Sonic Youth - Murray Street

by Bob Coyne Rating: Release Date:2002-06-10

As Sonic Youth will testify, it's not easy being avant-rock superstars. Follow your urge to experiment and you risk alienating your more conservative fans. Stop experimenting and you lose the impetus that made you so exciting in the first place. Such is the dilemma faced by this exceptional band in 2002, now wryly rechristened as Radical Adults in one Thurston Moore lyric. Given the bewilderment that's unfairly greeted recent attempts to push their remarkable music to new extremes--notably their contemporary classical project, Goodbye 20th Century-- Murray Street initially feels like something of a compromise; the band themselves admit it's more "song-oriented" than their last few albums. But, hell, what a magnificent compromise. Named after the New York street where their studio is situated--and where a plane engine landed on September 11--Murray Street is potent, accessible, daring and often obliteratingly lovely. For a start, the first three songs ("The Empty Page", "Disconnection Notice" and "Rain on Tin") easily rank alongside the highlights of Sonic Youth's previous 15 albums: obliquely melancholic, tuneful but unorthodox, all enriched by great cascades of intricate three-guitar noise. When the Youth spin off on one of these bright and wild trips, these rich musical elegies for their city, they remain one of the world's great musical wonders. --John Mulvey

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