After nearly 30 years in the business Sonic Youth has perfected its cool, super-hip, slightly sardonic sound, but The Eternal is meant to signal a departure: It’s the band’s first release on easy-going Matador after years with industry behemoth Geffen. A revived commitment to experimentation may be evident to a hardcore fan, but it sounds like a Sonic Youth album to me. There are some memorable hits—including “Antenna,” a 6-minute reverie on love and radio waves, the sexy-surfy “Malibu Gas Station,” and the woefully short “Sacred Trickster.” There’s also a miss or two, like the circus-disco art song “Anti-Orgasm,” which feels like somebody is trying too hard.
For me, Sonic Youth and making out are synonymous, which is why I’m mad that my boyfriend isn’t home right now. My first awkward smooches in the front seats of compact cars occurred to the soundtrack of Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star, and I can’t hear Kim Gordon’s voice without feeling a little woozy.
Like all Sonic Youth material, much of The Eternal blends into a continuous soundscape that can get boring, even with ex-Pavement member Mark Ibold on bass. But it works for road tripping—or for a romantic interlude in a Toyota Corolla.