Daydream Nation is the fifth studio album by the American alternative rock band Sonic Youth. It was released in October 1988 by Enigma in the United States, and by Blast First in the United Kingdom. A number of publications, including Rolling Stone, Spin Magazine, and Pitchfork Media have hailed it as one of the best albums of the 1980s. As a result, it is regarded as a milestone of 1980s underground music.
Although arguably the two albums immediately before it—Evol and Sister—mark Sonic Youth's first attempts at shifting from their roots in unsettling noise-rock to a somewhat more accessible combination of avant guitar experimentation and traditional rock, for many listeners, Daydream Nation is the apex where this change fully took hold. The album cover itself invokes this transition, with the 1983 Gerhard Richter photorealist painting Kerze ("Candle"). The back cover art is a similar Richter painting from 1982.
Nevertheless, initial sales were poor, partly because Enigma Records, Sonic Youth's American record label, went out of business not long after the record's release. After a period of being out of print, Daydream Nation was reissued by DGC in 1993, which had signed the band largely on the strength of the crossover critical acclaim reaped by the album. One single, "Teen Age Riot", subsequently charted on the Billboard Music Charts in the US, and it peaked at #20 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.
In 2007, Sonic Youth undertook a series of performances of the album in its entirety.
On June 12, 2007, a two-CD deluxe edition of the album was released. It contains live versions of every track on the album, plus studio recordings of some cover songs. A 4-LP vinyl version was released on July 17, 2007.
"The Sprawl" was inspired by the works of science fiction writer William Gibson, who used the term to refer to a future mega-city stretching from Boston to Atlanta. The lyrics for the first verse were lifted from the novel The Stars at Noon, by Denis Johnson. "'Cross the Breeze" features some of Kim Gordon's most intense singing, with such lyrics as, "Let's go walking on the water/ Now you think I'm Satan's daughter/ I wanna know, should I stay or go?/ I took a look into your hate/ It made me feel very up to date." "Eric's Trip" has lyrics pertaining to Eric Emerson's LSD-fueled monologue in the Andy Warhol movie Chelsea Girls.
"Hey Joni" is titled as a tribute to Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe" and to Joni Mitchell. It is sung by Lee Ranaldo, and has surrealist lyrics such as, "Shots ring out from the center of an empty field/ Joni's in the tall grass/ She's a beautiful mental jukebox, a sailboat explosion/ A snap of electric whipcrack." This song also alludes to the works of William Gibson with the line "In this broken town, can you still jack in/ And know what to do?" These feature similarly on Lee's two other songs on the album, the rarely-played "Rain King" - a thundering homage to Pere Ubu and perhaps Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King - and the aforementioned "Eric's Trip".
The album's title comes from a lyric in "Hyperstation." Provocatively-sleazy closing track "Eliminator Jr." was thus titled because the band felt it sounded like a cross between Dinosaur Jr and Eliminator-era ZZ Top. It was given part "z" in the "Trilogy" both as a reference to ZZ Top and because it is the closing piece on the disc. The album was nearly titled Tonight's the Day, from a lyric in "Candle." This was also meant as a reference to Neil Young's LP Tonight's the Night.
Distancing itself from most of the album's rock sensibilities is the musique concrete piece "Providence", which displays some of the band's more experimental tendencies. The song consists of a piano solo by Thurston Moore recorded at his mother's house using a Walkman, the sound of an amp overheating and a pair of telephone messages left by Mike Watt, calling for Moore from a Providence, Rhode Island payphone, dubbed over one another. Oddly, it was released as a single, and a single-shot music video was even filmed for it.
Videos were also shot for "Teen Age Riot", "Silver Rocket" and "Candle".
|Guitarist||UK||101 Essential Guitar Albums||2000||#11|
|Alternative Press||U.S.||Top 99 Albums of 1985 to 1995||1995||#51|
|Blender||U.S.||500 CDs You Must Own Before You Die||2003||*|
|Q||UK||The 80 Best Records of the 80s||2006||#30|
|Spin||U.S.||100 Alternative Albums||1995||#9|
|Pitchfork Media||U.S.||Top 100 Albums of the 1980s||2002||#1|
|Rolling Stone||U.S.||The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time||2003||#329|
(* ) designates lists which are unordered.
†Some releases separate the parts of "Trilogy".
Vinyl etchings (Enigma release)
Liner notes in the 1993 reissue were penned by Jutta Koether.
Bonus cover songs
|1988||Daydream Nation||Official UK Albums Chart||99|
|1988||Teen Age Riot||Modern Rock Tracks (US)||20|