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Sonic Youth

Murray Street

Release Date: 06.25.02
Record label: Universal
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.


by: clint poole

We all know (or should know) that Life is a cycle that holds two certainties; its beginning, and its end. As we travel through the cycle it is inevitable that certain phases will bring certain emotions, feelings, and opinions. Murray Street seems to be Sonic Youth’s introspective realization that the days of being one of rock’s most cutting edge and influential bands have come and gone, and that they now hold a more mature position and control of their artistry, devoid of any expectations from fans pinning the future of a musical genre to their albums.

Our parents always warned that we would grow up, and fight it as we may, it happens. Murray Street is an indication that Thurston Moore and company have realized and accepted the movement and pending completion of the lifecycle. What has resulted is a unique mixture of new soft sonnets and traditional feedback. However, the album fails to provide a clear sense of direction and purpose, and in fact it leaves us with the opposite felling of confusion, being without bearing, and trying to discover its meaning as it progresses.

Sonic Youth start us down their introspectus with “Empty Page”, a subdued realization of self and struggle for identity. The ensuing “Disconnection Notice” and “Rain on Tin” continue the theme of growth and the new problems and reality it brings.

However, “Rain on Tin” does begin the albums movement toward a more traditional Sonic Youth sound, fast and without respect for the traditional song structure they have always railed against, feedback and all. The closing guitar riff mirrors the natural element of the songs title, to the point where the listener may be suddenly inclined to get-up and close their windows.

“Karen Revisited” is laden with the chaotic feedback, and battling, unstructured guitar riffs that have become the bands signature. The lyrics, sound, and structure successfully deliver the feeling of looking at love lost that was intended, prompting listeners to once again think of loves lost themselves. “Karen Revisited” reminds us of what has always made Sonic Youth unique, the ability to portray defined emotions through what may sound like mere noise to most Elvis fans (make no mistake, I too loved “Viva Las Vegas”).

In its latter half the album begins to lose its focus and unravel, with tracks such as “Radical Head Adults Licks Godhead Style” giving the impression of an aging athlete desperately trying to keep up with the game. And “Plastic Sun”, a seemingly mocking satire and attack on the materialistic socialites of Manhattan and L.A., whose drum beats reminiscent of 60’s surf music barely save the song from sinking, but still lacks enough punch to deliver the goods.

The album tries in earnest to reach full circle closure by loosely wrapping the melodic tones of earlier tracks around traditional guitar whales in “Sympathy for the Strawberry”, complete with a three minute introductory instrumental.

As an entire work of music Murray Street fails to provide a sustained emotion or purpose other than realizing a monumental piece of alternative rock has grown up. Many of the songs like “Karen Revisited” and “Radical Head Adults Licks Godhead Style” become unwound as the tracks droll on, giving the impression the band did not know how to end them.

While Murray Street may lack the thorough vision of Daydream Nation or the hard, influential impact of 100%, it is nonetheless a poetic illustration of talent maturing through the ages, and continuing to deliver a unique and interesting sound. The album is melodic, relying more on softer tones and less on heavy guitar than previous albums, and the sound is a long way from the band's debut at the 1981 “Noise Festival”. Still, for listeners who are willing to listen without preconceived expectations, and who enjoy well-composed, creative melodies that express an appreciation for the cycle of Life, Murray Street is a solid and worthwhile addition. 15-Jul-2002 10:30 PM