Sonic Youth

The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities (Geffen)

The elephant in the room is a very calm one — Sonic Youth is older, wiser, and not as prone to youthful outbursts of feedback squalor as it once was. Deal with it. But the one thing the band has never forsaken throughout its 25-plus years of hedonistic indie rock inspiration is a constant drive to experiment with the formula. The Destroyed Room is a collection of tracks from Sonic Youth's long relationship with Geffen, a "handpicked" ensemble of mostly instrumental and previously hard to find excursions into sound. This is an album for the longtime fans, as these sometimes lengthy, free-form soundscapes probably won't initiate any newcomers.

The record begins with the 10-minute "Fire Engine Dream," yelping guitar picking and ambient sounds floating over a soft bed of background haze, and ends with a 25-minute alternate version of Washing Machine's "The Diamond Sea." It also happens to feature one of the best Kim Gordon songs of the band's career, the spacey, Yo La Tengo-style "Blink." Though some of the group's releases on its SYR imprint have pushed the boundaries of listenability over the past few years, overall Sonic Youth has always been able to maintain an accessible sense of song structure, even in its most grating noise fits. After the lovely but low-key Rather Ripped, it's enjoyable to revisit the more avant sensibilities of one of the most groundbreaking art rock bands that has ever existed. Jonah Flicker

 
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