Sonic Youth’s nineteenth album, Sonic Youth Nurse, will be released in June. The album is just one part of a Sonic onslaught, as the group begins to empty out its vast trove of recordings this year. “We have tons of records just on backlog,” singer/guitarist Thurston Moore says. “We could go into our tapes and create a dozen CDs right now.”
Of Nurse, Moore says, “It sounds like nothing we’ve ever done before. It has a really weird future sound.” The set will be released on Geffen/Interscope and follows 2002’s Murray Street. Though engineer/producer Jim O’Rourke recorded the last two Sonic Youth records (meanwhile joining Moore, guitarist Lee Ranaldo, bassist/guitarist/singer Kim Gordon and drummer Steve Shelley as a full-time member), this time out the band enlisted New York punk legend/poet Richard Hell to record the album, albeit an uncredited production.
“He’s somebody I first met when I moved to New York in ’76 as a teenager, and he was sort of a weird big brother to me,” Moore says. “Richard’s somebody who has never done production stuff, other than his own records, but he’s really good at it. He has a really interesting, weird technical expertise.”
Among the songs tipped for Nurse are “Unmade Bed” and “I Love You Golden Blue,” described as “Bare Trees-era Fleetwood Mac jamming with Jealous Again-era Black Flag.” “In a way, the sound is a marriage of those two things,” Moore says. “Just when you’re relaxed, your speakers kind of fry.”
Another cut, “Peace Attack,” represents Sonic Youth’s political bent. “America was pushed into war against everybody’s wishes except the President’s and his own cabinet’s,” Moore says. “So it’s just about the whole commodification of peace. [President Bush] was delivering this thing that was like a McDonald’s hamburger. It was like ‘McPeace’ to me. He’s gonna attack people with this thing he calls ‘peace.’ There was something so malevolent about it.”
Also in the band’s plans, on their own SYR label, is the release of their 2001 performance at the All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival in the U.K. that includes “J’Accuse Ted Hughes,” described on the band’s site as “a twenty-minute dronefuck piece that pissed off every Guinness-swilling journalist awake at the time.” The live material will be paired with a previously unreleased studio session. Sonic Youth is also hoping to issue their 2001 improvised collaboration with Parisian chanteuse Brigitte Fontaine on the label in a CD and DVD format. “We have amazing video from that,” Moore says. “She has a relationship with Virgin Records in France, so we have to make sure everything is cleared, which always slows things down to a crawl. But we’re eager to release it, because it’s pretty heavy.”
Back on the major-label front, a two-CD edition of 1990’s Goo is scheduled for release this year, augmented with B sides, outtakes and original 8-track demos.
Sonic Youth are planning to tour with Lollapalooza later this year, but for the time being, they have only four shows scheduled: a trio of Texas dates this month and an April 30th show in Northampton, Massachusetts, to benefit the Community Resources for People With Autism. J Mascis and Sebadoh will also perform.