Sonic Youth Murray Street Review

BBC Review

These guitars sound like America; lyrical, tuneful, gnarled and ugly, subway trains...

Nick Reynolds 2002

In a world where most guitar groups regurgitate mouldy old ideas, floundering ham-fistedly around in a sea of stupidity and borrowed riffs, it's a relief to turn to this intelligent, confident and, dare one say it, tasteful record.

For a start there's the sheer originality of the sound; instantly recognisable from the very first second. These guitars sound like America; lyrical, tuneful, gnarled and ugly, subway trains and wrecked cars. Wide open spaces.

On this album the twist is that the mood is almost a mellow one. There's plenty of extreme sonic attack of course, "Karen Revisited" features an extraordinary moment which sounds like a jet engine colliding with half a dozen fax machines. But the opening track "The Empty Page" sets the tone: reflective, melodic, mature. Throughout, the feedback and noise seem integrated, and oddly beautiful. And for once, both the singing and the lyrics seem exactly right. There's variety enough: as well as long workouts like "Rain On Tin", there's the short sharp punk rock from another galaxy of "Plastic Sun". Newest member Jim O'Rourke, on bass guitar,seems to have given them a new lease of life: his clean production is another plus.

On previous records Sonic Youth were sometimes self indulgent and often patchy. But there's no trace of that here. The whole thing lasts only 47 minutes, a blessed relief in these days of over long, overdone product. If you've never heard them before this is a great place to start. It's one of their best, and an object lesson to any pretender. Quietly they have reasserted their place as not just the Kings and Queen of Underground rock, but as purveyors of one of the most distinctive sounds in music. When the "albums of the year" lists come round, this one will be on them.

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