So how much do you like Sonic Youth? Probably not as much as Street Chant, a trio from New Zealand whose debut album, Means, often sounds like a dead ringer for the Youth during their peak years as a rock band (think Sister through Dirty), albeit with a tighter and more focused attack. Guitarist Emily Littler isn't as fascinated with unusual sonics and odd tunings as Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, and there are few atonal freakouts in Means' 38 minutes, but the melodic sense of these songs clearly favors what that band wrought, and Littler's vocals bear a certain resemblance to Kim Gordon, though to be honest Littler has the better instrument and her approach is less affected. What Littler and her bandmates most clearly learned from Sonic Youth was the frenetic beauty of a Fender guitar being pummeled into submission at high volume, and how good it sounds when matched with a solid rhythm section rounding the corners at high speed. These students are good enough to compare very favorably to their masters on Means; when these songs hit peak velocity, Littler's single guitar does the work of two or three, sending crystal shards of gorgeous noise flying every which way, and the rhythm section of Billie Rogers on bass and Alex Brown on drums is excellent, sounding tight and forceful on every cut and intelligently coloring the sounds without added clutter. And while the melodies may cover familiar territory by Sonic Youth's standards, these tunes connect with a fierce, visceral joy that's pure pleasure for guitar mavens, and the production by Bob Frisbee is clean, concise, and makes the most of this group's obvious talent. Means may be derivative, but it also sounds great and documents a young band with spirit, drive, and impressive gifts; once they find a voice of their own, Street Chant should be unstoppable, and they've already made an album that's impressive and very exciting, no small feat.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming