The most exciting band of the 1980s, period. Sonic Youth had no equivalent then, and they still don't -- no one on the underground can rival them for daring, brilliance and range. Their willingness to experiment and evolve brought them perilously near the mainstream in the early '90s, but recent efforts have once again delivered them into the covetous arms of art-rock's intelligentsia. Starting off on the heels of New York's No Wave movement, Sonic Youth's pre-SST material marked a period of maturation defined by self-conscious DIY amateurism and the complete demolition of rock guitar convention. The approach broke ground, but kept a pretty low ceiling on what the band could achieve. The arrival of EVOL in 1986 signaled the end of Sonic Youth's anarchic primitivism and the dawning of their golden age. They were gradually transforming bouts of alternate tuning overkill into tightly crafted song. Daydream Nation (1988) remains their pinnacle achievement, a thematically coherent pastiche of Gen-X cynicism, sonic tube disasters and surreal guitar passages that chime like harps in a hailstorm. The work of Sonic Youth is all the more remarkable for being almost entirely self-produced and truly collaborative in origin. Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon and Lee Ranaldo all lend a hand in writing and singing, which sometimes produces the jarring effect of listening to three different bands on the same album.