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. The proper album is an eight-song tapestry of droning guitar feedback, distant clattering percussion, and dreamy vocal mumblings, all of it woven together by sullen interludes of ambient noise. With the exception of the closing "Death Valley '69," nothing really stands out per se. Each song shares the same late-night shadowy feel as the others, with no outright singalong hooks to be found anywhere; it's just one ambling slab of dark noise rock. "Death Valley '69" then brings it all to a feverish close, driven by runaway guitar riffs and a frantic vocal duet by Thurston Moore and Lydia Lunch. It's a piercing capstone to an otherwise hazy album and is no doubt one of the highlights of Sonic Youth's overall output. Most editions of Bad Moon Rising don't end there, however. DGC's CD-era re-release appends the Flower EP, which fits in rather well. Similarly morose, these few songs are perhaps even more out-there than the Bad Moon Rising ones, especially "Halloween," which is a subtle five minutes of creeping guitar tingles accented beautifully by Kim Gordon's whispery hallucinations. Overall, this music is a definite leap forward from what Sonic Youth had been doing previously on Confusion Is Sex (1983) and Kill Yr. Idols (1983); it plays as one long piece, a work that perhaps reflects the spirit of the time, American gothic through the glassy eyes of willful moonlit paranoia. And as such, it's certainly a step toward EVOL (1986), the band's successive release, which is likewise obsessed with the dark side of America and likewise informed by sweeping waves of ambient guitar noise, but much more song-based and focused than Bad Moon Rising's dreamscape feel.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
feat: Lydia Lunch