In Autumn 1988 Sonic Youth released what I consider to be their greatest album Daydream Nation. The album peaked at Number 99 in the U.K.album charts, but that hardly matters at all. It is one of the most influential alternative albums of the last twenty years of the twentieth century – even if it is seldom credited as so.
What Daydream Nation does is that is galvanizes the post hardcore sound and experiments freely yet delivers solid structured songs. The moment I saw the video to Teen Age Riot on television in the late 80’s I knew instantly that this was a band to take very seriously. The music, the imagery – the band, despite all their wackiness were bang on the money.
Teen Age Riot starts with a dreamy distant sound. Kim Gordon delivers a soft dream interrupting vocal before the track solidifies into a near bounce-along alternative anthem. At seven minutes the song seems much shorter than it actually is which underlines how little of a chore it is to listen too.
Silver Rocket is both clean and abrasive. It is sharp and zips along. Thurston Moore manages to sound both lazy and urgent. The piece of music lulls into a breakdown half-way-through before really swelling and zipping away like a speeding car. It is a modern classic guitar driven mini-epic.
The Sprawl at just over seven minutes features another Kim Gordon vocal display that puts her amongst some of the most important musicians post and including punk. the song, like its title suggests sprawls yet always sounds warm despite a welcome feel of musical menace.
‘Cross The Breeze starts with teased guitar fretboards before again swirling off with a post hardcore zoom. The drums are tight and this steers the guitars to deliver angular, speedy musical soundscapes. I am listening to the track now for the first time in over 15 years and is just sounds totally fantastic. It sounds like waking from a dream with a moment of realisation.
Eric’s Trip with guitar pedals throws more swirling sounds that personify the album. The vocals (Thurston Moore) almost have a hip-hop feel. The song “pogs” but sounds nothing like the likes of The Wonder Stuff, etc. The band stand, in 1988, alone.
Total Trash and more warm burning joy. Arty yet very accessible the song arguably should have been a single release.
Hey Joni and Joni Mitchell gets an unlikely nod. Somehow carrying the spirit of hardcore punk (Black Flag, etc) yet offering deep layered dreamy brutal stabs. Again it has a hip hop feel lyrically, it’s really quite a unique sound.
Providence is more experimental. Muted piano, the sound of burning, the sound of spacemen communicating. It fits the album and pulls it to a deeper place. It has a psychedelic feel but sounds a world away from the 60’s.
Candle mixes a lot of the Daydream Nation magic together. It starts with a very soft affectionate sound before locking together and jamming and sawing away.
Rain King is heavier and darker. The music and lyrics get your mind racing with imagery. It has a charming relentless pounding rhythm peppered with swirling guitars.
Kissability and the sound of falling continually is suggested musically. It is primitive, aggressive yet warm all at the same time.
Trilogy ends the album. It is an ambitious long piece of music broken into three parts. The Wonder is fast and scorching. It has the sound of being lost and disillusionment – it sounds very good and has not aged at all. Hyperstation pulls Trilogy to a dreamier deeper place. The vocals slow to a near spoken pace. The track slows to a soft dead-end only to be woken by – Eliminator Jr. which sees Kim Gordon yet again throw a quality vocal delivery our way. The album ends at breakneck speed and it is an album I believe Sonic Youth have not, and will not better. Beyond all of my musings the album really got the alternative party started even if it is seldom really acknowedged as so. 1993 may be “the year punk broke” but this 1988 album really got things going…