Thursday, October 18, 2018

National treasure

A very happy birthday to Daydream Nation, released on this day back in 1988. There should be 30 candles on the cake, but just the one would be more fitting.

As this Consequence Of Sound article by Robert Ham and this Pitchfork Liner Notes feature underline, the New Yorkers' true breakthrough record is phenomenal, representing everything they'd been working towards over the previous few years and albums. In Ham's words, it's "the product of a band that had finally found a way to connect their disparate artistic interest into a distinctive whole", striking a perfect balance between art and accessibility and incorporating the experimental within the conventional idiom of rock in the way that it manages to join the dots between the avant garde, underground punk/alternative and classic rock.

While I do disagree with Ham about the production quality (for me, the songs' impact is tempered rather than magnified by the way they're captured), his point about the band allowing themselves "a much wider canvas to play with" is spot on. Everything has enough space to breathe - without the album ever slipping into the sort of self-indulgence for which some later LPs have been criticised.

If Daydream Nation was a gamechanger for them, then it was equally so for others, showing that it was possible to break out of genre straitjackets and flick the Vs at sneering purists. Put simply, it proved that punk could be just as ambitious as prog and that long-form LPs could still shred. For legions of artists and bands who came afterwards, it was (as Ham puts it with no exaggeration) "a beautiful, resolute and illuminating source of inspiration".

There are a number of film events taking place to mark the anniversary of the album's release, most of which will feature appearances from members of the band. Sadly, none of them are in the UK - but at least I'll have the consolation of knowing that I was lucky enough to witness the record played in its entirety.

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