Friday, January 18, 2008

No. 329: Daydream Nation

Band: Sonic Youth
Album: Daydream Nation
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: One of the most important albums in the history of indie rock, "Daydream Nation" was the album to end all indie rock albums. Sounding distinctly like New York's underground scene, the album has droning guitars, ironic lyrics and overall distortion years before Pavement, Mogwai and other such stalwarts were making records.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I imagine I have to spend more time with the album to fully understand it, but I think I may still be missing something. I don't shit all over myself whenever I hear this album. With that said, it's wildly important to indie rock and should be way higher.
Best song: "Teenage Riot" is my favorite from the record, certainly.
Worst song: "Providence" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: I love it as background music, but I can't keep it as a foreground record.

I can't speak specifically to this album too much (I still don't know if I fully get it), as I'm no Sonic Youth expert. Certainly, "Daydream Nation" is a masterpiece, being clever in songs like "Sprawl" and "Teenage Riot." It's epic in "Total Trash" and "Trilogy." It's a great album, building from the sounds of Jesus and Mary Chain to take indie rock from its jangly roots to the harder stuff. It's futuristic, it's artsy and it's urban.

Nevertheless, I have spent most of my rock fandom not being overly impressed with Sonic Youth. I imagine it's similar to my feelings on the Pixies; both bands were godfathers when I began to receive underground rock and roll. I wasn't paying attention when these bands were at their peaks and, unlike the less-forced-on-me Meat Puppets, I pushed back on the constant barrage of "Man, you should like these guys" from everyone I knew.

Listening to the album, it's easy to pick out the bits and pieces of what would follow. Like "Loveless" or "Surfer Rosa," this record is wildly ahead of its time. I hear music stuff that I've loved in modern music, not knowing that Sonic Youth was doing this stuff 10-15 years ago.

Today, Sonic Youth are indie rock ambassadors and experimenters. They tour with Jim O'Rourke, they make atonal SYR albums and they go about their lives. I'm cool with that, but it does push them into the background and lets pricks like me act like Mogwai invented droney metal guitars.


I don't expect to hear too many complaints about the rating above. Daydream Nation is a great uniter: You'd be hard pressed to find many fans of indie rock who don't have some love for this record.

--Nitsuh Abebe, in a 10.0/10.0 Pitchfork review of "Daydream Nation."

I'd say I'm the one person, because I'm not. However, I do think there is a lot of slobbering over this band that is probably unfounded. Like I said, they haven't done anything of particular note in 10 years.

Just for shits and giggles, here's a video for "Teenage Riot":

1 comment:

fft said...

This fits into the Awesome camp for me... should be higher in my view. I listen to it a lot in the summer, outside, often as background music (often to drinking). This works because the album goes beyond the individual songs and ebbs and flows from beginning to end.

I also saw them play it beginning-to-end at Pitchfork festival in Chicago last summer. Again, summer, outside, drinking, beginning-to-end. That's the way to take it.