Thursday, June 18, 2009

Since I loved Sonic Nurse and Rather Ripped more than the rest of their catalogue going back to Daydream Nation, I was ready to embrace The Eternal (in anticipation I relistened to Murray Street for the first time in four years and realized I'd underrated it). They'd entered their most artistically febrile period, with enough craft to sleepwalk through another half dozen albums on which whispered stories about domesticity on the road collide with third-rate Beat poetry. The Eternal proves I'd underestimated how even the familiar elements can grate. Like Dylan's Together Through Life, it's often very far from uninteresting; but the music is blurry, the lyrics unfocused. The most difficult part about assessing modern SY is distinguishing between tracks that serve as rest-stops before anarchy and tracks constructed as proper songs. Some critics never got over the band hiring a drummer that believed in forward momentum and crunch; listening to the middling experiments with three-minute noise bombs collected on Dirty, I'm ready to believe them – before reminding them as they leave the room to check out A Thousand Leaves, on which the textures signify as songs. 

The Eternal sounds like an even less focused Dirty. All the rhythm strumming I hear doesn't produce songs that aren't mere homages to tunefulness or their own recent past (but there is a Gregory Corso dedication, how 'bout that). "Malibu Gas Station" uninterestingly rewrites Rather Ripped's "Incinerate"; "Antenna" actually has power chords, as it should, since it's a song about radios and girls. The album has no scary-Kim moments; it could use some (one song uses "rapacious" in the same sentence as "vagina"). Prediction: in 2014 the band's walk through the tempo shifts of  "Massage The History" will feel less rote. Which is okay. If SY albums feel like quick tours through public libraries whose books remain in the same place for years, there's always the chance another visit will bring my attention to a oft-scanned spine. 

1 comment:

John C. said...

Yeah, I've definitely been reminded of Dirty on more than one occasion while listening to the The Eternal. Unlike you, I don't have too many issues with Dirty, except that I rarely listen to it, and it's not quite what I want from SY right now.