Sonic Youth (Geffen)
Kim Gordon and her band-and-matrimony mate, Thurston Moore, had been turning out noisy, feedback-drenched art-rock for a full decade before Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain hailed them as the avatars of grunge and Vanity Fair magazine anointed Gordon “the godmother…of alternative rock.” Now, 17 years after the group formed, Sonic Youth (with bassist Gordon, now 45, guitarists Moore, 39, Lee Ranaldo, 42, and drummer Steve Shelley, 35) are still making music that ventures toward the furthest fringes of pop. Utilizing all manner of sound effects, from what seems like snatches of radio static and pumping steam pistons to dissonant guitar feedback, the band creates eerily hypnotic soundscapes over which Gordon’s vocals sound ethereal, angry or bemused, as if she’s talking out loud during a bad dream. Moore’s vocals, meanwhile, sound like those of Neil Young, whose disdain for traditional pop song structure he also seems to share. Some tracks are standouts, including “Sunday,” Gordon’s “Female Mechanic Now on Duty” and Moore’s “Wildflower Soul,” and they demonstrate why this New York City-based band has survived so long.
Bottom Line: Noisy but inventive, as always