Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth, rock's most consistent band over the past two decades, returns with its nineteenth album, Sonic Nurse. Judging from the album's title and the languid pace of many of its songs, the quartet appears to be in a healing mode. As Thurston Moore sings on the folksy "Stones," "We're not going to run away, we're not going to leave you stranger."

Tellingly, the group's signature sonic touchstones -- hardcore, free jazz, experimental, noise -- are muted, if not completely absent, on many of the album's tracks. In their place are the more comfortable/comforting sounds of Seventies AOR. The band's triple-guitar frontline of Moore, Lee Ranaldo, and Jim O'Rourke remind one of an anesthetized Moby Grape on songs like "New Hampshire" and "Unmade Bed." Accordingly, the two songs by Kim Gordon that sound more like "typical" Sonic Youth fare, "Pattern Recognition" and "Mariah Carey and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream," seem out of place.

Guitarist/vocalist Moore has been quoted as saying that Sonic Youth's previous two albums, NYC Ghosts and Flowers and Murray Street, were part of "a proposed trilogy about the cultural history of lower Manhattan." Sonic Nurse sounds like the final link of a triptych with its somber tones, dark shadings, and plaintive vocals.