Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sonic Youth - The Eternal

I don't follow most bands' careers. At a certain point, I take my leave of them. I love David Bowie's early stuff, but haven't listened to anything he's made sense 1983's Let's Dance. The last Dylan album I own is 1975's Blood On the Tracks. I've even taken a pass on the Breeder's post-Last Splash output. My feeling is that there is too much music out there to waste time with the half-assed efforts and diminishing returns of aging artists who keep plugging along despite the fact that their best work is far behind them. Bob Dylan came out with a new album this year, and it seemed a little sad to me that people were so excited about it. I mean, yeah, it's Dylan, but there is no way it will be as good as Highway 61 Revisited, so what's the point?

Sonic Youth's new album, The Eternal, has made me reconsider my ageist perspective. I've been Sonic Youth fan for twenty years. The beauty of them is that they aren't trying to sell a million records and have a hit single. They aren't even trying to please the critics. They just make music that they like. True, nothing they do as fifty-somethings will match the spark and genius of works like Daydream Nation, Sister, or Goo. Instead what you get is the sound of people who have been playing together for a long time refining their sound and jamming. At their heart, Sonic Youth are a psychedelic band, and they get plenty of room to go off on this album. They've abandoned the delicate, pretty songs of Sonic Nurse and Murray Street, and are going in a more rocking direction. They perfectly combine the melodic and dissonant, jagged guitars over hummable melodies, bursts of noise contrasted against sixties and seventies punk and rock. Lyrically, they are a great guitar band, but they don't drop too many clunky lines. I've really been loving this album, listening to it nonstop on my commute and at work, and I'm already excited to see what Sonic Youth will do next. Finally I get the point of following a band throughout their career: it's not about hoping that they will do something that matches their earlier masterpieces; instead, it's about developing a relationship with a group of musicians, and the excitement of hearing what they are going to do next.

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