What is there to say about the forthcoming Sonic Youth record? It certainly is very good, and just about as good as anything the legendary alternative act has done this decade. We fear the band is slipping into the same groove as Stereolab, which is to say the band has proven its music dependably good and compelling for so long that, well, it is sometimes more interesting to talk about personnel changes than the records we all know will be very good. Yes, Kim Gordon sings more on this one than on recent records. Yes, Jim O'Rourke has moved on and former Pavement bassist and Free Kitten member Mark Ibold will apparently be manning the four-string for the Youth summer tour. Yes, the band was on "Gilmore Girls" last week. Yes, that was pretty weird. But what to say about the music on Rather Ripped?
It's a very listenable set, roundly excellent and something we expect we'll play to death by the end of the summer. The music seems even more coventional than that found on the 2004 set, Sonic Nurse, which in turn was somewhat more conventional than Murray Street. In places on Rather Ripped the guitar work recalls Unrest ("Reena"), The Velvet Underground ("Sleepin' Around") and even The Allman Brothers (at the front end of the solo on "Incinerate"), but for the most part the set reliably delivers the classic jousting of Thurston Moore's and Lee Ranaldo's guitars. The conventionality of the arrangements is perhaps most evident on Moore's "Do You Believe In Rapture?" and the Gordon-sung opener "Reena." Skip ahead to "What A Waste" and "Rats" for the familiar discordance and vitriol. The set's most singular number is Moore's beat poetry-inflected and hypnotic rumination "Or." Rather Ripped is as reliable as summer, and is probably as good a summer alternative rock record as you'll hear this year. No need to sell this record too hard: We know you'll be buying anyway. Rather Ripped streets June 13.
[Stream Rather Ripped here]
[Pre-order Rather Ripped from Insound here]