Monday, 24 December, 2007

Sonic Youth - Bad Moon Rising (1985)

"There is something inescapably barren and desolate about Bad Moon Rising, an ineffable, pervasive, gloomy darkness - and perhaps this is part of its attraction. This album is about as nocturnal as you get. The amazingly lo-fi, almost-in-tune aesthetic of the album simply adds to the experience somehow, and helps overcome the rather hindering simplicity of Sonic Youth's early writing. The album's flow is steady and droning, mostly quiet and afraid, though saturated with assertive, rallying yells and sensual moans that punch right through the heavy fog settled in throughout. The only real standout amongst the windswept wasteland is "Death Valley '69", aided by the shrieking, esoteric Lydia Lunch, though the hopefully dark opening riffs of "Brave Men Run" make a strong case as well".
Michael Freitag

"My favorite SY record. It just makes me wanna go back to heroin!"
Sue Ellen Ewing

"Intro starts with warm but strangely menacing plucked strings for about a minute, before launching into Brave Men Run (In My family). It's just the knack they have for presenting these songs that can swerve up to the verge of free-form madness and back to a disciplined structure in the space of seconds, all the while incorporating their own special formulated techniques which are played with such a positive force. After the guitars attain some more bashing they incorporate the theme from Intro. Kim Gordon's voice is excellent and has a great style of delivering the words-

"seven days and seven nights
I dreamt a sailor's dream at sea
seven days and seven nights
I dreamt a sailor's dream of me"

The song has a tempered breakdown (like most do on this album), with Gordon repeating three Bass notes while the other Guitar sounds are explored with pluckings on their bridges (this is a great moment where it forms the beginning of the next track), Kim whispers- "Brave men run...away from me" - then rising out of the depths, a tape-loop sample from the start of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, comes shuddering up like some underwater tardis... This menacing melée gives way to Society Is A Hole, a gorgeous sound with Bert's tapping cymbals and Ranaldo and Moore's chiming Guitars, overlayed with Moore's restrained vocal anguish...with that underwater tardis wobbling back and forth in the background...

"Society is a hole, it makes me lie to my friends...
It's running down the street with white power sneakers
...on the beautiful beat of black feet......."

Society runs it's marvellous course and then you hear a tinny, distorted sounding cassette machine playing a snippet of Not Right by The Stooges, complete with tape slips and jumps. It's as if SY are compelled to pay direct homage to Reed and Pop, Amerika's out and out Kings of Rebellion. Also, by way of their experimentation, SY are also tipping their hats to the avant-garde AND combining all of these gestures with their own innovative wanderings. You can have these songs and sounds whirling around your head, like you would with any 'commercial' pop song. They really did tap into something very strange with this album.
I Love Her All The Time begins with some very ghostly gliss-type string rubbings and then the rhythm section quietly sets the pace for Moore to relate the thoughts of some perturbed love-struck outsider-

"She comes into my mind, twisting thru my nerves
I don't understand, a word she says...."

Cymbals, Guitar slashings and eventual dual Guitar feedback bring this song to a close, you get the feeling of the outsider being resigned to his predicament. Ghost Bitch starts where the last track left off, with upper register bending feedback, then Bob Bert comes in with a manic tribal beat in the background. Kim Gordon's pained vocals set against some harsh strumming, but with the Bass strangely absent, which adds to it's very cold and raw effect.
I'm Insane has thudding Drums and chopping helicopter guitar with some of Gordon's very minimal, but perfect Bass, in which to move the whole thing along. Moore's words present more dark imagery, rushed out in a strange time phase in one breath-

"Love starved backwood teaser farm girl hot eyed bride
stone cold blonde a quivering menace atomic wallop...
wholesale murder, we want out, we fish at night, sex in heaven
...a tough town, a cruel touch..."

"...take off your mask, lay off my brother...
...kiss my fist, stop at nothing..."

Another strange lead-in here, as there is the looped sound of what sounds like a distorted vocal gasp or choke into a malfunctioning microphone- this goes into Justice Is Might, which has a megaphone-voice introducing the song. Just when it's teetering on aural insanity, a six-note guitar phrase brings it back from oblivion then the Drums come in which make it more palatable, but not for long, the breakdown is here again, with the guitars left chiming and the megaphone voice disintegrating the proceedings... but that repeated six note guitar part quietly sees it out.

Well, there is a break before the last track. This track is one of the best tracks I've ever heard and one that can re-create the adrenalin rush you get on first hearing, time and time again. An absolute stormer! The track is Death Valley '69. Sonic Youth are joined by Lydia Lunch - the Queen of No Wave! Bob Bert counts in the timing with four clicks of the sticks and then we're on the roller-coaster ride (or should that be Helter Skelter ride?) to lysergic oblivion. Moore and Lunch both sing the opening 'chorus'-

"Coming down...Sadie I Love it...
Now! Now! Now!...Death Valley '69!"

Lydia Lunch is such an unsung vocalist, here she counter-acts to Moore's words in a way that veers from agonised purrs in the storytelling via bleak references, while the track simmers down a touch, then slowly builds up like a longbow being drawn back, it's one of those urgent and tantalising moments, especially when they both start chanting - "hit it.....hit it....hit it..."- until the guitars are like a squadron overhead until Moore and Lunch holler the last- "HIT IT!!!"- and then sing the 'chorus' again to lead to the final blast with Lunch producing one the best female vocal howls ever... it's not loud as such, just very perfect in it's delivery.

It's as if the whole tension of the album has been leading up to this absolute scorcher. This is why I think the album is great to listen to as a whole, in one sitting. What really gets to me about this album, is that after twenty years, it doesn't sound dated considering the whole thing was made with conventional instruments, 'prepared' and 'modified' as they were in places.For me, the seeds were sown with 'Bad Moon Rising'. A dark masterpiece.
By the way, the CD reissue contains the extra tracks Flower, Halloween, Satan Is Boring (a cracking track title if ever there was) and the short, never before released Echo Canyon.
Sonic Youth still offer delights to this very day, their sound and strategy has expanded (hello Jim O'Rourke) and they always seem to have something great to offer. Twenty more years ? Yeah!!....why not ?"

Julian Cope

1. Intro
2. Brave Men Run (in my Family)
3. Society is a Hole
4. I Love Her all the Time
5. Ghost Bitch
6. I'm Insane
7. Justice is Might
8. Death Valley'69 (w/ Lydia Lunch)
9. Satan is Boring
10. Flower
11. Hallowe'en
12. Echo Canyon

link@ 320


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

'Bad Moon Rising' is indeed a great album- the 'review' that is credited to Julian Cope is actually by Jim Tones who contributes reviews to Cope's Head Heritage website.

Absent Sound said...

Wow quite the write up, is there a movie available for this? or was it a concept album?

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