When music historians pinpoint the exact moment modern alternative was born, they will find that it was on Oct. 18, 1988. This was the day when Sonic Youth released their fifth studio album “Daydream Nation.”
This album helps create sound which would forever help shape the potential of indie rock. Yes, there was plenty of indie music prior to 1988 such as college rock, punk, and various avant-garde regional scenes, but the genres had yet to fully converge into the modern alternative sound that exists today.
Impact aside, “Daydream Nation” is great because the music itself is great. The album’s opening track, “Teen Age Riot,” starts with a soft, dreamy opening with bassist/vocalist Kim Gordon putting the listener into an almost trance-like state. The soft dream is then completely shattered by one of the coolest guitar riffs of all time and some of the most deadpan vocals ever by guitarist/vocalist Thurston Moore. This is the aesthetic which exists throughout the entirety of the album. One moment, guitars are melodic, the next there’s nothing but the sound of Gordon, Moore, or Lee Ranaldo talking or screaming over the feedback of a guitar amplifier. Accompanying the music is lyrics which are either completely oblique, poetic, or imagine a world where the guitarist/vocalist of the band Dinosaur Jr. is the president.
For any fans of alternative music, this album is a must-listen, not only because of its historical significance, but because it still sounds great nearly 30 years after its initial release. It sounds even better on vinyl.