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Sonic Youth, Murray Street

Sonic Youth’s new album—their sixteenth—is named after the block in Lower Manhattan where their studio is located. Murray Street is also where a jet engine landed on September 11. This album, however, seems to have little to do with any of that. Produced by Jim O’Rourke (who’s also now a full-fledged member of the band), Murray Street is a notable change of direction for the band. As experimental as it is accessible, it’s another dazzling spark in Sonic Youth’s blindingly bright career. What may be most surprising about Murray Street is just how much fun it is to listen to. Often lighthearted, the album tends toward the meandering and gentle rather than the grating and challenging. The band’s recent ventures into the world of uncompromising experimentation (as shown on Goodbye 20th Century and a handful of SYR single sessions) prove they haven’t softened their edge one bit, just that they’re always up for a new thing.

‘Rain on Tin’ is Sonic-Youth-meets-Prog. Soaring guitar lines, arpeggios define the core of the song, pushing to even greater and greater heights to the climax of the song. ‘Karen Revisited’ is Lee Ranaldo’s finest song to date, and is easily an album standout. And it’s trippy. Yes, that’s really the only word choice here. It’s trippy. The best moment on the album may be in ‘Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style,’ however, with its high, tight, crunchy—oh dear—Loverboy-metal riff. And then it goes into this part that’s kind of like Styx… Oh, it’s good.

They’re always up for a new thing. There’s genius in that.


Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. He is always working on the next installment of the Albums of the Year series at TMN. More by Andrew Womack

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