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Rather Ripped
Sonic Youth
Rather Ripped
Genres: Alternative Rock, Special Interest, Pop, Rock
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1

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,...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Sonic Youth
Title: Rather Ripped
Members Wishing: 4
Total Copies: 0
Label: Geffen Records
Original Release Date: 1/1/2006
Re-Release Date: 6/13/2006
Genres: Alternative Rock, Special Interest, Pop, Rock
Styles: Indie & Lo-Fi, Experimental Music, Progressive, Progressive Rock
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 602498563731

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

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CD Reviews

Always the same, always different...
Scott Bresinger | New York, USA | 06/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"...That's what famed British DJ John Peel would often say about his favorite band, the Fall, and he meant it as a compliment. Despite their many personel changes, the Fall always remained the same--which to Peel meant brilliant. Sonic Youth, who haven't had a signifigant personel change in twenty years (Jim O'Rourke, who joined the band a couple of albums ago, recently parted amicably to persue a film music career), have instead been changing their sound. This has evolved naturally, over the course of their career, as longtime fans can attest. For "Rather Ripped," they've created a permutation even stranger than the experimental noise projects for their SYR label. This is--gasp!--kind of a pop album, with melodies and everything, and even more shocking, it's relatively noise free! Still, it's undeniably a Sonic Youth album, the same way "The Straight Story" was still undeniably a David Lynch movie. Their guitars still chime and hum like you'd expect, even if they only occasionally go "boom." Kim Gordon actually seems to sing here--in tune, no less!--but it's the same Kool Kim we've come to love, not some lame American Idol wannabe. Most of the songs clock in under 5 minutes, and guess what, most of them are memorable. Strangely enough, the weakest song here, "Sleepin' Around," is also one of the noisiest. Nevertheless, with Sonic Youth's trademark odd guitar tunings and well-honed interplay, these are pop songs unlike any you'll hear this year. "Rather Ripped" is psych-pop that even the Flaming Lips couldn't pull off. SY's feet are still on the ground, but the guitars are in the stratosphere. There are moments of such sheer beauty that angels will be screaming in your head for a long time to come.

A closer listening will also reveal the band's experimental tendencies shining right through. "Do You Believe In Rapture?" is built around a minimalist sequence of bell-like chiming. The lyrics are also somewhat edgy, a sly comment on the absurdity of fundamentalism: "stand behind his light of love/hear him yowl his bloody tongue/hear him yell 4 blood and war." It's a rare moment of political commentary for the band, but with a song like this, totally welcome as well.

"Incinerate," which would be an excellent choice for a single, has similarly violent lyrics: "I ripped yr heart out from yr chest/replaced it with a grenade blast..." This one isn't political, however. This is Thurston Moore's idea of a love song! It may be melodic and laid back, but still punk at its core.

Elswhere, it appears that Lee Ranaldo didn't get the memo about making less noise, as his song "Rats" is as gnarled and dissonant as any in the past. This one is just shorter, so instead of a mid-song sonic freakout, the feedback is forced into the verse and chorus. Of course, instead of the monolithic noise of say, the Jesus and Mary Chain, with Sonic Youth it's like a roller coaster careening around your brain pan, shooting off sparks along the way.

Other standouts are the lengthy "Pink Steam," in which the vocals don't start until more than five minutes into the song, using the extended intro for cool sonic interplay. "What a waste" is a raw slice of punk-pop, punctuated with whooshing sheets of vacuum cleaner feedback. The closer, "Or," is a sublime and subtle take on the most cliched of rock album clowers, the tour song: "what time you guys playing?/where you going next?/what comes first,/the music or the words?"

"Where you going next?" could also be about what the band plans for its next act, and even after all these years, it's still something that'll be fascinating to find out."
Some pretty groovy stuff
William Merrill | San Antonio, TX United States | 06/13/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is Sonic Youth's most accessible and listener-friendly CD in quite awhile, but I think the hardcore SY fans will still like it. In the past I was able to appreciate their occasional shrieking experimental noise pieces from an abstract art perspective, but that didn't make for music that I went back to for repeat listenings. On the Ripped CD, the noise and distortion are more directly in service of the melodies, and some excellent melodies there are indeed. I'm particularly impressed with "Turquoise Boy," which features an ethereal vocal from Kim (she and Thurston are as ultra-cool and laid-back as ever on the new songs) and a superb balance between chaos and control. I also like the spooky Doors-ish feel of "Rats," and just about all the other songs are great too. The whole album just has a combination of factors that make it one of the best SY discs ever. (The "fake bootleg" cover art is pretty bad, though.)"
Sonic Youth flexes some muscles....
chasmatic | 06/13/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Sonic Youth's 20th studio album, "Rather Ripped," is a grand-slam effort that topples their previous effort "Sonic Nurse". This disc harbors a glorious smattering of smooth, breezy songs that are uniquely Sonic Youth, while also claiming their most accessible sounds yet.

The album opens with the melodious and bouncy "Reena," sung by Kim Gordon (whose voice sounds sweeter than ever before), followed by a similarly tuneful Thurston Moore track, "Incinerate". Both point with big, obtrusive thumbs in the direction this album is headed...right up the old hill.

However, on "Do You Believe In Rapture," you can just feel this high-pitched spaz-noise insanity bubbling just below the surface, yet the song ends too fast (and without climax) and this potential rock-jam-gem leaves the listener panting for something...more.

After a few slightly mediocre songs ("Sleepin' Around" and "What A Waste"), that thirst is quenched in the form of "Jams Run Free," a luminescent Gordon track that beams wildly.

Afterward is "Rats," which is sadly Lee Ranaldo's only vocal contribution to "Rather Ripped". This tune is a jazzy and crawling and evokes the spacious, emotive "Mote" from 1991's "Goo". Tailing "Rats" is the luscious, sprawling "Turquoise Boy" written by Moore and sung by a wispy and tame Gordon.

Later on, the song "Pink Steam" sticks out because of the five+ minute noise-driven intro, followed by little than a minute of Thurston singing. Finally, the album closer "Or," features an almost Southern acoustic guitar and thunderous rhythm section. Ending a highly evolved collection of springy, gentle songs with a primitive one."