'Daydream Nation' Is 25

“Never has music been draped in so much irony as it is on ‘Daydream Nation’; though it sounds spontaneous and emotional, every literate move seems to have quotation marks around it. The album, with its references to the art world, is the aural equivalent of an exhibition somewhere between the work of Jeff Koons and Sherrie Levine, with ample doses of the comic painters Robert Williams and Gary Panter thrown in for humor and a taste of underbelly Americana. But ‘Daydream Nation’ is also a great-sounding record. It is rock-and-roll at its best: raw, metallically beautiful and funny, and at times completely dumb.”

“Daydream Nation gives this influential quartet its best forum yet for demonstrating the broad harmonic palette, sharply honed songwriting skills and sheer exhilarating drive that have resulted from seven years of what guitarist and vocalist Thurston Moore calls ‘Sonic Life.’ The twelve songs range from the driving slamtempo pop power of “Teen Age Riot” and the gorgeous ‘Candle,’ to the deliriously grungy noisefest of “Eric’s Trip,” to the ambitious, panoramic instrumental sound painting of ‘The Sprawl.’ And lest we forget that Sonic Youth were retrofitting Seventies rock tropes before the rest of the rock underground began to shake its Sixties fixations, there’s ‘Total Trash,’ a surging ode to disposable pop metal that wouldn’t have sounded terribly out of place on Alice Cooper’s School’s Out.

“At a historical juncture we can only hope isn’t a fissure, a time when no sentient rock and roller could mistake extremism in the defense of liberty for a vice, the anarchic doomshows of Our Antiheroes’ static youth look moderately prophetic and sound better than they used to. But they don’t sound anywhere near as good as the happy-go-lucky careerism and four-on-the-floor maturity Our Heroes are indulging now. Whatever exactly their lyrics are saying — not that I can’t make them out, just that catch-phrases like ‘You’ve got it’ and ‘Just say yes’ and ‘It’s total trash’ and ‘You’re so soft you make me hard’ are all I need to know — their discordant never-let-up is a philosophical triumph. They’re not peering into the fissure, they’re barreling down the turnpike like the fissure ain’t there. And maybe they’re right — they were the first time.

— Was it the last gasp of an independent movement that could no longer keep itself from being commodified or the first blast in a battle for the ears of those who knew nothing more than commodification? A marker of fresh intent or a final flag of surrender? The beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? Or was it just a really good record, one that came out a quarter of a century ago today? Only history can judge, although I guess given the time we are probably at that point now. Anyway, maybe you have never heard of Daydream Nation. Good for you, you have no idea what you are about to learn.