The Eternal Review

artist: Sonic Youth date: 08/28/2009 category: compact discs
Sonic Youth: The Eternal
Released: Jun 9, 2009
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label: Matador Records
Number Of Tracks: 12
It is their first studio album in three years (since Rather Ripped), making it the band's longest delay between studio albums.
 Sound: 8.5
 Lyrics: 7.5
 Overall Impression: 9
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reviews (2) 9 comments vote for this album:
overall: 8.7
The Eternal Reviewed by: unregistered, on august 26, 2009
1 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sound: At last! The band has made their return to indie and noise rock! Sonic Youth signed to the independent record label Matador, and got the old bassist of Pavement, Mark Ibold, to officially be in the band. How I describe this album is taking their vintage sound and adding innovations to it. At some points on the album, it relates to their grungy pop days of the early 90's. At other points on the album, they pull you back to their naive No Wave days. Sometimes, it's one of their soft, gloomy, fragile songs. Sometimes, it's the crazy dream-scape of Daydream Nation. But, it's not just their old sounds. They have new elements. One new element they have used is actually improvising in key! Aahhhh Sonic Youth In Key! Then the ironic twist is that they go immediately back to atonal riffs and/or noise all in one song. Then, there's the opposite extreme: new noises. I can't define every noise, but it sounds different from noise attacks on other albums. And their greatest element: better sound quality. Sure they had good sound quality on their later albums in the 00's, but this album has Glorious Noise & good sound quality. Also, the bass sounds so much thicker and heavier on this album. My only complaint is that as fresh and consistent as they are, there are very few moments on the album where it's very inconsistent. A few of the songs sound too much alike, and I will point them out. 01.Sacred Trickster: the single; however, this is the 1st of inconsistencies. This song is catchy and does show their significant influence on grunge, but songs later on the album sound too much alike to this. I can tolerate just this one song though, because it's very catchy and has a funny music video. 02.Anti-Orgasm: this song on the other hand should be their single. In the riffs, you totally hear Goo resembalance. The breakdown has a crazy noise technique where it's this drilling harmonic-sound sliding down the frets. The interlude is a technique used on Kissability where one note is played while a note one step below is being played. The end reminds me of the psychedelic trips at the end of long songs on Daydream Nation. Nice use of delay effect at the ending, also. 03.Leaky Lifeboat: easy-going and content. But sometimes, there's a dramatic change of music. 04.Antenna: the riff is waaaayyy too simple and inconsistent. But the noise brings me back to Dirty's 100%. 05.What We Know: darker, but still maintaining their noisy pop. The noise breakdown here is creative. One guitarist holds notes in the key, while the other is horrible, atonal effects. 06.Calming The Snake: a more modern look at their old No Wave days. The song gives out the uselessness texture of NW, but also the power of NW. 07.Poison Arrow: their worst and dumbest song on the album. It's not really much else but some power chords. Yes, yes, yes, it's the I word again: inconsistent. 08.Malibu Gas Station: their most cynical song on the album and one of their best. Almost all of it is completely atonal. They use one of their greatest tunings on this song, C C E B G D. So you'll hear some Cross The Breeze and Disappearer resemblance. 09.Thunderclap: I word: inconsistent. (Boy I need a thesaurus.) Sounds too much like Poison Arrow and Sacred Trickster. I know they have so much more potential. So c'mon! 10.No Way: reminds me of Rather Ripped. I know I've said thank God they're indie again, but I did like their melodic years because it was still inimitable. 11.Walkin Blue: poppish riff that you might recognize from a certain song. But all of a suddenly, the chorus is melodic sounding. Their noise isn't too impressing though. 12.Massage The History: aaaahhhh, about as beautiful as Shadow of a Doubt. Beautiful acoustic guitar; there was a technique they used from the song Winners Blue that they used for this. The tuning in WB was an opened E maj. chord with some strings matching in note quality. And they prolonged the chord throughout the whole song, but added pretty melody on top of it. All in one guitar! That's what they did for this song, but it's an opened D min. The rest of the song is just mindless, peaceful jam. Not much atonality and noise, but that would probably ruin it. // 9

Lyrics: Lyrics on this album were black metal inspired. I don't know much black metal, but I think the lyric themes in black metal must be horribly dark or overly obscure. These seem like the same SY lyrical styles of sarcastic sexuality, politics, poetic, honesty, and feminism. But a touch of black metal lyrics were added so they could try something new. Well it sucks! If you don't believe me, read these lines below actually sung on songs in the album: "That's when my poodle pukes!" "Noise Nomads and me levitating on the ground!" "Robbing blood a selfless creature." "Creeping heart and frozen imperfection." "Do you understand the problem? Anti-war is anti-orgasm!" Now SY does have obscurity and some darkness in their lyrics, and I like that. And there's still some of that on this album. But sometimes, the "black metal inspired" lyrical lines stick out like a sore thumb and is excessive. Now the reason why I still gave the lyrics an eight is because they are trying new techniques in their voice. In Leaky Lifeboat, Kim, Thurston, and Lee, (I think), harmonize their voices perfectly and beautifully. Also, every singer has much more confidence in their voice. But, they still have their punkish ways in their voices. So it's like Sonic Youth became better singers while still having their signature voices. Kim, by far, is the most impressive on this album. Each song she sang lead vocals on, (Sacred Trickster, Calming The Snake, Malibu Gas Station, Massage The History), shows off a little bit of each side of what is expected of her. In Sacred Trickster, she sounds like a female grunge vocalist. In Calming The Snake, she goes back to her groans and shaky vocals. In Malibu Gas Station, you can hear her intense riot grrrl side. In Massage The History, she whispers softly like on Shadow of a Doubt or like Kazu Makino. // 8

Overall Impression: This is such a powerful return to the indie world for them. They imitate their past but don't spin wheels on what they do. Also, they really try to become better musicians. Their over-similarities on some songs is tolerable enough. And they deliver an exciting thrill all together on this album. The best songs on this album are probably Massage The History, Anti Orgasm, Malibu Gas Station, and What We Know. I would definitely buy the album again if it was stolen. // 9

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overall: 8
The Eternal Reviewed by: Whip It, on august 28, 2009
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 8

Lyrics: 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. // 7

Overall Impression: 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. // 9

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