You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Friday, 17 February 2012

What were they thinking?

I love Dark Side of the Moon. Not an inflammatory or unusual statement in the slightest I know. But, depending on my mood, I generally have two different experiences when I listen to it, due to certain aspects of the record.

What is it that makes this album so polarising for me? The sound effects. The clinking coins, cash registers, clicking adding machines and quotes that pepper some of the albums best songs.

Random is an overused word these days, but some of these are pretty damn random. Sometimes I love the album because of them, thinking they are meaningful and innovative, and sometimes I love it in spite of them, and I’m left asking, what is the point? Obviously it make sense to a certain point to have money sounds on a song called Money, but what is the need? We all know what money is.

And this led me to think about other songs that feature unusual, abstract or just random bits in them. Some that work, and some that don’t. Early disclaimer, I love all these bands and understand I have no right to question their genius, try to relax.

Anyway, one of the first songs that came into my head with this train of thought was Everlong by Foo Fighters, a great song no doubt, that features some inaudible whispering during the instrument break.

Apparently, the whispering heard is three different things being read on top of one another, a love letter, a technical manual and a short story.

It’s a great song, one of my favourites, and I’m loathe to criticise it, but I’m not sure what the whispering adds to it, or why they included it. Sorry Dave, it’s pointless, thanks for Nirvana though.

Which leads me on to my next revelation, that I spent my teen years painted black, listening to only rock, metal and emo, caught up in the first wave of emo before it soon lost what little credibility it had and the audience grew up. My favourite band of said era was Funeral for a Friend.

I remember being as excited for the release of their second album Hours in 2005 as I have been for any album, based on the pre-album single Streetcar, which I loved.

The song begins with the sound of someone dialling a phone, the dialling tone beeps along in the background as the guitar intro comes in and then a female voice answers Hello just before the vocal starts.

I thought it was awesome the first time I heard it and still think it gives the song a great burst to begin with. But it is utterly meaningless really, and I even read somewhere that fans used the dial tones to work out the number, which was lead singer Matt Davies’ phone, and bombarded it with calls, forcing him to change it. Meaningless and a hassle to boot.

Radiohead. They are beyond questioning in my eyes. I go all gooey-eyed fanboy at the very mention of them, and criticise them around me at your peril, apart from these two words, Fitter Happier.

The two-minute recital of slogans by an electronic voice has been described as ‘everything the album Ok Computer stands for in one song’. Personally, it’s never done it for me, and another song as perfect as the rest of the album would have been more appreciated.

Another of my favourite bands is The Kills, whose debut album Keep On Your Mean Side is a lo-fi, garage-blues classic.

They’ve (quite correctly) been held up as a throwback, a band where attitude and appearance is as important as the music and, in Alison Mosshart, have one of the coolest women alive today.

However, they may have believed their own press a little too much when including a couple of rambling monologues from Alison on this album. At the end of first song Superstition, she says a few unintelligible lines before coughing and saying Oh fuck. Rock on!

Later, as an interval, they include her telling a story about how weathermen used to draw the weather on a board and needed makeup on their hands. Hmm, ok. Still an amazing album, and I could listen to her ramble all day.

Like I said I love these bands, but feel free to defend them against my sarcasm, or to suggest any other songs that include weird effects, quotes, samples or anything really. There are plenty more out there.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Puzzling lyrics.

While I was listening to my iPod on shuffle recently, a couple of songs came on, one after the other, and caused exactly the same thought in my mind, what the hell are these lyrics about?

The two songs in question just happened to be The Kills’ Alphabet Pony and Motorcycle Emptiness by the Manics.

My thought harked back to an experience I had playing Motorcycle Emptiness to my dad quite a few years ago now, thinking he would enjoy the song’s guitar parts. Instead, he listened attentively to the six-minute song and then promptly asked ‘What is motorcycle emptiness then?’ And I had no answer. That was all he had to say about the song.

FYI, the song’s Wikipedia page says the following: The lyrics have been interpreted by the band as an attack on the hollowness of the consumer lifestyle offered by capitalism, describing how society expects young people to conform.

Oh right, that’s clears that up. Well, anyway… For me it is an example of a lyric/song title becoming a distraction, overshadowing the music with questions about meaning and rationale.

While rubbish lyrics are obviously worse, a lyric that is confusing, cryptic or bizarre is instead harder to shake off. Am I missing out on some obvious reference? Are they trying to exclude people like me? Am I just stupid?

I like both of the aforementioned songs but I don’t want to spend my time wondering what the hell an alphabet pony is. And these aren't the only songs I like that confound and confuse me.

On The Smiths’ Bigmouth Strikes Again, Morrissey sings, ‘Now I know how Joan of Arc felt, as the flames rose to her roman nose and her Walkman started to melt.’ I’ve always wondered what the hell that line was about? Any ideas? Mozza is a great lyricist and I’m sure he had some meaning when writing that, but it’s beyond me whatever it is.

Vampire Weekend are a band for cryptic lyrics, with one particular line stuck in my mind as it features in two of their songs. ‘But this feels so unnatural, Peter Gabriel too.’ is a line from the choruses of Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa (also WTF?) and Ottoman. And I have no idea what the reference to the former Genesis frontman means.

Massive Attack’s trip-hop debut album Blue Lines is one of my favourite albums, and the title track is a high point of the album. However, when looking through the lyrics, this line stands out as particularly strange and nonsensical. ‘She told me take an occupation or you lose your mind. And on a nine to five lemon, looking for the lime.’

While I can’t (or shouldn’t) really rap along with 3D and Tricky anyway, I refuse to join in on that line. ‘Take my piece of mind and sign my name across your heart.’ is one of the best last lines of any song ever though.

Do you ever find yourself confused, scared or angry by any lyrics you hear? Which ones do it for you? And if anyone has any info about the lyrics I've mentioned, feel free to share it with all of us.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

This Is My Jam.

Apologies for my tardiness, January has brought to me a resolution to read rather than write and this has meant spending my time with Hemingway and Fitzgerald rather than Something for the CV.

But now it’s February, it’s time to pull my finger out.

My last blog on winter songs got some great feedback and with that in mind, I will continue to write equally short, sweet and hopefully interesting pieces.

This week I’d like to highlight a new music-based social website I’ve started using. My first interviewee on this blog, Laura Snapes (@laurasnapes) recently introduced it with a blog on NME, and if you follow me on Facebook to Twitter, you may have noticed my posts from this new service.

This Is My Jam is a website for you to namecheck the one song that you are currently loving. It’s a simple as that.

You pick a song at a time to be your Jam, which is effectively your ‘status’. Friends can listen to your song, like it and follow you so your choices appear in their feed.

The website is still in its Beta phase and you need an invite to sign up, but I think it’s great, especially for a sharer like me. You can easily post your Jams to Facebook and Twitter too if your friends are too lazy to get on the site.

As someone who frequently posts links to songs on YouTube, SoundCloud and Spotify, it’s quicker and easier to manage This Is My Jam than posting links across different accounts separately, and the site finds videos and songs from these websites so I'm sharing the same source material.

You can have as many Jams as you want, I’m going for one a day as that’s easy to manage and yet enough to share the songs I’m really enjoying.

The only thing is that you can only listen to your current Jam, not your previous ones, and you can’t see a full list of your former Jams either, only your last five. I understand the only being able to play your current Jam is due to an issue with space, but just a list of all your former Jams would be great to be able to refer back to, even if you cannot listen to them. Hopefully this is something they can iron out because otherwise it’s a great and simple new site.

If you’re interested in knowing what I’m listening to, check out my This Is My Jam.

My Jam for today is Ben Howard’s Promises.