One of the most important bands in the history of American underground rock in the 1980s, alongside groups like R.E.M. and Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth was formed in New York in 1981 by guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo and bassist Kim Gordon, within the movement that became known as No wave. The group's first performance was at a festival called "Noise Fest" held in New York that same year.
Subsequently, the band released the albums EVOL (1986), Sister (1987) and Daydream Nation. The latter was a double album, which had the song "Teenage Riot" as a hit on American college radio and led to the band being signed to a major label (Geffen Records) in 1990.
Goo was the group's first album on Geffen Records. The record brought more accessible music and Sonic Youth was invited by Neil Young to open for his Ragged Glory album tour.
In 1992, already quite prominent in the alternative scene, being cited as an influence of several grunge bands, the group released the double album Dirty. Produced by Butch Vig, the same producer behind Nirvana's Nevermind, Dirty's hits included "100%", "Youth Against Fascism" and "Sugar Kane".
The band also worked with Butch Vig on Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star (1994), a more pop-sounding album. Still in the 1990s, Sonic Youth released the albums Washing Machine (1995) and A Thousand Leaves (1998).
In 2000, the album NYC Ghosts & Flowers was released, produced by Jim O'Rourke, who became the fifth member of the group until 2005, when he left the group. Before, in 2002, the Murray Street album was released, and in 2004 Sonic Nurse came out. In 2006 the album Rather Ripped was released. In 2008, the band's departure from Geffen Records was announced. Subsequently, Sonic Youth signed a contract with Matador Records, for which he released the album The Eternal in 2009.
In November 2011, the band played their last in Brazil. As a result of Gordon and Moore's divorce, the foursome broke up that year.