Sonic Youth, HMV Forum, London

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The Independent Culture

Near the close of the show, a stool and an acoustic guitar were produced. Stool? Acoustic? This is Sonic Youth, right? I think the seating arrangement was ironic, while the acoustic guitar was used by Thurston Moore for a slow-burning rhythm on "Massage the History", with Kim Gordon and Lee Ranaldo knocking out squalls on electric guitars. New York's noisemakers haven't gone soft.

The gesture was one of several recent un-Sonic Youth-like moments: last year they put out a compilation through Starbucks; Kim Gordon designed a fashion range with Urban Outfitters; they had to cancel gigs because Lee Ranaldo hurt his wrist playing tennis and two weeks ago they appeared on Gossip Girl as a wedding band; some might cry sacrilege.

On the flipside, their contract with a major label, Geffen, has ended and they released their 16th album The Eternal on the independent Matador.

But 28 years after forming the band in the midst of the no wave, post-punk New York, Sonic Youth can still lay claim to being the coolest band around. Such nonchalance is displayed when, midway through the set, Thurston Moore says his amp sounds "foggy": a roadie spends a few moments attempting to fix it until Moore shrugs, and the band rip into another song. Throughout, the guitars power through crisply, while the band are energetic and tight. They also engaged with the issues of the day, after Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time. "Thanks for standing up to the BNF goons," Moore said. (Whether the "f" was an honest mistake or a conflation of the BNP with the National Front is unclear). Cue "Youth Against Fascism"? Too obvious. Instead they opted for "Anti-Orgasm", with Gordon and Moore trading lyrical barbs.

"Anti-Orgasm" was among a slew of tracks from their most recent album – only "Thunderclap for Bobby Pyn" didn't make the cut. An epic "Antenna", "Massage the History" and a roaring "What We Know" stood out. They do offer some trips into the archive with two songs from 1988's Daydream Nation and "Tom Violence" from 1986's EVOL; still as fresh as new paint.

There is something dependable about them; they're always exactly like themselves without lapsing into self-parody. They conclude the show with "What We Know" and "Death Valley '69", the former from 2009, the latter from 1984, both clear renditions of their singular noise. Eternally Sonic Youth.

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