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Sonic Youth's 

The Eternal (Matador)

Over the band's 28-year career, Sonic Youth has recorded several landmark albums, a few of which (Sister, Dirty and Daydream Nation, perhaps the band's most groundbreaking and influential masterpiece) continue to be regarded as yardsticks for anything they subsequently offer. You can now add The Eternal, their 16th, as another one of those recordings.

From the opening dissonance of the ferocious "Sacred Trickster" (Kim Gordon's rasp and wail sounding as feverish as ever), the album never surrenders a sustained focus and intensity that hasn't been witnessed since Daydream Nation. And through the middle two movements---starting with the big, beautiful "Antenna," all the way to the serene noise meditation "Thunderclap for Bobby Pyn"---Sonic Youth has you firmly by the throat. These middle six tracks are punishing and relentless. There's little relief until the album closer "Massage The History," a nine-minute anguished epic with its denouement of a single note bassline and drum beat that gently recedes like a fading heartbeat.

No doubt, the recent addition of second bassist (ex-Pavement) Mark Ibold has provided some youthful re-invigoration. But the most appreciable difference is Steve Shelley's propulsive drumming---the catalyst around which these songs (and band members) coalesce.

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