Monday, June 30, 2008

Death Valley '69

The last song on Sonic Youth's second LP Bad Moon Rising is called "Death Valley '69."

A hit? Hit it!!!

This song could easily be Sonic Youth's first real "hit". The song was released as a single before Bad Moon Rising was recorded. The more raw 7" featured no vocals from Lydia Lunch and was track to a 2-track machine by Wharton Tiers. The "demo" is much more slower than the album version.

Co-written by Lydia Lunch, Sonic Youth finally managed to write a pop song! It features a normal verse, chorus, breakdown/bridge and then back into the verse/chorus for a final finish!

As stated before, Bad Moon Rising was the first Sonic Youth record to feature full songs with alternate tunings. Death Valley 69 is the first song to feature the F#F#F#F#EB tuning. This is open of the longest surviving tunings which is still used today. Thurston was more prone to alternate tunings mostly because he had a hard time playing chords with his large hands. He preferred to jsut play barre chords with his thumb and alternate open tuning made that possible and gave the band a large palate of sounds to use.

This song was played almost nightly until the 1988 Daydream Nation tour. It was layed to rest until 1998's Thousand Leaves tour where it was the last song in EVERY set. The song has not been played since 2000 but was part of the bands sound check at several shows in 2006.

The first video was Sonic Youth's first music video directed by the great Richard Kern. The second is from the Gila Monster Jamboree video on 1-5-85.

Justice Is Might

Bad Moon Rising seems to be full of more experimental songs that the average Sonic Youth record. "Justice Is Might" opens up with a spoken word written by Lydia Lunch but Thurstons vocal was recorded on cassette and then chopped up Sgt. Pepper style! Guitar noises along with some basic drums move this song very quickly but ends with soem amplifier noises provided by Thurston.  This song, like many on this record hide Sonic Youth's potential songwriting evolution. Maybe thats why Bad Moon Rising is my least favorite?

This song has not been played since October 1984. Not one of my favorites.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I'm Insane

The fifth song on Bad Moon Rising is called "I'm Insane."

I'm Insane sounds like a noise collage more than a song. Bob Bert provides more steady pounding drums while Thurston and Lee make some crashing noises. A bass line can be heard under all the chaos. A song actually starts to form when Thurston begins his "speaking" vocal style. A melody from the lyrics carries the song from the chaos that it starts with to an actual structured peice.

Sonic Youth began trying to write more structured work, but I'm Insane is a good example of a track begins with a mess but slowly evolves into a more structured piece. Like some of Lee's songs, this song reads more like a poetry piece which requires more of a spoken word approach. On the Gila Monster Jamboree video, Thurston just reads the lyrics from a set of cards. Porbably too many to remember?

This video is from the The Gila Monster Jamboree VHS from 1-5-85.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ghost Bitch

Track 4 on Bad Moon Rising is called "Ghost Bitch."

Which direction? Forward? Backward? The great thing about Sonic Youth in this '84-'85 era is that the band not only made great leaps forward but managed to retain the darkness and style from previous efforts. Kim refers to this time as a "goth" period, where they were purposely trying to keep the music and lyrics dark and even creepy.

"Ghost Bitch" sounds like an outtake from Wharton Tiers two track session and starts off with almost two minutes of improv noise. Bob Bert uses one of his signature tribal style drums beats while Kim does a spoken word style vocal. Even the song is nothing but a large mess of noise, Kim hints at a small touch of melody to her emerging vocal stylings. Step forward? Step Back? New ground? Like I said before, Bad Moon Rising serves as a bridge in an EVOLving band.

Thurston plays a tuning of CCGGA#A# with a drumstick jammed in the 7th fret while Lee plays the same tuning only with an acoustic guitar!?!?!

Debuted in October 1984, this song had a longer life span than several of the tracks and was played regularly until the end of 1986 EVOL tour. 

This video is taken from 8-1-85.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Love Her All The Time

&tSonic Youth finally managed to write a true love song by the fall of 1984, its the third track on Bad Moon Rising and is perfectly titled "I Love Her All The Time.";div> 
One chord. thats all. Sonic Yout manages to get the job done by droning on one chord! Lee repeats a riff with a G#G#D#D#cb tuning that the bass mimimicks while Thurston croons the lines "she crawls into my mind, twisting through my nerves" The end of each verse is accompanied by noise break which leads back into the drone riff and verse. No wave? noise? what happened to structure?

Bad Moon Rising serves as a bridge from Confusion to Evol. I Lover Her All The Time is an example of a song that has an arrangement that could have been on Confusion, but a melody that could have been for Evol. The band is still all about noise and this song proves they could write structure and orchestrate chaos.

This song came at a time when Thurston and Kim got married in 1984. It can be seen as an artsy ode to his loved one. Lee married around this time as well. Love was certainly in the air but in a more Sonic style.

1991: The Year Punk Broke has a great live version of this song. It has not been played live since 1995.

Here is a live video from the Gila Monster Jamboree in the Mojave Desert 1-5-85.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Society Is A Hole

The second track on Bad Moon Rising is called "Society Is A Hole."

This song begins in a segue from "Brave Men Run" and features a drony vocal performance from Thurston. During this Reagan period, the band became somewhat obsessed with singing about the degradation of American culture. Like early hardcore, the lyrics are political and strive to make a point of mapping out no where we are in 1985, but where society as a whole (pun?) is headed. Thurston says "we're living in pieces, I want to live in peace" it almost seems like a plea.

This song was debuted in 8-14-84 but has not been performed since sometime in 1985.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Brave Men Run

The first track on Sonic Youth's second LP "Bad Moon Rising" is called "Brave Men Run.

The band began production for Bad Moon Rising in September 1984 and ended towards the end of October at Martin Bisi's studio Before Christ. The album utilized a 24 track tape machine which was a step up from the 4-track machine used for Confusion Is Sex. The record would also be released by atleast 3 different labels, Blast First and Rough Trade in Europe and Homestead in America.

"Brave Men Run" sounds like an epic intro to a record. The song is only 3:37 long but bashes away an intro that 1:37 leaving Kim's vocal performance at the end.  The song uses a typical Sonic song approach by creating a large build up and then crashing it down at the end with only the low hum of the bass.

The song represents one of the first songs written in an alternate tuning, F#F#F#F#eb. Many more songs for years to come would be presented in this tuning. 

The song was debuted in Europe in '84 but has not seen the light of day since October 1985.

This video is from the Gila Monster Jamboree in the Mojave Desert 1-5-85.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Early American

The third and final song on side-B of Kill Yr Idols is song called "Early American."

Even though the band was trying to move away from free form jamming, Early American represent an "orchestrated" jam. This track could have easily been left over from the "Confusion" sessions but recorded during the 2 track sessions months later.

Thurston has commented that this is one of favorite recordings the band has done, strangely, it was only performed on the European tour of November 1983. It was used as a segue into "Burning Spear" and can be heard on the Live In Venlo Holland bootleg.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Brother James

The second song on side B of the Kill Yr Idols EP is called "Brother James."

Not much information in this song exists and I'm not really sure what it is about. Sonic Youth has been known to draw influence from other outside sources but "Brother James" has some surreal lyrical content. "Take my hand he said to me" starts the song. I have always thought this song was about drugs and being seduced into the power of being in an altered state of mind.The line "brother james gave it to me" being repeated leads me to believe this when the next line says "take my hand you might as well, were going straight to hell!"

"Brother James" has remained in the live set since 1983. Out of the 9 shows I have attended, the song has been played 5 times. Pretty constant huh? "Burning Spear" is the only other song from this era that has survived throughout the years but does not get as much play as "Brother James." Reason? lets face it, its their best song from this era and represents evverything the band was trying to accomplish in its early years.

This video is from 8-27-04 from the Sonic Nurse Tour in Paris.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Kill Yr Idols

Shortly after finishing the LP "Confusion Is Sex", Sonic Youth went back to Warton Tiers to record 3 brand new songs. The sessions were done in two days with a complete live take that was recorded straight to 2 track. The end result was the Kill Yr Idols EP.

With a European release of Confusion looming ahead, a German label called Zensor decided to release the EP ahead of time in order to get some hype for the LP. "Protect Me You" and "Shaking Hell" were offered up on the A-side as a preview of Confusion. The song "Kill Yr Idols" was the first song on side B.

Its all about press. Thurston prefers any press wether its good or bad but after a slandering remark saying that avant garde music is good in theory but never comes to life put Thurston is a tale spin. He then wrote a letter to the Village Voice saying "before every show we walk down 32st street and suck Glenn Branca's dick to take in all the genius"

The song says "i don't know why you want to impress Christgua, let that shit die, kill yr idols, sonic death, its the end of the world your confusion is sex!" Thurston meant this as a come back to Christgua writing and wrong assessment of the band and of the whole art scene in general. Sort of a "we're not gonna take it" done in a SONIC way. The original title was "I Killed Christgua With My Big Fucking Dick"

"Kill Yr Idols" quickly became one of Sonic Youth's defining songs. The verse chorus structure shows the band moving in a more "song" structure and not relying on extended noise jams. The song was done in two takes live, a method Lee wished they had done for the entire Confusion record.