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Bad Moon Rising (album)

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Title: Bad Moon Rising (album)  
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Subject: Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon, 1985 in music, Bob Bert, Flower/Halloween, Flower/Satan Is Boring, John Erskine, Homestead Records, Timeline of alternative rock, The Stooges (album)
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Bad Moon Rising (album)

This article is about the Sonic Youth album. For other uses, see Bad Moon Rising.
Bad Moon Rising
Sonic Youth
Released March 1985
Recorded September–December 1984
Genre Noise rock, no wave
Length 37:33
Label Homestead
Producer Sonic Youth, Martin Bisi, John Erskine
Sonic Youth chronology

Sonic Death
Bad Moon Rising
Singles from Bad Moon Rising
  1. "Death Valley '69"
    Released: December 1984, June 1985 (album version)
  2. "Flower/Halloween"
    Released: 1985
  3. "Flower/Satan Is Boring"
    Released: 1985
  4. "Halloween II"
    Released: 1986

Bad Moon Rising is the second studio album by American alternative rock band Sonic Youth. It was released on vinyl in March 1985, through record label Homestead. The album is loosely themed around the dark side of America, and includes references to obsession and insanity, Charles Manson, heavy metal, Satanism and early European settlers' encounters with Native Americans. Each side of the original vinyl was a mostly continuous cycle of songs, except for the album's closer, "Death Valley '69".

Released to strong reviews from the underground music press, Bad Moon Rising was the first Sonic Youth album to combine the band's experimental material with transitional pieces and segues.[1] The album was preceded by the single "Death Valley '69", which did not chart in either country (the track was re-recorded for the album and released again as a single in June 1985).


Sonic Youth was formed in New York City in 1981 by guitarists Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo and bass guitarist Kim Gordon. The band signed to Glenn Branca's Neutral Records, releasing the Sonic Youth EP in March 1982. As Sonic Youth released a number of albums and EPs to increasing critical acclaim, including Confusion Is Sex and Kill Yr. Idols in 1983, several drummers joined and left the band. Bob Bert rejoined Sonic Youth after the Confusion Is Sex tour in mid-1983. The New York press largely ignored Sonic Youth (as well as the noise rock scene in the city), until after a disastrous London debut in October 1983 that actually received rave reviews in Sounds and NME.[1] When they returned to New York, the queue at CBGB for the band's concerts went around the block.

By mid-1984, Sonic Youth were playing almost once a week in the city, but its members started to realise there was little future in their musical approach; Moore later said "it was getting to the point of overkill".[1] They retreated to the rehearsal room, retuned their guitars and changed their equipment so they were unable to play their old songs, and began writing new material.[1]


After a period of intense songwriting, the band entered producer Martin Bisi's BC Studio in Brooklyn, New York – implicitly Before Christ Studio, which is how the band credited it on the album – in September 1984. Bisi had recorded early rappers and local avantists such as John Zorn, Elliott Sharp and Bill Laswell.[1]

The album's cover is a photograph by artist James Welling.


Bad Moon Rising begins with "Intro", a short instrumental featuring several guitars, described by Michael Azerrad as "a melancholic, meowing slide line playing off a delicate stack of crystalline arpeggios."[1] "Intro" segues into the next song, "Brave Men Run", named after a painting by American artist Edward Ruscha.[1] The song begins with a single riff repeating for a minute, before Gordon murmurs "Brave man run in my family/Brave men run away from me." The riff fades into the album's third song, "Society Is a Hole", "a one-chord hymn to big-city anomie".[1] Sonic Youth's use of transitional pieces in the album was inspired by their live shows, which featured either Moore or Ranaldo tuning guitars for up to five minutes while the other played slow transitory guitar riffs or prerecorded sound collages.[1]

"I Love Her All the Time" features extensive prepared guitar by Ranaldo and the use of one chord, with a noise section in the middle;[1] like many of the album's songs, it focuses on texture and rhythm rather than melody. The second side of Bad Moon Rising, which comprises the experimental "Ghost Bitch" (which features Ranaldo on acoustic guitar and references Native Americans' first encounter with European settlers), "I'm Insane" and "Justice is Might", expands on the soundscape concept; the songs feature repeating guitar riffs that segue from one song to the next, while Moore and Gordon mumble cryptic lyrics.

"Death Valley '69", the album's closer, was the result of a collaboration between Thurston Moore and New York singer and poet Lydia Lunch.

On the album's style, rock critic Piero Scaruffi called the album "an exhausting journey through urban Hell that runs the gamut from spectral psychedelia to sheer horror ('Death Valley '69')".[2]

Track listing

Side A
No. TitleLyrics/vocals Length
1. "Intro"  Instrumental 1:10
2. "Brave Men Run"  Gordon 3:37
3. "Society Is a Hole"  Moore 5:57
4. "I Love Her All the Time"  Moore 7:27
Side B
No. TitleLyrics/vocals Length
1. "Ghost Bitch"  Gordon 5:20
2. "I'm Insane"  Moore 4:07
3. "Justice Is Might"  Moore 4:21
4. "Death Valley '69 (single) (ft. Lydia Lunch)"  Lunch and Moore 5:10
CD bonus tracks
No. Title Length
9. "Satan Is Boring"   5:06
10. "Flower"   3:36
11. "Hallowe'en"   5:00
12. "Echo Canyon"   1:08

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3/5 stars[3]
Chicago Tribune 2.5/4 stars[4]
Robert Christgau B[5]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars[6]
Piero Scaruffi 8/10[2]
Sputnikmusic 4.0/5[7]

AllMusic noted the album's dark nature, writing: "An album quite unlike any other in the colorful Sonic Youth canon, Bad Moon Rising captures the New York band in 1985 during its most morose phase, one that is quite forbidding yet fascinating all the same."[3] Trouser Press wrote that it "[exudes] all the horrible beauty of a mushroom cloud on the horizon".[8]

Rock critic Piero Scaruffi gave the album a grade of 8/10; his highest rating for any Sonic Youth record along with Daydream Nation.[2]


Bad Moon Rising ranked at number 42 in Alternative Press's lists of the greatest albums of 1985–1995, surpassing Daydream Nation.[9]


Sonic Youth
  • Thurston Moore – guitar, lead vocals, production
  • Kim Gordon – bass guitar, lead vocals, backing vocals ("Death Valley '69"), production
  • Lee Ranaldo – guitar, percussion ("Ghost Bitch"), backing vocals ("Death Valley '69"), production
  • Bob Bert – drums, production
Additional personnel
  • Lydia Lunch – lead vocals and production on "Death Valley '69"
  • Martin Bisi – engineer, producer (all tracks except 10–11)
  • Ethan James – engineer (tracks 10–11)
  • John Erskine – producer (all tracks except 10–11)

Release history

Region Date Format Label Catalog number
United States 1985 LP Blast First/Homestead BFFP L/HMS 016
United Kingdom 1985 LP, CS, CD Blast First BFFP 1
Germany 1985 LP Torso
United States 1993 CD Geffen DBCD 24512
Europe 1993 CD Geffen GED 24512
United Kingdom 1996 LP Rough Trade


External links

  • Discogs (list of releases)
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