“Sonic Youth are the best band in the universe, and if you can’t get behind that, that’s your problem”. This quote, despite sounding like an incredibly big exaggeration, shouldn’t be taken lightly since it was penned by Robert Christgau as part of his “Rather Exhilarating: Sonic Youth” essay (included in his most recent essay collection, 2018’s Is It Still Good To Ya?). That isn’t to say that I agree with all of his musical opinions (how could he possibly give a B- to Radiohead’s fantastic OK Computer, anyway?), but looking at this one after listening to Daydream Nation, Goo, and Dirty (the three albums of theirs that I currently own, and ones that he gave extremely positive reviews of), I can definitely see where he’s coming from here. Of course, I’d have to listen to a lot more of their albums than that to really decide for myself whether I agree with that notion or not, but for now, I might as well go over the aforementioned ones just for show. First up: Daydream Nation.
This is perhaps the band’s most famous album, and yet–barring their earliest releases (which are apparently very abrasive)–it is probably their hardest to smoothly digest. Songs are stretched way beyond five minutes, spacey jams that are simultaneously clean-sounding and dissonant dominate the proceedings, and the entire thing clocks in at nearly 71 minutes. And yet, those very things are what make Daydream so memorable, so creative, and so extraordinarilyinfluential even to this very day.
Just look at the spellbinding opener, “Teen Age Riot”, which starts off dreamily with gentle bass strumming, then settles into a slyly mellow groove once the razor-sharp guitar kicks in after a little more than a minute or so. “’Cross the Breeze” and “Candle” offer more of that softness to great effect; “Eric’s Trip”, “Rain King”, and the “Trilogy” that closes the album are a bit more jagged, but no less memorable; and “Silver Rocket” and “Kissability” arearguably the closest Daydreamcomes to being radio-friendly.
As for “Providence”… well, it’s obviously a joke track (overheating amps fizzle heavily while a pair of answering machine messagesasking the band if they found a fewmissing cables play over them), but the hauntingly minimalistic piano solo present throughout makes it strangely beautiful, which you could also say for the entire album as well.A true ‘80s alt-rock classic, albeit one that’s admittedly not for everybody. Then again, what really is?