise With A Beat"
    • Side 2: "Confusion is Sex -- Kill Your Idols"
  • Vinyl etchings (SST):
    • Side 1: "Birth Of Jon Spencer or What?"
    • Side 2: "Neutral, Zenzor, LGW, Rip Us Off You Need To"
    LGW was apparently a publishing company that ripped off the band in the early days.

    I've been informed about another version of the album, purchased in NY '86, that has "Inhuman" as the first song on side 2, and is etched: C-66,23346-01-1 & C-66,23346-01-2 ...a similar version of the "Sonic Youth" record exists, possibly German? Apparently "Inhuman" is the first song on side B on some(all?) Zensor editions as well.

    Some rare Zensor mispressings contain the labels from the "Sonic Youth" EP instead, printed in black and white instead of blue, with a Zensor coutout pasted over the Neutral logo. For more information on songs (including lyrics, who played what, when the songs were first and last performed, and other trivia), please visit the Song Database.

    RELATED RELEASES

  • KILL YR IDOLS -- EP released in Germany, features several cuts from "Confusion" because it wasn't out there yet. The non-Confusion material turned up as bonus tracks on the DGC reissue in 1995. Same cover as Confusion, but red.
  • SONIC DEATH -- collage of live material recorded between 1981 and 1983. A must.
  • (OVER)KILL YR IDOLS -- 7" featuring 2 live tracks from the European Confusion Is Sex tour, including "Making The Nature Scene" (and "Kill Yr Idols").
  • LIVE IN VENLO -- official bootleg taken from European Confusion Is Sex tour.

    RELEASE INFO

    VINYL

    RELEASE DATE
    ORIGIN
    LABEL
    CATALOG #
    04/83
    USA
    Neutral
    009
    NOTES: original 12" release. etchings: N-9A(-2) & N-9B(-2)
    02/84
    Germany
    Zensor
    ND 02
    NOTES: first overseas release?
    09/87
    US
    SST
    SST096
    NOTES: SST reissue
    1996
    UK
    Mute/Blast First
    BFFP113
    NOTES: Mute (Blast First) 12" reissue. No insert/lyrics.
    2010
    US
    ORG Music
    ORG041
    NOTES: remastered 180g reissue on white vinyl (also black).
     
    CD

    RELEASE DATE
    ORIGIN
    LABEL
    CATALOG #
    09/87
    US
    SST
    SST CD 096
    NOTES: SST reissue, first CD release.
    02/28/95
    US
    DGC
    DGCD-24511
    NOTES: DGC reissue w/ bonus "Kill Yr Idols". liners by Greil Marcus.
    02/95
    Europe
    Geffen
    GED-24511
    NOTES: Geffen reissue w/ bonus "Kill Yr Idols". liners by Greil Marcus.
    02/95
    Canada
    DGC
    DGCDM 24511
    NOTES: DGC reissue w/ bonus "Kill Yr Idols". liners by Greil Marcus.
    1996
    UK
    Mute/Blast First
    BFFP113
    NOTES: Mute reissue w/ bonus "Kill Yr Idols".
    02/95?
    Japan
    Geffen
    MVCG 21013
    NOTES: w/ Kill Yr Idols ??
    ??
    Europe
    Universal/Geffen
    GED 24511 424 511-2
    NOTES: Post-Universal reissue w/ "Kill Yr Idols".
     
    CASSETTE

    RELEASE DATE
    ORIGIN
    LABEL
    CATALOG #
    09/87
    US
    SST
    ?
    NOTES: first cassette release, on SST.
    02/28/95
    US
    DGC
    DGCC-24511
    NOTES: DGC cassette reissue -- w/ "kill yr idols" (also on blast first?)
     

    INFO NEEDED FOR THIS RELEASE

  • Please write me w/ anything that's missing!

  • sst cd booklet covers


    sst CD booklet opened


    back (sst CD)


    disc (sst)


    vinyl back/insert


    sst cassette liner


    sst cassette cover/tape


    DGC cd booklet covers


    DGC cd booklet 1


    DGC reissue booklet (kill yr idols page)


    DGC cd back


    DGC disc


    vinyl label side 1


    vinyl label side 2


    neutral vinyl label side 1


    neutral vinyl label side 2


    neutral vinyl sleeve front


    neutral vinyl sleeve back


    mispressing w/ labels from first EP


    mispressing w/ labels from first EP


    mispressing w/ labels from first EP


    mispressing w/ labels from first EP


    mispressing w/ labels from first EP


    thai cassette