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Music / Daydream Nation

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Hey Joni, put it all behind you.

Daydream Nation is the fifth album by Alternative Rock band Sonic Youth, released in 1988. Made with almost twice the usual budget of their previous albums, it was their most expensively produced album up to that point. With frontman Thurston Moore on a writing spree, it ended up as a double album.

Upon its release, the album received almost unanimous critical acclaim for its use of noise, jam-influenced song structures, and surrealist lyrics. It is often considered one of the greatest alt-rock albums of The '80s, if not of all time, and was chosen by the Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Recording Registry in 2005.


  • Thurston Moore – guitar, vocals, piano, production
  • Kim Gordon – bass, guitar, vocals, production
  • Lee Ranaldo – guitar, vocals, production
  • Steve Shelley – drums, production


  • Nick Sansano – production, engineering
  • Howie Weinberg – mastering
  • Dave Swanson – engineering assistance
  • Michael Lavine – photography
  • Matt Tritto – engineering assistance

Tracklist: note 

  1. Teen Age Riot (6:58)
  2. Silver Rocket (3:47)
  3. The Sprawl (7:43)
  4. 'Cross the Breeze (7:01)
  5. Eric's Trip (3:48)
  6. Total Trash (7:33)
  7. Hey Joni (4:23)
  8. Providence (2:41)
  9. Candle (4:58)
  10. Rain King (4:41)
  11. Kissability (3:09)
  12. Trilogy (14:08)
    • a) The Wonder (4:16)
    • b) Hyperstation (7:15)
    • z) Eliminator Jr. (2:38)

These are Eric's Tropes...

  • Album Title Drop: The album's title comes from the line "Daydreaming days in a daydream nation", from the "Hyperstation" section of the suite which closes the recording, "Trilogy".
    • The song "Candle" is something of an album cover drop.
  • Alliterative Title: "Total Trash"
  • Bookends: The first song on the album, "Teen Age Riot", is meant to be a presidential campaign song for J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.. The final movement of its final song, "Eliminator Jr.", is named in part for his band and is in part a pastiche of their style (with Eliminator-era ZZ Top being the other referent).
  • Breather Episode: "Providence" and "Kissability" are significantly lighter in mood and less heavy than the surrounding material. "Teen Age Riot" doesn't entirely qualify, since it's the first song, but it's also Lighter and Softer than most of the album. "Total Trash" and "The Sprawl" might also be considered downplayeds example: they're both still pretty heavy, but more laid-back in mood and tempo than most of the album.
  • Captain Obvious: During the chorus of "Total Trash", Thurston finds it necessary to point out that "it's a natural fact that I'm not no cow".
  • Concept Album: Not entirely, but several songs are inspired by William Gibson's works; "The Sprawl" even takes its title from his Sprawl Trilogy (which is also the name of its principal setting).
  • Epic Rocking: Almost half the album. "Teen Age Riot", "The Sprawl", "'Cross the Breeze" and "Total Trash" are all around seven to eight minutes, but the crowning example is the "Trilogy" that closes the album, which lasts for over 14 minutes. Some releases of the album divide it into three tracks, though the "Hyperstation" section is still over seven minutes long.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "The Wonder" and "Hyperstation".
  • Gratuitous Spanish: On "Providence", Mike Watt says, "You've gotta watch the mota, Thurston - your fuckin' memory just goes out the window". Mota is Mexican slang for cannabis.
  • Last Note Nightmare: While "Providence" is overall quite serene, it does end with a Drone of Dread. "Eliminator Jr." also serves as something of one for the entire album, as it's one of the heaviest tracks and follows a fairly dreamlike coda to the preceding "Hyperstation" movement.
  • Literary Allusion Title:
  • Longest Song Goes Last: The album closes with "Trilogy" (14:02).
  • Minimalistic Cover Art: The cover painting by German artist Gerhard Richter, Kurze (Candle).
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • "Teen Age Riot" is a presidential campaign song for J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr..
    • "Take a walk in the park? SHIT YEAH!" from "Eliminator, Jr." (However, in the context of what the song is actually about, it's pretty disturbing.)
  • Musical Pastiche: The style of "Eliminator Jr.", as suggested by its title, is meant to be a cross between those of Eliminator-era ZZ Top and Dinosaur Jr.
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Most of Thurston's songs, excluding "Silver Rocket" and "The Wonder". Averted by both Kim and Lee, with the former's passionately grunted delivery, and the latter's shouted deadpan delivery.
  • Recurring Riff: "'Cross the Breeze" opens with a variant on one of the main riffs from "Teen Age Riot".
  • Ripped from the Headlines: "Eliminator, Jr." is evidently about the "Preppie Killer", Robert Chambers, who was convicted of manslaughter for killing Jennifer Levin in Central Park in the early morning and sentenced to fifteen years.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The aforementioned "Teen Age Riot" is about Dinosaur Jr.. The song also references The Stooges' "We Will Fall", with archival footage of the band in the song's music video.
    • "The Sprawl" is a reference to several works by William Gibson (most famously, Neuromancer, the first novel of his Sprawl Trilogy). Its first verse is taken from the novel The Stars at Noon by Denis Johnson.
    • "Eric's Trip" refers to Eric Emerson's LSD-fuelled monologue in the Andy Warhol film Chelsea Girls.
    • "Hey Joni" references "Hey Joe" (a Garage Rock standard popularized by Jimi Hendrix) and singer Joni Mitchell. It also contains another reference to Neuromancer ("in this broken town, can you still jack in and know what to do?").
    • "Candle" contains the phrase "Tonight's the day", a take-off on Neil Young's album Tonight's the Night. The band briefly considered using this as the title of the album, but obviously went with Daydream Nation instead.
    • "Rain King" is meant as an homage to avant-garde rock act Pere Ubu and probably to Saul Bellow's novel Henderson the Rain King.
    • "The Wonder", as mentioned above, is taken from James Ellroy's description of Los Angeles.
    • The album's closer "Eliminator Jr." is named as such because the band thought it sounded like a combination of Eliminator-era ZZ Top and Dinosaur Jr.. The fact that it's part z in "Trilogy" also reinforces the ZZ Top reference.
    • The album features four symbols for each of the band members, as an homage to (and/or Affectionate Parody of) Led Zeppelin's similar symbols on their untitled fourth album.
  • Video Full of Film Clips: The video for "Teen Age Riot" mixes up footage of everyone from Elvis Presley to Henry Rollins to Nastassja Kinski in Paris, Texas. Go to the video's IMDb page for the full list.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Lee Ranaldo's songs "Hey Joni", "Eric's Trip", and "Rain King" all feature this. For example:
    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