With the band closing in on the big three-oh, the latter half of Sonic Youth's moniker may be getting a bit disingenuous. As for SY's splendid escapades to the far reaches of sonic galaxies, they're thriving with lithe, explosive vigor on The Eternal, the veteran band's initial return to an indie label (Matador) after nearly two decades in the majors (with Geffen). In fact, much of Eternal glows with hot embers of the band's original inspiration: bristling experimentation with dissonance, noise, peculiar tunings, drones, layered guitars, and the avant-garde intensity of the Velvet Underground, which all oozed out of the early-'80s New York no-wave scene. The album bristles from the first disjointed chords of the lead track, "Sacred Trickster," which quickly escalates into a charging rocker, with Kim Gordon's cool yowl cutting across churning guitars. The more diffident "Leaky Lifeboat," inspired by beat poet Gregory Corso, nonetheless has so many spiky, off-kilter elements that it threatens to plunge into the abyss at any turn. "What We Know" cranks up the ominous quotient several fold, with Lee Ranaldo spouting dire lyrics about identity, while "Poison Arrow" is SY at its most Velveteen. In short, Eternal is packed with such scintillating, fierce, challenging, and driving rock that it sounds like just that, Sonic Youth apparently going for the really long haul. SY is a quintet these days, incidentally, with former Pavement bassist Mark Ibold joining Gordon, Ranaldo, Steve Shelley, and Thurston Moore. With Awesome Color. 18+.
Tue., July 21, 8 p.m., 2009