Sonic Youth have completed work on their next record, Murray Street, which will be released July 2nd. The album will be the band's first since 2000's NYC Ghosts and Flowers (a tribute to avant-garde composers John Cage and Pauline Oliveros) and the first since the group became a five-piece. Composer and NYC Ghosts and Flowers producer Jim O'Rourke became a full-time member last summer and participated in the complete creation of Murray Street.
"So far it's been very interesting," singer/guitarist Thurston Moore says of O'Rourke's role in the band. "Now I can sort of do twin leads with Jim. Whereas before, if I constructed some sort of guitar motif, I could sort of suggest to Lee [guitarist Ranaldo] or Kim [guitarist/bassist Gordon] to mirror it, but of course they would never do that, because they would do their own thing, and it would always be very interesting. But to have somebody like Jim say, 'OK, I'll play exactly what you're playing on that part,' was just very unusual for us and all of the sudden it creates this really nice kind of Electric Light Orchestra kind of vibe."
Although he's growing comfortable with his role, O'Rourke is careful not to rush things. "There's a certain wall I keep up out of respect," he says. "They always try to involve me -- like, they're reissuing [three older albums], and they say, 'We can use your ears.' It's totally the opposite of the classic VH1 story. They're trying to make me feel more at home, and I'm trying to say, 'I'm at home, it's cool.' But, it's been great. Even if tomorrow it ended up that they want to do things with four people again, I'd still see them."
As for the sounds on Murray Street, four of the album's seven tracks will feature Thurston Moore on vocals, with Gordon singing a pair and Ranaldo tackling one.
"The music is sort of taking a weird turn right now," Moore says. "It's like Jim and I are sort of high-fiving each other over these classic [-rock] moments. And Lee sort of comes out of the Grateful Dead, and he sort of looks up at us like, 'What the hell is that all about?' And we're like, 'It's ELO, man!' And Kim's amused by the whole thing. So I'm afraid to say we have become a very weird mutation of classic rock. But I think it might be deserved -- we're well into our forties. We're really sort of stuck between MTV youth rock and the classic fogey rock of Neil [Young] and everybody. Maybe we're sort of catching up with that."
"I don't think it sounds like the last few records," O'Rourke says. "It's much more song oriented. It's more relaxed. It's definitely got a classic-rock element to it. It's not programmatic or anything. I think as we were writing, that's one of the thing all five of us relate to. All five us love Neil Young. It's not like we're trying to do Neil Young, but if a song lands in that vibe we immediately get it."
Sonic Youth are putting together a summer touring schedule. The tentative itinerary has the band in Europe from mid-June through mid-July, and back in the U.S. in August.
In other Sonic Youth news, the first piece of the band's gear that was stolen in Los Angeles in 1999 has been recovered, when a fan recently noticed one of Ranaldo's guitars on an eBay auction.
Murray Street track listing:
The Empty Page
Rain on Tin
Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style
Sympathy for the Strawberry