Released in May 1986 on SST Records and Blast First! in the UK, EVOL was the third studio album by Sonic Youth and showed the first signs of the band transforming their No Wave past into a greater alt-rock sensibility.
“EVOL … mark[s] the true departure point of Sonic Youth’s musical evolution,” noted Pitchfork, “In measured increments, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo … bring form to the formless, tune to the tuneless, and with the help of Steve Shelley’s drums…, [impose] melody and composition on their trademark dissonance.” “If Daydream Nation is Sonic Youth’s opus, EVOL was crucial research. There’s a directness that makes everything feel close. It is pure tension with little release. The entire record is a shadow.”
Stereogum likewise praised the album as one, “full of suspense…, the cornerstone [of] the Sonic Youth sound…, ground zero for the combination of chiming guitars and atonal skronk… muggy delirium…. the virile ‘Tom Violence’ sounds less written than coaxed from a cauldron, the sort of song that fogs windows. The off-kilter ‘Starpower’ … is sung in a frosty [Nico-evoking] monotone [by Kim Gordon]. ‘In The Kingdom #19,’ featuring Mike Watt on bass and … vocals [by Ranaldo]…, is a harrowing story of a highway wreck over a suitably edgy instrumental backing punctuated by … live firecrackers in the vocal booth.”
For Popstache, “EVOL slithers into the unconscious. Once the….detuned melodies and haunting riffs and final whispers of feedback depart from the speakers… the music [leaves] a faded footprint, forever reeling the listener back for another strange trip.”