Daydream Nation is the fifth studio album by American alternative rock band Sonic Youth. It was recorded between July and August 1988 at Greene St. Recording, New York City, and released in October 1988, through Enigma Records.

Their first official double album, and their last before signing to a major label,[4] Daydream Nation was a critical success that earned Sonic Youth substantial acclaim and a major label deal. The album was ranked high in critics' year-end albums lists for 1988 and was voted second on The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop poll. Several promotional singles were released from the album, the first being "Teen Age Riot",[5] which charted on Billboard's newly created Modern Rock Tracks chart at number 20.[6]

The album is widely considered to be the band's best work,[7][8] and an influence on the alternative and indie rock genres. It was chosen by the Library of Congress to be preserved in theNational Recording Registry in 2005.[9]


 [hide*1 Recording


Sonic Youth recorded Daydream Nation at New York's Greene Street basement studio. The studio's engineer, Nick Sansano, was accustomed to working with hip hop artists. Sansano did not know much about Sonic Youth, but he was aware the band had an aggressive sound, so he showed the band members his work on Public Enemy's "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" andRob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's "It Takes Two". The group embraced the sound of the records.[10] Sonic Youth booked three weeks of recording time at Greene Street's Studio A starting in mid-July 1988. At $1000 a day, it was the most the band had paid to record an album up to that point, but it was close to where members Thurston MooreKim Gordon and Lee Ranaldo lived.[11]

Due to the amount of preparation the band put into composing its music, the recording process was largely efficient.[12] The session became rushed near the end, as Paul Smith, head of the band's British label Blast First, had set a mastering date of August 18. As a result of the time pressure, Gordon was not happy with some of her resulting vocal takes. The band spent a whole night creating a final mix for the three-song "Trilogy" so it could be mastered the following morning. The record ultimately cost $30,000, which led Moore to refer to the album as "our first non-econo record".[13]

"Providence" consisted of a piano solo by Thurston Moore recorded at his mother's house using a Walkman, the sound of an amp overheating and a pair of telephone messages left by Mike Watt, calling for Moore from a Providence, Rhode Island payphone, dubbed over one another.[14]

Sonic Youth's standard songwriting method involved Moore bringing in melody ideas and chord changes, which the band would spend several months fashioning into full-length songs. Instead of paring the songs down as the group usually did, the months-long writing process for Daydream Nation resulted in long jams, some of a half hour. Several friends of the band, including Henry Rollins, had long praised the band's long live improvisations and told the group that its records never captured them. With Moore on a writing spree, the album ultimately had to be expanded to a double album.[15] The album was nearly titled Tonight's the Day, from a lyric in "Candle". This was also meant as a reference to Neil Young's LP Tonight's the Night.[16]


"The Sprawl" was inspired by the works of science fiction writer William Gibson, who used the term to refer to a future mega-city stretching from Boston to Atlanta (specifically from the Sprawl Trilogy). The lyrics for the first verse were lifted from the novel The Stars at Noon by Denis Johnson.[17] "Cross the Breeze" features some of Kim Gordon's most intense singing, with such lyrics as, "Let's go walking on the water/Now you think I'm Satan's daughter/I wanna know, should I stay or go?/I took a look into your hate/It made me feel very up to date". "Eric's Trip" has lyrics pertaining to Eric Emerson's LSD-fueled monologue in the Andy Warhol movie Chelsea Girls.[18]

"Hey Joni" is titled as a tribute to rock standard "Hey Joe" and to Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.[19] It is sung by Lee Ranaldo, and has surrealist lyrics such as "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". This song also alludes to the works of William Gibson's Neuromancer with the line "In this broken town, can you still jack in/And know what to do?" These feature similarly on Lee's two other songs on the album, the rarely-played "Rain King" — a homage to Pere Ubu and perhaps Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King — and the aforementioned "Eric's Trip".

The album's title comes from a lyric in "Hyperstation",[20] and the closing track "Eliminator Jr." (inspired by the "Preppie Killer" Robert Chambers) was thus titled because the band felt it sounded like a cross between Dinosaur Jr. andEliminator-era ZZ Top. It was given part "z" in the "Trilogy" both as a reference to ZZ Top and because it is the closing piece on the disc.[21]


The album cover features the 1983 Gerhard Richter painting Kerze ("Candle").[5] The back cover art is a similar Richter painting from 1982.[22] The vinyl version's four sides and the compact disc inner tray contain four symbols representing the four members of the band, presumably in homage to/parody of the symbols used for the band on the fourth Led Zeppelin album.[5] The symbols are infinityfemale, upper case omega and a drawing of a demon/angel holding drumsticks.


Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic [8]
Blender [23]
Chicago Tribune [24]
NME 9/10[25]
Pitchfork Media 10/10[26]
PopMatters 10/10[27]
Rolling Stone [2]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide [28]
Spin [3]
Uncut [29]

Daydream Nation was released in October 1988 on compact disccassette and double vinyl.[30] The album did not chart in the United States, but reached number 99 on the UK Album Charts.[31] There were three singles released from the album, all of which had videos clips: "Teen Age Riot" (released 1988 in 12" vinyl and on CD),[32] "Providence" (released in the UK in 1989),[33] "Candle" (12" released October 1989),[34] and a live version of "Silver Rocket" for subscribers to Forced Exposure.[5][35] The single "Teen Age Riot" charted on Billboard's newly created Modern Rock Tracks chart at number 20.[6]

Daydream Nation received overwhelmingly positive reviews from contemporary music critics.[36] In his review for Rolling Stone, music critic Robert Palmer gave the album three-and-a-half out of five stars and felt that it demonstrates "the broad harmonic palette, sharply honed songwriting skills and sheer exhilarating drive" of the "influential quartet", while presenting "the definitive American guitar band of the Eighties at the height of its powers and prescience".[37] Billboard said that it was "the supreme fulfillment" of the band's "fullbore technique",[38] Robert Christgau, writing in The Village Voice, gave the album an "A" grade and felt that while Sonic Youth are embracing a "happy-go-lucky careerism and four-on-the-floor maturity", their relentlessly discordant music is "a philosophical triumph."[39] The UK music press also embraced the album: Record Mirror enthusing that Sonic Youth were "the best band in the universe"; the NMEcalling Daydream Nation the "most radical and political album of the year"; and Q magazine saying it made an "enthralling noise".[38]

Daydream Nation appeared in several critics' year-end best album lists and was ranked number two by Rolling Stone, number one by CMJ,[40] and number nine by NME.[41] was voted the second best album of the year in The Village Voice's annual Pazz & Jop critics poll for 1988,[42] which made the band realize that the album had made an impact.[43] Christgau, the poll's creator, named it the fourth best album of 1988 in his own list.[44]


According to Matthew Stearns, writer of the 33⅓ book dedicated to the album, Daydream Nation has received extensive critical acclaim and numerous accolades since its originally "modest" release in 1988, and has been "resoundingly canonized as a breakthrough landmark in the chronicles of avant-rock expression".[40] Stearns wrote that Daydream Nation comprise the "Holy Trinity" of early indie rock double albums with Husker Du's Zen Arcade and Minutemen'sDouble Nickels on the Dime, and remarked that the three albums "together mark a period of unprecedented creative expansion in terms of the possibilities of underground (or otherwise) American rock music."[45] In a retrospective review for AllmusicStephen Thomas Erlewine said that Daydream Nation was "a masterpiece of post-punk art rock" that demonstrated the degree of which "noise and self-conscious avant art can be incorporated into rock, and the results are nothing short of stunning."[8] Jon Matsumoto of the Los Angeles Times called it the band's masterpiece and said that they had developed first-rate songwriting skills to complement their penchant for dissonant instrumentation.[46] Greg Kot, writing in the Chicago Tribune, called it one of the most recognizable albums of the 1980s with its combination of "hypnotic guitar jams and some of the band's best, straight-ahead tunes".[24]

In a review for Rolling Stone of the album's 2007 deluxe edition, Robert Christgau credited Daydream Nation for making alternative rock "a life force" and remarked that, along with the edition's "vital" bonus disc, the album remains an honest and thrilling listen because of its musical tunings and anthemic songs about post-irony and "confusion-as-sex".[2] Will Hermes of Spin also found the bonus disc exceptional and said that, "in terms of badass sonics and sentiments," the album was perhaps "the greatest art-punk statement ever."[3] John Mulvey of Uncut called it an "avant-rock masterpiece" that still sounds "revolutionary."[29] Kurt Cobain listed it in his top fifty albums of all time.[47][48]


In November 2002, Pitchfork Media ranked it number 1 on their list of the one-hundred greatest albums of the 1980s,[7] number 13 on Spin magazine's list of the one-hundred greatest albums from 1985–2010,[49] and number 45 on theRolling Stone list of the one-hundred greatest albums of the 1980s.[50] In 2003, the album was ranked number 328 on Rolling Stone'list of the five-hundred greatest albums ever.[51] It was one of 50 recordings chosen by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry in 2006.[9]

Publication Country Accolade Year Rank
Alternative Press U. S. Top 99 Albums of 1985 to 1995 1995 No. 51[52]
Spin U. S. 100 Alternative Albums 1995 No. 9[53]
Guitarist UK 101 Essential Guitar Albums 2000 No. 11[54]
Pitchfork Media U. S. Top 100 Albums of the 1980s 2002 No. 1[7]
Rolling Stone U. S. The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 2003 No. 329[51]
Blender U. S. 500 CDs You Must Own Before You Die 2003 (no ranking)
Q U. K. The 80 Best Records of the 80s 2006 No. 30
Slant Magazine US Best Albums of the 1980s 2012 No. 30[55]


The band promoted the album with a North American tour from October to December 1988, concentrating almost exclusively on material from the album. In 1989, they took the tour to New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the USSR and Europe, finishing the year with their first network television appearance—on the syndicated Night Music—playing "Silver Rocket".[5] In 2007 they played the album live as part of the Don't Look Back concert series, and then toured with it through Europe and Australia into 2008.[5][43]

Track listing[edit]Edit

All songs written and composed by Sonic Youth (Thurston MooreKim GordonLee RanaldoSteve Shelley). 

Side one
No. Title Lyrics Length
1. "Teen Age Riot"   Moore 6:57
2. "Silver Rocket"   Moore 3:47
3. "The Sprawl"   Gordon 7:42
Side two
No. Title Lyrics Length
4. "'Cross the Breeze"   Gordon 7:00
5. "Eric's Trip"   Ranaldo 3:48
6. "Total Trash"   Moore 7:33
Side three
No. Title Lyrics Length
7. "Hey Joni"   Ranaldo 4:23
8. "Providence"   2:41
9. "Candle"   Moore 4:58
10. "Rain King"   Ranaldo 4:39
Side four
No. Title Lyrics Length
11. "Kissability"   Gordon 3:08
12. "Trilogy"

  • A. "The Wonder"
  • B. "Hyperstation"
  • Z. "Eliminator Jr." (Some releases separate the parts of "Trilogy")
Moore, Gordon 14:02

Deluxe Edition[edit]Edit

A Deluxe Edition of Daydream Nation was released in 2007. It contains live versions of every track on the album, plus studio recordings of some cover songs. A 4-LP vinyl version was released on July 17, 2007.[56]

The four-LP vinyl release of the deluxe edition has a slightly different track listing than the CD release. The first two LPs have the same track listing as the original double-LP release. However, the home demo of "Eric's Trip" is at the end of the fourth LP, rather than falling immediately after the original album.


Sonic Youth


Chart (1988) Peak


UK Albums Chart[57] 99
Chart (2007) Peak


Belgian Albums Chart (Vl)[58] 91
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.