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 32)

It's been quite a while since I've done one of these. I know you all missed them. Anyway, before we begin, links: Parts 1-15 archive. Parts 16-30 archive. Part 31.

Now for the next ten on the list!

311. Kiss (by Prince and the Revolution on the album Parade, 1986): I don't mind that cover with Tom Jones that came out a few years after this, but the original is the best. Prince has that great falsetto, which makes the song, which has relatively innocuous lyrics, sound really dirty. The lyrics are great, too, with Prince explaining why his woman should have more going on than her looks and wealth, yet still managing to be snarky. Add that great jangly guitar and you have a classic pop song.

312. Kisses of Fire (by ABBA on the album Voulez-Vous, 1979): Voulez-Vous is ABBA's disco album (their only one, even though a lot of people think of them as a disco band), and this song is a disco masterpiece. It begins quietly, with Agnetha singing, "Lay your head on my chest so you hear every beat of my heart" and quickly builds to a crescendo with the chorus: "Kisses of fire, burning, burning; I'm at the point of no returning," which inexplicably builds even more as the chorus continues: "I've had my share of love affairs but they were nothing compared to this; I'm riding higher than the sky and there is fire in every kiss." The music is typical disco, but Agnetha's soaring vocals, which speak of the triumph of passion, make this a joyous and almost bubbly song, and lifts it above your normal disco fare.

313. Knock Me Down (by the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the album Mother's Milk, 1989): Mother's Milk is by far the best Chili Peppers album (speak not to me of BloodSugarSexMagik!), even though I haven't bought any of their albums in the past ten years. I just don't see how any of them can top this, and this song is a big reason why. I assume it's about Anthony's and the band's heroin addiction, but it transcends that and become a universal song about needing love and never allowing yourself to be too distant for it. Flea's bass carries the song, obviously, but John's guitars early on keep it light and almost ethereal, and when Anthony gets to the chorus, we hear the pain in his voice when he sings, "If you see me getting mighty, if you see me getting high, knock me down ... I'm not bigger than life." The ending lyric is powerful, too: "It's so lonely when you don't even know yourself." The Peppers have made good music since this album, but not often.

314. Knowing Me, Knowing You (by ABBA on the album Arrival, 1976): When most people think of ABBA, they think of "Dancing Queen" or this song. I've never been a huge fan of the former (it did not make this list, for example), but this song is a powerful song of a relationship ending. Frida, who usually handles the ABBA songs with a bit more emotional heft to them, brings her somewhat husky alto to the haunting lyrics, and when she gets to the wonderful chorus, we feel as if we're breaking up ourselves. It's a beautiful yet depressing song, and both the lyrics and the heavy music sell it well.

315. LA (by Elliot Smith on the album Figure 8, 2000): It's hard to pick out Elliot Smith songs because they all sound so similar, but the ones I really like differ from the norm just enough to raise them up. This song, with its slightly suicidal theme (suicide, of course, has become more evident in Smith's songs after his own suicide), stays on course lyrically, but what pushes it to greatness is the slightly harder edge on the music, especially when Smith growls the chorus: "Last night I was about to throw it all away." There's a menace to the music that contradicts the melancholy lyrics, as if Smith wasn't going to "throw it all away" because he was going to kill himself, but because he was going to do damage to others. It's this ambiguity that makes the song great.

316. Lady Let it Lie (by Fish on the album Suits, 1994): Fish is quite good at these mini-story songs, with good lyrics and a bit of sentiment. He's at his best when he doesn't get overly sentimental, and in this song, in which he sings of a woman trying to escape a ragged childhood and an unpleasant life, strikes the perfect balance. The song's solid if unspectacular musical backing holds up Fish's strong lyrics: "It's hard putting down family roots when you're living in a mobile home, but there's always blood even in a rolling stone," he sings, and sums up the relationship with his lady thusly: "But surely there's something left, something worth fighting for ... Maybe we can start again, maybe give it one more try; or do we just walk away, maybe let it fade and die." As Fish has gotten older, he's become more desperate in his songs to make a relationship work despite the odds, and this is a very nice example of that kind of thinking.

317. Ladyfingers (by Luscious Jackson on the album Electric Honey, 1999): This is a nice, lush song with a slightly jazzy groove that lifts you up with fine, cheerful lyrics. It has a great couplet, "I'm so tired of my guns and my vanity, I'd like to trade them in for some sanity," that calls for understanding and love. It's a song that wants to believe in something more and almost achieves it. Despite a tinge of sadness, it soars above the banality of mediocrity. This is Luscious Jackson's last album, and it's a good one, thanks to great songs like this.

318. Last (by Nine Inch Nails on the album Broken, 1992): Trent's nasty little EP from 1992 has some great songs, and this one stands out. It begins with a great grinding guitar, and then Trent comes in with his typically snide tone, howling as if he's in great pain. The chorus adds a nice revving sound that complements the lyrics beautifully, and then Trent growls, "This isn't meant to last, this is for right now" to end the song. Trent is quite excellent at baring his soul, and when he shrieks, "My lips may promise but my heart is a whore," you know you're in the presence of genius.

319. Last Call (by the Popes on the album Holloway Boulevard, 2000): Holloway Boulevard isn't a great album, but it's a lot of fun in some ways. This song, a rousing call for dancing and drinking, is great because it just celebrates good times. It also, however, has a slight tinge of sadness, because it is, after all, the "last chance for a dance, last call for alcohol." Oh, the sadness of the last call!

320. The Last Day of Our Acquaintance (by Sinéad O'Connor on the album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got, 1990): This might be O'Connor's best song. It's absolutely brilliant. We begin with a whisper, as O'Connor sings, "This is the last day of our acquaintance/I will meet you later in somebody's office/I'll talk but you won't listen to me/I know what your answer will be." We slowly gain in volume and strength, as O'Connor outlines the way the affair has gone, including the excellent line, "You used to hold my hand when the plane took off," a beautiful and telling lyric (and I always hold my wife's hand when the plane takes off!). As she loops back around to the first verse, the song suddenly explodes into powerful acoustic guitar and O'Connor's voice shifts from pain and regret to anger, and the song becomes even better. It's an astonishing song, and I love listening to it.

And there you have it. Ten more great songs, ten more ways to lose yourself in sonic goodness. Let me know what a fool I am for loving these tunes!

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Blogger Roger Green said...

my favorite ABBA song- none of the above - will be explained soon.

7/9/07 9:28 AM  
Blogger EM said...

Greg--Thanks for the CD! There's a public thank you over at my blog.

13/9/07 5:57 PM  

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