Sound — 9
This was Sonic Youth's second album after signing to Geffen records. It's generally pretty awesome, with the band exploring their usual use of unusual tunings and general background noise to create unique soundscapes. Album opener '100%' (also the first single release from this album) starts with a blast of feedback/noise played with a guitar slide, before the thumping Ab power chord which drives the verse, with the noise continuing underneath, and pretty much sets the feel for the rest of the album. Vocal duties are as always shared by Thurston Moore (guitars) and his wife Kim Gordon (bass). The songs are split equally between Moore's smooth, fairly deep voice, and Gordon's growled, often barely intelligible vocals, with them each taking seven tracks. I have no idea who's singing on Track 10, Nic Fit, but it's neither of them. Might be Lee Ranaldo (guitars). While Thurston's voice is obviously the more accessible, mainstream one, any female listeners (and a few male listeners) will be pleased to hear a woman singing with a bit of aggression on Kim's tracks. The overall sound is, as you'd expect from Sonic Youth, unlike most of what you hear, but acessible nonetheless, which is a neat trick. Mostly the album is punk and hardcore influenced, although the sound's not limited to these styles, with 'Purr', for example, has an almost classic rock style riff. Also, some tracks like 'there'sa's Sound World' and 'Wish Fulfillment' have clean picked riffs in a style which is pretty rare in punk.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics seem pretty good. They're quite dark in places (two tracks, '100%' and 'J.C.' deal with the fatal shooting of one of the group's roadies), but far brighter in others, like on 'Sugar Kane'. They pretty much take in a lot of subjects, from death (as mentioned above), love (On 'Sugar Kane' and also, in a darker vein, on 'Wish Fulfillment'), to politics ('Youth Against Fascism'). The lyrics on Gordon's songs seem, on the whole, to be better than those on Moore's. However, I can't understand half of what she says, so they might not be that great overall! The lyrics are pretty good, usually avoiding cliches and so on.
Overall Impression — 9
This is the first Sonic Youth album I actually bought, though I've heard a fair bit of their other stuff. On the basis of this album, I'm buying all their others as soon as I have the cash. My favourite song is probably 'Wish Fulfillment'; I love the juxtaposition of the clean picked riff over background feedback noise, which then whips into the heavier pre-chorus/bridge, before the still heavy but more melodic main chorus. It's just awesome! The lyrics are good too, and, expecially, in the main chorus bit, fit the music perfectly. All the songs are pretty damn good; although 'Nic Fit' is a bit weird, it's too unobtrusive to worry me much. If it was lost or stolen, I'd probably just copy it off my computer, so no wories there. Anyway, overall, good stuff. I can't compare it to the band's other albums, not having heard them, but if they're all as good as this the they're an amazing band.