Local Wire

Sonic Youth

You've gotta love the contradictory impulses at work in the title, a clever enjoining of modesty and arrogance emblematic of Sonic Youth's attitudes and recordings for the better part of the band's quarter-century run. Rather Ripped is a perfect name choice in literal terms relating to its content -- the NYC foursome here slips away from the eruptions of volcanic feedback, classic rock winks, and unabashed political rhetoric characterizing Murray Street and Sonic Nurse to dish out radio-format-size chunks of streamlined, summery avant-pop that recall 1994's Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star. Excesses are reined in, but it's clear throughout that the band has the muscle to annihilate. The sinuous, pealing guitar hook and ambivalent Kim Gordon vocal in "Jams Run Free" give way to a cascading, lascivious melodic expansion that doesn't quite break into orbit. Ever louder, ashen guitars contort behind the plinking rhythm guitar of "Do You Believe in Rapture?". "Or" consists of murmuring riffs and Steve Shelley's quiet drum quaking; its violence exists solely in Thurston Moore's juxtaposition of age-old interview questions and a disquieting scenario: "In your mouth, a wad of cash/Moist, rolled hundreds/Fingers through your hair/Silver quarters drop/To your pleated skirt."
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Ray Cummings