Sonic Youth do nothing on Sonic Nurse (DGC) they haven't done before. Kim Gordon is still yelping hoarsely about celebrity, this time on "Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream" (originally titled "Mariah Carey and..."), where she asks, "How was your date with Eminem?" The guitars still swell and ebb and clink and approximate bombs bursting in air, in pretty much the same proportions as ever. Lee Ranaldo still only sings once ("Paper Cup Exit"), though in many ways he's the band's best vocalist; drummer Steve Shelley still knocks out endless grooves like Can's Jaki Liebezeit, albeit leaning on rolls and paradiddles in a way that human drum machine never did. So why is Nurse Sonic Youth's best album in a decade? The past ten years haven't exactly been a dry spell for them, but on this record they've become almost telepathically interactive. (You'd think making 18 records together would do that to any band...and then you'd think of the Rolling Stones.) They don't seem a bit tired of the sound they've created, and though the closest Nurse gets to the demonic drive of an early tune like "Stereo Sanctity" is the surging opening track, "Pattern Recognition," the band compensates with a broadened tonal palette. Part of the credit for that goes to new fifth member Jim O'Rourke; he and Gordon, formerly the full-time bassist, now switch between bass and guitar. The instrumental break of "Stones" and the whole of the spellbinding "I Love You Golden Blue" are as gorgeous as anything in the band's catalog (or any rock band's catalog), and the album's subtleties yield epiphanies that grow more resonant with every play. Wolf Eyes and Hair Police open. $24, 18+. Thursday, July 29, 8 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Levine.