RE-REVIEWS: Sonic Youth, “Sonic Nurse”
By Pat McGuire and Breanna Murphy on March 31, 2011
We're not perfect and, let's face it, sometimes hindsight is truly 20/20. It's with that spirit that we approach the FILTER Re-Review, a second chance for us to evaluate our opiniony opinions on records from past issues. How does the record hold up now that we've had years to contemplate and listen? What would we give the record if it was coming out in the next issue? Two of FILTER's editorial staff, Editor-In-Chief Pat McGuire and Associate Editor Breanna Murphy, sat down to scratch their heads on a few releases and present to you: The Re-Review.
What are some records you think we did wrong? Leave 'em in the comments and we might just give it a Re-Review.
Untouchable. Sonic Youth is a band outside the realm of any serious criticism. They’ve long since proven their mettle, and at this point in their careers, could release a conceptual, 40-minute “silent” album, and people would still stare at each other and shake their heads in wonderment: “Dude, fucking Sonic Youth.” So when a band like Sonic Youth descends from the mountaintop to bestow a gorgeous, bona fide gem like Sonic Nurse onto the landscape—something you can actually wrap your fingers around rather than simply hand on a wall—all you can do is smile.
In 2002, those who had written the latter-day Sonic Youth out of relevance after 1999’s wildly inaccessible Goodbye 20th Century, a modern re-imagining of pieces by experimental orchestral composers, were treated to a pleasant jolt with the surprisingly compact and uplifting Murray Street. Maybe a combination of things—9/11 and All Tomorrow’s Parties—drew them back into the game, but for whatever reason, Sonic Nurse taps that same eager vein and conjures up some of the most “enjoyable” records of Sonic Youth’s catalogue—e.g., Daydream Nation, Dirty, and Washing Machine. Amazingly, there’s not a single tangent or prolonged indulgence on the entire album, suggesting a conscious effort on their part to connect with listeners more completely, on as many levels as possible. The final three songs on Sonic Nurse, among which Kim Gordon’s “I Love You Golden Blue” (one of the most beautiful performances she’s ever given), are as good as any moment on any Sonic Youth album—which is a big deal.
Not to mention, any jab at Mariah Carey is a jab in the right direction. “Mariah Carey and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream,” crammed with Gordon’s signature jeers and taunts, is a hugely gratifying and near-perfect dis of the mentally fatigued diva that features the chorus, “Hey hey, little baby breakdown/Button up baby, you’ve come undone/Hey hey, little baby get down/Before you fall and hurt someone.” Dude, fucking Sonic Youth. STEVEN CHEN
(originally ran in FILTER 11 Summer '04)
Original Rating: 90%
Original Review Said: "Untouchable... Amazingly, there's not a single tangent or prolonged indulgence on the entire album, suggesting a conscious effort on their part to connect with listeners more completely, on as many levels as possible."
Are We Still Listening?: Absolutely
Legacy: Sonic Nurse is a divisive record among Sonic Youth fans; depending on which side of the fence you're on, the opposite side is either crazy or has no taste in music at all. That said, Nurse remains a wildcard sounding board for the reign of Bush 43, the magnificence of Kim Gordon, and the influence of Jim O'Rourke on the band's sound. Play it on repeat; it's borderline brilliant.
Refreshed Rating: 88%