One can argue that two different sides make up the musical career of Sonic Youth. Some fans favor the short, pop oriented song structure of albums such as Dirty or Goo while others wish for the more avant-garde, experimental work displayed on the SYR albums. Fortunately, Murray Street seems to be a near perfect blend of the two sides.
For beginners, the entire seven-song, 45 minute effort contains absolutely no filler, a rare achievement compared to most of today's modern output. But then again, when has Sonic Youth ever adhered to convention? "Rain on Tin" builds up slowly, with the guitars changing melodies over Kim Gordon's bass lines and eventually reaching a thundering climax, only to make a quiet and improvisational return to the song's roots upon exiting. Lee Renaldo's "Karen Revisited," whose intriguing lyrics describe an "acid queen," grooves amidst swirling guitar noise, only to break into an eight minute long wall of feedback and distortion.
Besides featuring a superb vocal performance by Thurston Moore, "Disconnection Notice" has a surprisingly catchy melody, yet still features signature guitar noises that seamlessly make themselves part of the song. Distortion and detuned guitars introduce Kim Gordon's haunting tale on "Sympathy for the Strawberry" as she discusses her shadow self. "Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style" showcases brash sonic soundscapes, yet maintains focus and vision throughout allowing it's brilliance to shine through.
Sonic Youth has produced a combination of noise and pop that not only showcases their musicianship but results in an album that the listener needs to pay attention to over and over again to appreciate their efforts. Perhaps not as groundbreaking as some of their previous work, Murray Street instead is a remarkable testament of the consistency of the band that exemplifies the antithesis of modern pop music. - Zach Smith