Most bands release a greatest hits compilation as a career summation, but Sonic Youth isn't like most bands.
The Eternal is the veteran art-rockers' Matador debut and first new album since ending their relationship with Geffen Records following 2006's Rather Ripped. The 12 songs are all new, but taken together they sound like a retrospective of the band beginning circa 1988 and the double-album opus Daydream Nation.
Which is very cool, especially when the songs recall peak-period albums like Goo, as opener "Sacred Trickster" does. Sonic Youth spent the better part of the last decade being mellow and weird to mixed results, and hearing the band bring the noise in vintage, grunge-era fashion is particularly refreshing.
Ditto the mix of buzzsaw guitar riffage and fluid psychedelic washes on "Anti-Orgasm" and the Floydian 10-minute closer "Massage the History." Throughout The Eternal, these two pillars of Sonic Youth's sound play off each other quite well, which hasn't always been the case with a band that has done a fair amount of experimenting throughout its 28-year career.
Given that longevity, the band's vast catalog is subject to varied interpretations of what's "good Sonic Youth" and what's "bad Sonic Youth," but don't be surprised if you hear people say The Eternal is the best Sonic Youth album in the last 10 years, maybe longer.