Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review #135: Sonic Youth - Bad Moon Rising (1985)


Year: 1985
Genre: Punk Rock
Sub-Genres: No-Wave, Post-Punk, Noise
Label: Last Warning Records
Tracks: 10
Length: 37 Minutes
Style: Mysterious/Dark
My Rating: 6/8

Bad Moon Rising was the third album by the band formerly known as Red Milk. It's the last Sonic Youth album that was released before Steve Shelley became the band's drummer, and the last one also before they started to change their sound to a more poppy, melodic style (though from here you can tell they were already heading in that direction). The band was signed to Homestead Records around the time of this album's release, also home of their future friends, Dinosaur Jr... well, I can't think of a whole ton to say about this album right now. It has a pretty cool pumpkin on the cover, I guess... ooh! And it's on fire! Oh boy! Okay, now I'm going to review this album. Here goes, kiddiez!

1. Intro
The intro! It's an airy sort of piece... just a peaceful-sounding repetitive guitar melody and little strokes of electric guitar strings in the background swooping around like birdies in the sky. It's not very long.

2. Brave Men Run (In My Family)
The song is actually pretty melodic in some parts, but there's a general abrasiveness to it, for sure, especially during one part not long after a minute through. After that, though, the song cools down and after about a minute and a half, the guitar that guides the melody sounds very clean... well, DID. Things are always changing around. Midway through the song, Kim Gordon starts singing. The drums sound really good, here. Some of the guitars sound like windchimes. Others sound like the wind itself.

3. Society is a Hole
Begins with repeated loud sounds that sound like a factory or something. Over these effects, the band begins to play the next song. Some layers of the song sound happy (like the bass guitar), but the other guitars are kind of sad-sounding. Almost like a person who's at the bottom trying to get up, with the people in slightly higher positions in society discouraging him from even trying because they know the pain that trying brings. Thurston sings this song. He blames society for making him lie to his friends (who are girls wrapped in boys). He feels that we're living in pieces, when we should be living in peace. Some of the guitars ring like large bells. Some of them ring like small bells. Notice that the sound effects that were playing at the beginning of this song have been playing this whole time! This fades out for a clippet of a very cut-and-spliced version of "Not Right" by the Stooges.

4. I Love Her All the Time
SPOOOOKY NOISES. It's like being in a dark, desolate wasteland or a scary forest, with just the wind blowing around and no idea where you are. Very ominous feel to this track, so far. The beat is kind of slow, here. Thurston sings in this song. The second part of the song (about one third through) introduces very aggressive, heavy guitars that swoop into the main continuum, and the song gets slightly faster for a moment. Eventually the drumming goes away, and then it's just guitars and singing. The song ends with a little feedback and the bang fucking around with their instruments. It's the longest song on the album, being over seven minutes long. End of Side 1.

5. Ghost Bitch
An ocean of feedback and guitar noise and static. Kim Gordon provides a spoken intro for this song. The drums come in about halfways through the song, and the main part of the song begins. Very intense. The guitar "riff" here is really neat to listen to. Repetitive, but in an effective way. And of course, there's always little things going on in the background. There's a very slow outro. The rhythm guitar buzzes and swarms around like a group of mutant killer mosquitoes.

6. I'm Insane
The beat gets a little faster here, and the mosquitoes of track 5 are transformed a graceful wisping sound. The guitar makes the sound of clanging steel. Of course, there's other things going on as well. I'm not sure if I'm hearing a bass guitar or a piano in this song... Thurston sings here. The lyrics here really are insane, but in a good way. Is a dog really a bear? Inside his head, it is.

7. Justice Is Might
Crunchy creepy noises and squeaking. You can hear Thurston speaking through a megaphone and stuttering, trying to explain the song (he was probably baked during this part). The guitars begin playing a tune. And now, Thurston sings! JUSTICE IS MIGHT! As sure as Thurston is singing, Justice is might. Then everything gets really fuzzed out around the second half of the song.

8. Death Valley '69
The most "normal" and well-known song on the album. Probably because of the music video, which does feature Lung Leg, who looks very nice in that video. Yes, yes. Anyways, Lydia Lunch from Teenage Jesus & the Jerks does backing vocals in this song. It definitely would make a good theme for a movie or something. The first part of the song is aggressive, adventurous, and to-the-point. The second part is darker, dangerous, and more uncertain. There's an element of fear in that part. Near the end of the second part, there's a gradual build-up which leads to the third part, which pretty much a repeat of the first part of the song. I heard somewhere that this song was based on Charles Manson and the Manson family or something like that. And Kim Gordon's brother was killed by the Manson family. It's very interesting in that perspective. DUUUURGHHH.

Welp, after this album, the band got signed to SST Records (home of Black Flag), and they released their next album, "EVOL", in which they moved away from the no-wave genre and focused more on linear-sounding punk rock. This album's mostly no-wave but it has more melodic moments than the two albums before it do. And, also, they did the first Sonic Youth music video with the release of this album. It's a pretty great video. So, check it out, if you haven't already watched it...

Top 3 Favorites:
1. Brave Men Run (In My Family)
2. Death Valley '69
3. Ghost Bitch


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