Sound — 8
After a three year break, Sonic Youth are back with a brand new album but lacking the brand new sound that seems to accompany every LP they bring out. Fans of the band would notice that throughout the band's existence the band has changed their sound in between every album, even if only slightly. Most albums have a distinct sound where if you heard a song you'd be able to pick out where it was on the timeline of Sonic Youth releases, however The Eternal seems to mimic old sounds of the band with a produced, less raw sound. But don't conclude from the words above that this album isn't worth listening to. Although this isn't another Daydream Nation or Sonic Nurse, it's definitely an album that should be added to your collection. Sonic Youth have something hidden in all of their music that keeps bringing you back, hungry for more, and again this shows on their latest venture. The album itself is not as good as the others but the separated tracks are songs you'll want to listen to again and again. Listening to Sacred Trickster will bring you back to the album Goo, whereas Calming the Snake has a Washing Machine-esque sound to it. An exception to the above are the instrumental parts in songs such as Malibu Gas Station and Antenna are beautiful in a new way while still being that familiar Sonic Youth sound. The addition of Mark Ibold from Pavement to the band on bass means different styles of bass line, the most noticeable of these during Calming the Snake and Anti-Orgasm. In short, they haven't branched out much with their style of playing although the album sounds a little more produced. It is easy to listen to. An excellent sound, although when compared with other Sonic Youth albums it isn't so awesome.
Lyrics — 7
Thurston Moore, co-guitarist and credited by some as being the founding member of the band, stated before the album's release that the lyrics that he wrote for the album had some black metal influence. I don't listen to black metal as far as I know so whether or not the lyrics are similar to that genre I cannot determine, although I know for one thing the lyrics for many of the songs are shocking. All of Sonic Youth's songs are great, but most fans will remember the dodgy rhymes in Sleepin Around or the constant references to underwear by Gordon in past songs and pick them out to be bad lyrics. Sonic Youth is not a bad band for lyrics - some of their words are really well written (ie. Incinerate) but this album has one too many songs with lyrics that sound rushed and as if they have been included simply because they rhyme. Some examples of such lyrics: Sacred Trickster: "That's so quaint to here, I feel so faint my dear." "I wish I could be, music on a tree." Leaky Lifeboat: Leaky lifeboat, sleeps off shore, it was sailing backwards, to the freaky north." Meanwhile, songs like Anti-Orgasm and Poison Arrow have great lyrics and make sure that you can still give the band some credit for writing great lyrics. The lyrics are one of the down-points of the album, although the vocals make up for it. Malibu Gas Station showcases some of Kim Gordon's best vocal work and both Thurston and Lee sing well. Although the multiple vocals in Leaky Lifeboat aren't as good as they could sound during the verses, it is easily made up for with the beautiful harmonies during the "la la la" part.
Overall Impression — 9
01.Sacred Trickster: the first and perhaps only single from The Eternal, the song brings some grunge back to the Sonic Youth that was growing increasingly tame in their music. It's a good song with nice sounding vocals, although the lyrics aren't something to be proud of. If you can get past the lyrics the song is very well written. 02.Anti-Orgasm: what perhaps should have been the single off The Eternal, the song begins with a brilliant bend and then an amazing chord progression and melody. Definitely one of the highlights on the album. 03.Leaky Lifeboat (For Gregory Corso): musically it's a great song although some of the lyrics are a bit of a letdown. The vocal harmonies during the la la la's is the highlight, and another good listen. 04.Antenna: probably the most underrated song on the album. A lot of people find this song boring, but if you really listen to the beauty of it and the brilliant instrumental parts you can appreciate just why you got another Sonic Youth album. 05.What We Know: another song that could have been picked for the single off the album, Lee sings passionately and the straightforward pop-rock sounding song stays in your head for ages. 06.Calming the Snake: sounding a lot like Kim Gordon has sung this song before on Dirty, it's probably the song that brings the least to this album. On the other hand, it's another good listen. 07.Poison Arrow: opens with a pretty sweet riff, and for a change the lyrics are one of the high points of the song. Great song to listen to. 08.Malibu Gas Station: possibly the best song on the album, Kim's depressing vocals are also beautiful at the same time. The accompaniment is pretty and together the song is sure to be on repeat many times. The instrumental part of the song is one of the best things I've heard from Sonic Youth. This song truly shows Sonic Youth at their best. 09.Thunderclap (For Bobby Pyn): the familiar "I don't wanna know, woah-oh" is sometimes a laughing matter among friends and other fans as being lame, but put in this song it's actually quite catchy and very creative. It suits the feel of the song perfectly and highlights Thurston Moore's terrific vocals. 10.No Way: another Thurston song, the music is terrific and the melody is even better. Another song that could have been the single over Sacred Trickster. 11.Walkin Blue: Lee Renaldo shows creativity in this masterpiece. Although it sounds like something you have heard before you can never put your finger just on what - Sonic Youth have captured a sound that is relevant to everyone. The layered instruments sound great. 12.Massage the History: a song that sounds like a mixture between Sonic Nurse and A Thousand Leaves with a new spin on it. It's pretty but requires a few listens before it can be appreciated. Compared to their other albums, The Eternal is nothing to get excited about, but the special something in Sonic Youth's songs that make them so perfect is still present and so this album is still something you should definitely add to your collection. Like I said earlier, the album as a whole doesn't stick in your head as something amazing but listen to the individual songs and you will remember just what made you like Sonic Youth in the first place.