Music: The Triumph of Youth

After 17 years together, these alternative-rock pioneers aren't so young, but they're still vigorous

Listening to a new Sonic Youth CD is like taking a holiday. Not an easy vacation like, say, skiing in Vail, but more like an adventure tour, the musical equivalent of climbing a particularly high peak without bottled oxygen. Traditional rock can be a sad grind--for example, on Eric Clapton's wan new CD, Pilgrim, one of the few listenable songs, Sick and Tired, turns out to have disturbing lyrics about threatening to blow out a woman's brains.

It's rock shocks like that--when pop music parts, Red Sea-like, to reveal all the misogyny and ugliness beneath--that gave rise to progressive/alternative rock in...

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