Originally created 08/24/04

Sonic Youth has the cure with 'Nurse'



WASHINGTON - Recently, a nurse has been making the rounds - first to record stores, then at concert venues.

But this provider comes in the form of music, courtesy of Sonic Youth.

Arguably one of the most durable and consistently creative rock bands of the past 25 years, Sonic Youth (guitarists and vocalists Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, drummer Steve Shelley and guitarist/studio mix master Jim O'Rourke), has hit another stride in its long-running musical explorations with its latest effort, Sonic Nurse (Geffen).

Before a recent gig, Mr. Moore and Mr. Ranaldo took time to talk about the new release and the band's musical approach.

Over the course of 19 albums, Sonic Youth has repeatedly exhibited an ability to produce a record unlike its previous effort. Yet some fans and music observers view Sonic Nurse as the third installment in a trilogy of Sonic Youth albums that started with the album NYC Ghost and Flowers in 2000 and continued with Murray Street in 2002.

But that's not necessarily so, according to the band.

"That wasn't a serious thing, the whole trilogy thing," Mr. Moore said. "Byron Coley (music writer) came up with that. We had him write a press release for us for New York City Ghost and Flowers, and he said that this was the beginning of a trilogy about the geography of New York City. And since then ... That's the No. 1 question we're asked."

Although the band's recent albums have distinct identities, Sonic Nurse does build on and echo the rich textures of Murray Street.

"They're produced more gracefully," Mr. Renaldo said of the two albums. "They're not as aggressively in your face in the way they're produced. I remember when we first finished Murray Street, I kind of thought that Jim (O'Rourke) almost had laid back a little bit. With some of those songs, when we were writing them and making them up, I was like 'this is really rocking and kicking and fierce.' And then when we mixed it, it was kind of restrained a little bit. I think he carried that further on into the new record. But we kind of learned to like that, because we spent so long trying to get the records to, like, jump out of the speakers at you in a way."

Sonic Nurse features more than its share of sharp guitar riffs and rhythmic eruptions, particularly on numbers such as the opener Pattern Recognition and Stones. Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream (aka Mariah Carey and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream) zeroes in on the emotional meltdown of pop diva Mariah Carey, while Paper Cup Exit and the wistful Peace Attack convey an underlying discontent with the current political and social scene, but not in an overt manner.

"We write about what's happening," said Mr. Ranaldo, who wrote Paper Cup Exit.

The integration of feedback and different sonic elements with melody and rhythm has been a cornerstone of the Sonic Youth creative identity. This naturally has led to characterizations of the band's music as art, experimental or alternative rock.

"The idea was always to do a like a real hybrid of like pop music and kind of noise music," Mr. Moore explained. "I think it's definitely more less delineation between those two ideas. We were always trying to do a really unified thing."