It takes some gumption to name your first two LPs after seminal underground rock touchstones (by The Fall and Sonic Youth, respectively), even for a take-no-prisoners hardcore group like Double Negative. Of course, it takes similar bravery for two older fellows with well-established indie rock roots to form a hardcore group this late in the game. Double Negative vocalist Kevin Collins is best known—if that qualifier can be employed with a straight face in this case—as the frontman for Erectus Monotone, one of the first bands signed to Merge Records. Meanwhile, drummer Brian Walsby has played for, or behind, such Triangle luminaries as Polvo (circa Shapes), Ryan Adams (as a member of the Patty Duke Syndrome) and Mac McCaughan (during his Wwax days). Despite the lack of punk rock cred that might hold with the Maximumrocknroll crowd, Collins, Walsby, guitarist Scott Williams and bassist Justin Gray more than held their own against like-minded contemporaries on Double Negative's debut, The Wonderful and Frightening World of ... . With the long-awaited follow-up, Daydream Nation, Double Negative's not just keeping up with the hardcore kids; they're lapping the field.
From the moment the very first chord's struck on "Erase Yourself," it's clear that Daydream Nation isn't going to be just another skillful approximation of hardcore's speed and power. This is a grittier and angrier album than its predecessor, possibly due in part to its genesis. After initially recording these tracks, the band decided to scrap what it had and start over. Those follow-up sessions were stolen from the group's practice space, further delaying the process. Despite these unfortunate roadblocks, the result was well worth the wait. The album itself doesn't sound as well recorded as the first, but that fact actually works in its favor. In addition to lending the music a little more punch, this lower fidelity lets some of Daydream Nation's out-of-character moments really stand out. There are plenty to go around: the harmonizing backup singers on "Endless Disappointment," the angular A-Frames-like intro to "Knife on a String," the blissfully turgid Pissed Jeans moves in "Beg to a Vile Nude." None of these detours detracts from the record's power, though. Daydream Nation might play a little fast and loose with what constitutes "hardcore," but next time, if Double Negative decides to pull a punch, it will be a first.