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Daydream Nation

Rene Cisneros, Staff Writer

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“It’s a guilty man -That increased the crack -It’s total trash -Slap ’em on the back with a heavy
rock”

It’s the late 1980s, the fading Reagan administration is arriving at its final breaths, a reign of old fashioned conservatism was being matched by an age of rebellion expressed through all different forms of art, particularly music. Sonic Youth’s 4 full length LPs have already cemented the band into the underground rock and no-wave scene. Their latest album, Sister, became the prototype of what would become the final product of years of sonic
engineering and experimentation. This album would not only shape the band’s subsequent work, but also the explosion of acts that would emerge above a sea of overproduced top 100 hit wannabe’s.

“I mean, he’s [Sansano] into the harmonic series, we’re into the TV series.” (Moore, 1988).  Lee Ranaldo, Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Steve Shelley, along with avant-grand composer Nick Sansano (producer who has never before worked with electric guitars) produced an album meant to spike the blood pressure of the listener, increase heartbeat to unhealthily high levels, with poetry relevant to all political and social climates, cognizant to their role in the noise scene. Ironic, satirical, complex, and fun, Daydream Nation is the perfect album for any occasion, for the typical bus ride home, a light midnight jog, or on your way to an adolescent demonstration midtown. Music for your everyday pop head, elitist music connoisseur, and anyone else stuck in between.

The leading track of the album, Teenage Riot, begins with an erie and almost off putting hymn sung by Kim Gordon, portraying a game of tag, chanting “you’re it/ no, you’re it/ sweet desire/ we will fall” before breaking into a distinct, pop-y, abnormally uplifting riff. When not complaining about cloudy skies and thunder groans, Thurston Moore depicts a nation run by legendary rock wizard J. Mascis. It is a song that embraces chaos and anarchy, a chant meant to empower youth. It was an attempt to convey a positive view of teenage angst and anger. This song is about the beauty of anarchy, a core message conveyed not only by this track, but also by the chaotic mess that makes up Sonic Youth’s distinct sound. There are passionate and valuable messages hidden within the distortion and entropy of their music in the same way that there is meaning in the rage and passion expressed by rebellious Youth. Teenage Riot sets the tone for the rest of the album which carries on with the sentiment of non-conformity through songs built around obscure avant-grand references. Most enjoy an album like Daydream Nation simply because, they are captivated by the intensity of the music, by the utter passion propelled by chaotic melodies and sonic waves blasted through Marshall stacks.

This album succeeded where its predecessors, notably Sister and Evol, failed. It became a moderate commercial success, able to appeal to a larger and more diverse mass of future fans through a mixture of elements from the hardcore punk scene and from overproduced pop singles. In a sense, it was seen as both familiar and welcoming as well as bold and experimental. Daydream Nation was able to grab the attention of its audience through 72 minutes of a collective mass of youth culture and future music. It was a window into both the chaotic present and the promise of a chaotic tomorrow. Through a recording studio located in the sprawl of midtown Manhattan, Sonic Youth created a piece of art which had a certain flow, like a “vocabulary of sounds that melded together to create a unity, a song,” said Kim Gordon.

Daydream Nation, for the wave of music that came after its release, became a delta which merged together rising acts and never before heard sounds. It established expectations for new independent and alternative music which brought counterculture, once kept away from the masses, to a new generation. It could be said that without Sonic Youth, your favorite pop rock, indie, or any other variation of fast paced, power chord abusing, and excessively loud band, would have never become expired or encouraged to exist. Daydream Nation was the great unifier in a period of “hardcore punk, high-art avant garde, quirky college rock, DIY, weirdo regional scenes,” (Nitsuh Abebe, Pitchfork).

I wrote this article intending to persuade you, the reader, into trying out this album, but I am not a salesman, at best I am a storyteller who happens to be passionate about some album produced about 20 years before he was born. There are so many aspects to this album that make me revisit it every few days, from Ranaldo’s vividly descriptive lyrics on Eric’s Trip and the phonic rhythm of Hey Joni, to the constant heavy pentradome beat from Shelley’s drums, and the vocal skill and energy by both Thurston and Gordon. Its production techniques, brutal sounds, and lyrical genius became engraved into the DNA of countless bands and into the heart of indie genres, seeping even into the mainstream. If none of this intrigues you even slightly, this album is just not for you.

Daydream Nation’s front cover shows a simple, non threatening painting of a wax
candle, dimly lit, meant to intrigue and deceive.

“The most radical things outwardly look very conservative.” – Kim Gordon, Bass and

(“Kerze” by Gerhard Richter)

(SY brought underground rock to the spotlight, they became popular enough to be asked to guest
star in an episode of The Simpsons, a pretty big deal for some obscure NYC alt band)

2 Comments

2 Responses to “Daydream Nation”

  1. =) on April 24th, 2018 5:00 pm

    Nice article and a great album. You like the Pixies?

    [Reply]

    Rene Cisneros Reply:

    I know this is an entire month late, but yes, Doolittle is definitely one of the greatest albums I’ve ever listened to.
    -Rene

    [Reply]

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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Daydream Nation