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Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped (Cover Artwork)

Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth: Rather RippedRather Ripped (2006)
Universal Music Group

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:


Contributed by: AubinAubin
(others by this writer | submit your own)

The trouble with Sonic Youth, if there is one, is that they are a rock critic's band; their albums are awash with allusions to obscure art-punk and odd art forms, their sound is noisy and difficult, and their songs are delivered with the self-aware reflection of kids with too many records, and yet d.
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The trouble with Sonic Youth, if there is one, is that they are a rock critic's band; their albums are awash with allusions to obscure art-punk and odd art forms, their sound is noisy and difficult, and their songs are delivered with the self-aware reflection of kids with too many records, and yet despite that, they've delivered a succession of progressive, confounding and remarkable albums; from the twin classics Goo and Daydream Nation to their ironic tribute to radio rock on Murray Street, they've maintained an air of quirky cool for nearly 25 years.

From Thurston's dry whispers, to Kim's sexy sneer, the washes of noise and beat-up Converse sneakers, Sonic Youth has always managed to be hopelessly idolized and relatable at the same time, and yet the band has always proven difficult to understand for mainstream audiences. Sure, we can all talk about their majestic use of distortion, but it always ends up with the non-geek asking "why the fuck is he hitting his guitar with a screwdriver?" Well, with Rather Ripped, the band has finally delivered a record with enough to geek out the most jaded music critic, and simultaneously produced a record that is the most immediately accessible and tautly written in a decade.

A record with a concept, Rather Ripped is Sonic Youth's attempt to shoehorn their sound into tight four-minute songs and manages to succeed admirably; the opener "Reena" sounds like Jets to Brazil gone shoegaze, and that is definitely a circular comparison you're bound to run into. Just as Schwarzenbach's Jets took Jawbreaker and ran it through a Sonic Youth machine, Ripped independently reaches the same conclusion. Tracks like "Do You Believe in Rapture?" and "Lights Out" are designed to have you staring at your shoes.

That's not to say that the band has abandoned their facination with noise, just coupled it with a little restraint; while "What a Waste" begins with a note of squealing feedback, the track doesn't spend two minutes in instrumental noise as it might have a few years prior, instead the band layering the bursts of noise over Deal's chorus.

That said, the highlight of the album is still perhaps its longest track, the nearly instrumental "Pink Steam," a track which couples some thick distortion with a strong harmonized lead guitar melody and spends most of its running time without a vocal. The similarly ambitious "Turquoise Boy" takes the classic Sonic Youth approach, building slowly before delivering a explosive crescendo.

A band that has managed to be a peer of the Replacements and Nirvana and an influence on everyone from My Bloody Valentine to Mono doesn't need more praise and acclaim, but with Rather Ripped they certainly earn it.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Anonymous (July 10, 2006)

"i seem to remember them getting another big surge in popularity around the time i was getting out of high school and going into my freshman year of college in '95, which would have been while grunge was still fairly big."

This is true, they rode the grunge wave (due essentially to Dirty and their association with the 'alternative' scene), but the fact remains that they were a respected and established band long before the term grunge was ever coined.

Anonymous (July 10, 2006)

"People that still wear flannel and love movies like Singles, Empire Records < i> & Reality Bites are stoked."

People who reference irrelevant punk webzines that start with 'buddy' and end with 'head' are stoked.

Anonymous (July 10, 2006)

It seems SY have been putting out mostly "decent" records since Goo and this is no exception. Not particular good, not particularly bad just... Sonic Youth. It's their job.

I don't think we'll ever be seeing another Daydream Nation.

kill_fftl (July 9, 2006)

sonic youth? more like sonic old

plaidical (July 9, 2006)

I can't get into Daydream Nation, but I like this record

jacknife737 (July 9, 2006)

"besides wearing flannel clothing and having long greasy hair and talking about clerks and reality bites"

God i miss the 90s

Defeated (July 8, 2006)

As Do I....

GreenVandal (July 8, 2006)

But...I only have one.

darkstarm (July 8, 2006)

Oh my god. May a cow vomit on all your houses.

GreenVandal (July 8, 2006)

Nah, semicolons have their uses. WIthout them, some sentences would read like how a robot talks; you dont always need that full stop. Everyone seems to have a different use for the damn things though, and Mr. Aubin decided to use em to create the king of all run-on sentences.

Defeated (July 8, 2006)

First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you've been to college.

- Kurt Vonnegut

DenBez (July 8, 2006)

I haven't liked a Sonic Youth record since Washing Machine. Does that make me a douchebag?

Anonymous (July 7, 2006)

sonic youth are punk fucking rock. simply put..more punk rock than any other band ever mentioned on this lame-o site. sonic youth for fucking life! long live mother fucking sonic youth!

Anonymous (July 7, 2006)

Semicolons: Literature's Tampax.

GreenVandal (July 7, 2006)

My god Aubin! Two semicolons in one paragraph-long sentence? Are you afraid of periods?

I like this record.

SlowStupidHungry (July 7, 2006)

I don't really think of grunge guys when I think of Sonic Youth. Their music definitely goes a lot deeper than that movement- I mean, their first album came out in 83 or something. Their big hit song "Kool Thing" sounds like a slow, bluesy punk song, with none of the annoying vocal work or boring guitar parts that trademarked grunge. Oh yeah, and I found out when I was listening to the Crime CD that they completely ripped off the riff from "Piss On Your Dog" for that song. Even if lots of "guys in flannel" are "stoked," I think lots of more people with decent taste in music are. Sonic Youth, though not a great band to me, are still really cool and have their great moments. Their music doesn't really confine itself to one crowd.

kingofsuck (July 7, 2006)

Just to add my two cents, Sonic Youth were considered a "grunge" band at the time the trend was popular. To the general public who hadn't heard of Sonic Youth before that period, they were very much a grunge band. I don't consider Sonic Youth to be a grunge band, but I also don't even consider Nirvana to be a grunge band because I can't stand the term. And sickboi makes a good point about The Year Punk Broke. If you had seen it, you would quit bitching about Sonic Youth being called a grunge band.

skolarx (July 7, 2006)

i think you largely nailed that one in the first line of your question. when they were here a couple years ago it was the same crowd that i saw at the 2 NIN shows i've seen in the past year and also at a few other shows of bands who were big around that time period.

its probably something a lot like a ramones crowd, people from all walks of life, and all ages for that matter but the ones you notice were the ones who looked like clones of the ramones themselves.

joeg (July 7, 2006)

"plus if you have ever seen sonic youth live, their crowd largely is living in the early 90's still. therefore sickboi's joke makes perfect sense."

besides wearing flannel clothing and having long greasy hair and talking about clerks and reality bites, what else is distinctly a sonic youth crowd that is still "living in the early 90s"? because i saw them a few weeks ago and i saw people of every walk of life and scene there from punks and metal guys to hipsters and just plain normal looking people and everyone from young teenagers to people in their 40s and 50s.

sickboi (July 7, 2006)

Skolar -

These kids have obviously never seen the documentary "The Year Punk Broke"...

skolarx (July 7, 2006)

to everyone yapping about sonic youth being big before the grunge explosion, i seem to remember them getting another big surge in popularity around the time i was getting out of high school and going into my freshman year of college in '95, which would have been while grunge was still fairly big. plus if you have ever seen sonic youth live, their crowd largely is living in the early 90's still. therefore sickboi's joke makes perfect sense.

kingofsuck (July 7, 2006)

way to steal your jokes from buddyhead.

It's not really stealing a joke when it's an obvious reference.

sickboi (July 7, 2006)

I obviously ripped off Buddyhead...I do it all the time...

Anonymous (July 7, 2006)

"People that still wear flannel and love movies like Singles, Empire Records < i> & Reality Bites are stoked."

way to steal your jokes from buddyhead. also sonic youth got really popular around '86-'88, which was significantly BEFORE the grunge explosion. AND their fanbase has very little to do with all that. good job at making yourself sound like a jackass.

rkl (July 7, 2006)

slackmfr: sickboi's comment was a buddyhead reference...

score is for people getting their panties in a wad over references they dont understand

kingofsuck (July 7, 2006)

Sickboi is near-sighted and obviously stupid. Sonic Youth has been around much longer than the grunge era. I guess being ignorant you wouldn't know that.

I'm sure he knows that. I'm aware that Sonic Youth was around well before the "grunge" era, but I still thought it was funny.

SlackMFr (July 7, 2006)

Sickboi is near-sighted and obviously stupid. Sonic Youth has been around much longer than the grunge era. I guess being ignorant you wouldn't know that.

Anonymous (July 7, 2006)

it's got nothing on many previous releases like dirty, washing machine and i'm even almost tempted to say murray street is more enjoyable...

Anonymous (July 7, 2006)

People that still wear flannel

hey! a good piece of flannel never hurt anyone.

- APK

manifesto (July 7, 2006)

I was at the store 3 days ago to buy American V and I saw this. I was about to buy it but I thought I should listen to it before. But judging by all the great reviews and what I heard of the record, I'll buy it.

notfeelingcreative (July 7, 2006)

Yeah, definately cool to see that the breeders are alive and well! Wait....

sickboi (July 7, 2006)

People that still wear flannel and love movies like Singles, Empire Records < i> & Reality Bites are stoked.

hungryjoe (July 7, 2006)

A few thoughts:

The last 3 albums have all had one fantastic pop song. "The Empty Page", "Unmade Bed" and now "Incinerate".

"Incinerate" has something I've never heard before in Sonic Youth song, after 20 albums...that little "hoo-hoo-hoo-yeah" about 90 seconds in. I love it.

"Sleepin' Around" sounds like something from Dirty.

robg (July 7, 2006)

Never been huge into sonic youth, but I like what I've hear (this, Goo, and daydream nation). This is pretty good.

SlowStupidHungry (July 7, 2006)

"Tracks like “Do You Believe in Rapture?” and “Lights Out” are designed to have you staring at your shoes."

I though shoe-gazer came from the fact that those bands spend most of their time on stage looking at distortion pedals and switching them up. I'm not sure, though.

LevitateMe (July 7, 2006)

Incinerate is so good.

kingofsuck (July 7, 2006)

I really liked this review, Aubin. But you'll never live down confusing Kim Gordon with Kim Deal. There goes your music geek cred!

etwiels88 (July 7, 2006)

I liked this review.

youwinalemon (July 7, 2006)

I was so hoping this would be an Aubin review.

This record is really, really good. It's not mind-blowing by any means, but it's solid and memorable, which is about all I hoped for.

Anonymous (July 7, 2006)

"too many" records?!?..

Archangel (July 7, 2006)

Great review, I agree with almost all of it EXCEPT: Deal?

disko (July 7, 2006)

"Jams Run Free" is the best song on the album, I think. After seeing them play it live, it stands out even more.

It's amazing that Sonic Youth can keep putting out relevant, interesting records.

joeg (July 7, 2006)

This is one of my favorites so far this year. In a funny way, when a lot of people including myself were expecting a return to all out noise after sonic nurse, they turn around and went even poppier. But great songs regardless, especially Kim's whose I felt were her strongest in awhile. Lee comes through again with Rats.

hey_sailor (July 7, 2006)

I pretty much agree with everything said in the review..."Incinerate" is one of the highlights of the album for me, though...

IHateJones (July 7, 2006)

All the little somethings that made SY awesome just weren't here. Or I guess to counter the review, not geeky enough and certainly not ripped enough

SlackMFr (July 7, 2006)

"instead the band layering the bursts of noise over Deal's chorus. "

Deal's chorus? You mean Gordon's? This ain't The Pixies Ms. Reviewer.

blake88 (July 7, 2006)

another album for indie scenesters to say they like even though they really dont to make girls with scarves think theyre cool.

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