Published Jun 26, 2009Undergoing a significant renewal, Sonic Youth return with The Eternal, a relatively concise encapsulation of their bold, culture-altering aesthetic. It's no surprise that leaving Geffen for Matador to release their pop records has done little to alter the band's sound; like few other artists, Sonic Youth resolutely do whatever they please. That said, over the past decade, there's been an appropriate gravity to Sonic Youth's albums, as though a crippled NYC was sucking for air in their work. The Eternal is certainly heavy but also possesses a distinctive levity, both lyrically and within the arrangements, some of which recall Sonic Youth's early '90s work. Adding Pavement bassist Mark Ibold to the fold and pairing him with drummer Steve Shelley gives songs like "Sacred Trickster" and "Antenna" a certain bounce, while Kim Gordon is the perfect pop culture crank on "Anti-Orgasm" and "Malibu Gas Station." For the first time ever, Gordon, Thurston Moore, and Lee Ranaldo harmonize on each other's songs, which brightens up spooky songs like "Poison Arrow" and "Leaky Lifeboat (for Gregory Corso)." The Eternal demonstrates that it's foolish to ever take Sonic Youth's effortless cool for granted; their latest chapter is off to a gorgeous start.
Is The Eternal a particularly fun record for Sonic Youth?
Lee Ranaldo: We always have fun making our records but I would agree that this one has a certain lightness to it that is pretty special. I think we're just at a really good place in what we're doing these days. After playing with Jim O'Rourke, we went back to a quartet for the last record. Then we got asked to play Daydream Nation for some shows and we were all really surprised by the intensity of that music and, in some ways that really influenced The Eternal.
Why move to Matador?
Geffen wanted to do more records with us but we thought it was time to do something different, based on the state of the music business. We were certainly appreciated there but the difference is also profound; Matador is a label full of music lovers who aren't just concerned with the bottom line and they're super-psyched to have us. Otherwise, we've been doing this for so long that the process is really ingrained within the four of us. We're pretty self-motivated and moving to Matador won't change the way the records sound. (Matador)