Sonic Youth
The Eternal


3.5
great

Review

by joshuatree EMERITUS
June 4th, 2009 | 84 replies


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A change of scenery label-wise prompts Sonic Youth to create their best album in years.

I revisited Daydream Nation the other day after enduring seven months or so without listening to the album, and I was astonished by how fresh and modern it sounded. “Teenage Riot”---still Sonic Youth’s best song---sounded weirdly recent, as did “Candle", as did (mostly) every other song and album in the rest of the band’s canon. After a few hours or so of sifting through and lazily listening to countless SY classics, I realized how ahead of their time this band was (and is), how prophetic their music was, and how long their music has endured and that it would continue to endure for years to come.

Maybe that’s why Sonic Youth’s recent works have been so derivative of their past albums---they’ve just been patiently waiting on us to catch up to their brilliance. And if there’s any SY record to catch up on, it’s The Eternal. A 56-minute rundown of everything that makes the band so great, The Eternal is catchy and accessible; ironic, considering this album marks SY’s first indie-label release in 19 years.

The Eternal is basically the band’s complete embrace of the hook. Opener “Sacred Trickster” sets the stage, featuring Kim Gordon’s signature lyrics and vocals placed over some of the most ferocious instrumentation the band’s played in years, aided by new fifth-wheel Mark Ibold. Her vocals wrap around the beefed-up playing aptly, barking out whimsy lyrics in concurrence with the music, attacking each verse and chorus with a newfound ferocity. The song is a dense smattering of distortion and manic yelping, shedding all Rather Ripped-induced fears that the band was going soft on us.

Catchy choruses are abound on The Eternal, found in the wide-ranging “Anti-Orgasm”, which features alternating vocals from Gordon and Thurston Moore before segueing into a Daydream Nation-esque coda, and in “What We Know”, within which Lee Ranaldo gives one of the more impressive vocal performances of his career, adding a downtrodden edge to the song’s upbeat pace. Each of these tracks, along with many others on the record, are distorted, abrasive snippets of pent-up frustration; finding Moore or Gordon or Ranaldo (or even all three at the same time) venting tiredly about whatever comes to mind; all while each member bangs away at their respective instrument, keeping on cue melodically while letting their aggression remain evident.

Despite the majority of the tracks being oddments of ferocious noise-pop, there are still songs like “Antenna” and the closing “Massage the History” that explore the freakier, more psychedelic side of the Youth’s sound. Moore’s known to be an obscure record collector and aficionado, and it’s hard not to believe that some Japanese, acid-drenched folkies (i.e. Ghost, L) that he probably found in a dusty Mom-and-Pop operation didn’t influence the latter. “Massage the History” is the album’s biggest departure, featuring rising swoops of distortion and billowing drumming from Steve Shelley that add a trippy atmosphere to the otherwise standard-issue stuff, being some sparse acoustic playing and an odd falsetto delivered by Gordon. Throughout its nine minute length, the track eventually and impressively builds up to louder sections, retracting to folksier, acoustic sections, and etc. It’s one of the band’s most progressive and dynamic tracks of recent memory, and is sure to remain a highlight in the SY canon.

That The Eternal closes on its best track gives hope to Sonic Youth’s future, providing optimism that they’re going to continue to pump out excellent albums. Looking backwards is a different matter: The Eternal is simply just another confirmation that Sonic Youth is one of the most essential---if not the most essential---indie collectives of the past thirty years. Sure, the average age of a Sonic Youth member is around 52, but I expect these kids to be kicking it for many years to come.



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user ratings (386)
Chart.
3.4
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
kitsch
June 4th 2009


5117 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

sweet. i thought i was downloading a leak of this on sordo but it just turned out to be the one song "the eternal."



nice review, will check this out.

kitsch
June 4th 2009


5117 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

and i agree teenage riot is my favorite

Knott-
Emeritus
June 4th 2009


10198 Comments


these guys are so ahead of, well, everything, in terms of intrigue and that kind of thing, i really think it's going to be years before society wakes up and realises how good they are/were. so going to get this.

gaslightanthem
June 4th 2009


5209 Comments


basically this is my favourite band

album rules and is definitely their best in years, good review

kitsch
June 4th 2009


5117 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

strikey, wtf are you talking about these guys are legends

Athom
Emeritus
June 4th 2009


17241 Comments


they've been mentioned on the Simpsons. the world is aware.

Knott-
Emeritus
June 4th 2009


10198 Comments


kay what i typed was a convoluted way of saying they're just going to get better and better the more time goes on. obviously i realise theyre hardly the most unknown band ever but they dont get the recognition they deserve.

SO STOP BEING DICKS

joshuatree
Emeritus
June 4th 2009


3741 Comments


they get a lot of recognition tbh but most of the mainstream (like rolling stone and shit) recognition they get is for daydream nation, when they have albums that are near that level of greatness
and relax bro

azisnomarsa
June 4th 2009


6 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Liked this alot, my favorite their album since washing machine.

gaslightanthem
June 4th 2009


5209 Comments


DAYDREAM NATION > EVOL = SISTER = WASHING MACHINE > THIS > EVERYTHING ELSE

Knott-
Emeritus
June 4th 2009


10198 Comments


im relaxed, cam wilson

Chewie
June 4th 2009


4536 Comments


how old are they now?

Mikesn
Emeritus
June 4th 2009


3708 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good stuff

kitsch
June 4th 2009


5117 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

kay what i typed was a convoluted way of saying they're just going to get better and better the more time goes on. obviously i realise theyre hardly the most unknown band ever but they dont get the recognition they deserve.



SO STOP BEING DICKS




thats pretty much what theyve been doing for about 30 years tbh.



you really underestimate how iconic these guys are. if your idea of "mainstream" press is stuff like rolling stone, then thats a very narrow definition of "mainstream"



all caps implies uncalmness

Minus The Flair
Emeritus
June 4th 2009


865 Comments


i'll check this out purely because it has catchy choruses. i only seem to like the sonic youth songs with great hooks.

freeliminator
June 4th 2009


78 Comments


i only seem to like the sonic youth songs with great hooks.
they have songs with great hooks??

Minus The Flair
Emeritus
June 4th 2009


865 Comments


a veiled way of saying i dont like sonic youth

Iai
Emeritus
June 4th 2009


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It's another Sonic Youth album. I'm not sure I could say anything more than that if I reviewed this.

iarescientists
June 4th 2009


5865 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

you could probably say:



It's been released in the 21st century.



Ergo, it's good, but it's not great. Really, it must be boring being this consistent. The distinguishing feature here is probably the ballads, which are great. "Sacred Trickster" is pretty damn swish too. Otherwise....no bad moments, not as good as their peak, yadda yadda. You've heard all this before - and that applies to the review and the album.

ScorpionStan
June 4th 2009


1900 Comments


not a bad album...they done much better though.



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