Sonic Youth
Daydream Nation


4.5
superb

Review

by Alex Robertson STAFF
March 6th, 2010 | 820 replies


Release Date: 1988 | Tracklist

Review Summary: It's just noise.

I guess the most important component of enjoying Daydream Nation (and, as well, Sonic Youth's music in general) is whether or not you find the same sense of exhilaration that they do in danger, alienation, lust, and exploring the unexplored (and possibly disastrous). This sense of delving into potentially threatening territory defined every bit of the band's early career, from their biting sections of abrasive noise to their disaffected lyrics to their, um, sticking of screwdrivers into their own guitars. Whatever floats their boat is what you're going to have to deal with if you want to fully enjoy one of the most unanimously praised yet undeniably enigmatic bands of the endlessly fruitful underground scene. If you enjoy a little risky business in your music, well, then that's just a bonus (some detest it, such as the impregnated, pop-culture spouting Juno: "it's just noise.").

There's something else in these anthems-for-the-disturbed though, considering any sane rock purist who listened to the infamous midsection of "Silver Rocket" might come to the exact same conclusion. Most are then faced with a difficult decision: stick with either the album, or the opinion of the album. Because, whether you like it or not, one is staying and the other is going. Daydream Nation, detested by many, is also the archetype of a "grower"; its various idiosyncrasies begin not to make sense, but to rather seem a little more natural, a byproduct of the sexy, slightly insane mindset the band are famous for holding steadfast to. Even Robert Christgau, one of the most notoriously stubborn rock critics, gave in, calling "their discordant never-let-up" a "philosophical triumph", straight after panning their earlier works.

So, what is it that Daydream Nation contains that slowly starts to appeal to those who give it a chance? Many may try, but it's nigh impossible to put in words. For one, the album put what was endearing "college-radio" rock to so many in a comprehensive package: not only catchy, punk rock-esque riffs, but also a sense of discovery and reckless abandon, demonstrated by the band's ability to switch from a simple guitar riff to a section of spiked guitar feedback or a gradual melting pot of noises, motifs, and melodies.

Third track "The Sprawl" exemplifies this in full: the first half consists of a relatively forthright guitar hook and bassist Kim Gordon's strangely sexy, unemotional coos. However, just as an innocent listener starts wondering what all the fuss is about, the song suddenly slows into a hypnotic piece of (sigh) "art-rock", with melodies and rhythms that were introduced in the first section suddenly being flipped on their sides and repeated incessantly, with layers being added on seemingly every measure. Soon, the "normal" (guitar strums, washes of cymbals) and the "weird" (screeches, white noise) coalesce into one awesome theme for those who just don't give a ***. Suddenly, it dawns on you: this isn't just your everyday punks fooling around with their guitars. This is something much, much better.

The band perfect this precarious balance again and again on Daydream Nation, slowing wrapping unsuspecting listeners in their irresistible grasp. Much like "The Sprawl", "Total Trash" has a total meltdown about halfway through, but instead of slowing down, the members of the band just go all-out and start banging their instruments (with precision!), creating a beautiful mess in the process (doubtful listeners, don't worry!: the song manages to get back on its feet with ample time to reprise its chorus).

Sometimes, there isn't even a melody to latch onto: "Providence", which is bound to be stamped as "filler" to some (hint: it's not), consists simply of unsettling rumbles, poorly recorded piano playing, and a phone call from Mike Watt to Thurston Moore (excerpt: "Thurston! I think it's ten thirty, we're calling from Providence, Rhode Island. Did you find your ***?"). The "***" in question is some lost band equipment that Watt suspects Thurston may have accidentally thrown out, but that's beside the point: the song is almost creepily successful in its producing of an eerie "soundscape"; you feel like anything could jump out at you at any second.

For many, Daydream Nation is a classic. For me, it hasn't hit that point yet. I've listened to the album over and over recently, and I've still got the feeling that there's more to discover and explore. For a while, I considered holding off on a review of the album until I knew for sure that it was or wasn't a "classic" album. However, as I soon realized, the effect of the album will always be the same at any point in time. Daydream Nation is a strikingly innovative, beautifully disaffected release, full of surprises and excitements. Give it time, and its allure will soon become all too present. Just ask Pitchfork.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2010


15408 Comments


i felt good writing this


i kinda wanted to make it a 5 because, you know, it feels better than a 4.5 for such an important, acclaimed album


but it's just not there yet bro


still think i did it justice

Wizard
March 6th 2010


20076 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Tracklist for this album needs to be fixed. One little personal nitpick on the review, while the writing style was fun to read, I don't really care to hear about reviewers criticizing other reviews. It's an album review, not a critic review hahahahaha. Pos' for excellence though.



Never found the appeal with these guys.

iarescientists
March 6th 2010


5865 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

whats wrong with the tracklist...

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2010


15408 Comments


tracklist is fine unless you are anti-dash or something

Gyromania
March 6th 2010


22001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"It's just noise"



Reference to Juno?

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2010


15408 Comments


someone didnt read the review :P

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2010


30478 Comments


really good review, excepting this sentence:

Whatever floats their boat is what you're going to have to deal with if you want to fully enjoy one of the most unanimously praised yet undeniably enigmatic bands of the endlessly fruitful underground scene.


a. "yet" usually signals contrasting thoughts, while being praised and being enigmatic are both positives to the people who will be reading this review.
b. 'endlessly fruitful underground scene' what the fuck does this even mean.
c. it just reads horribly, and is way too long, especially the first clause. read it to yourself out loud. Whatever floats their boat is what you're going to have to deal with...


one bad sentence does not a neg make. a great read, pos'd.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2010


32190 Comments


So, what is it that Daydream Nation contains that slowly starts to appeal to those who give it a chance? Many may try, but it's nigh impossible to put in words


I'd get rid of that, simply because that's precisely what you're attempting to do. It's like setting the remainder of the review up for failure

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2010


15408 Comments


BUT I ACCOMPLISH THE NIGH-IMPOSSIBLE BECAUSE I AM ROBERT SON A.

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2010


30478 Comments


yeah man, your problem generally is that you fuck up your tone. You use all these colloquialisms like
"um" and "(sigh)" and "i guess" but then you write something like:

it's night impossible to put in words


literally read the review out loud after you're done writing it, and then pick/choose sentences you
like more, and then stick with that. i really think it'll help you.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2010


15408 Comments


give animal collective a higher rating and i'll consider it

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2010


30478 Comments


which animal collective album

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2010


15408 Comments


every one ever


give them all fives

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2010


30478 Comments


u give atreyu all 5's ill give anal collective 5's

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2010


15408 Comments


deal

theacademy
Staff Reviewer
March 6th 2010


30478 Comments


http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_D2DO9ibMP0U/S5MqkxQ1bXI/AAAAAAAAAys/KPi-_gmvMg0/s1600-h/lolwattafag.JPG

embed fail.

[img]http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_D2DO9ibMP0U/S5MqkxQ1bXI/AAAAAAAAAys/KPi-_gmvMg0/s1600-h/lolwattafag.jpg
[/img]

Wizard
March 6th 2010


20076 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

tracklist is fine unless you are anti-dash or something



Just a little anti-dash! Tracklist is fine, wrong wording.

Enotron
March 7th 2010


7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

More like Sonic Bitch; Providence is the shit.

joshuatree
Emeritus
March 7th 2010


3741 Comments


not a 5/5 neg

Gyromania
March 8th 2010


22001 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

someone didnt read the review :P



Haha, i just glanced at the summary, busy day... just got around to it now, actually.





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