When I wrote about Sonic Youth’s Sister, I started my review by saying, “I don’t get Sonic Youth. They’ve just never done it for me, and I swear I’ve given them upwards of three or four half assed chances. But I will admit that I’ve never listening to an entire album from beginning to end.” That same review ended with, “Sometime around the turn of the century, Sonic Youth were headlining a music festival I happened to be at… After 10 or 12 minutes of nothing but feedback, I gave up… Now, after listening to Sister, it’s good to have that decision further justified all these years later.”
But here I am, a year or so later, submitting myself to more probable punishment, with Sonic Youth and Daydream Nation. Why? Maybe I can beat myself into submission and stop having to argue with music nerds about this shitty band.
Guitars in tune, no pointless feedback… If it wasn’t for the aimless, melody free vocals, I may not have recognised Teen Age Riot as a Sonic Youth song. Actually, that’s unfair, because it’s only really true about Teen Age Riot’s intro. Once the tempo picks up, it’s actually a pretty cool, pretty catchy guitar pop/rock song. And while Silver Rocket kicks off in a similarly accessible vein, it’s not long before it descends into a mess of feedback, noise and general fuck aroundery.
I’m not saying every song should be a toe tapper that follows a rigid pop song sensibility, but I appreciate it when it sounds like someone took then time to arrange a structure, and the entire band is playing the same song, set to that arrangement. But when something like The Sprawl sounds like it’s being lazily jammed and improvised on the spot, I can’t figure out why I’m supposed to give a shit about it. The only time a band should sound like this is when they’re having their first ever rehearsal in someone’s garage.
Here’s the worst part, straight after The Sprawl finally finishes being crapped out of my speakers, it’s immediately followed by the awesome, almost-metal Cross the Breeze. A song that proves Sonic Youth more than have the musical skill to write a really cool, really tight song. More than that, it proves they have the attention span to obviously work on it, polish it, hone it, and make it even cooler and tighter.
Ultimately, Daydream Nation bounces back and forth between messy wank fests like Total Trash and Providence, and kind of OK, if nothing phenomenal power pop / punk, like Hey Joni, or the occasional weird combo, like Candle. I’ve tried to like Sonic Youth, really I have. I spent upwards of several minutes googling “Best Sonic Youth Album”, and most results included Daydream Nation and Sister. So it’s not as if I purposely chose maligned albums to improve my chances of being justified in my non-appreciation. But, as they say in baseball, two strikes and you’re out, Sonic Youth. I think that’s what they say. I’m not a big sports guy.