Under Review: Sonic Youth – The Eternal

Where do you see yourself at 50? What about 56? Do you think you’ll be co-fronting on of the most influential bands of our generation? It’s okay if you don’t, because Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon have already gotten that under control. With Sonic Youth nearing its 30th year, the group continues to make music that most other people their age can’t even stand to listen to. Since 2002’s magnificent Murray Street, the band’s musical arc has followed a strange progression, producing album after album of more controlled, melodic guitar rock. The Eternal, the band’s 16th (!!!) studio album, continues that trend, but with a healthy dose of classic SY fuzz and noise. Beginning with “Sacred Trickster,” one of the shortest, punkiest songs in their recent catalogue, the album condenses the band’s career into one tight package. The two “tribute” songs on The Eternal betray Sonic Youth’s varied influences: “Leaky Lifeboat,” featuring vocals from Moore, Gordon and Lee Ranaldo, is dedicated to poet Gregory Corso, and the shaky “Thunderclap” pays tribute to Bobby Pyn, an alias of the late Darby Crash of The Germs. Punk and poetry has always been Sonic Youth’s game, and songs like “Anti-Orgasm” and “Malibu Gas Station” seamlessly blend art and rock. The Eternal also marks the studio debut of second bassist Mark Ibold (formerly of Pavement), who has been touring with the band since 2006. “No Way” and “What We Know” both feature appropriately prominent basslines, while the spacey, multi-part closer, “Massage The History,” hearkens back to the band’s early, no-wave days. That track may encapsulate The Eternal’s message: always move forward without forgetting to keep the past alive. If that’s not something for everyone to live by, musician or otherwise, I don’t know what is.

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~ by E. on June 8, 2009.

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