Sonic Youth, Goo

You would be foolish to expect a "normal" or "conventional" album out of Sonic Youth: they'd hate themselves for selling out, and then they'd turn around and hate you for making them. Yet if there were an album that the unwashed tragically unhip masses could grok, nay, just tolerate listening to, it would be this one. I'm not an excessive fan of atonality, even the non-gratuitous kind with the express purpose of expanding musical minds, but you can leaven dissonance with a solid groove and wisely they give you some. The gluggy production quality kind of works for them, kind of against; the muddiness gives the emotionally insightful "Tunic (Song for Karen)" a hazy retrospective quality that fits its historical subject matter, and it helps Thurston Moore's strident vocals stand out from the muck on the truly excellent "Disappearer," but on "Cinderella's Big Score" and "Dirty Boots" the vocals sink into the mire and the dynamics into the mud. That's a shame, because the best part of "Goo" is the earnest snark: when Kim Gordon asks Chuck D ("Kool Thing") if he's going to liberate "us girls from the male, white, corporate oppression" (and he replies, reflexively, "Tell it like it is! Word up!"), you know she really means it, and she knows he really doesn't. They still can't resist lapses into the inscrutable; just drop "Mote" and "Scooter + Jinx" completely off the track list, thank you, and "Mildred Pierce" is just as undeveloped as its history would imply, but you can't fault them for being true to themselves and I just want them to know we can still be friends. (Content: F-bombs, some sexual references.)