Wednesday, October 2, 2013

daydream nation

Sonic Youth took their underground art noise to the hypernation with the extended hazy exaltations and inverted pop structures of this bold and breathtaking landmark.  Building on the artistic triumphs of 'EVOL' and 'Sister', the band co-produced 'Daydream Nation' with Nick Sansano in the basement at Greene Street Recording in New York City.   The sessions featured Thurston Moore on guitar, vocals, and piano; Kim Gordon on bass guitar and vocals; Lee Ranaldo on guitar and vocals; and Steve Shelley on drums.  

Moore muses:    "We're basically very kind of anarchistic when we write and we just allow anything to happen. And then we'll just sort of modify it to what we think is good.  We're interested in pop song structures so we'll like do something that you wouldn't believe that could be used in a pop structure; but we think it could be and it would be interesting to see something used that way.  And we've done it and I think we've done that successfully." 

Shelley says:   "We want people to hear out music; but we don't care about being a commodity...I don't think we're trying to change for the sake of change.  Everything's been pretty organic and natural.  we've just changed in ways that we've felt comfortable with.  and again, in ways that we think 'well this is just plain good.' ... We're not interested in doing something unique just for the uniqueness' sake.  It's got to have substance to it.  It's got to mean something in the format we're  using it in."

Gordon reflects on the violent label that gets attached to the band:    "Like anything the news or media touches...people are fond of using catchphrases, and when you use catchphrases or people go for what reads as good press it is subject to distortion; and what is violent to one person physically is not necessarily violent to us.  It's more of a violence of emotions or something or a passion of something it's not really violence.  Any more than rock was ever meant to be violent.  you know, it's just to be alive." 

Ranaldo remembers:  "'Daydream Nation' was our last record on an independent label, 'Goo' was the first record on a major, so it was a transition in a lot of ways.  'Daydream'  brought us to the top of the heap of the indie-college market and recognition by all of our peers;  'Daydream'  kind of capped off everything we set out to do when we started as a band, in terms of like wow, wouldn't it be great to make a record that a lot of people liked and listened to?... 'Daydream'  culminated that because a lot of the songs were sprawling, but in the years before that, through 'Bad Moon', 'Evol', and 'Sister', we were going out live and melding all these songs into one long song. We wouldn't stop from one song to the next, we'd turn on tape recorders and have noisy sound interludes and have one song go from right into the other and not wait for flaws and just build this symphonic grouping of pieces throughout a set. 'Bad Moon Rising' is strung like that on a record, there aren't really any gaps in between the songs. By the time we finished touring 'Daydream' we were ready to make a record where we actually stopped in between songs and tried to do that, a more normal thing. "

'Daydream Nation' did not chart in the US and only reached number ninety-nine in the UK; but it was featured prominently in numerous critical lists for the best albums of 1988.  It has subsequently been lauded as one of the greatest albums of all time.  The album cover features a painting by Gerhard Richter called Kerze ("Candle").  

Moore looks back:   "It was statement-oriented, but we didn't think, "This is gonna blow minds." We knew that it was a pretty audacious record to put out at the time. But we didn't realize what the feedback was gonna be. And I don't think we ever did, until the [Village Voice] Pazz & Jop Poll put it at No. 2, below Public Enemy's 'It Takes a Nation of Millions'. All of a sudden, it became real to us — that people were appreciating the record in a way that was beyond our expectations. That was as big as it could ever get for us... Listening to the ['Daydream Nation'] master tapes, I was amazed at how crude my guitar takes were. Especially "Rain King," which I had to decode — like, "What the fuck tuning was that and where were my fingers on the guitar?" Because it sounded like I was playing rotten guitar strings on a piece of wood. And then it would break into this kind of hard-rock riff. But it was just so spastic all through the song. And "The Sprawl" and " 'Cross the Breeze" were two songs that we hadn't really played since those days. I had to really listen closely to them to figure out what the tunings were. It was just really weird, finding old notations in scrapbooks and on pieces of paper, like these ancient texts. It sounds great, but when you listen to just one element of it, like my guitar, it sounds like I don't know how to play, like I'm playing with gloves on. I would never accept a guitar take like that today. And it sounds crappy, too, the way it's recorded."

'Daydream Nation'
full album:

Side one
1. "Teen Age Riot"   Moore 6:57
2. "Silver Rocket"   Moore 3:47
3. "The Sprawl"   Gordon 7:42
Side two
4. "'Cross the Breeze"  Gordon 7:00
5. "Eric's Trip"   Ranaldo 3:48
6. "Total Trash"   Moore 7:33
Side three
7. "Hey Joni"   Ranaldo 4:23
8. "Providence"   2:41
9. "Candle"   Moore 4:58
10. "Rain King"   Ranaldo 4:39
Side four  
11. "Kissability"   Gordon 3:08
12. "Trilogy" Moore, Gordon  14:02
    A. "The Wonder"
    B. "Hyperstation"
    Z. "Eliminator Jr."

"Teen Age Riot" made it to number twenty on the Billboard modern rock tracks chart.


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