Murray St.

Murray St.

4.3 3
by Sonic Youth
     
 

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Given the circumstances surrounding its creation, the 14th proper studio album from these envelope-pushing NYC stalwarts is surprisingly subtle, even serene sounding. Murray Street takes its name from the thoroughfare that houses Sonic Youth's recording studio -- a space situated less than three blocks from Ground Zero, which meant that the band was locked outSee more details below

Overview

Given the circumstances surrounding its creation, the 14th proper studio album from these envelope-pushing NYC stalwarts is surprisingly subtle, even serene sounding. Murray Street takes its name from the thoroughfare that houses Sonic Youth's recording studio -- a space situated less than three blocks from Ground Zero, which meant that the band was locked out of its musical home for weeks during the post-9/11 aftermath. For a band known for extensive musical journeys, the experience seems to have prompted travels inward, as evidenced on songs like the Neil Young-flavored "Disconnection Notice" and the title track, which alternates between starry-eyed and fretful assays into Big Apple life. The guitar interplay -- which now incorporates new full-time member Jim O'Rourke, who's guested on the band's recent efforts -- is fascinating on songs like "Rain on Tin": Rather than the dissonance that often emanates from their extended forays, there's an ethereal openness, redolent of early Grateful Dead and Quicksilver. Yes, there are still tracks of total abandon, such as "Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style," which features the fearsome saxophone honking of Borbetomagus's Don Dietrich and Jim Sauter, but those are secreted like depth charges rather than lobbed like grenades. Gentle but not overweeningly smooth, Murray Street abounds with sonic vistas that demand repeated visits.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Heather Phares
Virtually every album Sonic Youth has released since the underrated Goo has been hailed as a return to form. However, Murray Street, their second collaboration with Jim O'Rourke (and their first with him as a full member of the group), not only recalls their past glories but explores new territory. Freed from the trendy agendas that marred A Thousand Leaves and NYC Ghosts & Flowers, the group revisits the complex, transcendent guitar epics that made them underground rock heroes in the first place. But Murray Street doesn't just rehash the sound of their late-'80s heyday, either; for the most part, epics like the '60s-tinged "The Empty Page" and "Rain on Tin" -- which sounds a bit like a rural cousin to Television's "Marquee Moon" -- are built on surprisingly clean, crisp guitar tones that only explode into occasional noise-storms. Indeed, the guitar work on the album's first three tracks is both economical and sensual, a feast of textures and counterpoints that never sounds overdone. Murray Street's wonderfully natural yet intricate sound is O'Rourke's most distinctive contribution to the group; while his work with Smog and Wilco pushed those groups to be more experimental and eclectic, with Sonic Youth he seems to give those tendencies focus and balance. Even the hypnotic drones at the end of "Karen Revisited," the album's noisy, oddly romantic centerpiece, have a unique precision and clarity. Murray Street's first four songs rank among the most consistent, and consistently exciting, work in Sonic Youth's career, so much so that the album's shorter, more rock-oriented songs feel a bit anticlimactic. "Plastic Sun," a Kim Gordon-sung rant, feels particularly out of keeping with the rest of Murray Street's warm, expansive tone; "Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style" is a typical Sonic Youth rocker that suffers merely from not being as good as the first half of the album. Closing with the serenely sexy "Sympathy for the Strawberry," Murray Street reaffirms that at the group's best, Sonic Youth manages to sound fresh and timeless all at once.
New York Times - Kelefa Sanneh
"Murray Street" achieves a cryptic contemplative mood. The approach is familiar, but the music itself is still mysterious. The band insists that listeners explore the pleasures of tone and texture -- small pleasures, perhaps, but not simple ones.
Entertainment Weekly - Will Hermes
A near-perfect, guitar-shaped phoenix. (A-)

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Product Details

Release Date:
06/25/2002
Label:
Geffen Records
UPC:
0606949331924
catalogNumber:
493319
Rank:
20002

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