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Sonic Youth's "The Eternal": Most Diverse Record Yet from Indie-Rock Vets

February 18, 2009 5:48 PM ET

Sonic Youth's new album The Eternal isn't out until June 9th, but Rolling Stone caught the first preview of the indie-rock legends' sixteenth record, which finds the crew leaving the clasp of major-label-dom for the more comfortable confines of independent label Matador. Recorded last year with producer John Agnello in Hoboken, New Jersey, The Eternal is predictably stellar. The 12 tracks touch on all of the styles Sonic Youth have experimented with over the years, from no-wave noise blowouts circa their self-titled debut ("Anti-Orgasm") to the sharply written power-pop songs of Goo and Dirty ("Sacred Trickster," "Antenna") to the mellower, more-ruminative tracks of their underrated gem A Thousand Leaves (the almost-10-minute closer "Massage the History").

On Sonic Youth's last record, Rather Ripped, the group pared down to a foursome after guitarist-bassist Jim O'Rourke left. But this time around, they're back up to a quintet, with Pavement's Mark Ibold joining in on bass. And for the first time since Moore and Ranaldo shared vocals on "Unwind" (off 1995's Washing Machine), Gordon, Ranaldo and Moore team up on vocal harmonies, best heard on the tracks "What We Know" and "Leaky Lifeboat."

Early pick for the album's best track: "Malibu Gas Station," a fierce, tightly wound rocker anchored by Steve Shelley's insanely precise beat and Moore and Ranaldo's sparking guitar chords. Production notes for the track say that it's "an ode to the flash moment of the camera as you knowingly step from your SUV sans panties." (Lindsay Lohan, anyone?) With a subject like that, you know Gordon — a California native — is on lead vocals. And her contribution puts the track over the top when she quips in her feral-kitten purr lyrics like "I can't move faster/ My face feels plastered." You'll feel the same way when the record hits stores in June.

Related Stories:

Sonic Youth's June Album "Replete With Juicy Supersonic Songs"
Sonic Youth Sign to Matador, Prep 2009 Album
Sonic Youth Say "Goodbye 20th Century" In New Biography, Plus Photos

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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