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(gnirb I lla si)

Kate H. scared me because she was a girl and I was 13 and Nikki told me that she had wanted to fuck me and I thought we were too young but I sort of wanted to anyway but I didn't, after all. But god, did I ever want to; we'd sit crosslegged on the carpet or kiss listening to Exile in Guyville and Whip-Smart and maybe she'd be my "Flower" and I her "Johnny Sunshine" or some messily half-assed approximation of either (I don't think she had any idea how bad these albums could wreck a 13-year-old boy). Years later, my mom and I were in the car and she abruptly said "I remember Kate; I remember how I'd come pick you up at her house and your shirt would be buttoned wrong." When she said that, I remembered how I thought t-shirts were pretty uncool back then (though I had a nice Minor Threat one, despite my utter un-sXe-ness) -- I remembered how I thought that Lame Collared Shirts were especially rebellious and cool for a fucked-up teenager to wear. Maturity and adolescence swapped spit and groped with eyes shut tight. So it was incest, I guess. Which is how you make babies with gnarled hearts and tiny hands.

We had also listened to Sonic Youth together, who I didn't think were as cool as Liz Phair, but I'm told that girls develop faster than boys. Rather Ripped has put Kate back in my mind for the first time in years. At the time, I thought our whole relationship was tragically complicated (in a lot of ways, it was: she had drastically low self-image made manifest in eating disorders; I was extremely moody, flunking out of school, huffing constantly, and getting in horrible fights with my stepfather. The point is that we could’ve been supportive of each other, but instead, we just decided to cuddle in the same hole).

It was like my favorite SY album, EVOL: needlessly abstract and bloody, High Passion (“Green Light,” “Shadow of a Doubt”) with a destructive remainder (“Expressway to Yr Skull,” “Tom Violence”). Rather Ripped is helping me do what I’ve been trying to do with that stretch of time for the past 10 years: accept my fumbling history of determined lust and idiocy, but, you know, with respect for the fact that that’s what being young is. And now I even get to laugh a little. Which is to say – or for Alfred to say – that “RR is music recorded by adults who've experienced and thought through the merely received notions of passion (or High Passion, as you call it) that dotted those early albums.” (And the remainder of all this messing around, importantly, is some idea of cool, subdued freedom - "Jams Run Free" or "Do You Believe in Rapture?," the latter of which I desperately want to be made into a full-fledged disco song.)

But “maturity” would be the wrong way to put it, because it’s more complicated than that. It’s like how I felt about The Sunset Tree: it’s the album that somehow connects most naturally and honestly with the mess of their past experience, but there’s no way they could’ve made it until now; somehow they farther they step away, the clearer their subject gets. But it loses things, too. “Sleepin’ Around” is the cool, bloodless wisdom of the cuckold years after the betrayal, but no previous Sonic Youth album would ever dare host a girl who screwed around in the first place. And anyway, like I said to Alfred, when your girlfriend is fucking someone else, you are not thinking about feelings being "green lights" or any of that shit. Infidelity is for terrestrials. Kate could’ve been on EVOL but it would’ve given her a free pass for all the laughable angst and self-helplessness; she wouldn’t be on RR in her full, fucked-up teenage glory, either. And still, in the space between, there she is.


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