Since Sonic Youth’s beginnings more than a decade ago, the New York noise quartet has been banging out arty dissonance and distortion that’s influenced a generation of offbeat guitar bands. On its 10th album, the band comes in somewhere between the experimental clamor of its early days and the poppier feel of its last two major-label albums. It’s a clever balance that’s both grating and gorgeous.
Bassist Kim Gordon sings in breathy sighs and flat, lopsided tones that weave in and out of buzzing and droning guitar work. Dainty melodies arise out of the discordance and seem to skip along the top of the sparse then resonating mix like stones across water. Sleepy guitar lulls half the album into a dreamy, opiated state until Gordon or guitarist Thurston Moore’s howls pierce the bliss.
Sonic Youth transcends the confining roles of pretentious art-rock band or palatable alternative group, and instead offers a penetrating album that’s all its own.
New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).