Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
Its sort of hard to imagine the current crop of bands still going strong 25 years after their debut. Can you picture Coldplay in 2022? Or The Kaiser Chiefs in 2028? Or even Orson in 25 years (where they will mostly be in their sixties I should imagine). Can you see these bands still releasing albums of new material in the whizzy exciting twenty-twenties?
Well, Sonic Youth can still manage it, and are at the stage where new records just slip out, with little fanfare. The beauty of their career now is that there is not a whole lot of expectation for them to "better" their previous efforts or to bring out that show-stopping album. This must be quite a nice state of affairs to be in, knowing that you can just produce the music you want to make without the weight of the world on your shoulders, hanging onto every beat, waiting for you to slip up and make a misjudgement. Sonic Youth can just get on with things, making music and, when its ready, release it. A luxury not many bands have in this day and age.
However, that is not say that they live a charmed life, as this is the last record as part of their deal with Geffen. But rather than go out with noise and something avant-garde, they have actually produced something more "listenable" and straight-forward. The album was described by Thurston Moore as "a super song record" containing "rockers and ballads", and this is certainly the case. Opening track Reena starts with a wonderful piece of melodic guitar, mingling and mixing to fine effect. Incinerate is also pretty special, a very "old" sounding track that could have been written at the height of grunge. Its pitter-patter drums give the track a lot of charm, and there is a superb bit about two thirds in where the band seem to forget what track they are playing and just freak out for a bit before getting back to business.
Sleeping Around is a rougher track, full of fuzzed up guitars and a hard abrasive bass. What A Waste sees Gordon on vocals, as does Jams Run Free, full of stuttering rhythms and a chiming guitar that echoes the vocal. Album highlight though is Turquoise Boy - it starts small, with an old fashioned guitar set against a piano line, before developing into a piece full of twists and turns and fine ideas. There are few vocals, just some of the best music on this album.
Nothing from here really matches those heights, but it is not without its moments. The Neutral, despite featuring guitar sounds not heard since the eighties, is pretty good, as is Or, more experimental in tone with a tumbling beat and some muted instrumentation providing the backbone for the vocal. The UK release also comes with two "bonus" tracks, which are far more freaky in nature than the rest of the album.
Whilst not the best of their career there are some good songs here. On this album Sonic Youth somehow manage to incorporate styles and themes and sounds that encapsulate their career, taking pieces from all parts of their history. Whilst at times it comes across as a bit of a patchwork quilt, there is much here to show that they may even last another twenty-five years.