Whose Nostalgia?

No R.I.P. for the rock album just yet—Sonic Youth's seminal Daydream Nation lives again at McCarren Pool.

Despite the spacey sprawl contained in nearly every song on Daydream Nation, the album belies the lengthy noise-loosing they built their legacy on, revealing instead the airtight structure and composition at its core. The architecture of the album doesn't allow much space to wiggle in and improvise on (as the live versions on the two-disc "deluxe edition" already attest). Only when Lee Ranaldo interjected into "Eric's Trip" a line about "the deepest, clearest blue I've seen" of the sky above McCarren Pool did we leap into the present moment. Everybody talked about the stormy weather, yet it never materialized on this night; the firmament above the crowd and band was a gray but beatific azure.

Recapturing Daydream Nation live is an unnatural act. The album was recorded amidst Reaganomics and the crack epidemic gripping the city, and it's doubtful the band ever played it live as a song cycle. Saturday, both band and audience sought solely the music of that studio creation itself, not the old Sonic Youth and not the vanished Lower East Side (the concert was in Brooklyn, fer chrissakes). But between the band and the thousands in attendance, whooping loudest at the line about "daydreaming days in a daydream nation," for a night we conjured again that imaginary land.

Middle-age riot: the band crosses the breeze to Greenpoint
photo: Richard B. Levine
Middle-age riot: the band crosses the breeze to Greenpoint

At the finale of the furious "Eliminator Jr.," the band appeared relieved to escape from under the strictures of that behemoth. Uncertain what to command next, Sonic Youth played loose and easy on an encore of songs from Rather Ripped, Kim shimmying and twirling across the stage, finally set free. Perhaps we should take "Hey Joni" to heart, put it all behind us. Or, at the very least, reimagine Mike Watt's answering-machine message from "Providence," hearing it not as an admonishment to Thurston to stop smoking so much mota (and losing gear), but as sage advice. Forget that Daydream Nation is "important," and just allow for that ideal head space where "yer fucking memory just goes out the window."

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