Sonic Youth, Bad Moon Rising

Bad Moon Rising Sonic Youth

 

I could go on at length about any one of the great Sonic Youth releases, but Bad Moon Rising holds a special place in my heart for the pure audacity of announcing Sonic Youth as a force to contend with – even that title prompts you to believe that changes are coming.  It may never sound like you would think it sounds, but Bad Moon Rising, with song titles like “Society is a Hole,” “Ghost Bitch,” “Justice is Might,” or “Satan is Boring” (at least, in the DGC extended rerelease of the album) is a punk album, in every way.  The difference here is that the band seems to have ingested the form and spat it back out in whatever method seems fit – think punk meets the avante garde.  An intro trickles in like running water on a totally out of tune guitar, and it turns into “Brave Men Run (In My Family),” loud, brash, and ugly – guitars that clang and meander, a bass that’s disaffected and seems brought in just to make the floorboards rattle, a second guitar that is hit for feedback and seems like it might as well be from a different song.  But what about that noise in a song that, quietly, sadly, ends on a conclusion of Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth’s sole female member, who doesn’t sing so much as talk and hold the notes) singing “Brave men run/ away from me.”  The song is scarred and loud and great, and with its emphasis on noise, seems to mirror the sensations it declares sonically – that was Sonic Youth’s goal, I am always certain.  In songs like “I’m Insane” and “I Love Her All The Time,” Thurston Moore knows how to sound disaffected and awful and like the most frustrated and unlovable geek at the punk rock show.  But with music that matches him, the noise of these songs is hypnotic and extraordinary, an elevation of the outcast, made more powerful by its difficulty – all good things in life require a little work, right?  So does this record.  What we get then is punk ethos too passionate to be punk, too importantly sloppy not to be.  The climax of the disc, the song that by all accounts got Sonic Youth their first glimpse of fame, was the Lydia Lunch collaboration on the Charles Manson-themed “Death Valley ’69,” a punk masterpiece of snarling fire that  proved SY was, secretly, just a little bit cooler than the actual punks at the punk concert all along.

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