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Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped (Geffen)

13 June 2006

For its 21st studio album (counting the six SYR releases but not CICCONNE YOUTH or their In the Fishtank collaboration), SONIC YOUTH has given us a nearly flawless, highly enjoyable collection of songs.

Rather Ripped could be criticized as tame by this group’s standards, but A) screwing around trying to sound overtly avant usually drags them down, and B) “Sonic Youth-tame” is daring by normal measurements. Whether noisy (the distortion-rich “Rats”) or subdued (the low-key throbbing of THURSTON MOORE’s dark and brooding highlight “Lights Out”), the tracks all have a solid spine of good songwriting, with KIM GORDON’s lyrics more truly poetic than they’ve often been. It’s mostly mid-tempo rockers enlivened by the non-standard guitar tunings, which give the riffing a ringing edge.

With JIM O’ROURKE too busy to be the fifth member, SY is back to a quartet. As a result, the muddiness and overcrowded sound that marred Sonic Nurse at times is replaced by crystalline tone and generally leaner arrangements (“Rats” being the main exception), with some credit perhaps also due to recording at the great—and analog—Sear Sound studio in New York.

This is SY’s third consecutive excellent album. They haven’t had a run that good since Evol/Sister/Daydream Nation. This new trinity doesn’t match that one, but it certainly proves that Sonic Youth is still worth listening to.

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