Album Review: Sonic Youth – The Eternal

I was excited when I learned that Sonic Youth was leaving longtime label DGC for Matador–the band that doesn’t put out bad albums has joined the label that doesn’t put out bad albums! Seemed like a match.

I was wrong about that. Not that The Eternal is bad, because it’s not. It’s that The Eternal sounds like it was recorded on the cheap, as befits a minor label (albeit a fairly major one). After nearly two decades of a nice, full, Geffen corporate-whore sound, The Eternal is tinny and hollow in comparison. The crappy sound buries the subtleties that are amongst the great joys of Sonic Youth’s best music. Note to Matador: “Lo-fi” isn’t cool now and it wasn’t cool in the mid-’90s either–it’s just a hipster excuse for crappy-sounding music that wouldn’t sound crappy if a good producer had got hold of it.

“So,” you ask, “now that you’re done with the rant, how are the songs?”

The answer is that the songs are solid. Sonic Youth notch one classic in “Anti-Orgasm,” perhaps not coincidentally a rocker where the sound is not a detriment. Kim Gordon continues the renaissance that began with 2006’s Rather Ripped, and it’s great to have her back after a long dry spell–she shines on album closer “Massage the History” and elsewhere.

Sonic Youth really do deserve to be ranked up there with rock and roll’s greatest bands–yes, I’m talking Beatles and Stones status. That will never happen, because they never sold all that many records and lack mass appeal (to put it mildly). Since they hit their stride in 1985 with Bad Moon Rising, they haven’t released a bad album, and have graced the world with several classic or near-classic records. The Eternal is a lesser Sonic Youth album, but even a lesser Sonic Youth album is worth your time. More’s the pity that this one could have been so much better. SY: Please find a new producer, and, if necessary, a new label.

Three and a Half Stars

Sonic Youth – “Sacred Trickster”

Sonic Youth – “Anti-Orgasm”

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