Sonic Youth – The Eternal [Album Review]

by Woody on August 18, 2009

sonic youth

Despite Sonic Youths’ endless critical plaudits over the years and their emergence at the time when I began developing a real taste in the alternative, I never gravitated to their music. Let’s be honest. Sonic Youth is an acquired taste and their music, at its most experimental, is difficult to absorb with hooks that take multiple listens prior to setting in the jaw.‚  I was first exposed to the band through their appropriately titled Experimental Jet Set album.‚  The “tricks” seemed interesting and the band was so alternative that you felt cool just telling people that you had one of their albums.‚  And yet, I failed to truly embrace the band with only one other record, 2006’s Rather Ripped.‚  So as a casual fan lacking long-term history, I come to this album with a relatively clean palette.

On June 9th, Sonic Youth released their most recent (16th) studio album, The Eternal under the Matador label.‚  My visceral reaction was one of pleasant surprise and immediate gratification, primarily because the opening tracks come at you so aggressively (I’ve also generally been more drawn to the Kim Gordon songs).‚  After a few careful listens, those two songs still end up as my favorites.‚  Some of the signature Sonic Youth elements are plainly evident such as on “Anti-Orgasm”.‚  It rushes out of the gate with hard-edged guitars only to drift into languishing melodic instrumentation and reverb about half way through the song.‚  Paradoxically, these very elements simultaneously represent why some people gush over their music while turning others off.‚ ‚  It’s also why their music will likely never achieve universal or mainstream appeal.

There are other gems on this album including the tracks “Antenna” and “Malibu Gas Station”.‚  What this band is able to do with a guitar is rather amazing, at times taking on other instrument-like qualities.‚  Not everything on The Eternal is immediately likable and some of the tracks require work.‚  This is a characteristic that will repel some listeners, but I found the investment to be rewarding as the subtleness of the hooks can open up over time.‚  If you’ve never been introduced to this Sonic Youth’s music, this might be a good one to take for a spin.‚  I intend to deeper dig into the Sonic Youth catalogue.

Website | MySpace | Matador Records

Video: Sonic Youth – Sacred Trickster

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Woody August 18, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Sonic Youth is like the girl who got away in HS for me. I always wanted to like them. As you alluded to, it was the cool kids who did. I just never could find myself connecting with them. They are definitely brilliant but just not for me. Do like the video.

oz August 18, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Of course you like the video. Hipster terrorist chicks dropping paint bombs? What’s not to love.

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