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Record Reflections 5: "Daydream Nation" by Sonic Youth

A series of record "reviews" where the author shares their thoughts & memories about an album, instead of the technical aspects

Do you remember BMG music service? This was the rival to Columbia House. Getting those 7 CDs for a penny allowed one the opportunity to explore music that they might not otherwise check out. It's so cheap. There was nothing left to use.

I had heard of Sonic Youth as a young man. I had never heard of them and, in the days before streaming, it was a lot harder to check out new music. When I was thirteen or fourteen (shh... don't tell BMG. I told them I was 18!), I decided to take a chance on Sonic Youth. I ordered several albums, though I don't recall which ones specifically, outside of Daydream nation. I thought I was ordering all of Sonic Youth but, in actuality, I was only scratching the surface of their massive discography.

Luckily, I grabbed their best album in the process; an album which changed the way I approached and approach music.

"Daydream Nation" by Sonic Youth

"Daydream Nation" by Sonic Youth

buy "Daydream Nation" here

"Daydream Nation" by Sonic Youth

I grew up in the heart of the grunge era. I was not even fourteen yet when Kurt Cobain was murdered by Courtney Love. When I was starting my first band (Five Minutes Cooler), I wanted to do something different. Everyone was either doing grunge, or pop punk. Wanting to stand out, I wanted something unique. I wasn't listening to Green day, or MXPX, I was listening to shoegazer bands like Starflyer 59 and bands like Weezer and the aforementioned grunge bands.

So, when I popped in my Daydream Nation CD (released in 1988) and heard those haunting dissonant chords that opened "Teenage Riot" I was hooked. What was this? What are these strange chords? Why are there long sections of noise and feedback? How can I copy this sound? How can they get away with writing twelve minute long songs?

Being a teenager, I was a sponge. I remember writing one song called "The times that are good are the best of times" (which, in and of itself was an inverse to the Starflyer 59 song, "When you feel miserable."). The opening chords of that songs were my attempt at playing the opening chords of Teenage Riot. Another song called "Swimming on a guppies kiss" took lines from Teenage Riot. Some of this sponging was intentional. Some of it was the result of just being a sponge and not having much musical experience.

Nonetheless, Sonic Youth, and in particular, Daydream Nation, had a profound affect on my songwriting. It had a profound affect on expanding my musical horizons and musical palate. To this day, Thurston Moore remains one of my favorite guitarists, with his unconventional style and weird alternate and open tunings. The way they incorporate three different vocalists and incorporate punk rock ethos,, spoken word poetry and even at times pop sensibilities is impressive.

They went on to record dozens more albums before breaking up in 2013 because Moore (who was married to bassist Kim Gordon) was having an affair with the bands photographer. They made a lot of great albums, but never topped this one. It was groundbreaking, influential and absolutely perfect and ahead of it's time.

"Teenage Riot" by Sonic Youth

The rest of the Record Reflections Series

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