The members of Sonic Youth, who recently celebrated their 22nd anniversary as a band, still have simple career goals: "It's not about longevity or sales, it's about the truth," Lee Ranaldo testified in an electronic interview last year. He was speaking about the legacy of Sonic Youth's punk predecessor Richard Hell, but his statement also applies to SY's storied history. And though hacks and wags enjoy noting that no one in Sonic Youth qualifies as a youth anymore, that's about the harshest criticism anyone can lob at the only band to successfully ride the punk-no wave-new wave-indie-alternative-modern rock carousel that was the last two decades of popular music. Sure, people try to knock 'em for not cranking out the white-knuckle death-jams of their Bad Moon Rising years anymore, but that's empty invective as well.
Though recent albums might be a little more thinky than punky, the Sonic Youth live show continues to be one of the more visceral free-form gui-tar-and-featherings known to humanity. Absolved of the time constraints of album length, Sonic Youth whips up a snarl of tremendous power, stretching songs into towering infernos of howl and harmonic overtones. The massive wash of sound churned out of battered guitars and overworked amps is felt as much as heard, and it feels like the backwash of a creaky, scratch-built rocket ship blasting off your face. But rather than settle for noise for noise's sake (although, to be honest, what's wrong with a little noise for no other reason than being noisy?), Sonic Youth continues to hold true to its stated mission: the Truth. All the fury and heat and whirlwind Sonic Youth stokes is for the purpose of fanning the flames of Truth: This is us, this is our music, this is for you. And that's all you should ask of a band. Welcome back to St. Louis, Sonic Youth. And thanks.