Eleventh Dream Day could have been Sonic Youth’s younger tougher twin. There are certainly many similarities between the two groups. Both bands were the product of a husband and wife visionary team. Both were built on the buzzing feedback of loud layered guitars with minimal vocal embellishment. In 1988, the same year New York’s Sonic Youth released the critic’s darling Daydream Nation, an avant garde double LP with its rolling waves of noise and instrumental soundscapes, Chicago’s Eleventh Dream Day broke onto the pre Nirvana music scene with Prairie School Freakout. Both records sound very much alike, and an interesting fact, the first cut on Prairie School – Watching the Candles Burn – is the cover photography (a burning candle) on Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation. While Sonic Youth would be courted by the critics as the fresh new indie sound, continuing to experiment and loosening up the song structure on subsequent albums, their harder rocking midwestern doppelgänger would get progressively tighter and louder but slowly slip out of sight, being eclipsed by other Chicago acts like Smashing Pumpkins and the emerging sound coming from Seattle.
Prairie School Freakout is a really great album that was recorded in just one day. The team of guitarist Rick Rizzo and drummer Janet Beveridge Bean had been playing together since they met in college in the early 80’s. Along with with bassist Douglas McCombs and guitarist Baird Figi the band with its country-tinged feedback drenched guitar style drew inspiration from Neil Young and Crazy Horse ala Zuma. They followed Freakout with two more fine rocking records, 1989’s Beet and Live to Tell in 91. Their next album El Moodio was recorded and then sadly retooled by their inept label (Atlantic Records) which failed to promote any of the records properly. The group was dropped following its release and the band splintered shortly after. Rizzo and Bean continued to record through the 90’s under the EDD name while working day jobs and raising their young son.
Interestingly, 20 years later a Facebook comment rekindled memories of the original El Moodio album sessions. A search for the missing tapes ensued and the original 1991 recording re-titled New Moodio was finally released on vinyl in 2013.
Eleventh Dream Day was one of my favorite bands to see live back then. I caught them often playing Cubby Bear or at Metro with opening act Nirvana. That was then, but for now, here is Prairie School Freakout – Enjoy.