It takes only one spin of Murray Street to conclude that the recent addition of underground composer, producer, and guitarist Jim O'Rourke to Sonic Youth's lineup isn't big news. Actually, O'Rourke was far more prominent last time out, when he was simply the band's producer. On 2000's Nyc Ghosts & Flowers, his ambient noises and laptop tricks underscored the album's avant-garde subject: the edgy history of New York's bohemian exiles, from reprobate Kansas writer William Burroughs to mad Cleveland poet d.a. levy.
But on this second installment of the group's New York City trilogy, O'Rourke hangs back, allowing the group's three longstanding songwriters to step up and survey familiar terrain -- the street where Sonic Youth has its practice space -- with their most direct numbers since they turned their backs on alternative rock. Lee Ranaldo courts mystery and chaos on the sweeping "Karen Revisited," Kim Gordon kicks against the pricks on the acidic "Plastic Sun," and Thurston Moore shines repeatedly as the group's humanitarian ambassador. Foremost is his gorgeous "Disconnection Notice," which brings the real news: Sonic Youth has had enough of romantic exile. Murray Street, after all, sits only three blocks from Ground Zero.