Sonic Youth Sonic Nurse

It’s difficult to say that Sonic Youth have mellowed with age. Since the dawn of the ’90s the band has been dubbed the elder statesmen of both alternative and the cutting edge. The truth is that since 1994’s Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star Sonic Youth have simply continued ever more to indulge their pop tendencies in an attempt to cover the aging process. With that in mind, Sonic Youth’s new record is the one upon which the band accepts middle age gracefully; Sonic Nurse is rock on pop’s terms but filtered through Sonic Youth’s need to remain part of the subculture they’ve helped nurture for so many years. The result is a classic rock record like Working Man’s Dead; classic, that is, in its subdued treatment that is the antithesis of the band’s previous efforts. Where the band once used sonic bluster to initiate movement in their songs, Sonic Youth have opted for more conventional dynamics for Nurse with mixed results. Not surprisingly, it’s Thurston Moore’s vocal contributions that play better in the softer setting. Moore recasts himself as the coffee house no-waver whimpering before a band he put together three weeks ago and "Unmade Bed,” "Stones” and "Dripping Dream” all shine when placed next to the flotsam and weakened sound of Kim Gordon’s gravel-laden, deadpan delivery. Only "Dude Ranch Nurse,” where Gordon tries her hand at singing a melody (rather than implying it) compares. Even with all of the obvious sonic drawbacks to Sonic Nurse, it’s impossible to call it a poor record. Most fans knew where Sonic Youth were heading over the last couple of albums and it’s a testament to their ability that they could make such a simple record such an interesting listen if only to see where they go next. (Geffen)