January 7, 2015

Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation (1988)


In 1978 your average punk group would be blasting a deliberate deconstruction of music to support the youth in tearing down the establishment. A decade before that the mainstream was filled with almost nothing but protest songs filled with subject matter like anti-war and civil rights and gay rights and women's rights. A decade before that jazz music, rock music, magazines, and comedians were trying to fit the idea of a cool and bohemian lifestyle which included a radical embrace of controversial topics like free jazz and bringing down racial walls in art.

But the masterpiece of the late 80s was different; there's no call to arms anywhere in sight. Teen Age Riot? How about a big middle finger to the decades that preceded them. The bleak whirls of alternate tunings are dark and barren, but the lyrics are even darker. This is an album made by an abject boredom and feeling of emptiness towards life, sex, friends, and to a much lesser extent, drugs. This isn't your run of the mill teenage angst like My War or Society Is A Hole. The lyrics on Daydream Nation are more cryptic, abstract, and undecipherable, but all still point to--and represent--one thing; depression.

Everyone knows that Daydream Nation is super influential, and I would always talk about how this album really made alternative rock rock a thing, accepted song-structure back into the anti-establishment, blah blah blah. After listening to more music I've realized this isn't necessarily the case. Sure it's sonically influential, but there were other veins of 80s alternative rock like jangle pop and neo-psychedelia that had a big sonic influence on the 90s as well. Sonic Youth's magnum opus should be regarded as most influential for its empty anti-action approach to the depressing and pointless world around it.

Sample

Daydream Nation