Monday, June 12, 2006

We Built This City!

Short and sweet: A few words on Sonic Youth by a (sort of) new fan, and a few thoughts on Rather Ripped

There has been a lot of talk about Sonic Youth's latest disc Rather Ripped being a real pop rock album, or a mainstream one with "Artisitic sensibilities." I can mostly agree with that assesment, but I don't like the idea that they've never done it before, or that it is is a BAD thing. For the last month I have been both revisiting and familiarizing myself with the noise-rockers expansive catalogue. I've come to the conclusion that they are one of, if not THE, most consistent rock acts in music history. Sure, everyone knows that, but I now FEEL it. And that's special to me.

On Rather Ripped you can get a distinct sense--or aftertatse--of Sonic Nurse lurking about, and I mean that as a good thing. Once again, for a group known for their drone/no-wave roots you get mostly guitar-driven post-punk without the meandering charm of the shoegaze or the urgent spectacle of the fuzzbox. Most songs clock in at under five minutes and prove perfectly crafted pellets of rocking goodness. That seems to be the problem. Whenever they try something like this it gets pegged as a "mainstream" effort, when--I'm sorry--anything as delightfully strange and monotonous as "Do You Believe In Rapture?" can never be seen as an attempt to break into the mainstream. It's an empty claim to begin with. There would be no mainstream rock if Sonic Youth hadn't opened the doors they did anyway. What Rather Ripped is is a marvel of control. Concise in its stumbles and erratic with its sensibilities, there is a constant aura of guidance that never seems quite as forced as it should.

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