Sonic Youth Rather Ripped

Over the past ten years, Sonic Youth’s pop records for Geffen have oscillated between truly challenging works of art and reliably strong music from a cultural institution. Rather Ripped certainly falls under the latter category, though it is less sturdy than fans might expect. The band’s last record, Sonic Nurse, was their most fun song-oriented record in some time, with Kim Gordon in particular mining humour from pop culture in her inimitable way. That snotty spirit is absent on Rather Ripped, an insular, arty guitar record that is curiously bland. There is hope in Gordon’s "Reena,” a tale of friendship that climaxes with Steve Shelley pummelling tom drums under a guitar knife-fight between Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore. "Incinerate” and "What a Waste” fall in line with SY structures of old and the record coasts along until Ranaldo’s "Rats,” the record’s best (and only) left turn. There’s nothing particularly awful about Rather Ripped. In many instances, such as Gordon’s "Turquoise Boy,” it’s a beautiful dose of experimental rock that few bands could match. It is, however, the closest Sonic Youth have come to resting on their laurels in some time and it is regrettably safe and unsatisfactory. (Geffen)