Album: Sonic Youth <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

Rather Ripped, GEFFEN
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The Independent Culture

Back to a quartet again with the departure of the sonic auxiliary Jim O'Rourke, Sonic Youth turn in one of their tighter, more focused sets with Rather Ripped, an album named after a celebrated underground comic book. It opens at the catchier end of the SY aesthetic with "Reena", which could almost be a straight-up pop song were it not for the typically oblique changes that lend a peppery edge to its hummability. Indeed, so typical have their once-perverse melodic twists become that it's now possible to predict the course of tracks such as "Jams Run Free" and "Sleepin' Around", the way their serpentine tunes habitually take the odd route through flats and sharps, favouring the bitter over the sweet. As "What a Waste" suggests, with its echoes of "Hong Kong Garden", it's a trope traceable to the early Banshees, here elected to a compositional principle. When it works, the effect is bracing, as in the blend of plaintive vocal, guitar harmonics and churning noise that makes up "Do You Believe In Rapture?", or the astringent combination of arpeggios and smouldering lead guitar in "Turquoise Boy"; but elsewhere, "Pink Steam" is a chugger, and "Incinerate" follows a drier, more methodical course.

DOWNLOAD THIS: 'Reena', 'Do You Believe in Rapture?', 'Turquoise Boy'