Sonic Youth, 'The Eternal' (Matador)

Critical Mass
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by Stacey Anderson

How nice it'd be to come home to her / And sit by the fireplace and she in the kitchen / Aproned young and lovely wanting my baby / And so happy about me she burns the roast beef," angrily riffed an unhitched Gregory Corso in his 1959 poem "Marriage." So perhaps it's with empathy that on Sonic Youth's 16th album, Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore leave a simmering, wistful offering on his Beat altar with "Leaky Lifeboat (for Gregory Corso)." After all, they don't know from his torment, these art-rock Joneses of the solid union, towheaded daughter, and creatively controlled, near-three-decade career.

But who says stability ain't rebellion? The Eternal is the Youth's best album since 2002's Murray Street -- the riots aren't teenage anymore, of course, but they're wisely messy and darker, newly rooted in a heavy hookiness akin to Mudhoney and the wipers. "Malibu Gas Station" seeps murky reverb and bizarre guitar detunings, a welcome return to late-'80s/Sister form (and more light for guitarist Lee Ranaldo). "Massage the History" is a ten-minute antithesis to the carefully funneled pop structures of 2006's Rather Ripped, with Gordon's rasp and Moore's guitar creeping like an extra-spooky bedtime story to their daughter. Even she's a teenager now, too old to believe in fairy tales, but we're not-Sonic Youth are still the punk fable with a happy ending.

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