Picking up where Murray Street's languid experimentalism left off, Sonic Youth's somewhat awkwardly named Sonic Nurse shows that the band still sounds revitalized, and may have even tapped into a more fruitful creative streak than they did on their previous album. Anyone who has stuck with Sonic Youth this long knows more or less what to expect from them, but the group still has the potential to surprise; one of Sonic Nurse's biggest surprises is the return of Kim Gordon. She had a relatively limited presence on NYC Ghosts & Flowers and Murray Street, but she's back in a big way on this album, contributing four tracks; not coincidentally, Gordon's songs are among the strongest on the album.
After 23 years of veering from rough-hewn punk songwriting to the noise avant garde and back again, Sonic Youth's 19th album finds them somewhere between the two. Sonic Nurse, one of their bleaker, more intense efforts, is set by opener Pattern Recognition, which starts with a fabulous Fall-ish riff before dissipating into wailing. Bush, Cheney and the rest get the finger on Peace Attack, but more provocative is Thurston Moore's "It's later than it seems" taunt on Paper Cup Exit.
Sonic Youth is a remarkably difficult band to cover. Reviews rarely do their music justice, and their magninfied status in modern music makes every piece a potential firestarter, like Amy Phillips' Murray Street review from 2002. Never have so many hipsters been more upset over a thousand words. So where does this review fit in? I could write nothing but (deserving) praise for Sonic Nurse, but there's no sense in writing another mindless one-sheet.