Concert films are paradoxical in nature, who do you make it for- the fans or newcomers? Paired with the larger issue of really, why even bother when you’ll never beat Stop Making Sense? Okay, so that may be relatively bias, but STS really does stand out because even for people who aren’t that into Talking Heads it presents a live show in an engaging and novel way. Given director Lance Bangs’ history within the alternative rock scene you think he could have conjured up something a bit more interesting for a film based on the 30th anniversary of Sonic Youth’s most beloved album.
Bangs has worked for bands like Nirvana, Belle and Sebastian and the rolling Stones on documentaries and tour visuals as well as creating the iconic guerrilla video for Fatboy Slim’s Praise You. His reputation as a documentarian makes it especially disappointing that all we are presented with in Daydream Nation is a clear cut live show in Glasgow’s sadly now defunct ABC venue. It would have made sense, even retrospectively, if members of the band had been interviewed about the legacy of Daydream Nation, and the importance of the album tour that followed in 2007.
What we get instead is admittedly a well performed live show, however due to little visual innovation you can’t help but lose the atmosphere present whilst seeing music live. The whole thing feels slightly like TV coverage of a festival set, it’s the same four or five shots repeated in a functional but tiresome repetition. The band give no introduction to individual songs before playing them, making the lack of idents signifying which track plays when a little mystifying. A show like this is undoubtedly meant for ardent fans of the band, but this could lead to it feeling a little alienating for the more casual listener, or someone wanting to use Daydream Nation to get into their music.
Daydream Nation could have been a fantastic introduction to Sonic Youth for new listeners, as well as chronicling a prolific moment in their history for superfans. It’s technically well done if not uninspired, and is likely to appeal to pre-existing fans only.