Typically, a band's move to an indie label after years of laboring on a major means one thing: The big-bucks company dropped the underperforming group. But in the case of Sonic Youth, who pretty much invented indie-rock as we know it more than 20 years ago, it means something totally different. For their 16th album, Sonic Youth head back into indieville for the first time since 1988's landmark Daydream Nation, and they do so with dignity. In fact, their first-time pairing with indie-label kings Matador seems like one of those matches destined from the start. The hook-up certainly sparks The Eternal, the veteran noise-rockers' most inspired album in years.
Swapping the four-minutes-and-outta-there structure of their past few records for a less-ordered approach, The Eternal's songs build their way to five-, six- and even nine-minute blasts of choking guitar hugs. But it's not all epic. The opening "Sacred Trickster" clocks in at an economical 2:11 and doesn't waste a note. And one of the album's best cuts, "Poison Arrow," barely reaches the three-and-a-half-minute mark. Still, The Eternal's core consists of the long, sprawling cultural observations they've dispensed for a quarter century now — whether they're dishing on Britney Spears on "Malibu Gas Station" or giving props to some old-school philosophical musings on "Anti-Orgasm." — Gallucci