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Published June 21, 2024

Sonic Youth don’t reinvent the wheel, but impress nonetheless

The legendary art-rocker’s newest, “The Eternal,” is another fine entry into their sterling catalogue
COURTESY OF MATADOR RECORDS
Image by Ashley Goetz
COURTESY OF MATADOR RECORDS

Sonic Youth ALBUM: âÄúThe EternalâÄù LABEL: Matador Records What can be said of Sonic Youth? The NYC art-rock heroes have been doing it âÄî doing it well and, in the case of frontman Thurston Moore and bassist wife Kim Gordon , doing âÄúitâÄù âÄî for nearly 30 years and remain as relevant as ever. With âÄúThe Eternal,âÄù the band doesnâÄôt reach a creative renaissance or recapture the lighting of âÄúDaydream Nation .âÄù No, with their latest, Sonic Youth continue to tread the enviable path theyâÄôve been forging for three decades, albeit with more traditional rock. If thereâÄôs a storyline behind âÄúThe Eternal,âÄù itâÄôs that itâÄôs Sonic YouthâÄôs first Twitter record. Scholars of rock âÄònâÄô roll and social networking, feast your eyes on that sentence. Yes, Sonic Youth, rock legends who are nearly all 50+, tweeted fansâÄô updates throughout the recording process of âÄúThe Eternal.âÄù If a band with all the credibility in the world can use Twitter without shame, maybe thereâÄôs hope for the rest of us. âÄúThe Eternal,âÄù released on indie Matador Records (Sonic YouthâÄôs first record this century not on major Geffen), starts with the groupâÄôs trademark fuzz-addled, innovatively tuned guitars chugging and rattling away on âÄúSacred Trickster.âÄù Forty-five seconds in, Kim Gordon sensually belts with her impassioned, still youthful voice âÄúI want you/to levitate me/ donâÄôt you love me, yes?âÄù and itâÄôs clear that for a band comprised of parents, theyâÄôre not showing their age. The relative brevity of the discâÄôs energetic opener paves the way for âÄúAnti-orgasm,âÄù a more classically constructed Sonic Youth song in its avant-garde nature. Still, through all the tempo shifts, vocal interplay between Gordon and Moore and even the songâÄôs final three minutes of spacious experimentation, it feels like a pop song. Moore takes the helm for the following three tracks âÄî the poppy âÄúLeaky Lifeboat (For Gregory Corso),âÄù the drawn-out âÄúAntennaâÄù and the squealing guitar orgy of âÄúWhat We Know.âÄù But itâÄôs the next track, âÄúCalming the Snake,âÄù which really solidifies Gordon as the star of âÄúThe Eternal.âÄù If MooreâÄôs voice has calmed over the years, and it has, GordonâÄôs wail is still as effective as ever. On âÄúCalming the SnakeâÄù her vocal prowess proves a formidable fit with the violent guitar work of Moore and fellow guitarist Lee Renaldo. ItâÄôs almost as if the bandâÄôs energy is renewed with Gordon at the mic. All in all, âÄúThe EternalâÄù will not be remembered as anything close to a landmark record by Sonic Youth historians. ItâÄôs a very solid album, wearing its hooks more proudly than previous efforts, but it gives most of it away for free, failing to challenge the listener. With that said, itâÄôs tricky to gauge new work by groups with catalogues so rich and full. Had a troupe of youthful, 20-something Brooklyn hipsters penned an identical record, itâÄôd be hailed as a masterwork. But no, this is Sonic Youth making yet another strong Sonic Youth record, and the worldâÄôs a better place for that. 4 of 5 stars

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