During the '80s, Sonic Youth's output ranked among the most electrifying in rock history. It was both arty and visceral, noisy yet oddly accessible. Few groups maintain such creative vigor for two decades, which suggests carrying on that long isn't wise.
This explains why, in 2004, Sonic Youth comes off as an alt-rock Rolling Stones. Is Sonic Nurse the band's Steel Wheels? It's not quite that dire, but it is as redundant as a Mick Jagger solo album.
Nothing on Sonic Nurse will surprise loyal fans. You've heard all these sounds before, done with more invention and zest on previous albums. The band's found its comfort zone, and while Nurse is full of muscular and slightly clangorous guitar wizardry, the vocabulary has stagnated. Nurse is typical late-era Sonic Youth: reliably rockin', responsibly noisy, rhythmically solid. What motivation is there to innovate at this late date? Their place in history is assured, and come 2006, they'll be nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yawn.