Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped (Geffen, 2006); Mission of Burma - The Obliterati (Matador, 2006)

Sonic Youth may be the original "alternative" rock and roll band, plumbing the depths of New York City's downtown scene for nearly twenty-five years. Their most recent LP is one of their most melodic and accessible while still retaining the edgy excitement of their best work from the past. Experimental musician Jim O' Rourke has left the band, which puts the focus back on the original husband and wife pair of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon. Gordon's songs make excellent use of her breathy chantruse-like voice, which purrs on the come-hither slongs like "What a Waste" and "Turquoise Boy" while the opening "Reena" and "Jams Run Free" have some more driving elements woven in. Moore also seems in a mellow mood, contributing the haunted "Do You Believe in Rapture?" before finally upping the ante with "Sleepin' Around." Since the band no longer has anything to prove they are free from having to conform to any genre and deliver a very good record that proves that there's a lot of life in the old band yet.

Mission of Burma are contemporaries of Sonic Youth, making their original splash in the Boston postpunk scene with a series of singles in the early eighties and then breaking up soon after. They had a triumphant return last year with a reunion tour and very well received album OnOffOn, and this new album consolidates their return. Older an wiser, the band incorporates humor and satire into their previously oh-so-serious music as the riotous "Nancy Regan's Head" shows. Blast furnace punk is still the order of the day and the opener "2wice" by this group of late forty somethings puts pouting young punks to shame. The interplay between guitarist Roger Miller, bassist Clint Conley and drummer Pete Prescott is near telepathic and the music maintains a high level throughout. No second acts in American music? Hard to believe...

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