On their 16th album, Murray Street, seminal New York art-punks Sonic Youth deliver some of their most distinctive music to date, striking an artful balance between the band's trademark excursions and conventional verse/chorus song structure. The album is also the band's first as a quintet, with influential indie composer/musician/producer Jim O'Rourke joining the longstanding band lineup of guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, bassist Kim Gordon and drummer Steve Shelley.
Murray Street shares its name with the downtown Manhattan location of the band's studio and rehearsal space, a stone's throw from the former site of the World Trade Center. The band was a few weeks into recording when the sessions were interrupted by the events of September 11, 2001; O'Rourke was asleep in the studio when the first plane hit.
Although all of Murray Street's material was written prior to 9/11, Moore notes that the tragedy inevitably became a force in the music's direction once the band was able to resume recording — which could only happen after the police allowed access to the area and a 16-member decontamination crew restored the band's gear to working order.
"We really didn't get to look at the studio until a few weeks later," Moore recently told Billboard, adding, "Eventually, there was a certain desire to reclaim our workspace in the face of this neighborhood being destroyed. Our mood in approaching this record and actually executing it was certainly different than what it would have been prior."
"It was strange to go down there to work and be huddled in the studio and there was nothing, just these empty buildings all around," Gordon stated to Interview. "But it's comforting that when something like that happens, you can still feel good about your work."