Whenever I buy a well-regarded album and don’t enjoy it, I wait about six months and then try again. Sometimes, as with the Violent Femmes debut and Echo & the Bunnymen’s Songs to Learn & Sing, this results in me falling in love with the album and marveling at the fact that I could ever dislike it. In other cases, such as with David Bowie’s Low, I conclude that the album is overrated trash and that I was right the first time.
Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation just got the deluxe edition treatment, and, given as I disliked it on the first go-around, I decided that this would be a good occasion to give it another chance. And it’s mostly frustrating. The opening track, “Teen Age Riot,” has a fantastic riff driving it, and would be a great song if it weren’t so completely, and deliberately, unfocused. The second, “Silver Rocket,” is at first a slightly irritating but perfectly passable punk song, until, about halfway through, a sudden torrent of distortion renders it unlistenable. The third, “The Sprawl,” has a great vocal hook sung by Kim Gordon (“Come on down to the store / we can buy some more, more, more, more”) but then becomes incredibly boring. From there, the trend continues: the germ of a good song drowned by excessive experimentalism and self-indulgent guitar solos. What’s nice about really, really bad albums, like Low, is that they have no redeeming qualities and are easy to dismiss as just unremittingly awful. Daydream Nation, on the other hand, comes very close to greatness, but the gap is just wide enough to render it impossible to enjoy.
By the way, this is a great opportunity to comment, once again, about what complete snobbish assholes the writers at Pitchfork can be. Read what they have to say about the deluxe edition of Daydream Nation:
Daydream Nation is a great uniter: You’d be hard pressed to find many fans of indie rock who don’t have some love for this record. That’s partly because this record is great, sure– that’s one boring reason– but it’s also because this record is one of a handful that helped shape the notion of what American indie rock can potentially mean. It’s almost a tautology: Indie fans love Daydream Nation because loving stuff like Daydream Nation is part of how we define what indie fans are.
Hear that? If you don’t like Daydream Nation, you’re not just totally wrong: you are unworthy of an entire musical genre. Ugh.