was Sonic Youth's comeback bid. The 2002 album was a seven-sided diamond with a classic-rock structure that gave way to distorted feedback porn. The purposeful Street
, which followed years of phoned-in underground nonsense (including the disastrously beatish NYC Ghosts & Flowers
), was enough to bring any errant fan back into the fold. After that phenomenal work, merely being good seems rather puny, and Sonic Nurse
labors blandly in its predecessor's shadow. The songs are leaner and weaker on freakouts. Riff molds are ripped off from earlier records with different notes pasted in. There's nothing groundbreaking amid the lethargy, and Nurse
's gems merely reference the band's better yesterdays. The petulant, Kim Gordon-sneered "Mariah Carey and the Arthur Doyle Handcream" burns bold-faced names à la Dirty
, and "Unmade Bed" serves as a sequel to 1995's "The Diamond Sea."
But ultimately, Sonic Youth imitates Sonic Youth better than anyone. Not that the artists on Confuse Yr Idols (due for release later this summer) don't give it a try. Yoshimi "P-wei" Yokota contributes the album's highlight, a mind-bending version of the 1985 pulp-octane classic "Death Valley 69" under the moniker Saicobab. Yokota uses a thicket of sitars instead of those familiar guitar rip-chords, and cartoonish vocals wrestle with vocodered ones. The song is unrecognizable until Yokota's piercing scream slices through the djali din. Yokota's "Death" manages, at the end of the compilation, to eclipse all the songs that before it -- especially KY Prophet's hip-hop take on "Making the Nature Scene" and New Grenada's drab version of "Eric's Trip." But it hardly matters. You'll want to rush to the opposite end of Sonic Youth's catalog anyway.