Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!

20.7.06

Great songs, according to me (Part 23)

Just when you think I've given up on these ... I hit you with another ten songs! Can you stand the sonic goodness????

As usual, the archives: links to parts 1-15, part 16, part 17, part 18, part 19, part 20, part 21, and part 22. And away we go!

221. Gone Daddy Gone (by Violent Femmes on the album Violent Femmes, 1982): For pure pop nastiness and snottiness, this may be the perfect album. The only clunker in the group is "Good Feeling," and even that is okay because it doesn't go on too long. I like all the songs, but "Gone Daddy Gone" is probably the best song on the album. Gordon sneers his way through the lyrics, and you know what puts it over the top to greatness: the xylophone solo! Yes, the xylophone solo takes a good song and makes it transcendent. Dare you argue with the xylophone solo? I thought not!

222. Grendel (by Marillion on the album Script For A Jester's Tear (remix), 1983, 1997): Lefty picked on me last time for having so many Marillion songs on this list, but the reasons for this are twofold: they're my favorite band in the world, so of course I think many of their songs are great; they've released 13 albums, so I have a large selection from which to choose. This song is one of their first, and although it's a bit rough around the edges, it shows the brilliance of Fish, their first lead singer, as well as the musicians around him. For about 18 minutes (the song is a bit long, I'll admit), we get a reimagining of the Beowulf legend from the point of view of the monster. It's a chilling song, and at the end, when "Grendel" himself is narrating and Fish's vocal becomes accusatory and shrill and he almost screams, "Why should I feel pity when you kill your own and feel no shame?" you feel almost like you're in some Danish hall and the fire is getting low. Very creepy, but effective.

223. Groove Is In The Heart (by Deee-Lite on the album World Clique, 1990): Deee-Lite flamed out relatively quickly, but their first (and best) album remains a fun one, and the first single from it remains possibly their best song. The lyrics are almost incomprehensible (I like succotash, but why would you wish for it?), but Bootsy's unbelievably funky bass line and Lady Kier's dippy vocals and Q-Tip guest-rapping ("Baby, just sing about the groove") and the smooth horns at the end make this not only a great dance song, but a great song period. You can't help but smile when you hear this song!

224. Hard To Handle (by the Black Crowes on the album Shake Your Money Maker, 1990): I know this is a cover, but I've never heard the original, so this version will have to do. I don't mind, though, because this version kicks much ass. Robinson's raspy voice is perfectly suited for this rough-and-tumble jolt, and it has that great guitar solo near the end to match the crunch in the beginning. Most of the Crowes' songs sound alike, but occasionally a few of them rise above the rest. This is one of them.

225. Haunted (by Shane MacGowan and the Popes (with Sinéad O'Connor) on the album The Snake, 1995): MacGowan is a weird little man. He's ugly as sin, he drinks waaaaaay too much, he has an awful voice, yet he creates compelling music, and can even crank out a nice love song if he's of the mind too. This album, his first post-Pogues release, features some decent songs, but this duet with O'Connor, whose ethereal voice contrasts very weirdly with MacGowan's gargling-with-dirt voice, is strangely great. It's a touching little song, and MacGowan gives it just enough despair that all great love songs should have. Weird, but great.

226. He Got Game (by Public Enemy on the motion picture soundtrack for He Got Game, 1998): It's probably a crime against nature and hip-hop that this is the only PE album I own. Yes, I know - heap your vitriol upon me! And it's not all that great an album, but the title track kicks ass. Yes, ASS! Chuck D is in fine lyrical form, rapping about the failure of religion and government and the power of l-u-v. Stephen Stills coming in at the end to sing the chorus of "For What It's Worth" is a bit bizarre, but you can't hear the actual chorus without getting chills: "It might feel good, it might sound little somethin', but fuck the game if it ain't sayin' nuttin'." Amen, Brother D, amen.

227. He Knows You Know (by Marillion on the album Script for a Jester's Tear, 1983): Yes, another Marillion song. Sue me. This is from Marillion's first album, and it's a terrifying little ditty about drugs and the toll they take. Rothery's guitar screeches through the song, shredding your nerves, while Fish recites the lyrics like an incantation: "Pumping arteries ooze their problems through the gap that the razor tore." Unlike a lot of very early Marillion, the grounded nature and ugly subject matter of this song make it more memorable than some of their other stuff. And Fish, despite a leaning toward opaque metaphor, keeps it relevant enough to really freak us out.

228. Heart Of The Sunrise (by Yes on the album Fragile, 1972): In the weird world of Yes, this might be their masterpiece. Other songs might be more popular, but "Heart Of The Sunrise" is quintessential Yes, and it never succumbs to the pretentiousness that so many other of their songs do. Anderson's high-pitched whine is used very well here, and the music builds and builds to a not-quite-unendurable climax, pushing us right to the edge of madness before Anderson warbles, "I feel lost in the city" and we slowly fade. A strange, early-1970s acid trip of a song, but a great one. It's too bad Yes felt the need on so many other songs to go too far. Oh well, at least we got a few great tunes out of it.

229. Heart-Shaped Box (by Nirvana on the album In Utero, 1993): This is the first single from Nirvana's last album, and it disappointed many people. I'm not sure why - this song, at least, fuses Kurt's "I wanna be a loser punk, damn it!" with Novoselic and Grohl's more pop sensibilities (Kurt's whining made him an icon, but without Krist and Dave, Nirvana would have been nothing and I guess Kurt would have been happy and alive). The lyrics are pure Cobain (brilliant) hate: "I got a new complaint, forever in debt to your priceless advice," but the bass underlying the screeching guitars keeps the song rumbling along, and Grohl's garage-band-drums add a nice touch of indy spirit to things. In Utero isn't the achievement Nevermind was, but it contains a bunch of very good to great songs, and it's kind of a shame that Kurt was such a drip. Growing up in Aberdeen will do that to you!

230. Heathaze (by Genesis on the album Duke, 1980): This song, like the album, mark a transition from the weird, 1970s-era Genesis to the poppy, 1980s-era Genesis. Even though this was Phil's fourth album as lead vocalist, the band still retained some of that Peter Gabriel weirdness, and even though they were moving toward more conventional fare, they were still writing songs that defied easy categorization. This song is about a hot day. Oh, but it's about so much more! The music suits the subject matter perfectly - languid and almost lazy, only occasionally showing a small spark, but it still drifts along beautifully. Meanwhile, Phil is singing ostensibly about the lethargy that comes from a humid summer day, but he's really singing about the torpor that affects us all and how we allow ourselves to get trapped in places that aren't good for us and remain there, slowly dying. "The trees and I are shaken by the same wind but whereas the trees will lose their withered leaves, I just can't seem to let them loose," sings Phil, and we feel his despair. He ends with "I feel like an alien, a stranger in an alien place," and the music swells briefly before fading like a dream. It's a beautiful and haunting song, and is followed ironically by "Turn It On Again," which became a staple of the arena tours Genesis went on when they became a supergroup. The juxtaposition is weird.

That's all for this time. Comments, questions, criticism, praise - it's all welcome! I can handle it all!

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4 Comments:

Blogger john sweet said...

I shall have to look up this Marillion stuff... you gush over them and Fish. And, it sounds a lot like John Gardner's Grendel, the tale of the "monster" from his perspective. A great book that.

Not making the list, and I'm sure you have at least one of these albums if not both: "Had a Dad" by Jane's Addiction, and "Halloween" by Dave Matthew's Band (there I go, losing the respect of some... yes, I like DMB).

Anywho... rock on!

21/7/06 9:52 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

I actually do NOT have Dave Matthews - I just never got into them. I like "Had A Dad," but I don't think it's great. It's good. But these are GREAT songs!

I'm pretty sure the song was inspired by Gardner's book - I seem to recall an interview with Fish in which he mentioned it. I haven't read it - I read Freddy's Book by Gardner, but nothing else.

Others do not share my opinion of Marillion, but they suck. Early Marillion was often compared to 1970s Genesis, but they're harder than that. In the 1980s they were very much of the prog-rock tradition. In the 1990s and beyond they've expanded their repertoire a bit. Maybe I'll burn you a CD ...

21/7/06 10:38 AM  
Blogger Chance said...

"Good Feeling" is actually my FAVORITE song on the VF album, and I'm enough of a fan to have bought the 2CD version with live and demo material. But yeah, "Gone Daddy Gone" is up there with the best.

22/7/06 4:13 PM  
Anonymous Dave Carter said...

I think that Duke is a very good album, mainly for the reason you cite about it straddling the line between the prog-rock and pop-rock versions of Genesis.

I really like "Turn It On Again" though; it seems like a simple pop song, until you start trying to tap your foot along and realize that the verses are in 13/4 (switching to 4/4 for the chorus).

31/7/06 8:33 AM  

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