Listen Up: Wednesday, July 11, 2002
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Sonic Youth

Murray Street (DGC Records)

By Ken Shimamoto

Now what would you expect from the folks who wore the influence of Glenn Branca (avant-garde composer, noted sci-fi dweeb) on their sleeves, brought skronk to rock ‘n roll some 20 years ago, set an indie benchmark with 1988’s sprawling Daydream Nation, and once, a while back, sent a large chunk of a Tarrant County audience for Neil Young & Crazy Horse streaming for the aisles with their hands clamped firmly over their ears to escape waves of shrieking feedback? What would you expect from a band unafraid of, uh, alienating its listeners?

A big surprise. Murray Street is actually a very sober, tonal, lyrical listening experience. Reportedly the second installment of “a trilogy about the cultural history of Lower Manhattan,” the album is named after the birthplace of Lionel Trains (speaking of Neil Young) and the location of Sonic Youth’s studio, where an engine from one of the planes that struck the Twin Towers landed (sessions were delayed by the subsequent cordoning off of the area).

Which is not to say that there’s no skronk here. (I dare you to sit through the industrial noise section of “Karen Revisited” without ripping the c.d. out of the player. If you hang on, however, you’ll be rewarded by the song’s hauntingly ethereal coda.) The saving grace is that the noise appears within a middle-period Velvet Underground-like set of songs that seems to capture the somber, reflective mood of post-9/11 NYC.

Of course, there’s plenty of exploratory guitarissimo from stalwarts Moore, his spouse Kim Gordon, and Lee Ranaldo, along with new guy Jim O’Rourke. On “Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style,” the horn players from the punk/jazz power trio Borbetomagus make an appearance that will either remind you of John Coltrane’s Meditations or the mating cries of crazed bull elephants, depending on your previous exposure to free jazz. (Fans of Austin’s late Lord High Fixers will approve.)


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