Sonic Youth

The Eternal

Written by: AP on 14/07/2009 15:28:47

Fans of punk and alternative rock should have at least heard the name Sonic Youth, often praised for redefining what the electric guitar could do. Indeed, their use of unorthodox guitar tunings, not to mention preparing their guitars with things like drumsticks and screwdrivers to alter the instrument's timbre has earned them much respect in the noise rock genre. Shamefully though the band's artistry has always escaped my scope and while the name is obviously very familiar to me, it is here, with the band's latest offering "The Eternal" that my acquaintance with Sonic Youth happens.

And given the legend it happens with the greatest of expectations. After all, it should be known by now that where there exists time-bending instrumentation, dissonant noise and an abundance of sonic chaos, this is where you're likely to find me hyping an album. Sadly in this case the album fails to satisfy my strange hunger for discord, albeit that I probably should not have been expecting it to sound like Meshuggah in the first place. No, what Sonic Youth strive to do here they do extremely well - at first. Because the abnormality of the music falls short of true novelty after the first six songs and descends instead into fairly standard indie rock (it's tempting to make the comparison with Arctic Monkeys during the latter half of the album) and when the band in question enjoys such reverence it's difficult not to be disappointed by the lack of ambition in those songs.

"The Eternal" suffers from a profound lack of ambition, of conviction, of emotion, and of passion. Strong words to throw at them, but through multiple listening sessions the supposedly immense soundscape has yet to reveal itself to me, and I'm beginning to think it's because it's actually pretty restrained. The spasms of noise are too few in between to ever really engage the listener and overall the album just sounds so nondescript. Admittedly these songs probably don't fulfill their true potential but in a live setting (undoubtedly the fault of the album's production, which gives it that submerged sound, as if it had been recorded in an underwater grotto) because the aforementioned sonic spasms are too subtle and insignificant to send shivers down my spine.

The amount of torture the guitars are subjected to here should justify a far more chilling soundscape, yet listening to someone grinding their teeth, or scraping a porcelain plate with a metal fork would cause more distress than the occasional feedback and chaotic percussion present here. But as I mentioned in my preamble, my familiarity with this kind of music is next to none, so before you gather the village and chase me down with pitchforks, have a listen yourself and share your grievances in the comments. Until then, "The Eternal" just doesn't cut it for me.


Download: Anti-Orgasm, What We Know, Calming The Snake

For the fans of: The Jesus And Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Velvet Underground

Listen: Myspace

Release date 08.06.2009


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