2019 Glasgow Film Festival Review – Daydream Nation (2018)


Whether you like Daydream Nation or not, really depends on your music tastes. If you’re a fan of Sonic Youth, then you have no doubt heard of the titular album and this will certainly be up your street. Indie music fans in general should invest in this too; the album, has had a huge impact on music since its release, influencing many bands and genres. The album is seminal, a one-hundred-minute tour-de-force replete with feedback, distortion and experimental tuning. The film is a carefully crafted account of Sonic Youth playing the album in full to a fanatical Glasgow crowd at the currently charred O2 ABC. Director Lance Bangs gets to the heart of the action with an array of clever shots, capturing the band in the fugue state of performance and the concomitant trance of their followers.

The band open with a chilling rendition of ‘Teen Age Riot’, the album’s opener and arguably their most famous song. They finish it with a display of pure noise, the band creating walls of feedback in ever more experimental ways. Guitarists Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore fence their guitars to create discordant notes and an enthralling spectacle. Kim Gordon stands by stoically, thrusting her bass into her amp whilst the others whirl around the stage dramatically. The rest of the concert is a frantic rendition of the album, encompassing close-up looks of the band totally enthralled in their music. The crowd feature as well, many of whom are dragged out of the mosh pit by wary security guards. There is very little chat from the band. This is a film focused entirely on the music.

It’s hard to review Daydream Nation. Amongst Sonic Youth fans it will be hugely popular but it’s hard to picture it gaining any traction outside of that niche group. The sound quality is excellent, neither overly distorted nor overly produced giving the film a true live sound. It’s also very loud which is exactly what you want with a film of this nature. Credit must be given to Lance Bangs too for innovating what could have been a pretty standard concert piece. He makes use of a variety of cameras to capture the concert in its entirety, from the band to backstage to the crowd. The most exciting shots are from 2006-era camera-phone footage taken from the crowd that evening. It all blends together perfectly as the feedback-laden guitars crackle on the grainy phone shots.

Daydream Nation does exactly what it’s set out to do: celebrate a seminal album with a well-mixed and cut recording of the band performing it. The film does not revolutionise the genre or shed new light on the band, but it is an exciting 90 minutes for fans of indie music, especially if the cinema has good speakers. This film won’t be as good at home, but I also know that even in the cinema, nothing beats being there for it, live.

Ewan Wood | [rating=4]

Music | USA, 2018 | 15 | Glasgow Film Festival | Dir.Lance Bangs | Kim Gordon, Mark Ibold, Thurston Moore