Sonic Youth

Teen Age Riot

Composed by Kim Gordon / Lee Ranaldo / Sonic Youth / Steve Shelley / Thurston Moore

Song Review by

"Teenage Riot" is the pivotal song in Sonic Youth's career. The opening track on 1988's breakthrough Daydream Nation, it's the first song to combine the quartet's trademark Glenn Branca-inspired sonic assaults with a genuinely catchy melody, hummable guitar riffs and witty lyrics that look askance at the mainstream popular culture of the late '80s and imagine Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis as President of the United States. (The inventive video suggests an alternate pantheon of heroes, incorporating clips of Sonic Youth faves ranging from Pee-Wee Herman to Neil Young to Black Flag to Sun Ra.) The seven-minute-plus song opens with a characteristic extended wash of sound, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo's guitars pealing out overtones and note clusters under Kim Gordon's mumbled chanting of phrases like "Spirit desire" and "We will fall" (not to mention the playground diss "Say it, don't spray it," evidence of the group's quirky sense of humor), all of which slowly build and coalesce until an actual hook appears, ushering in the first honest-to-goodness pop song of Sonic Youth's by then six-year-old career. It was an enormous college radio hit, which combined with Daydream Nation's uniformly ecstatic reviews to get Sonic Youth signed to a major label within a year, indirectly ushering in the early '90s alternative explosion.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Daydream Nation 1988 Goofin'
Screaming Fields of Sonic Love 1995 Geffen 6:57
Buy-Product 1995
Various Artists
Geffen 6:56
Left of the Dial: Dispatches from the '80s Underground 2004
Various Artists
Rhino 6:57
Hits Are for Squares 2008 Geffen / Universal 6:57
No Image 2008 Universal Distribution 6:57
blue highlight denotes editor's pick