Album: Daydream Nation
Produced: Sonic Youth and Nick Sansano
Release date: 18 October 1988
Released: Enigma Records
Genre: Alternative/Indie Rock
There are very few albums so sonically pure that there is consensus about its ingenuity. The perfect combination of sound, emotion and power. Seldom do artists or bands reach that pinnacle of purity, until 1988 when Sonic Youth released Daydream Nation. The album would be one of the seminal pieces of indie rock lore almost a rite of passage to the genre in the years to come. It has been 33 years since its first release and somehow it is still relevant, still beautiful.
Kim Gordon’s (bassist/vocals) almost haunting opening to the album sets the tone to what can only be described as the perfect theme song for the rebellion of the times. I have often wondered how a single note, a guitar riff or a lyric sets the tone of an album enough to keep the listeners hooked for the rest of the album. With this particular album, it is just seamless. Whenever “Teen Age Riot" comes on, I feel I am 15 again. Not a year older, nothing but my own self involved rebelliousness. The angst, the anger and the pain of being misunderstood all ironically portrayed in a masterful attempt at lyricism is evident not just this one song but in every song in the album.
I equate a good album to a day at the beach. There are the waves that quietly hit the shore, slowly leaving you in a daze while you float away to your own realities. The slow gentle breeze hits your face yet somehow. Then there is a quiet melancholy around you, never truly revealing itself. The songs “Candle” and even “Providence” which is nothing but a compilation of a voice message. Yet somehow it is the fleeting yet abrasive conversation in the latter that I truly feel catches the essence of the album. It is confrontational, aggressive, quirky yet there are some serious undertones to it all.
There remain a doom and gloom created with the heavy baselines and underplayed guitar riffs coupled with the classic punk rock chaos that wraps the album in the perfectly ribboned package for consumption. The heavy and harsh waves storming the shoreline, with tunes like “Hypertension”, “Silver Rocket” and “Hey Joni” perfectly illuminating the brash tones and heaviness that is reticent to a Sonic Youth record in certain unique ways.
The confluence of the album at a juncture in history with the advent of the Reagan Era in politics, the avant-garde movement and the large influences of the 80s art scene made way for the most effectively pieced sound-byte to the mentality of the 80s. It is no wonder that the album made its way to the National Recording Registry of The Library of Congress in 2006.
I would like to think the introduction of a rock scene novice like Nick Sansano as the producer whose credits at that point lay in the hip hop world with artists like Public Enemy and such gave the album a fresher perspective. Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon stayed locked in with their haunting renditions and it is the fleeting, ironic lyricism with Steve Shelley, Lee Ranaldo as well that bodes well for the sustenance of the album.
The album art, “Kerze” (“Candle”), by the German artist Gerhard Richter, draws you in for its simplicity and rather haunting presence. The exact same reasons that would draw you in as a listener. It must be said, the album and the band may not be for everyone. Their sound may not be pleasant to you, but I insist that you stay patient. Give it time to grow, pay attention because the album is the story of the irony of humanity and a chaotic rendition of the 80s. An encyclopaedia of the people and the times that went by yet somehow here we are admiring the beauty of it. It may very well be that Daydream Nation was dipped in the holy chalice of eternal youth or like Thurston Moore calls it, “A new aesthetic of the youth culture”. Maybe that is what the world needs right now. A new aesthetic.