Since 1990's GOO, Sonic Youth has increasingly refined its edgy avant-garde noise excursions with a unique approach to traditional rock song structure. 2004's SONIC NURSE continues the trend. The guitars still squall (as one would expect from a band specializing in distortion since the early 1980s), but that squall seems carefully orchestrated now. The effect is due, in large part, to the presence of professional soundscaper, producer, and musician Jim O'Rourke, who mixed SONIC NURSE, and has been working with the band since 2000.
The opener, "Pattern Recognition," brews a quiet hurricane of drums, interlocking guitar rhythms, and high-end leads under bassist Kim Gordon's deadpan vocals. Guitarist Thurston Moore's equally understated singing moves through cresting and ebbing six-string waves on the lyrical "Unmade Bed," the pulsing "Stones," and the quiet, anthemic "Peace Attack." Throughout, Sonic Youth's trademark intensity prevails, but under cover of a sophisticated and dynamic balance born from years of experimentation.
Rolling Stone (p.175) - 3 1/2 stars out of 5 - "The skewed, groovy guitar riffing on NURSE cops the prettiness and chops of classic Seventies rock, with multi-instrumentalist/producer Jim O'Rourke shaping the sprawl into smooth patterns of light and shade."
Spin (p.108) - "There's plenty to admire in a mid-tempo rocker like 'Stones' or an endless groove like 'New Hampshire'..." - Grade: B-
Entertainment Weekly (p.123) - "[A]ll the customary elements are in place; the luxuriously entangled guitars, the beat-derived poetry, the feedback attacks, Kim Gordon's spooky whisper....[With] plenty of rewards." - Grade: A-
Q (p.124) - 3 stars out of 5 - "SONIC NURSE embraces tunes warmly..."
Uncut (p.108) - 3 stars out of 5 - "A regular flicker between white noise and mellow, Jefferson Airplane circa VOLUNTEERS melody....The Youth sound rejuvenated..."
Magnet (p.106) - "The album is jam-friendly....[A]s strong as any SY record from the early '90s."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.99) - 3 stars out of 5 - "SONIC NURSE moves like a series of night dreams. Songs appear as visions, vivid while playing, hazy and hard to hold once gone."