Listening to Sonic Youth, for any rock-centric music lover of a certain age will undoubtedly unleash torrents of memories and feelings and other things attached to that signature sound like so much dirt to a wayward lint brush. The sheer number of bands (both living and long gone) that have built upon (or blatantly ripped off) this legendary outfit’s evolving aesthetics makes any Sonic Youth album somewhat familiar to the ear, but The Eternal (the band’s 16th proper release) feels like musicians re-invigorated and sculpting new art from the shadows of their past works.
Maybe it is the departure from the group’s longtime record label or the changing economic-political landscape, but when Kim Gordon’s wispy-raspy voice calls out “Come on down, down to the river / Come on down, I want to see you shiver!” on “Calming the Snake” it is hard to believe that such a vital sound could be made by a band fast approaching 30 years of age.
“Malibu Gas Station” is a landscape of twisty guitars skirting a steady throb-pulse drumbeat and hazy Gordon vocals. The album opener “Sacred Trickster” unleashes small swells of dissonance and evaporating powerchords over stoned lyrics, with a consistently evolving progression of styles locked within two explosive minutes. “Antenna” is a lingering, dream-pop lip-lock of sustained chords and Thurston Moore’s lazy-lovely layered vocals. The guitars chirp and tangle, singing like a backup chorus under his words. “Thunderclap (For Bobby Pyn)” is a slam poet punk sing-along for dead bad boy Darby Crash, with cowbells tinkling like abandoned beer bottles and a dizzy duel guitar face-off. By the time “Massage the History” drifts sleepily into the calm waters of reverbed amps and muted feedback, The Eternal has fastened itself as one of this iconic group’s best efforts.
Favorite Track: “Antenna”
Reviewer Bio - Christopher j Ewing is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles with a girl and a designer dog. He is in a band by himself, has a myspace account at www.myspace.com/wastedpotentialproduction and a production company at (www.wastedpotentialproductions.com) for freelance film, video and journalism work.