It is a trenchant indication of the lowliness of Sonic Youth’s beginnings that despite consistently exponential growth throughout a ten-year recording career they’ve only very recently begun releasing listenable albums. Nineteen-ninety’s Goo, atonal and gritty as ever, nevertheless finally forwent attitude in favor of propulsion, and (over the first six or seven songs at least) managed to conjure up the proper groove-y backing for its notes from the (new) underground, most notably hymns to Karen Carpenter (“Tunic”) and a nod to big mommy-daddy rock ‘n’ roll itself (“Dirty Boots”). The band’s new Dirty, however, sucks in that awe-inspiring, all-encompassing way that only those vying for the title of most pretentious band in the universe can muster. The band members’ vaguely hostile, somewhat random politics are now explicit and boring; the guitar experimentation that Goo finally channeled into a scintillating smorgasbord of noise now has the taste of–whoops!–leftovers; and the once almost emotional vocalizings are now, with very few exceptions, strident, overly sarcastic, and empty. (Imagine an album in which even the retching noises sound mannered.) Still, Sonic Youth has a lethal grace onstage: they’ve got a real good drummer, and the guitar maulings of Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore can be a lot of fun. Royal Trux opens. Monday, 8 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine; 275-6800.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Enrique Badulescu.