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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Sonic Youth
Sonic Nurse
DGC Records

Rating: 9/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Entertainers don't make good politicians. I'm reminded of this every time I hear "American Idiot" on the radio or see a news story about Bono meeting with world leaders in his stupid sunglasses. It's not that musicians are uninformed about the political sphere, but I feel uneasy taking advice from showbiz types. I agree with Billie-Joe Armstrong when he croons about Dubya being a moron, but unfortunately he sings like an idiot himself. The message is over-simplified and is as politically valuable as a pre-teen saying "Damn the man!"

Luckily, Sonic Youth know the importance of subtlety. Sonic Nurse is a political album because it was written during a time when America was and is still at war with an abstract concept and led by a man that has come to symbolize small-mindedness and stale traditionalism - it would be impossible not to make a political album.

However, many of the songs don't reference the president or American politics directly. In typical Youth fashion, each song locks on to a pop-culture target and guns it down. "Mariah Carey and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream" is a hilarious criticism of that she-beast responsible for the movie Glitter; "How was your date with Eminem?/Did he bake you and then forsake you?/Is innocence still gonna overtake you?" Like two enlightened bullies, Gordon and Moore take swings at the consumer culture that put Arnold Schwarzenegger in office in the hopes that we wouldn't make the same mistake come November.

We now know that that didn't happen, but the pre-election optimism of Sonic Nurse gives the album a sense of control; the six minute atonal guitar squeals or Kim Gordon scream-fests of yesteryear are replaced by thought-out riffs and understated lyrics. Though they are not as youthful as they once were, the years have been kind to Sonic Youth. Gordon's lyrics are as biting as ever, and Moore has never sounded as cool. "Stones" combines the wizened swagger of a band that has seen it all with the vitality that Sonic Youth have always had. Halfway through "I Love Golden Blue," you would expect Kim Gordon to start wailing, but the song ends with a whimper instead of a bang. The Youth is as angry as ever, but it is a constructive, healthy, seething anger.

The two most political songs appear towards the end of the album. "Paper Cup Exit" is a brilliant call to the voting booths, as Moore sings "I don't mind if you sing a different song/just as long as you sing/sing along." This sounds like Gideon Yago's plea to "Rock the Vote," or P. Diddy's weird "Vote or Die" campaign, only smarter. Likewise, the hyper-mellow "Peace Attack" slyly questions Bush's bellicosity saying "Springtime is wartime."

In a few months, American Idiot will be slammed away in the vault reserved for dated songs, shelved next to that song by the New Radicals that rhymes Marilyn Manson with Hanson. Sonic Nurse, however, will stay fresh because it relies on subtlety, not blatancy. As was the case with Murray Street, the band's reaction to 9/11, Sonic Nurse is an album in touch with its cultural surroundings, and in doing so gives us a vocabulary to understand how we feel about our world.

Reviewed by Andy Brown
A regular contributor to LAS, Andy Brown lives in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, but doesn\'t think he has an accent.

See other reviews by Andy Brown



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