Sonic Youth might never have sold-out stadiums or dominated the charts, yet, they are among the most influential bands of the contemporary age. The lo-fi heroes are your favourite band’s favourite band, and during their 30 years together, Sonic Youth were a formidable force.
The group notoriously split up in hostile circumstances, and the chances of ever seeing them line up together on a stage again look extremely unlikely. Not even a monstrous pay packet would convince the members to put their differences aside, if only for a night. For Sonic Youth, it was never about the money, and it would spoil their legacy if they attempted to bury the hatchet for any other reason other than the love of making music together.
Their career took a while to finally gain recognition, especially in New York City, and it would be across the Atlantic in Europe where they’d initially make waves thanks to their joyously chaotic live shows.
Following their acclaimed sophomore album, Bad Moon Rising, Sonic Youth were thrown into a dilemma when their drummer Bob Bert quit the group. There was only one man they were interested in replacing Bert, and that was Steve Shelley, who they were dazzled by after seeing him play with his band The Crucifucks.
Shelley was hired without an audition and became the final piece of the jigsaw that truly took the group up to that next level. He fit like a glove with their manic sound, and with Shelley in tow, Sonic Youth went on to make the finest work of their career.
Each album kept on building on from the last, and Sonic Youth released music at a prolific pace. Then, in 1988, they would release their magnum opus, Daydream Nation, and finally, receive the widescale admiration they deserved. The LP remains one of the all-time classic alternative albums and ended up landing the band a deal with Geffen Records. On the record, Sonic Youth melds an array of avant-garde and experimental styles together to create a masterpiece which, even over 30 years on, would still cause shockwaves if it was released today. Records of this magnitude simply do not age.
“It was recorded at a studio called Green Street Recording,” Shelley told MusicRadar in a vintage interview. “We were really well rehearsed. At a certain point it was obvious it was going to be a double album. That was a big step because, until that point, we associated double albums with overblown rock bands like Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.”
Shelley continued: “We were approached to do the Don’t Look Back series last year. That was a lot of fun. When we released Daydream Nation, we never went out and played it in its entirety but that’s something that I really enjoyed doing. I think I was still using the Pearl kit while recording it. I think it’s still a great album. People enjoy it a lot.”
“Once we release a record, it sort of has its own life. I don’t have much to do with it anymore so I can’t claim too much credit for its success,” Shelley concluded.
Daydream Nation was the predecessor to the grunge movement, and the album showed there was an appetite for something as adventurous as well as deafeningly loud. Those four dates in 2007, which saw Sonic Youth perform the album in its entirety and concluded at London’s Roundhouse, have rightly become the stuff of legend. If you were one of the fortuitous souls lucky enough to be in attendance, then savour those memories as, unfortunately, you’ll never get the chance to re-live it.