As a teenager, once I got over the total, utter, complete sell-out of Sonic Youth moving from legendary indie labels like Homestead and SST to undeniably major label Geffen in 1990, it was obvious pretty quickly that nothing had changed for the band. While my interest seemingly waned after Experimental Jetset, a quick scan through the back-catalogue reveals that I have inadvertently absorbed every major release - and none could be described as disappointing or flat. After releasing 9 albums with the label, Sonic Youth left Geffen in 2007, before pulling the typically left-field move of releasing a greatest hits exclusively through Starbucks, then self-re-released Master Dik and finally settling with Matador for the release of The Eternal.
While The Eternal is being promoted as something of a new chapter for the band, there's no need to reset your expectations - and you're certainly in no danger of being disappointed. Early single Sacred Trickster kicks things off, before the abrasive pummel of Anti-orgasm lets you know the band have lost none of their power - or their ability to craft a catchy tune. The sing-a-long style of Leaky Lifeboat (For Gregory Corso) sits comfortably alongside the screeching rock of Calming The Snake, making for a strangely cohesive record.
Jim O'Rourke may have departed in 2005, but the open slot in the line-up made room for former Pavement bassist Mark Ibold and his contribution is note worthy here, providing a focused spine through many of the songs that the guitars swirl closely around. The best songs on the album follow the same pattern that my Sonic favourites always did: a simmering, bubbling pot of sound that harnesses the power of a storm and takes its shape as a subtly catchy leviathan. Antenna, What We Know, Malibu Gas Station - there's more than a handful of excellent tracks on here that will disappoint no one.
While 2006's Rather Ripped and Thurston Moore's own solo album have arguably moved the band into a more conventionally structured sequence of songs, it's easy to forget how much the musical landscape has shifted since the band's early, pioneering albums of the 80s. The feedback drenched sounds of Sister or Daydream Nation are now considered essential listening - due to the popularity of the 90s alternative explosion that Sonic Youth helped enable. As a result, it's easy not to appreciate how radical a custom-tuned 9.43 minute closing track like Massage The History may have once seemed.
While the girls may be commenting how good Kim Gordon's legs are for a 56 year old, I'm just happy that the band have kept their ambition and refusal to conform. It may not be so much of a new chapter, but at least The Eternal is the continuing story of an old favourite.
9th Jun 2009 - Tumblr3.5
Brixton Academy, London
Turn The Lights Out
(dir. Jeff Feuerzeig)
Queen Elizabeth Hall
Intense, mournful coming-of-age drama. Very stylish and operatic. Terrence Mallick via John Singleton.
21st Oct 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Intricately plotted, but seamlessly crafted into a lighthearted modern classic.
20th Oct 2017Read more 5 star reviews
Belated sequel that remixes the original with some success, but the nostalgia runs a little thin.
15th Oct 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
A Beautiful Mind meets the A-Team. Convoluted actioner that doesn’t transcend its premise.
11th Oct 2017Read more 2.5 star reviews
Solid, uplifting biopic. Well structured with moments of real tension despite the inevitable ending. And 91m.
11th Oct 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Good visuals, nice music, flabby storytelling and a confusing plot. A worthy sequel.
6th Oct 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Convoluted, charmless sequel. A rare misfire from Pixar.
17th Sep 2017Read more 2 star reviews
Andrea Arnold transplants her class observations to the US. Unforgivably long, if beautifully shot.
17th Sep 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Billie Joe Armstrong plays a former star dealing with 40. Good concept, rendered as flat as possible.
16th Sep 2017Read more 2 star reviews
Woefully inept, on-the-nose sci-fi romance. A reasonable concept executed in the worst way possible.
10th Sep 2017Read more 1.5 star reviews
Nicely directed, but a true story often doesn’t make for a well shaped film.
31st Aug 2017Read more 2.5 star reviews
Over-complicated, over-stylised mess from a director who clearly fluked his debut.
30th Aug 2017Read more 2.5 star reviews
Overlooked Dr. Suess adaptation from the Minions guys. Charming, but lacking a stand out character.
30th Aug 2017Read more 2.5 star reviews
Utterly standard undercover cop gets in too deep movie.
29th Aug 2017Read more 2.5 star reviews
Stylish modern sci-fi with a clever structure, but it's still a film about subtitled aliens.
24th Aug 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Clever, quirky, black comedy parable that runs out of steam.
23rd Aug 2017Read more 3 star reviews
Despite the good press, it's another shapeless, bloated one-dimensional rough cut from Christopher Nolan.
17th Aug 2017Read more 2.5 star reviews
Ambitious CGI can’t save this bland comic book entry. Cumberbatch’s accent strikes the death blow.
17th Aug 2017Read more 2.5 star reviews
Unchallenging drama investigating life with eating disorders. Occasional Keanu Reeves.
12th Aug 2017Read more 2.5 star reviews
Flawless new-generation animation from Disney. Action, heart, comedy and very catchy songs.
6th Aug 2017Read more 4 star reviews
Intense, terrifying, riveting thriller from Tom Ford. Great performances and assured direction.
22nd Jul 2017Read more 4 star reviews
Reasonable zombie drama. More rewarding than Walking Dead, but still a bit derivative.
14th Jul 2017Read more 3 star reviews
Intense, borderline arthouse Canadian kidnap drama from Atom Egoyan. Ryan Reynolds impresses.
8th Jul 2017Read more 4 star reviews
Self-important, slightly contrived mainstream indie with the one with the good hair from Friends.
8th Jul 2017Read more 3 star reviews
More clichéd Terrence Malick. Amazing cinematography. Meandering improv. Great real-world settings.
6th Jul 2017Read more 3 star reviews
Brutal 80s TV movie, imagining nuclear winter. Age has blended the stock footage to horrifying perfection.
3rd Jul 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Surprisingly charming, sentimental, old style movie with no need for an antagonist. Plus, solid DeNiro.
1st Jul 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Never Go Back
Serviceable action sequel that ticks a lot of boxes without thinking outside of any.
27th Jun 2017Read more 3 star reviews
Totally predictable, thoroughly inspiring animated sing-a-long for the X-Factor generation.
24th Jun 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
B-list, mis-cast, low-ball girl gang comedy. Weak.
19th Jun 2017Read more 1.5 star reviews
Catastrophically miscast black comedy that fails at every turn. Big let down from star and director.
11th Jun 2017Read more 2 star reviews
Effortless retread of a show that survived well past it's sell-by date.
29th May 2017Read more 1.5 star reviews
Codswallop that's as indecipherable as every other recent DC movie. Terrible script, hammy acting.
22nd May 2017Read more 1.5 star reviews
Chaotic, bloated sequel. Low on humour and mostly involving bad guys flying through plate glass.
17th May 2017Read more 2.5 star reviews
Lazy, half-baked remake/reboot, totally lacking in charm.
17th May 2017Read more 2 star reviews
Wafer thin parenting parable, barely coasting along on the charm of Ferrell and Wahlberg.
16th May 2017Read more 2 star reviews
Classic western tropes burn slowly to an intense finale. Classic Jeff Bridges.
12th May 2017Read more 4 star reviews
Tired, pointless rehash of a franchise that long ran out of steam.
6th May 2017Read more 3 star reviews
Stooges doc that is interesting by default, but dull given that Jim Jarmusch is behind the camera.
28th Apr 2017Read more 2.5 star reviews
Poingiant doc of the latest Bad Seeds album. Still falls into the usual making-of box.
26th Apr 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Stylish, thought-provoking indie contemplating the weighty responsibilities of parenthood.
22nd Apr 2017Read more 4 star reviews
Great 90s blockbuster, with Harrison Ford carrying the movie on top finger-wagging form.
18th Mar 2017Read more 5 star reviews
Accomplished character piece. Almost stretches itself a bit thin, but it's stylish enough to transcend.
18th Mar 2017Read more 4 star reviews
Dated indie classic that uses music to create pseudo-sentimental highs of little real substance.
18th Mar 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Engaging, nostalgic doc which meanders through the rise and rise of 1995’s greatest band ever.
14th Mar 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Quintessential Gus Van Zant. Great art direction, acting and photography. Possibly better with age.
7th Mar 2017Read more 4 star reviews
Confident indie comedy-thriller that pitches itself perfectly.
4th Mar 2017Read more 4 star reviews
Thoughtful character study, with Eddie Marsan standing up for those who slip through the cracks.
26th Feb 2017Read more 3.5 star reviews
Brutally fast paced meta-fest, backed up by the most sensible bat-plot for a long time.
16th Feb 2017Read more 4 star reviews