Teen Age Riot

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"Teen Age Riot"
Single by Sonic Youth
from the album Daydream Nation
B-side "Silver Rocket", "Kissability", "Candle"
Released 1988
Format CD single, 12", Flexi disc
Recorded Greene Street Recording, New York City, July 1988 – August 1988
Genre Alternative rock
Length 3:50 (Single Edit)
6:57 (Album Edit)
Label Enigma/Blast First
Writer(s) Sonic Youth
Producer(s) Nick Sansano, Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth singles chronology
"Teen Age Riot"
"Silver Rocket"

"Teen Age Riot" was the first single from Sonic Youth's 1988 album, Daydream Nation. It is the band's first largely successful release, receiving heavy airplay in modern rock stations, and considerably expanding their audience (along with the album itself).

"Teen Age Riot" is one of Sonic Youth's most definitive songs, yet it is something of an oddity amongst their repertoire, consisting of a traditional verse/chorus structure and omitting the distorted feedback that usually characterizes their songs.[1] The song is included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and is an on-disc track in Rock Band 2.

Lyrical themes[edit]

The song was supposedly written about a fantasy world where J Mascis is president. In the liner notes accompanying the deluxe edition of Daydream Nation, Byron Coley quotes Moore on "Teenage Riot": "It was actually about appointing J Mascis as our de facto alternative dream president".[1]

Song structure[edit]

The album version of the song has two distinct parts. The intro section features a repeating, hypnotic guitar melody, and Kim Gordon reciting stream-of-consciousness prose, such as "You're it, no you're it / Say it, don't spray it / Miss me, don't dismiss me / Spirit desire / We will fall." ("We Will Fall" is a reference to The Stooges' song of the same name). After the last verse, all instruments stop, and Thurston Moore breaks through the fading instruments with a fast, distorted, noisy guitar riff, opening the main section of the song. The riff leads to the dynamic guitar melody that plays throughout the rest of the song with the vocal melody, sung by Moore. The riff that opens the section is repeated once again afterwards in the song, with all of the instruments accompanying it in an interlude that leads to the song's last few lines. Some live performances of "Teen Age Riot" omit the opening section sung by Gordon, notably the live version recorded and released with the deluxe edition of Daydream Nation. The opening section is also cut from the song's music video.

Music video[edit]

The video for the song was Sonic Youth's fourth overall, excluding the low-budget Ciccone Youth videos; the band directed it themselves. It includes clips of many icons of alternative music culture such as Mark E. Smith, Johnny Thunders, Neil Young, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, Sun Ra, D. Boon, Mike Watt, Henry Rollins, Nick Cave, J Mascis, and Kiss.

Single track listing[edit]

All songs by Sonic Youth

  1. "Teen Age Riot (Edit)" – 3:50
  2. "Silver Rocket" – 3:47
  3. "Kissability" – 3:08
  4. "Candle" – 4:59

Notes on performance and tuning[edit]

As with many Sonic Youth songs, the guitars are unconventionally tuned; in this case, Thurston Moore's pentatonic tuning is (reading from left to right the lowest pitched string to the highest pitched string) GABDEG and Lee Ranaldo's tuning is GGDDGG, as published in a Guitar World interview with the band.[2]

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1988)[3] Peak
Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 20


  1. ^ a b "Teen Age Riot". Allmusic. 
  2. ^ Guitar Player, Issue 259, Vol. 25, No. 8, August 1991
  3. ^ "Daydream Nation – Sonic Youth: Awards". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 

Coley, Byron and Farell, Ray; Liner Notes, Daydream Nation, 'deluxe edition', copyright 2007 Geffen Records.