Undoubtedly the most influential American indie group of the late 20th century and beyond, Sonic Youth has seldom wavered in their embrace of underground music and culture even as their move in the 1990s to Geffen brought with it a decidedly more mainstream listenership. While the carefully orchestrated squall and skewed melodicism of late major-label efforts SONIC NURSE (2004) and RATHER RIPPED (2006) marked a dramatic departure from the fiery noise anthems of old, THE ETERNAL, Sonic Youth's 2009 album for Matador, is a welcome return to a familiar, back-to-basics approach.
On THE ETERNAL, SY sound at once revitalized and limbered by the move back to an indie, with Thurston, Kim, and company revisiting familiar tropes--gales of blistering guitar noise, acerbic power pop riffs, and ruminative spoke-sung recitations--with the sharpened edge of a band wised at their twilight years. While these elder statesmen won't be kicking up teenage riots anymore, the sassy, punkish opener, "Sacred Trickster," may be as energetic as any of their anthems circa GOO or DIRTY, with Kim Gordon's feral come-ons losing none of their evocative power. Meanwhile, the explosive riff-fest, "Poison Arrow," pairs grinding detuned guitars with sheets of droning feedback in classic SY style.
Spin (p.98) - "THE ETERNAL is the Youth's best album since 2002's MURRAY STREET -- the riots aren't teenage anymore, of course, but they're wisely messy and darker, newly rooted in a heavy hookiness akin to Mudhoney and the Wipers."
Entertainment Weekly (p.61) - "[A] sort of survey course in SY history, careering from their early art-school atonality to the more melodically sophisticated compositions of later years."
Alternative Press (p.130) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "When bassist Kim Gordon takes the mic, it's apparent she hasn't mellowed one iota; when she teams up with Moore, they come off as a street-tough Sonny and Cher."
Billboard - "[T]he guitar tones have rarely sounded better and new bassist Mark Ibold brings a head-turning articulation to the low end."
Q (Magazine) (p.124) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "[O]pener 'Sacred Trickster' is thrillingly focused. Refreshingly, nothing outstays its welcome..."
Paste (magazine) (p.50) - "[T]hey're fearless in their exploration of what it is to be human. At the end of the day, that's about the most comforting sentiment you can ask for from a rock 'n' roll record."
Uncut (magazine) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "'Thunderclap For Bobby Pyn,' a tribute to Darby Crash of The Germs, eulogises the '70s punk scene..."