2005 had SY revisiting awesome Japan, touring the boroughs of New York, rollicking at the first Arthurfest in L.A., and releasing the special deluxe edition of 'GOO.' After one final gnarl out in Brazil with Flaming Lips, The Stooges and others Mr.Jim O'Rourke decided to concentrate full-time on his Japanese studies of language and film and SY was subsequently back to it's OG nucleus of Kim-Thurston-Lee-Steve. Songs were written, Jim recommended engineer TJ Doherty and J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr) recommended mix engineer John Agnello and SY created the oddly titled 'Rather Ripped.' The whole deal was recorded in the waning hours of 2005 into the dawn sunshine of 2006 at the venerable Sear Sound studios in NYC's fading theatre district. Partially mixed there and at Hoboken, NJ's Water Music by the golden juice ear of John Agnello it exhibits SY in positive vibration mode. 12 songs of forward motion and harmonic/melodic surprise. Vocals shared by the frontline of Thurston, Kim and Lee with Steve groove gluing the rhythms into rock n roll infection. They bust out o' the sonic barn with Incinerate and Reena then contemplate holy war mind games with Do You Believe in Rapture? and keep cruising strong with track after track of risk-laden rock jammers until floating out with the curious Or. This is a straight-up Sonic Youth field on fire, with a compact potency of rock n roll enlightenment. Rather ripped, indeed.
It's been almost a quarter century since a youthful, avant-garde band with cut-rate guitars and an impetus for experimental noise burst into the New York underground, and it's very possible that as its 21st record to date, Rather Ripped
is also Sonic Youth's most accessible. Familiar are Kim Gordon's distinctive oral tonality and the tangled sheen of guitar dissonance that plays out between Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo. But a majority of the dozen songs are as pop-smart as they come, including a pair from Gordon: "Reena," which ranks among her finest, and a pensive pair ("Lights Out" and "Turquoise Boy") that have the 50-plus singer's ethereal voice recalling a street-worn Francoise Hardy. Ever the whiz kid, Moore ponders religious hostility in the meditative "Do You Believe in Rapture" and skewers promiscuity on the Lou Reed-ish "Sleepin' Around," while Ranaldo's requisite number "Rats"--all futuristic and feedback-heavy--is among his best compositions. As the record fades out with Moore's near-folk song "Or"--the alternative conjunction linking "ready" and "not"--Sonic Youth is as genial as ever: another phase in a punk rock novel that ostensibly has many chapters to go. --Scott Holter