Sonic Youth “Daydream Nation” (1988) <i> DGC</i>
Sonic Youth’s master opus is an ambitious, 70-minute album that thrusts the listener into a dream world as accessible as it is corrosive and haunting. This quartet from New York City hadn’t always exhibited such a gift for bitingly original rock ‘n’ roll soundscapes. When it first kicked up its heels in the early ‘80s, it was known primarily as a bunch of noise disciples with a handful of limited ideas. But by the time this album hit the streets in ’88, these rapidly maturing indy rockers had developed top-shelf songwriting skills to go with their predilection for instrumental dissonance. “Daydream’s” opening song, “Teenage Riot,” best exemplifies the yin-yang spirit of the album, beginning with a few spellbinding guitar figures and bassist Kim Gordon’s hushed vocal, and suddenly exploding in a flurry of gloriously distorted instrumental racket and Thurston Moore’s passionate, hook-laden singing. Subsequent songs move convincingly between punkish assault and an artier, more experimental approach (“Total Trash” spirals into some darkly mesmerizing avant-rock grooves, and “Providence” is a non-song of sorts defined by a distant piano and some intriguing piped-in telephone chatter). Sonic Youth’s most daring disc, this helped place the band among the alternative rock gods.