When punk kids put the needle to the groove in 1988 and heard the first whispered words of Daydream Nation — “You’re it. . . . No, you’re it. . . . Say it, don’t spray it.” — it may have been hard initially to foresee the cultural impact it would have. But it likely only took a minute and a half, when Dinosaur Jr.-style riffing exploded into “Teenage Riot,” for them to be convinced they were hearing musical history in the making. Twenty years later, no rock magazine can list the best albums of the ’80s without including it somewhere near the top. A copy of it resides in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry for its historic, cultural and aesthetic importance. And the praise is endless and well deserved: Daydream Nation is a must-have for anybody interested in rock music.
With that in mind, it’s this deluxe edition’s second album — composed entirely of live songs recorded during the Daydream tour — that really concerns us. Considering how old these recordings are, they have aged remarkably well. Most are played with an amazingly intense energy, and there is a constant ebb and flow of tension and release, precision and brash guitar wailing. “Total Trash” is the only one here to have been previously released; it was a B-side to the rare “Silver Rocket” single. And the only song that wasn’t actually performed live is “Providence” — it was played over the P.A. system — but the short unreleased jam called “Totally Trashed” makes up for that cop-out.
Also included are four somewhat rare covers that the band recorded during the Daydream era. Mudhoney’s “Touch Me I’m Sick” seems even grimier than the original, with vocals being handled by Kim Gordon. The rest — the Beatles’ “Within You, Without You”, Captain Beefheart’s “Electricity,” and Neil Young’s “Computer Age” — are excellent, rather faithful interpretations.
Perhaps the most incredible unearthed gem included is a demo recording of “Eric’s Trip,” tacked onto the end of the first disc and featuring only Lee Ranaldo and a guitar. Stripped of the unorthodox guitar tunings and urgent drumming, the songs beautiful melody is exposed. The demo may serve as the ultimate metaphor for what makes Sonic Youth’s music so everlasting. On the surface it’s often challenging, but buried within the wall of noise is something beautiful and delicate. The deluxe edition of Daydream Nation is a perfect example of such a balance of extremes.
“Cross the Breeze” stream: http://www.myspace.com/sonicyouth
“Within You Without You” stream: http://www.myspace.com/sonicyouth