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!

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!


Great songs, according to me (Part 25)

Wow, I've reached 250 songs on this list. At this rate I should finish sometime close to when the kids go off to college. I'm sure the masses will have lynched me long before then!

However, I will forge on. As usual with a lot of what I do here, these lists are fun. Lists in general are fun! And, also as usual, here's the backlist:

Parts 1-15 archived, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, and Part 24. Now let's get to it!

241. House (by Marillion on the album, 1999): Yes, another Marillion song (sorry, Lefty!). This song ends their very good yet dumbly-named 1999 album, and it's an unusual choice to finish, as it meanders around for long stretches and has a strange, ethereal, jazzy feel to it. According to Marillion, it's their tribute to Massive Attack, and it sounds like it (I like Massive Attack, by the way), with lazy trumpets and soft percussion throughout. The lyrics make it shine, however, with the story of a house haunted by the loss of one half of a relationship. Hogarth is in fine form, singing with trembling pain in his voice and wondering what the hell happened. It's not how I would have ended an album, but that doesn't mean it's not a great song.

242. How Soon Is Now? (by The Smiths on the album Meat Is Murder, 1985): I don't like The Smiths. I also don't like Morrissey. Sorry. It just doesn't do it for me. However, I do own their greatest hits album, largely because of this song. God, this is a cool tune. Morrissey whines a lot in his music, but here, the whining is tempered by the strong, existentialist lyrics, and it's less whining than questioning the very nature of reality and the reason why we are here. If you're going to whine, say I, whine about the important stuff! The reason I love this Smiths song over all others is Johnny Marr's haunting guitar work, which is sadly lacking from far too many Smiths songs. He's a great guitarist, but rarely does it sound like it, and in this tune, the echoing of the music complements the lyrics beautifully. So why does every other Smiths song stink? It's a mystery!

243. How Was It For You? (by James on the album Gold Mother, 1990): James' first great album contains a number of great songs, including this song. Tim Booth's lyrics are partly what make the band great, and this song is no exception. His slightly nasal tone works well on songs like this, too, as his scorn comes through well. When he sings, "You look better than the face of God on a sunny day," it sounds like a compliment, but Booth infuses it with such nastiness that we understand he is damning with faint praise. The whininess extends to the music, too, as the guitars flail in the background, inspiring Booth to even more nastiness. A fine, snarky tune.

244. Human Chain (by Christmas on the album Ultraprophets Of Thee Psykick Revolution, 1989): Christmas is a strange little band that never did much (two of its members went on to form Combustible Edison, if that helps), and this is a weird little album (check out the album cover!). I found this in a used record store in State College while I was in college, and figured with such a neat-o title, it had to be good! It's not the greatest album, but it has some good songs on it, and this is the best one. It has a nice funky beat to it (and I can dance to it!) with a choppy percussion section, and the vocals (by Liz Cox, I assume, who is quite good at wailing in this song) are strange and surreal, but still relevant - they speak of, not surprisingly, the links between people. An interesting, weird little tune by a band that never made much of a splash. Here's some more information about them, in case you're interested.

245. Hurt (by Nine Inch Nails on the album The Downward Spiral, 1994): "I ... hurt myself today ... to see if I still feel ..." Ah, Trent, you swell, angry guy. This, the best Nine Inch Nails album, ends with this depressing paean to, well, depression. It's a beautiful song, actually, despite the subject matter, and it gets under your skin and doesn't let you go. It's a great way to end the album, because it sums up what Trent has been raging about for an hour or so, and now, his rage is spent, but what's left is sad resignation. The Johnny Cash cover? Eh. Fine, but lacking the despair in Trent's voice.

246. Hymn 43 (by Jethro Tull on the album Aqualung, 1971): I don't have a lot of "classic" rock on this list, because, frankly, I don't own a lot of "classic" rock. I mean, I like the stuff from the 1960s and '70s, but I listened to classic rock stations when I was a kid and never got around to buying the albums. I went through a short phase in the late 1980s when I bought a bunch of old albums, and that's when I picked up Aqualung. Aqualung is a weird album, isn't it? There are some good songs on it, but "Hymn 43" rises above them. That scratchy guitar, that huffy flute, and those great lyrics - "If Jesus saves - well He'd better save himself from the gory glory seekers who use His name in death." Ian is in fine form on this song.

247. I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow (by The Soggy Bottom Boys on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? Motion Picture Soundtrack, 2000): This is one of the better movie soundtracks I've heard, and this song, which is NOT sung by George Clooney into a can, is a great one. The lyrics are sad, but it's sung with such exuberance that it doesn't bring you down. He might be a man of constant sorrow and seen trouble all his days, but when you hear the song, you just have to croon along!

248. I Am One (by Smashing Pumpkins on the album Gish, 1991): If you were smart enough to buy the first Smashing Pumpkins album back in 1991 (you were, weren't you?), you would put the tape into your deck or the CD into your player and fire it up, and this song would blast you between the eyes. The rumbling bass, the keening guitar, and suddenly, there's Billy, whining "I am one as you are three, try to find a messiah in your trinity." A very cool beginning to a very cool album, and sets the stage for a fine career that, true went off the rails a bit, but was still good for a while.

249. I Am Stretched on Your Grave (by Sinéad O'Connor on the album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, 1990): This is a great album, and this song is one reason why. It kicks off with that somewhat cheesy drum (it fits the song, but it's still kind of cheesy) and O'Connor comes in with that dreamy voice, singing her song about weird death and her obsession with it. When she goes up to the higher registers, her voice becomes even more tremulous, and we get chills. A wonderful and creepy tune.

250. I Am the City (by ABBA on the album More ABBA Gold, 1993): This is an unreleased song from 1982 that didn't show up until this second greatest hits album, but it's a very good addition to the ABBA canon. It's a strange ABBA song in that it delves into some dark territory, which our ladies taking on the persona of the city and welcoming all their acolytes who worship the urbanity of it all. It's disturbing because it sounds like a celebratory song, but when you listen, it's clear that the people in the city are somewhat pathetic, and the city itself rules over them all. Weird but wonderful.

Ah, it's always good to get another bunch of songs out there, so you can see the twisted depths of my depravity! Comments, questions, criticism? Do your worst!

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Blogger Tom Foss said...

I liked "How Soon is Now," but I only discovered the coolest thing about it recently. I decided to look up the lyrics once, and the site listed the opening lyric, "I am the son, and the heir," as "I am the sun and the air." At first I laughed at how wrong it was, but then I realized that such homophonic wordplay had to be intentional. The idea that the line could be taken that way was shocking to me, and it added a whole new level of appreciation to the song.

I took a class on the Classical Epics last year, and my professor talked a little about "Man of Constant Sorrow" with reference to Odysseus. He remarked how fitting the song was, and how shocked he was that it hadn't been written for the film or for the Odyssey.

26/10/06 8:44 AM  
Blogger Roger Owen Green said...

Cash doesn't have despair in his voice, but he does have a mournful resignation.

I like Aqualung. Once played the whole thing on my air bass.

Dan Tyminski, who plays with Alison Krauss - I saw them in 2003 - noted that his wife LOVED hearing her husband's voice come out of George Clooney's body.

26/10/06 12:09 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

Tom - I saw that too, while looking the song up. It's pretty interesting. Morrissey's lyrics are always kind of cool, I just don't like his voice or the music, very often. And it's always good to shock Classics Professors!

Roger - I like the Cash version, and you're right, he does have the resignation, but for some reason, it just doesn't do it for me. Strange. And I do like Aqualung, it's just a weird album.

26/10/06 5:18 PM  

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