Wait, You Haven’t Heard: Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation

on March 08, 2010, 3:15pm

daydreamn Wait, You Haven’t Heard: Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation

This is kind of a sadistic feature, really. We writers are forced to put on display our musical flaws. At the same time, however, I do enjoy laughing at people’s shortcomings so long as they’re not mine. Unfortunately, the time has come for me to earn my stripes, and all the laughter will now be at my expense.

I’ll just come right out and say it: I’ve never been able to get into Sonic Youth. As a result, I’ve never listened to what P4K named the number one album on their top 100 albums of the 1980s, Daydream Nation. To defend my uncultured self, it hasn’t been a resolute decision to never get into Sonic Youth, it kind of just never happened. There is a never-ending list of good music out there, and unfortunately Sonic Youth and I never crossed paths.

I decided to mend this flaw when I heard they were going to be playing a free show in SLC as part of the Gallivan Center’s annual Twilight Concert Series. I had obviously heard of this band’s unending prestige, and I figured it was probably time to see what all the fuss was about, however late to the train I was. After all, some of my very favorite bands (Radiohead, Sigur Rós, and The Flaming Lips to be specific) had cited them as influences, and I trust the word of those bands to the grave.

So, I loaded up my iPod with Daydream, EVOL, Sister, and The Eternal with the intent of familiarizing myself with Sonic Youth before it rolled through town. At the time, I was doing construction on a neighboring house where I had access to an iHome (I’m doing a lot of unintentional plugging for Apple in this paragraph…), so I threw on Daydream Nation and pumped up the jam. As soon as the catchy riff and the hauntingly organized percussion came in over Kim Gordon’s wispy vocals, I got my first glimpse into what the aforementioned hype was all about. I thoroughly enjoyed (and still enjoy) this track. And the plan was to move forward with the album while I worked on this house. Unfortunately, that plan never came to fruition due to an unexpected outside influence. At about the 1:30 mark into the album’s second track, “Silver Rocket”, where the music turns to pure noise, the dogs that lived in the house began barking wildly and insubordinately. Apparently Shih Tzu-Brussels Griffon mixes dislike noise rock: Who knew?

Anyway, the barking got so bad, I opted to switch from Sonic Youth to M. Ward for a lighter tone of music. And then I never really got back around to my original plan of getting into Sonic Youth. The weeks went by and finally Sonic Youth came, and I went to the show regardless of my unpreparedness. I wasn’t repulsed by what I saw and heard, but I certainly felt like a lot went over my head. Looking back, I feel like I probably missed a really awesome opportunity.

So, to redeem myself, I guzzled down Sonic Youth in massive quantities to make up for lost time, and I must say, it’s a flavor all its own. There isn’t another band that sounds quite like Sonic Youth, and I find that to be quite impressive. Daydream Nation is probably its most accessible album, and it’s far and away my favorite. I can’t seem to get “Teen Age Riot” out of my head, and every time I listen to the album I like it more.

It’s tough to digest all 71 minutes of the album in one sitting, and it is one of those that grow on you over time. On first listen, it all seemed to blend into one messy, noisy track. I had a hard time distinguishing one track from the next. But the more I listen to it, the more things I notice, and the more I fall in love with each track for its individuality and creativity.

“Teen Age Riot” remains my favorite for its ambient and flawless blend of noise and melody, but the others are making their way up the list. Lyrically, “Hey Joni”, “Kissability”, and “The Sprawl” are highly impressive. Gordon’s vocals on the latter track, “Come on down to the store, you can buy some more, more, more, more,” are so contagious and fit the noise and the impressive guitar work beautifully. As a whole, the guitar work is so unique and so impressive, every single track brings new sonic concepts to the table. My only criticism is that the album starts with such a bang with “Teen Age Riot”, “Silver Rocket”, and “The Sprawl”, and it seems to slow down from there. It’s like the standout tracks were put on first, and then the rest were scattered throughout the remainder of the album. But if this is the only criticism I can come up with, then Daydream Nation is worthy of its acclaim.

All in all, the week of Sonic Youth-binging created one more budding fan in me. And while I’m still in the infancy stage of fan-hood, I have every intention of exploring this band’s extensive catalogue comprehensively. More than anything, I just feel glad that I’ve familiarized myself with this band and this album in particular. It was long overdue. Sonic Youth proved to me with this album that it is absolutely deserving of its unequaled fanfare, and once again, it can now add me to the list of fans.

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