I was about fifteen when I started getting into Sonic Youth. I can't remember which song first lured me in; something off Daydream Nation, I think. The abrasive combination of poppy structures and dissonant chords was my stepping stone to a world beyond what a lot of the other kids were listening to. Naturally I had to collect everything, and eventually I snagged a vinyl copy of Dirty. The packaging depicts a series of stuffed creatures, kind of weird and kind of cute; my girlfriend at the time (an equally big SY fan) frequently tried to make me similar sorts of things. These creatures, an iconic part of my teenage years, were designed by Mike Kelley.
Kelley's work would enter my life again a year later, this time in the form of his art student band. I was entering my brooding Ian Curtis phase, which meant constant replays of Iggy Pop's The Idiot. Anything Stooges-related, in fact, found its way to my ears, and it wasn't long before I dug up a copy of the compiled work of Destroy All Monsters (released by Thurston Moore, which ties it nicely together.) Consisting of Michigan art students (including Kelley) and later Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton, the group's experimental psych-noise trash sound made my high school years considerably better.
Mike Kelley was found dead Tuesday from an apparent suicide, and it is a shocking loss and a terrible blow to the world of both music and art. Though it's been a few years since I've played my old vinyls, today I'm re-listening to the sounds that helped shape my young mind, and remembering a man whose work made me realize that music and art really can be the same thing.
Destroy All Monsters - You're Gonna Die
Destroy All Monsters - Vampire