There are moments in Sonic Youth's catalog where fundamental song structures are nowhere to be found, no matter how hard you look.

But there are also moments of pure beauty to be uncovered in the wall of noise made by the band and its front-line guitar attack, as you'll see in our below list of Sonic Youth Albums Ranked in Order of Awesomeness.

Their early records were marked by excursions into noise, feedback and discordant layers of sound that they occasionally turned into mini symphonies. By the time they settled on their core quartet -- guitarists and singers Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, bassist and singer Kim Gordon and drummer Steve Shelley -- they were finding exciting ways to organize that chaos.

As the '90s dawned -- and along with them a new breed of musicians that blended punk, post-punk, pop and early '80s college rock -- Sonic Youth became elders of an emerging alternative nation that spawned bands like Nirvana and Pavement, both of whom owed a huge debt to the group that helped sculpt their scene.

Sonic Youth grew during the period. They graduated to a major label and found themselves squeezed onto modern-rock radio playlists, while Moore and Gordon -- the married couple behind the band's best songs -- explored more personal, social and political themes in their songs.

But they never settled too comfortably in the mainstream -- not that they ever could. More so than almost any other band to find success, even the moderate amount they reached, during alternative music's rise in the '90s, Sonic Youth were often challenging, occasionally difficult and always a distinct voice.

Personal problems tore them, and Moore and Gordon, apart at the start of the '10s. But their quarter-century catalog contains some of the best and most influential of the era, as you'll see in our list of Sonic Youth Albums Ranked in Order of Awesomeness.

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