Sunday, June 14, 2009
Sonic Youth - 'The Eternal' - CD Review
(Puss in Boots and Desci may just want to skip this post)
'The Eternal' is SY's 16th studio album. Other enduring rock bands become cover bands of their own earlier work (eg: Jesus & Mary Chain, Sex Pistols, Elton John), or they release dull middle-class variations of their early work (eg: U2, and dare I say it, Nick Cave), or they don't even bother putting much effort into new stuff and instead tour the world based solely on their reputation (eg: AC/DC, Rolling Stones), and there's also the ones that release nothing at all but still manage to announce or perform massive tours (Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd).
It is rare to come across a band that over 20-30+ years continue to release quality recordings with as much verve and power as the work that gained them fame in the first place. Tom Waits is one such beast. Bowie is arguably one as well. Sonic Youth is another.
Their sound is very unique, which comes as a result of alternate guitar tuning, a propensity to invent new sounds using custom-made effect pedals, extreme loudness and a delightful avoidance of standard 'verse-chorus' song structures.
Being that all the band members are in their early to mid 50's, the question had to be asked... can Kym, Lee, Thurstan and Steve still rock? On goes the CD (for the 5th time this weekend) at full volume.
1: "Sacred Trickster" --- Dischordant mindfuck clitrock uh-huh uh-huh. Ears already bleeding over keyboard.
2: "Anti-Orgasm" --- Metal spiced womb-thumpin' foot-stompin' g droppin' artrock. Guitar lick sounds like God dying. 'Sister' era bridges. 'Washing Machine' era middle, 'Murray Street' era sweet outro. The band's history summed up in 6 minutes.
3: "Leaky Lifeboat" --- One of Lee's two contributions. Like all his songs over the last 30 years, they have some cool guitar work but don't sound fully SY. He's a guitar God, but he should leave the songwriting/singing to Kym and Thurstan.
4: "Antenna" --- Smoother than a baby's bum epic noiserock. Chorus a bit humdrum but the rest sweeter than sucking on Aphrodite's tits.
5: "What We Know" ---- See track 3.
6: "Calming The Snake" ---- Calming her snake, but exciting mine. Kym Gordon = Rock Goddess No. 1 ever ever. Guitars on fire. Loins on fire.
7: "Poison Arrow" ---- Good music, shit lyric melody/concept.
8: "Malibu Gas Station" --- Hmm, we're in a mid-album bland rut. Has moments, but you have to wait around a bit, but redeems over the last 90 seconds, which is about the best 90 seconds on the album.
9: "Thunderclap For Bobby Pyn" --- Whoah-whoah yeah-yeah 2-minute cockrock rockin' punk cocks yeah yeah rock. Play at 11 or not at all. Not bad, but not great.
10: "No Way" --- The obvious sell-out catchy single track that's not as good as the ones where they don't give a fuck about radio airplay.
11: "Walkin Blue" --- Walk in or walking? Dunno. Dunno about the song either. They go all 60's psychadelia harmony-like. Strip the feedback away and it could go on Sesame Street.
12: "Massage The History" --- Nine minute closer. Sweet. Very sweet, but one for the fans. Kym does a Bardot and the boys swoon. I melted into the floor. Equal best on the album (with Anti-Orgasm).
So all in all it ain't their best effort. In the pantheon of 16 albums it'll struggle to get into the Top 10, but it's certainly not in the worst three or four. So, er, that puts it at about 9th-13th. But they prove they can still rock, and still have heaps to offer to the world of rock music.
If you have an I-tunes account and a spare $3.38 and want to expand/start your Sonic Youth collection, purchase 'Anti-Orgasm' and 'Calming The Snake' (you can't get the nine minute one on its own) and play them really, really loud.
If you have another spare $3.38 get 'Malibu Gas Station' and 'Sacred Trickster'.
And Go Tigers.
As TISM said: "Rock music is for the angry and depraved / That's why you can't really rock until you're middle-aged."