Sonic Youth Survives

Aydin Guner

In terms of their age, one could compare Sonic Youth to the dinosaurs, albeit with cool hairstyles and a knack for loud guitars. However, Sonic Youth actually survived the extinction. And there must be a reason for this. After the mid 90s grunge movement was washed away by the baggy trousers and pop rap of ‘nu metal’. It appeared the music industry had shifted in a whole new direction, which it did. But a few bands survived, Sonic Youth was one of them.

Possibly the reason for their survival is because all 15 previous Sonic Youth albums stayed true to the bands sound. Besides from offering an undeniable ‘cool’ factor – there is very little else apart from feel good noisy grunge going on in their music. Their albums have never been ground breaking, however, they have always been good enough to keep the loyalists happy (which is surely what matters most?). The Eternal, Sonic Youth’s 16th album, released on Matador Records, is no exception. There are a few good moments in the 12 tracks this album offers, but it is debatable what the stand out tracks could be. It could be any of them.

The album starts with “Sacred Trickster”, a drums and guitar driven song with a bag full of energy. Thurston Moore is on top form with this song, driving out his vocals in the same style which has served him so well for all these years – a ‘I don’t give a f*#@’ type attitude in his vocals. The energy continues with “Anti-Orgasm” and “Leaky Lifeboat” but takes a pause on track 4 with “Antenna”, a subdued song with a catchy melody – a highlight on this album. “Poison Arrow” and “Malibu Gas Station” carries the album a long with enough invention and character to keep you interested. There is no denying this is a very listenable CD, but, it is no ground breaker.

It is difficult to comprehend the idea of an album such as, Goo or Dirty ever being written again, but Sonic Youth have proved, with their 16th album, that you cannot last 27 years in the music industry without having experience, talent and hunger to create exciting music: Which is exactly what Sonic Youth have done with their current release. The trademark grunge riffs are still there. The energy and vibe of the grunge punk-core band is still in tact. Thurston Moore screams and sings out the songs with the same passion he did in the early and mid 90s. Though they are no spring chickens, this is a band that do nothing more than simply rock out. There is no preaching, there are no bold statements. The philosophy of this band is to rock; an attribute I’m sure their loyal fans love about this band.

Perhaps the secret to a 27 year career in music is to do just this. Do enough to keep your fans happy, and keep touring. Surely this is the opposite to what ‘selling out’ would be: (An attempt to write radio friendly hits to attract a larger audience), a move which has cost the best of bands their careers, and credibility. But there is no danger of this happening with Sonic Youth. Their 16th album, The Eternal, is more of the same noisy grunge which has enough nostalgia to take the loyalists back to the mid 90s but enough fresh studio gloss to perhaps attract a new generation of fans.

Catch the grunge veterans live on January 7th at the House of Blues, San Diego, CA.

~Aydin Guner