Sonic Youth: Sonic Nurse 

Sonic Youth have got their groove back ... again. After two uncharacteristically calm albums, 2000's NYC: Ghosts and Flowers and 2002's Murray Street comes Sonic Nurse, which apparently must be labeled "characteristically calm." Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley, all of whom are fast approaching the half-century mark (Gordon found it last year) no longer want to freak you out the way they did in the mid 1980s. Nor do they want you to pogo along or play their albums while you skateboard, as they did in the mid 1990s. Now they are content to take the lessons from those eras--namely, "feedback is a fun and legitimate instrument" and "groaning lyrics that make little sense are better than yelling lyrics that do"--and submerge them in a warm, listenable fuzz bath. Check out the opener "Pattern Recognition" or the Kim Gordon whisper-along "I Love You Golden Blue." The tightly orchestrated guitar-strata of Moore, Ranaldo and newcomer Jim O'Rourke are textbook Youth, but the head-nodding rhythms tying them together are far from the "difficult" or "arty" labels that have been the band's foundations. Yes, Sonic Youth can create an album like Sonic Nurse in their sleep, but that speaks more to their ageless talent than to any lack of imagination.

--Nicholas Collias

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