Murray Street

How do you respond to unnatural disaster? That question is a prime motivator for Sonic Youth. In the Eighties the band rose from punk and postmodernism to survey the battered beauty of late-century civilization, gravitating toward such subjects as teen angst and serial killers, artfully jacking in to the world's confusion. Most of all, Sonic Youth rose from New York, their detuned guitar harmonies minding the gap between subways and skyscrapers. Then, last September, New York was trashed — a plane engine landed on Murray Street, where Sonic Youth record. Like everyone else, the group had to step up and help make disaster livable. Murray Street is that effort, fusing pop and noise because that's how life is now, equal parts ordinary and unknown.The formal balance on Murray Street is familiar, with sound tweaker Jim O'Rourke a seamless addition. Thurston Moore's rockboy pout is more convincing than ever on most cuts, especially the superhummable "Disconnection Notice." Lee Ranaldo's singular, meditative tracks often center SY albums; here, his "Karen Revisited" shares that honor with "Sympathy for the Strawberry," Kim Gordon's latest expression of her shadow self. A third standout, "Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style," features saxophone, of all things, and the equilibrium isn't even nudged.Murray Street achieves that rare thing for any band — real consistency. It's the band's gift to its broken home, a set of good songs, a lesson in reconciliation.