Music Reviews
Sonic Nurse

Sonic Youth Sonic Nurse

(Geffen) Rating - 10/10

Whirlwind, Heat and Flash...

NYC quintet Sonic Youth return with their nineteenth full-length in twenty years (and don't forget the dozen of feedback-saturated EP's and obscure solo projects along the way), quite simply it is fair to say Sonic Nurse could be the best guitar rock album since, well, Murray St., an emotive, post-9/11 soundscape that generated some of their finest work, including live favorites such as Disconnection Notice, Empty Page and the jaw-dropping Rain on Tin. That album also introduced Mr. Jim O'Rourke as more than just occasional producer, and since promoted to full-time guitarist and producer on Sonic Nurse, his invaluable input solidifies Nurse as arguably their best in a decade.

There is no knob-tweaking or dramatic fucking around on the opener Pattern Recognition, with an instant whirlwind rush and a sultry Kim Gordon howling "You're the one," almost chastising her male antagonist and closed out by a 3-minute, slow-mo sludgefeast finale. The rumbling drums, guitar march and defiant breakdown midway through the glorious Unmade Bed coincide with a hopelessly romantic, down to earth tale seemingly written with the same pen that authored the grandiose Diamond Sea from 1996's Washing Machine. The stoner vibe on Dude Ranch Nurse actually seems a bit more intriguing than the breathless romp Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream, as she picks fun at diva/mental patient Mariah Carey (Gordon even gives Eminem shout-out), and the pummeling percussion provided by Steve Shelly coasts perfectly into the album's centerpiece Stones. It's that quiet/loud/quiet/loud motif they long ago mastered; and it's within that final two minutes; when the track eventually snaps and Moore, O'Rourke and Renaldo swarm atop those rumbling drums, when the track runs rampant in a flash, only to be corralled before one more final kick in the ass. The controlled chaos within New Hampshire (which at times could pass for a Teenage Riot demo) complements Moore's particularly subtle and soulful vocal approach, as does his cozying up to the mic on the closing Peace Attack. And Paper Cup Exit finds Lee Renaldo kicking out the straight-ahead rock and roll jams, recalling past gems like Skiptracer and Mote.

Sonic Nurse could also be referred to as the band's most cohesive disc, whatever the hell that means. Murray St. just seemed to mesh, much like coveted classics Daydream Nation and Dirty. The album's cohesion has been affirmed by the band itself, with Thurston Moore recently announcing that Stones is an anti-Bush song. "Well, the entire album is anti-Bush," Moore told a sold-out Boston crowd last month. Yet calling it accessible in this age of really, really shitty bands can be a bit of a stretch, although the majority of the ten tracks fall under the six-minute range. Regardless, there is always a guaranteed payout, such as waiting out the two-minute barrage of fuzz on Kim Gordon's I Love You Golden Blue.

But the album is also a soundtrack of lost love throughout, similar to the nine albums Amherst neighbor and lovelorn oaf J Mascis (Kim, Thurston and Cocoa Hayley have relocated to the woods of western Mass.) has delivered over the last 18 years. The squelching guitars that ooze throughout Dripping Dream resemble something from Dinosaur Jr's Bug-era archives.

Sonic Nurse is the approximate aftermath of a head-on collision between Fleetwood Mac and the experimental thrashing of Wolf Eyes, Thurston Moore has repeatedly declared to the media. Timeless, avant-garde love songs for the deaf? That sounds about right.