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Daydream Nation

Daydream Nation
Studio album by Sonic Youth
Released October 1988
Recorded July–August 1988
Studio Greene St. Recording in New York City, United States
Genre Avant-rock, indie rock, alternative rock, art punk
Length 70:47
Label Enigma
Producer Nick Sansano, Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth chronology
Daydream Nation
Singles from Daydream Nation
  1. "Teen Age Riot"
    Released: 1988

Daydream Nation is the fifth studio album by American alternative rock band Sonic Youth. The band recorded the album between July and August 1988 at Greene St. Recording in New York City, and it was released in October by Enigma Records as a double album. Daydream Nation was the group's last record before signing to a major label.[1]

After Daydream Nation was released, it received widespread acclaim from critics and earned Sonic Youth a major label deal. The album was ranked high in critics' year-end lists of 1988's best records, being voted second in The Village Voice‍ '​s annual Pazz & Jop poll. Daydream Nation has since been widely considered to be Sonic Youth's greatest work,[2][3] and an influence on the alternative and indie rock genres. It was chosen by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Recording Registry in 2005.[4]


  • Writing and recording 1
  • Music and lyrics 2
  • Title and packaging 3
  • Release and reception 4
  • Legacy 5
    • Accolades 5.1
  • Tour 6
  • Track listing 7
    • Deluxe edition 7.1
  • Personnel 8
    • Sonic Youth 8.1
    • Production 8.2
  • Charts 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

Writing and recording

Sonic Youth's standard songwriting method involved Moore bringing in melody ideas and chord changes, which the band would spend several months fashioning into full-length songs. Instead of paring the songs down as the group usually did, the months-long writing process for Daydream Nation resulted in long jams, some of them lasting well over a half an hour. Several friends of the band, including Henry Rollins, had long praised the band's long live improvisations and told the group that its records never captured them. With Moore on a writing spree, the album ultimately had to be expanded to a double album.[5]

Sonic Youth recorded Daydream Nation at New York's Greene Street basement studio. The studio's engineer, Nick Sansano, was accustomed to working with hip hop artists. Sansano did not know much about Sonic Youth, but he was aware the band had an aggressive sound, so he showed the band members his work on Public Enemy's "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" and Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's "It Takes Two". The group embraced the sound of the records.[6] Sonic Youth booked three weeks of recording time at Greene Street's Studio A, starting in mid-July 1988. At $1,000 a day, it was the most the band had paid to record an album up to that point, but it was close to where members Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon and Lee Ranaldo lived.[7]

Due to the amount of preparation the band put into composing its music, the recording process was largely efficient.[8] The session became rushed near the end, as Paul Smith, head of the band's British label Blast First, had set a mastering date of August 18. As a result of the time pressure, Gordon was not happy with some of her resulting vocal takes. The band spent a whole night creating a final mix for the three-song "Trilogy" so it could be mastered the following morning. The record ultimately cost $30,000, which led Moore to refer to the album as "our first non-econo record".[9]

Music and lyrics

"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 (specifically from the Sprawl Trilogy). The lyrics for the first verse were lifted from the novel The Stars at Noon by Denis Johnson.[10] "'Cross the Breeze" features some of 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.[11]

"Hey Joni" is titled as a tribute to rock standard "Hey Joe" and to Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.[12] It is sung by 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's Neuromancer 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 homage to Pere Ubu and perhaps Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King — and the aforementioned "Eric's Trip".

"Providence" consisted of a piano solo by 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.[13]

The closing track "Eliminator Jr." was inspired by the "Preppie Killer", Robert Chambers. It 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.[14]

Title and packaging

Daydream Nation‍ '​s title came from a lyric in the song "Hyperstation".[15] Sonic Youth had also considered the title "Tonight's the Day", from a lyric in "Candle", which made reference to Neil Young's 1975 album Tonight's the Night.[16] The cover for Daydream Nation features the 1983 Gerhard Richter painting Kerze ("Candle").[17] The back cover art is a similar Richter painting from 1982.[18] The vinyl version's four sides and the compact disc inner tray contain four symbols representing the four members of the band, presumably in a homage to - and a parody of - the symbols used for the band on the fourth Led Zeppelin album.[17] The symbols are infinity, female, upper case omega and a drawing of a demon/angel holding drumsticks.

Release and reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic [3]
Chicago Tribune [19]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music [20]
The Great Rock Discography 9/10[20]
MusicHound 5/5[20]
Rolling Stone [21]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide [22]
Spin Alternative Record Guide 10/10[20]
Sputnikmusic 4.5/5[23]
The Village Voice A[24]

Daydream Nation was released in October 1988 on compact disc, cassette and double vinyl.[25] The album did not chart in the United States, but reached No. 99 on the UK Album Charts.[26] There were three singles released from the album, all of which had videos clips: "Teen Age Riot" (released in 1988 on 12" vinyl and CD),[27] "Providence" (released in the UK in 1989),[28] "Candle" (12" released October 1989),[29] and a live version of "Silver Rocket" for subscribers to Forced Exposure.[17][30] The single "Teen Age Riot" charted on Billboard's newly created Modern Rock Tracks chart at No. 20.[31]

Daydream Nation received overwhelmingly positive reviews from contemporary critics.[32] Billboard called it "the supreme fulfillment" of the band's "fullbore technique".[33] Rolling Stone magazine's Robert Palmer said it demonstrates "the broad harmonic palette, sharply honed songwriting skills and sheer exhilarating drive" of the "influential quartet", while presenting "the definitive American guitar band of the Eighties at the height of its powers and prescience".[21] In The Village Voice, Robert Christgau said while Sonic Youth are embracing a "happy-go-lucky careerism and four-on-the-floor maturity", their relentlessly discordant music is "a philosophical triumph."[24] The British music press also embraced the album: Record Mirror enthusing that Sonic Youth were "the best band in the universe"; the NME calling Daydream Nation the "most radical and political album of the year"; and Q magazine saying it made an "enthralling noise".[33]

Daydream Nation appeared in several critics' year-end best album lists and was ranked No. 2 by Rolling Stone, No. 1 by CMJ,[34] and No. 9 by NME.[35] It was also voted the second best album of the year in The Village Voice‍ '​s annual Pazz & Jop critics poll,[36] which made the band realize that the album had made an impact.[37] Christgau, the poll's creator and supervisor, named it the fourth best album of 1988 in his own list.[38]


Daydream Nation has received extensive critical acclaim and numerous accolades since its release in 1988. According to Matthew Stearns, writer of the 33⅓ book dedicated to the album, it has been "resoundingly canonized as a breakthrough landmark in the chronicles of avant-rock expression".[34] Stearns wrote that Daydream Nation comprise the "Holy Trinity" of early indie rock double albums with Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade and Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime, and remarked that the three albums "together mark a period of unprecedented creative expansion in terms of the possibilities of underground (or otherwise) American rock music."[39] In a retrospective review for AllMusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine said that Daydream Nation was "a masterpiece of post-punk art rock" that demonstrated the degree of which "noise and self-conscious avant art can be incorporated into rock, and the results are nothing short of stunning."[3] Jon Matsumoto of the Los Angeles Times called it the band's masterpiece and said that they had developed first-rate songwriting skills to complement their penchant for dissonant instrumentation.[40] Greg Kot, writing in the Chicago Tribune, called it one of the most recognizable albums of the 1980s with its combination of "hypnotic guitar jams and some of the band's best, straight-ahead tunes".[19]

In a review for Rolling Stone of the album's 2007 deluxe edition, Robert Christgau credited Daydream Nation for making alternative rock "a life force" and remarked that, along with the edition's "vital" bonus disc, the album remains an honest and thrilling listen because of its musical tunings and anthemic songs about post-irony and "confusion-as-sex".[41] Will Hermes of Spin also found the bonus disc exceptional and said that, "in terms of badass sonics and sentiments," the album was perhaps "the greatest art-punk statement ever."[42] John Mulvey of Uncut called it an "avant-rock masterpiece" that still sounds "revolutionary."[43] Kurt Cobain listed it in his top 50 albums of all time.[44][45]


In November 2002, Pitchfork Media ranked it No. 1 on their list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s,[2] No. 13 on Spin magazine's list of the 100 greatest albums from 1985 to 2010[46] and No. 45 on the Rolling Stone list of the 100 greatest albums of the 1980s.[47] In 2003, the album was ranked No. 328 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums ever.[48] It was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry in 2006.[4]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Alternative Press U. S. Top 99 Albums of 1985 to 1995 1995 No. 51[49]
Spin U. S. 100 Alternative Albums 1995 No. 9[50]
Guitarist UK 101 Essential Guitar Albums 2000 No. 11[51]
Pitchfork Media U. S. Top 100 Albums of the 1980s 2002 No. 1[2]
Rolling Stone U. S. The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 2003 No. 329[48]
Blender U. S. 500 CDs You Must Own Before You Die 2003 (no ranking)
Q U. K. The 80 Best Records of the 80s 2006 No. 30
Slant Magazine US Best Albums of the 1980s 2012 No. 30[52]


The band promoted the album with a North American tour from October to December 1988, concentrating almost exclusively on material from the album. In 1989, they took the tour to New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the USSR and Europe, finishing the year with their first network television appearance—on the syndicated Night Music—playing "Silver Rocket".[17] In 2007 they played the album live as part of the Don't Look Back concert series, and then toured with it through Europe and Australia into 2008.[17][37]

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Sonic Youth (Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon, Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley). 

Side one
No. Title Lyrics Length
1. "Teen Age Riot"   Moore 6:57
2. "Silver Rocket"   Moore 3:47
3. "The Sprawl"   Gordon 7:42
Side two
No. Title Lyrics Length
4. "'Cross the Breeze"   Gordon 7:00
5. "Eric's Trip"   Ranaldo 3:48
6. "Total Trash"   Moore 7:33
Side three
No. Title Lyrics Length
7. "Hey Joni"   Ranaldo 4:23
8. "Providence"     2:41
9. "Candle"   Moore 4:58
10. "Rain King"   Ranaldo 4:39
Side four
No. Title Lyrics Length
11. "Kissability"   Gordon 3:08
12. "Trilogy"
  • a) "The Wonder"
  • b) "Hyperstation"
  • z) "Eliminator Jr." (Some releases separate the parts of "Trilogy")
Moore, Gordon 14:02

Deluxe edition

A deluxe edition of Daydream Nation was released in 2007, containing 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.[53]

The four-LP vinyl release of the deluxe edition has a slightly different track listing than the CD release. The first two LPs have the same track listing as the original double-LP release. However, the home demo of "Eric's Trip" is at the end of the fourth LP, rather than falling immediately after the original album.


Sonic Youth



Chart (1988) Peak
UK Albums Chart[54] 99
Chart (2007) Peak
Belgian Albums Chart (Vl)[55] 91


  1. ^ "GuitarPlayer: Sonic Youth's 1988 album Daydream Nation". Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c Rob Mitchum (November 20, 2002). "Staff Lists: Top 100 Albums of the 1980s".  
  3. ^ a b c  
  4. ^ a b "The National Recording Registry 2005 : National Recording Preservation Board (Library of Congress)".  
  5. ^ Browne 2008, p. 264.
  6. ^ Browne 2008, pp. 254–262.
  7. ^ Browne 2008, p. 261.
  8. ^ Browne 2008, p. 265.
  9. ^ Browne 2008, p. 267.
  10. ^ Lawrence, Chris. "Sonic Youth Site Menu". Retrieved September 29, 2012. 
  11. ^ Lawrence, Chris. "Sonic Youth Site Menu". Retrieved September 29, 2012. 
  12. ^ Lawrence, Chris. "Sonic Youth Site Menu". Retrieved September 29, 2012. 
  13. ^ Lawrence, Chris. "Sonic Youth Site Menu". Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  14. ^ Lawrence, Chris. "Sonic Youth Site Menu". Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  15. ^ Lawrence, Chris. "Sonic Youth Site Menu". Retrieved September 29, 2012. 
  16. ^ Lawrence, Chris. "Sonic Youth Site Menu". Retrieved September 29, 2012. 
  17. ^ a b c d e Chris Lawrence. "Daydream Nation" Discography – Album: . Retrieved September 29, 2012. 
  18. ^ Daydream Nation ( 
  19. ^ a b Kot, Greg (September 27, 1992). "The Evolution Of Sonic Youth".  
  20. ^ a b c d "Daydream Nation".  
  21. ^ a b  
  22. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). "Sonic Youth".  
  23. ^ Robertson, Alex (March 6, 2010). "Review: Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation".  
  24. ^ a b  
  25. ^ Strong, Martin Charles (1998). The Great Rock Discography. Giunti. p. 768.  
  26. ^ "The Official Charts Company - Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth Search". The Official Charts Company. 6 May 2013. 
  27. ^ Lawrence, Chris. "Sonic Youth Site Menu". Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  28. ^ Lawrence, Chris. "Sonic Youth Site Menu". Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  29. ^ Lawrence, Chris. "Sonic Youth Site Menu". Retrieved 2 October 2012. 
  30. ^ Lawrence, Chris. "Sonic Youth Site Menu". Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  31. ^ "Sonic Youth – Awards : AllMusic".  
  32. ^ French, David (June 5, 2008). "They're keepers of the grunge".  
  33. ^ a b Browne 2008, p. 276.
  34. ^ a b Stearns 2007, p. 9.
  35. ^ "Albums and Tracks of the Year for 1988".  
  36. ^ "The 1988 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". February 28, 1989. Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  37. ^ a b  
  38. ^ "Pazz & Jop 1988: Dean's List". The Village Voice (New York). February 28, 1989. Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  39. ^ Stearns 2007, p. 15.
  40. ^ Matsumoto, Jon (March 17, 1994). "Sonic Youth 'Daydream Nation' (1988) DGC".  
  41. ^ Christgau, Robert (June 28, 2007). "Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation: Deluxe Edition". Rolling Stone. Retrieved June 20, 2013. 
  42. ^ Hermes, Will (July 2007). "Reissues".  
  43. ^ "Review: Daydream Nation".  
  44. ^ "Top 50 by Nirvana [MIXTAPE]". Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  45. ^ Cross, Gaar, Gendron, Martens, Yarm (2013). Nirvana: The Complete Illustrated History. p. 52.  
  46. ^ Battaglia, Andy; Indrisek, Scott (November 30, 2010). "125 Best Albums of the Past 25 Years |".  
  47. ^ '"Daydream Nation"100 Best Albums of the Eighties: Sonic Youth, '.  
  48. ^ a b "Rolling Stone' | Daydream Nation"500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Sonic Youth, '.  
  49. ^ ..."Alternative Pres" Retrieved September 29, 2012. 
  50. ^ Magazine (USA) Lists...Page 2.."Spin" Retrieved September 29, 2012. 
  51. ^ "". Retrieved September 29, 2012. 
  52. ^ "Best Albums of the 1980s | Music | Slant Magazine".  
  53. ^ Solarski, Matthew (December 4, 2007). Details"Daydream Nation"Pitchfork: Sonic Youth Reveal Deluxe .  
  54. ^ "Sonic Youth | Artist".  
  55. ^ "Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation".  
  • Azerrad, Michael (2001).  
  • Browne, David (2008). Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth. Da Capo.  
  • Stearns, Matthew (2007). Daydream Nation.  

External links

  • Official website
  • Daydream Nation (Adobe Flash) at Radio3Net (streamed copy where licensed)
  • Daydream Nation at Discogs (list of releases)
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