Album Cover
Sonic Youth
Sonic Nurse
June 08, 2004


Any hope of Ciccone Youth releasing a new album to follow-up 1987’s The Whitey Album is dead. I’m sure no one here really wants to hear a follow-up to the "Tuff Titty Rap," but even then: Madonna replaced an allegedly confrontational video with something reasonably more sterile, tame and boring for "American Life"; 2002’s Murray Street boasted "Plastic Sun," something of a rant about Britney Spears; and Sonic Nurse, Sonic Youth’s newest contribution to their vast and growing discography, has "Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream," the title changed from "Mariah Carey and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream." Apparently, there are more interesting pop stars to note.

What’s kind of funny about this is that, in the two decades since the early ‘80s, when Sonic Youth and Madonna showed up, Madonna’s albums are weak, whereas Sonic Youth has began gaining accolades since 2002’s Murray Street, when Jim O’Rourke became full-time. Likewise, Sonic Youth has began attracting notice among the masses again. This is amusing because, after 1994’s Experimental Jet Set, Trash & No Star, Sonic Youth began to make progressively abrasive music with no intent for the satiation of fans or critics, but rather the enjoyment of the band themselves. And once it got to the esoteric and divisive SYR series and NYC Ghosts & Flowers, Sonic Youth seemed to have disconnected entirely.

All this goes to make Murray Street and this year’s Sonic Nurse breaths of fresh air. So much so that the return of Sonic Youth making accessible music can even be categorized in with the successful returns of Mission of Burma and The Wrens. Anyone who plumed the what-the-fuck depths of Goodbye 20th Century will probably jump at Sonic Nurse’s tight, focused jams and instrumental breaks. Like Murray Street, Sonic Nurse possesses long songs: eight of the ten songs here surpass the five-minute mark, three of them sending it past seven minutes. However, in comparison to Murray Street, Sonic Nurse is tighter, less expansive and contemplative, and more like Sister than anything Sonic Youth have done in years. Sonic Youth spend the entire album ripping out vitriolic jams in full-attack mode, never really slowing down to catch a breath. Sonic Nurse bursts with energy and life.

Although it could’ve been disastrous on other albums, Kim Gordon isn’t backloaded like she was on Murray Street. Often times, she can even steal the show: the striking "Pattern Recognition," which opens the album, and the sombre and delicate (!) "I Love You Golden Blue." Thurston Moore contributes to "Pattern Recognition" with "Unmade Bed" and "Dripping Dream," completing the perfect opening steps of Sonic Nurse, as well as the excellent protest song and album closer "Peace Attack." Another big surprise: Kim Gordon’s lone freak-out, "Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream," happens to be not only bearable but quite enjoyable. For 60 minutes, Sonic Nurse plumes the indie rock playbook for various new tools and complicated but delectable hooks.

It’s to Sonic Youth’s credit that, besides "Dude Ranch Nurse," there isn’t a weak song on Sonic Nurse. For a group 20+ years in age, that’s not only impressive, but jaw-dropping. And actually expectable: Sonic Youth wrote the indie rock playbook. This is their turf, and they still own it. Beat that, Madonna!

Delan Hamasoor

Track List

  1. Pattern Recognition
  2. Unmade Bed
  3. Dripping Dream
  4. Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream
  5. Stones
  6. Dude Ranch Nurse
  7. New Hampshire
  8. Paper Cup Exit
  9. I Love You Golden Blue
  10. Peace Attack