How does a band like Sonic Youth keep things interesting after achieving practically everything they set out to achieve almost three decades ago? One of the most influential rock bands of all time release their 16th studio album - their first since signing to the uber-cool Matador label - and it's a real humdinger, too.
Over the course of their career, the New Yorkers have indubitably paved untrodden dirt roads for bands that came after them; it wouldn't be unreasonable to suggest that they sit back and let their legacy do the talking. It could be argued that some of their albums of the past decade have been heavy on heritage, light on exertion - but 'The Eternal' works as both a solid rock record and one with dashes of invention and colour.
The 'solid' tracks do throw up an element of sameness, though; 'What We Know''s topsy-turvy slack-rock and 'Thunderclap''s 'yeah yeah' and 'woah woah' sloganeering veer close to cliché terrain , but that's a minor quibble. Squealing guitars, atonal vocal interplay between Moore and Gordon and swirling instrumental breakdowns (best heard on the fantastic 'Anti-Orgasm' and the disembodied psych-rock-grunge wig-out of 'Calming the Snake') add beautifully to the dark mood that permeates 'The Eternal'. Moore's simplistic approach to 'Antenna' dredges up a suitably sombre affair, while Gordon's voice works uncannily well with the disconcerting dark bluster of 'Malibu Gas Station'. Similarly, Lee Ranaldo's solo effort 'Walkin Blue' is one of the best tracks here.
No doubt about it, Sonic Youth are 'getting on' - but whatever 'it' is, they've still got it.