has refined its ravaging noise-rock for over two decades, combining the clamorous experimentation of the Velvet Underground with an avant-garde, garage-rock tinge reminiscent of the Stooges. The band's new album, Rather Ripped
, strikes a balance between raw heaviness and quiet persuasion. Singers Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore churn out from-the-gut vocals, and Lee Ranaldo deftly drives his guitar into both rolling riffs and stripped-down, darkened melodies. Like Sonic Youth's live performances, Ripped
erupts with music that manages to unify disparate elements into flamboyant but masterfully controlled tunes. "I like that blurring of identities within the band," Moore told Spike
magazine in 2000, "because it becomes a unified thing that can't be related to other forms of historical poetry." Synthesizing outright noise with enlightening verse is what Sonic Youth has always been about. And the group only seems to ripen with age.