The Eternal (album)

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The Eternal
Studio album by Sonic Youth
Released June 9, 2009
Recorded November–December 2008 in Hoboken, New Jersey, United States
Genre Indie rock
Length 56:25
Label Matador
Producer John Agnello
Sonic Youth chronology
Rather Ripped
The Eternal
Singles from The Eternal
  1. "Sacred Trickster"
    Released: April 9, 2009
  2. "Antenna"
    Released: July 9, 2009

The Eternal is the 15th and final studio album by American alternative rock band Sonic Youth, released on June 9, 2009 by record label Matador, their first on that label. It was their first studio album in three years (since Rather Ripped), making it the band's longest delay between studio albums.

The album peaked at number 18 on the Billboard 200 and was the band's highest charting album of their career in the United States and highest charting album since Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star (1994).


After Rather Ripped (2006), the band's contract with Geffen Records had expired and the two parties decided to go their separate ways.[1] At the same time, Jim O'Rourke was gradually replaced with ex-Pavement bassist Mark Ibold. Gordon suggested recruiting him for live shows after having played with him in Free Kitten. Moore found that Ibold "immediately locked in, and had really prepared himself to the point where he knew the songs better than we did".[1]


When the band decided to record, it seemed natural to include Ibold. The process involved rehearsing the songs during the week in the basement of Moore and Gordon's house and subsequently recording them over the weekend. Shelley recalled, "It was like having a different project every week [and] it felt like we were doing a single every weekend. You kind of have to keep on your feet, the speed aspect to this album was very enjoyable".[1] Eventually the band signed with Matador in 2008.[2][3]

However, the band had begun writing much of the material before changing record labels. On the pop-rock aspects of the album, Moore noted, "I can sort of see a relationship between some of The Eternal and Dirty in terms of the dynamic". He argued that the band "definitely wanted to make songs as opposed to doing an avant-garde opus".[4] On the choice of Matador, he explained that "we decided that they're a really strong song-supportive label". Ranaldo noted how they found inspiration in their earlier recordings on Daydream Nation, which "had an energy that we'd kind of forgotten about, and some of that energy and the experience of doing those songs impacted on the new record."[4]


The cover art was painted by John Fahey.[5]

The album was dedicated to Ron Asheton of The Stooges.[citation needed]


The Eternal was released on June 9, 2009 by record label Matador. The album was released digitally, on CD and as a double vinyl LP, in both a standard and a "Buy Early Get Now" (BEGN) edition.[6]


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 79/100[7]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[8]
The A.V. Club B+[9]
Entertainment Weekly B−[10]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[11]
Los Angeles Times 4/4 stars[12]
MSN Music A−[13]
NME 8/10[14]
Pitchfork 6.8/10[15]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[16]
Spin 8/10[17]

The Eternal currently holds an approval rating of 79/100 on review aggregator website Metacritic, signifying "generally favorable reviews".[7] An early review by Clash said "the album shows signs of life and heart-wrenching vitality that secures its makers’ position at the forefront of American rock music."[18] In a "Critic's Choice" review for The New York Times, Ben Ratliff compared the album to two of their albums from the 1990s,Washing Machine and A Thousand Leaves; he pointed out that the album demonstrated Kim Gordon's continued rise as a singer, saying that she "sings all the best stuff" on The Eternal, particularly the album's last song, "Massage the History", a song he called the "record's sleeper stunner".[19] The addition of Ibold in the studio was praised by Monday Field of Frank Booth Review, likening the album's basslines to "a 1AM, alcohol-soaked punch in the gut".[20]

Other reviews were positive as well: musicOMH gave the album 5 of 5 stars and said that it "acts as a fitting and timeless aide-memoire of everything this mighty band has ever achieved."[21] Los Angeles Times gave it 4 of 4 stars and said, "The music remains ageless and weird, fueled on chaos and clarity, but these are songs, not sound experiments for their own sake."[22] Chicago Tribune gave the album 3.5 out of 4 stars and said: "Back on an independent label after nearly two decades with a major, the post-punk quartet returns to its '80s foundation with an album that breaks little new ground, but sounds thrilling all the same. [...] It casts aside some of the band's fondness for the warped digression and simply moves from one thrill ride to the next, rarely pausing for breath."[23] The A.V. Club gave it a B+ and said that the songs "are more conventionally rock-oriented than any in Sonic Youth's career, yet the album doesn't really sound like a departure."[24]

Under the Radar gave it 8 stars out of 10 and called it "the sound of a band at its most self-aware, tuggging gently at the boundaries of their trademark sound to gorgeous effect."[7] No Ripcord also gave it 8 stars out of 10 and said the album was "certainly heavier, but it's tuneful and heavy at the same time."[25] Q gave the album 4 stars out of 5 and said, "Refreshingly, nothing outstays its welcome, not even nine-minute closer 'Massage the History'."[7] Alternative Press also gave it four stars out of five and said of Sonic Youth: "They're still delivering more aural discovery and attitude than both their weary, uninspired colleagues and the legion of fumbling neophyte upstarts combined."[7] The Guardian likewise gave the album 4 stars and said of it, "There is an excitable, almost naive quality to its visceral riffs and enthusiastic name-checks of artists, poets and countercultural figures."[26] Now also gave it 4 stars and said, "The band's put together one of their more accessible albums, full of immediate thrills instead of drawn-out weirdness."[27] Billboard gave it a favorable review and called it "a rock group playing at the peak of their powers: assured but not 'comfortable', and free with each other."[7] The Boston Globe also gave it a favorable review and stated, "Ingredients from those progressive forays ensure that the new tunes sound fresh even as the album is marked with such Sonic signatures as artful contrasts and angular arrangements."[28] Hartford Courant likewise gave it a favorable review and called it "Sonic Youth's most compelling album in years."[29]

Paste gave the album a score of 7.8 out of 10 and said that its songs "aren't purely doom and gloom; they're not tons of fun either, but hope and curiosity abound, even if they're not easy to spot on first listen."[30] Filter gave it a score of 72% and said, "All the things you love about Sonic Youth are here, just a little fewer and further between than you'd like."[7] Sputnikmusic gave the album a score of 3.5 out of 5 and said it was "simply just another confirmation that Sonic Youth is one of the most essential—if not the most essential—indie collectives of the past thirty years."[31] The Phoenix gave it 2.5 stars out of 4 and called it "a fun, superficial tangent, disappointing in its regressiveness but enjoyable as long you don't examine it too closely."[32]

Other reviews were very average: The Austin Chronicle gave it a score of 3.5 stars out of 5 and said, "The three-guitar interplay, moderated by bassist Mark Ibold and Steve Shelley on drums, is confident if briefly indulgent ('Walkin Blue'), but Sonic Youth reigns in those tendencies for the most part, making The Eternal its most straightforward album yet."[33] Yahoo! Music UK gave the album 6 of 10 stars and said it was "well-built, yes, but almost too well built, many parts sounding like they've been lifted directly from SY's vast back catalogue and slotted into place, like a jigsaw that needed completing, rather than the sprawling documents of noise and confusion this band's name is built upon."[7] Tiny Mix Tapes gave it 3 of 5 stars and said the album was "accessible, listenable, and all the rest: another consistent album from the consistent rock band Sonic Youth."[34] Slant also gave it 3 of 5 stars and said of Sonic Youth: "Married since 1984, the couple has reached a level of easy rapport that makes their collaborations feel warmly alive. Hopefully the band's sound won't continue to settle into the same kind of comfortable informality."[35] The Observer likewise gave it 3 of 5 stars and said, "Still sounding like an evening in your company will encompass discussions of Yves Klein and Lindsay Lohan? Check, check, check. But still cool."[36]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Sonic Youth, except "Pay No Mind" by Beck Hansen.

No. Title Vocals Length
1. "Sacred Trickster"   Gordon 2:11
2. "Anti-Orgasm"   Gordon & Moore 6:08
3. "Leaky Lifeboat (For Gregory Corso)"   Gordon & Moore 3:32
4. "Antenna"   Moore w/ Ranaldo 6:13
5. "What We Know"   Ranaldo 3:54
6. "Calming the Snake"   Gordon 3:35
7. "Poison Arrow"   Moore, Gordon, & Ranaldo 3:43
8. "Malibu Gas Station"   Gordon 5:39
9. "Thunderclap for Bobby Pyn"   Moore 2:38
10. "No Way"   Moore 3:52
11. "Walkin Blue"   Ranaldo 5:21
12. "Massage the History"   Gordon 9:43
Total length: 56:25

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (2009) Peak
Belgian Albums Chart (Vl)[38] 9
Belgian Albums Chart (Wa)[39] 39
Dutch MegaCharts Top 100[40] 90
Finnish Albums Chart[41] 34
French SNEP Albums Chart[42] 19
German Albums Chart[43] 29
Irish Albums Chart[44] 46
New Zealand RIANZ Albums Chart[45] 38
Norwegian Albums Chart[46] 17
Spanish Albums Chart[47] 69
Swedish Albums Chart[48] 28
Swiss Hitparade Albums Chart[49] 31
UK Albums Chart[50] 42
US Billboard 200[51] 18
US Billboard Alternative Albums[51] 6
US Billboard Digital Albums[51] 18
US Billboard Independent Albums[51] 3
US Billboard Rock Albums[51] 7
US Billboard Tastemakers Albums[51] 1


As indicated in album booklet.[52]


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  28. ^ McLennan, Scott (8 June 2009). "Sonic Youth - The Eternal". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
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  30. ^ Ray, Austin L. (8 June 2009). "Sonic Youth: The Eternal :: Music :: Reviews". Paste. Archived from the original on 11 June 2009. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  31. ^ Cam (4 June 2009). "Review: Sonic Youth - The Eternal". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
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