SONIC YOUTH is best known for the ferocious guitar sound it has pursued with odd tunings, offbeat technique and sheer aggression, not for consistent songwriting. The New York quartet's new "Sister," however, is more tune-oriented; the band is still capable of guitar chaos, but here it's contained by the song structures; the Youth even cover a straightforward garage punk number, Crime's "Hotwire My Heart."

Purists may gripe, but "Catholic Block" and "White Kross" are among the most effective songs of the band's career, making "Sister" their most accessible album without compromising their distinctive cacophony.

The Youths have often noted their admiration for the early 80s "harDCore" band, Faith, so it's fitting that two groups containing former members of Faith, Ignition and Happy Go Licky, will open for them here. The latter has yet to commit anything to vinyl, but Ignition recently released a three-song EP. Its punk heritage is obvious, particularly on the Minor Threat-like "Rebuilding," but the taut, moody arrangements show a sophistication and control unknown in the harDCore days. The performances are more surefooted than the songs, but for a record made so shortly after the band formed, it's impressive indeed.


"Sister" (SST 134).


"Ignition" (Ignition IG 1).

Both appearing Sunday with Happy Go Licky at the 9:30 Club.