In 2007 I was lucky enough to see Sonic Youth play their landmark 1988 album Daydream Nation in its entirety. From opener “Teen Age Riot” to the closing “Trilogy: Eliminator Jr.,” it was awesome. For an encore, they played some new material, and a palpable wave of disappointment came over the graying heads of the crowd. I have thought of Sonic Youth as one of my favorite bands for something like 25 years now, but sometime in the mid-’90s I stopped buying all the band’s new albums and just went to the occasional show instead. As much as I loved the old albums, I thought I didn’t really need any more Sonic Youth songs in my life.
Last year’s record The Eternal might have changed my mind. It’s the first Sonic Youth album to feature new bassist Mark Ibold (of Pavement), it’s the first to feature harmony vocals (apparently, it took them 15 albums before they figured out they could do that), and it’s the first to come out on Matador Records (a record company that has been releasing many records that sound like Sonic Youth for more than 20 years). But, as the title suggests, there’s nothing really new about The Eternal. It mostly serves up a familiar mix of oddly tuned guitars clanging like bells, oddly sung vocals, lyrics steeped in pop culture and the art world, and Steve Shelley’s inhumanly steady drumming. But this time, the songs are more concise than they have been in years. It just flat-out rocks. Listening to The Eternal, I can’t imagine living without this band’s music in my life.
SONIC YOUTH: House of Blues, Thursday, January 7, 7 p.m. 619-299-2583. $27.50.