Since June, I've been laboring over how to start off a review of Sonic Nurse. Now, it's December, and all I've come up with is a cliche about how I don't know what to say. Really, the only thing I can think to say is that Sonic Nurse is great. It's not flawless, but it is great. Style goes a long way when making a record. Once again, Sonic Youth have harnessed their own style, making the album feel casual yet abrasive, familiar yet daring. It's possible that that sense of style is what makes Sonic Nurse so memorable, and one of my favorite albums of 2004.
The first thing that stands out about Sonic Nurse, besides the stellar riff in "Pattern Recognition," is Kim Gordon's presence. Miss Gordon, it seems, has learned a thing or two about being a vocalist since the last time she was handed a microphone. Gordon's lyrics on this album are absorbing, electrifying, and even witty when they need to be. Best of all, she no longer sounds like she's puking. Gordon recalls her harsher throaty vocals only a few times during the album, and even then, the lyrical content tends to make up for it.
Still, even though Gordon is at the top of her game, the real stars here are Thurston Moore and Lee Ronaldo. Combining the waves of noise they are known for with some honest-to-god harmony-driven guitar work, Moore and Ronaldo light a fire at the base of this album, and are content to let it burn throughout.
This is most evident in songs like "Stones" and "New Hampshire". These songs also showcase a Sonic Youth that sounds, for now at least, comfortable. There's still the reckless need to explore, but this time with the backdrop of chemistry that only 20+ years together could bring.
Despite this, the album does have a few unnecessarily sleepy moments. Some songs, "Dude Ranch Nurse" and "Dripping Dream" particularly, require a minute or two to warm up before they really catch fire. When they do, however, it's worth it. On the other hand, "Mariah Carey" never really picks up, instead it cuts out right when it was about to get interesting. The song by itself would be adequate, but I can't help feeling that it's a bit out of place on this album.
The album ends with "I Love You Golden blue", by far Gordon's best song on the alum, and "Peace Attack." This one-two punch from Gordon and Moore, respectively, is powerful and satisfying. It all ends modestly, far from pretentious. The effect works well.
It's truly difficult to sum up an album when each track ends up standing out in its own way. Listening to this brings the strong message that Sonic Youth are still as capable and talented as ever, even being over 20 years into their career. Is Sonic Nurse their best album ever? No. But is it exciting, relevant, and more importantly... enjoyable? Why, yes. Yes, it is.
8.5 / 10
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