Within the first few seconds of pressing play on The Eternal, Sonic Youth's 16th studio album in nearly 30 years, the band sounds like it has been recharged. "Sacred Trickster" tears the album wide open with a visceral intensity that surges into "Anti-Orgasm," bringing the album to a frenzied climax of noise, and chiming, art-punk dirge.
Sonic Youth hasn't rocked this hard in years, and the fire was sparked in 2007 when the group went on tour playing the 1988 masterpiece Daydream Nation. "After reacquainting ourselves with Daydream Nation, we were really surprised by the energy of some of the songs," says guitarist and vocalist Lee Ranaldo. "At first we didn't think it was such a hot idea, but revisiting those songs really inspired a lot of what's going on with this record."
Since 1981, Ranaldo, Thurston Moore (guitar, vocals), Kim Gordon (bass, guitar, vocals) and Steve Shelley (drums) have bridged the same worlds of punk experimentalism and Manhattan avant-garde that nurtured the likes of Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Glenn Branca. Over the years, they've forged a hybrid of noisy pop based on open guitar tunings, dissonance and texture.
Former Pavement bassist Mark Ibold joined the lineup in 2006, adding an audible jolt of life to the group's dynamic. "It's a completely different aggregate when you have someone else in the band," Ranaldo says.
What also breathed new life into the group is its recent jump from Geffen, its major-label home for many years, to indie heavyweight Matador Records. "We signed with Geffen to get better distribution for our records," Ranaldo says. "Moving from a label where we're lost in the shuffle of a million other bands ... to working with a label that's enthusiastic about music, rather than coming from a strictly business sense, has been great and very inspiring for us."
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