Sonic Youth Rather Ripped (Geffen) In their 25-year history, it's only now, on their 20th album, that the irrepressible Sonic Youth have embraced melody so keenly. Perhaps this is partly down to the fact that a decade or so ago, the band might have been taken to task for releasing a set of songs that didn't have a single ounce of ear-splitting feedback. Nevertheless, the fabric of Rather Ripped is linear, seemingly straightforward and (mostly) played in tune. Don't let this put you off, however: Thurston Moore and company haven't gone completely soft and soporific on us. Or begins life as possibly the most sentimental song they've composed, before the line 'In your mouth a wad of cash' shatters the illusion. Familiar twists lurk behind the multi-coloured chord changes, and one of the most perverse elements is the straightness with which Kim Gordon sings the songs. Whereas in the past she'd be inclined to send the listener a series of vocal postcards from the edge, tracks such as the opening Reena and Turquoise Boy are built on the unsettling sound of Gordon playing the straight card. Which ends up making lines such as 'What a waste/You're so chaste/ I can't wait to taste your face' even scarier than they should be. Indeed, with the band self-producing this follow-up to 2004's excellent Sonic Nurse, there's an almost playful energy to proceedings. Other bands who've reached such a ripe age - U2 take note - would kill to retain the cache of cool enjoyed by the Youth. The likes of Incinerate or Pink Steam are imbued with a sense of teenage urgency. The latter is particularly impressive, beginning life as a slowly de-tuning ambient scale, only to grow into something dank and brooding. Moore's vocals finally kick in five minutes later.