I remember the first time I heard ‘Live at Leeds’ by the Who in 1979. It was the most vicious assault my ears had ever heard, and I promptly unloaded it. Ten years later after growing fond of euphoric distortion and melodic feedback, I bought the record again hopefully. The difference between the sad tin can rattle of Pete Townshends most audacious show, and that horrible sound of my youth, was in fact Sonic Youth. Absolute legends of noise control, and pathfinders to the subconcious, Sonic Youth beget the second wave of American punk that led up to the infamous Nirvana. No one was immune to the influence of the group, including Public Enemy, and including some of the experimental techno of today. After years of leading the pack, Sonic Youth attempted to cash in on their status with a few albums of over thought cool, and seemed to be directionless. A Thousand Leaves is simply the most loose and inspired they’ve been since the middle 80’s. From the loose free form jamming of ‘Hits of Sunshine (for Allen Ginsburg)’ to the wild melodic swings of ‘French Tickler’, this album plays in that space where you are half dreaming and half awake. There are fewer jarring transitions between pure noise and the sweet 60’s (Doors, Byrds, Velvet underground) inspired melodies than in the past, but it all flows wonderfully together. It’s a gift from another time and place, and if you like it try Sister, and Daydream Nation asfollow ups.