Digging: Sonic Youth: Bad Moon Rising

Sonic Youth: Bad Moon Rising
Blast First (1985)

I have distinct memories of playing a beat up cassette copy of this album over and over and over while studying for exams during my final year at high school. It was the mid nineties, and almost Summer time which didn’t really fit the dark mood of Bad Moon Rising, not to mention that its free-wheeling anarchy was totally at odds with the conformity of high school education. But that’s also the point, because Bad Moon Rising was my teen angst record. Despite all its arty, feminist and socio-political leanings I found solace its downright weirdness and subtle nihilism. Kim Gordon hollering “Brave men run, in my family!” on the jangly tune of the same name, translated into a gay anthem for me. And Thurston Moore’s rant about dogs that are bears inside his head on I’m Insane somehow made me feel like less of a freak during life’s more melodramatic years.

Hey, don’t laugh. I’m pouring my heart out here!

Bad Moon Rising is a record I wish I’d been old enough to hear and experience during its initial release. Ten years on its sparse guitar work, bursts of noise, seemingly random vocal lines and abstract interludes merging one song into the next like the blackest, darkest and most evil stage musical ever, seemed completely alien to these ears. What the hell must it have sounded like in its day? Ghost Bitch was a particular mind fuck for me, the way subtle guitar moans exploded into wild feedback and thumping drums with Kim Gordon screaming like a savage about “faces painted a joyous fright”. I mean, girls just weren’t meant to sound like that!

And you know what? Now, 25 years after it first gnashed its teeth at the world, Bad Moon Rising still sounds exciting and unlike anything else. I play it regularly, it’s easily one of my favourite SY records.

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