Sonic Youth - The Eternal


June 8, 2009
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Nearly 30 years in, Sonic Youth remains restless. "The Eternal" is Sonic Youth's spiritual return home, with the art-punk veterans wandering back into indie-ville after 15 years at a conglomerate. Kim Gordon conveying the dismay felt when asked what it's like being a girl in a band is sufficient retort to the crud Sonic Youth dealt with getting out its music on a major label through the 1990s. "The Eternal" is more song-oriented in comparison to the brash albums preceding it. Yet ingredients from those progressive forays ensure that the new tunes sound fresh even as the album is marked with such Sonic signatures as artful contrasts and angular arrangements. Just as Jim O'Rourke was an ace of a wild card when brought into the band for a few years, bassist Mark Ibold of Pavement is a perfect adjunct capable of locking into the distinctive wavelengths generated by Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, Steve Shelley, and Gordon. Songs run from scrappy tirades ("Calming the Snake") to psychedelic epics ("Massage the History"). As it reels from no-wave noise to progressive pop, "The Eternal" takes stock of many places this band has been. Yet with Sonic Youth, even the nostalgia looks forward. (Out tomorrow) SCOTT McLENNAN