Monday, December 20, 2004

Not the records of the year, part one:

Sonic Youth - Sonic Nurse.
Well, hmm, not quite, I mean. Obviously this was better than pretty much every other record this year but following 'Murray Street' was always going to be hard, and 'Sonic Nurse' was only about 50% as good as I wanted it to be. Which is to say that O'Rourke's production and bassline duties continue to inject new vigour in a band who - impossibly - seem to have plenty of youthful vigour already, the guitar on 'Unmade Bed' (and elsewhere) is heartbreakingly lovely, the songs regularly visit and revisit beautiful new avenues, Kim is on better form than we've seen for some time... Well, you get the idea. Nevertheless, it doesn't feel like a leap forward (actually it matches much of their late 80s stuff in mood at times) and, y'know... this is Sonic Youth, so we set our standards high.

Libertines - The Libertines.
Well, hmm, not quite, I mean. Obviously this was better than pretty much every other record this year but... ah, no, only joking. I tried really hard to like this one, and even put together a reasonable defence of it's shoddiness on these pages. But - a few months later - it sounds bloody awful; desperately short on songs. 'Can't Stand Me Now', admittedly, is pretty great, but there's no other reason to listen to this LP, but for morbid fascination in the band's downfall.

The Walkmen - Bows And Arrows
Although I could probably squeeze it into the other catagory - this is a record you need to hear if you can, although perhaps not one to rush straight out for. In part recalling the really under-rated Jonathan Fire*Eater, in whom The Walkmen have their roots, part The Wedding Present (that frenetic guitar sound), they also - like a few of those NYC bands we can't avoid these days - sound a bit like (gulp) early U2. Now, I admit I loved this record unreservedly until I realised that, but it can't help taking the gloss off things... Still, in 'The Rat' The Walkmen gave us maybe the best single of the year, if not the very best album.

4 comments:

Andrew Brown said...

I think you're too harsh on Sonic Youth, given where they were going with things until Murray Street, this is the continuation of a revival. In with the other hard hitters from the old school (Beasties in particular).

On the other had you're right about the Libertines, wanted to like it, but one song don't make an album. It's like Elastica all over again.

jonathan said...

Yep, probably a bit harsh on SY, I admit that. It is a pretty great album. Ben from Silent Words Speaks Loudest said the same thing as you last time I mentioned I was a little underwhelmed by it.

I didn't get the Beastie Boys album, actually. You definitely recommend it then? Hmmm.

Andrew Brown said...

Definitely recommend it, for what that's worth.

Ben said...

Interestingly, when I first got Sonic Nurse I felt like you. I was interested to see where they'd go next, and was slightly disappointed to find they seemed to have decided to tread water for the first time in their career. Unlike you, I never once thought it inferior to Murray Street though, and after a while the strength of the songs won me over. I always try to judge new SY albums objectively, as if they were the debut album by some new act rather than by my favourite bunch of ageing New Yorkers, but it's just impossible!