By Daniel F
Thirty years ago, on October 18, Sonic Youth–comprised of Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo, and Steve Shelley–released their revered album “Daydream Nation.” With this double album, the indie noise rock band became more known to mainstream audiences. Using odd tunings, prepared guitars with screwdrivers and knives, three different vocalists, and noisy jams, “Daydream Nation” appeared at number 328 on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all time, was added to the National Recording Registry in 2006 and was one of Kurt Cobain’s fifty favorite albums.
“Teen Age Riot”
This song starts off with a dreamy, hypnotic guitar while Gordon delivers stream-of-consciousness lyrics such as “Miss me/Don’t dismiss me/Spirit desire” and references The Stooges’ song “We Will Fall.” Then the riff turns fuzzy and Moore starts singing about teenagers fighting for the nation. The song is also about friend J. Mascis, guitarist and vocalist for Dinosaur Jr., running for president. The song can be a parallel to today’s influx of teenage protests going on around the country.
The heaviest song on the entire album, “Silver Rocket” is a classic Sonic Youth noise jam. With a distorted, feedback-laden guitar solo, this song is meant to be played loud.
Gordon takes lead vocals again on this song inspired by science fiction writer William Gibson. Gordon tackles critics with the lyrics “Are you for sale?” and takes jabs at consumerism with “Come on down to the store/You can buy some more, and more, and more, and more.” With the last three minutes being a noisy jam and one of the best lyrics on the whole album (“I wanted to know the exact dimensions of hell”), “The Sprawl” is a definite highlight.
“‘Cross the Breeze”
Another song with a dreamy intro, until the guitars turn fast, chaotic, and menacing within thirty seconds and the song turns into a heavy jam. Gordon manages to reference The Clash (“Should I stay or go?”) and keeps up with her amazing lyrics (“Let’s go walking on water/Now you think I’m Satan’s daughter” and “I took a look into the hate/It made me feel very up to date”).
Ranaldo’s first song singing on the album, “Eric’s Trip” references Eric Emerson’s monologue in Andy Warhol’s “Chelsea Girls.” With fast guitars, Ranaldo’s deadpan shouted vocals, and odd riffs, “Eric’s Trip” is one of the shorter, but still great, songs off the album.
Moore takes vocals again on another song that starts off noisy and then turns into a distorted jam, as usual with Sonic Youth. This song has some of the oddest sounds on the album, making one wonder how the band was able to make those sounds with just guitars and drums.
“Ranaldo’s second song on the album references Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “Hey Joe” and folk musician Joni Mitchell with just the name. Starting off with a bowed guitar, Ranaldo once again shouts his vocals over chaotic guitars.
The weirdest song on the album is “Providence.” A song that features Moore playing piano, noise caused by amps overheating, and telephone messages left by musician Mike Watt, make this song a lot calmer than the frenzied guitars of most of the songs off the album.
Another song that features a calm guitar intro, “Candle” also has some surreal lyrics. With the song getting heavier and more complex, it’s another classic example of Sonic Youth.
Ranaldo’s last song on the record sounds mysterious and ominous. The song is chaotic, heavy, and one of the more aggressive songs on the album.
The one song that resonates today more than ever, “Kissability” has Gordon singing as a man talking to an up and comer in the entertainment industry. With Gordon singing “You’ve got kissability/You could be a star, it ain’t hard” and “You’re driving me crazy/I feel so sick/You’re driving me crazy/Give us a kiss,” this is the perfect punk song for the #MeToo Movement currently going on as it details the ways young women are taken advantage of in the entertainment industry.
The longest song of the album (fourteen minutes), “Trilogy” is broken up into three parts: “The Wonder,” “Hyperstation,” and “Eliminator Jr.” Moore sings on the heavy “The Wonder” and the more laid back “Hyperstation” which features some awesome lyrics (“Daydreaming days in a daydream nation”). Gordon takes vocals on the harsher “Eliminator Jr.” which is a mix of ZZ Top’s “Eliminator” album and Dinosaur Jr. Overall, it’s a perfect ending to a perfect noise rock album.
“Teen Age Riot” from S L on YouTube.
“Silver Rocket” from ONLY VINYL on YouTube.
“The Sprawl,” “Eric’s Trip,” “Hey Joni,” “Total Trash,” “Rain King” and “Trilogy” from Facundo Avila on YouTube.
“’Cross the Breeze” from Gilach on YouTube.
“Providence” and “Candle” from Sonic Youth on YouTube.
“Kissability” from LashedPorpoise on YouTube.
Featured image from Andersju on Creative Commons.