Great songs, according to me (Part 36)
In case you're interested, I have written other installments, as you might guess. Here is the archive for Parts 1-15, here is the archive for Parts 16-30, and here is Part 31, Part 32, Part 33, Part 34, and Part 35. But let's look to the future!
351. Mean Street (by Van Halen on the album Fair Warning, 1981): The opening song on Van Halen's fourth (and wildly underrated) album signals that this album is different and slightly darker than the first three, which featured bright, shiny, party metal. This time, Eddie's groove is much rougher and fuzzier, and Dave's growl is definitely far more menacing than usual. The lyrics reflect this: "At night I walk this stinkin' street past the crazies on my block and I see the same old faces and I hear the same old talk." It gets darker from there, until Roth snarls "See, a gun is real easy in this desperate part of town, turns you from hunted into hunter, gonna hunt somebody down" as Eddie's guitar starts to fade into the distance. It's a short blast of anger from a band that had rarely shown it, even in their darker songs, and would not show very often in the future.
352. Meaningless (by Magnetic Fields on the album 69 Love Songs (vol. 3), 1999): Like most of the songs on this excellent album, this is a quick one, but also as usual, the strength of it lies in Stephen Merritt's fun lyrics, which propel the song along. Many of the lyrics on the album are much darker than the tone of the song implies, as in this one, when Merritt sings, "And if some dim bulb should say we were in love in some way, kick all his teeth in for me and if you feel like keeping on kicking, feel free" and it sounds absolutely delightful.
353. Memories Can't Wait (by Living Colour on the album Vivid, 1988): This is a strange song, but that doesn't make it any less great. It starts off with a strong grungy vibe, angry lyrics, pounding through the song, and then suddenly switches to a quiet, even reflective sound, with Cory Glover musing about his memories. It's an odd shift, but it works in the song, and then the band slowly builds again to a powerful finish. It's an excellent song on an excellent album.
354. MidLife Crisis (by Faith No More on the album Angel Dust, 1992): Man, I love this album and this song. Faith No More's follow-up to their breakout album The Real Thing didn't continue their rise, but it's a better collection. On this song, Mike Patton growls "Go on and wring my neck like when a rag gets wet" to start, and it only gets better. The chorus is fantastic: "You're perfect, yes, it's true, but without me you're only you. Your menstruating heart isn't bleeding enough for two." The music is less heavy than many of FNM's songs, but it's somewhat haunting, grinding away and propping up Patton's anger. It's too bad Faith No More never made it bigger.
355. Milk & Honey (by Beck on the album Midnite Vultures, 1999): I've said before how much I love Beck's disco album, and this is one reason. It begins with a kind of heavy rock groove, but switches quickly to a space-age disco beat, with corny keyboards that nevertheless fit beautifully in the framework of what Beck is doing. As is fairly typical with Beck, especially on this album, the lyrics are almost incomprehensible (at least to a layperson like me), but they have a twisted sense of fun about them, and at the end, when the music becomes more driving, they even have a bit of poignancy to them. It's a wild song, and a perfect example of Beck's versatility.
356. Mind Over Matter (by Ice-T on the album O. G. Original Gangster, 1991): Whenever I listen to this album, I rap along with every single lyric, which makes it the only time I ever use the "n" word (I hope Roger forgives me for it). I love this album, but only a few songs are really great, and this is one of them. It's simply a song about T telling us how great he is, but he does it with such flair and lyrical fun, plus he gets slow and funky on the song, that we can't help but forgive his arrogance. He does, however, talk about improving his mind (hence the title) and how he's making himself smarter than anyone else on the streets. "My brain's a hand grenade - catch" he raps, then follows with "I'm a hit you with an overload of bottomless thought, reversin' all the shit you're taught." Considering Ice-T's subsequent career, maybe he did know something we all didn't.
357. Miss America (by Styx on the album The Grand Illusion, 1977): I'm not sure if you're a true American if you don't like Styx, but we'll discuss that another day. "Miss America" is a lesser-known great song from this, their triumphant masterpiece, but Dennis DeYoung really sells it with his nasty lyrics about a woman who believes looks are everything, but realizes they aren't. I love the line "In your cage at the human zoo, they all stop to look at you." It starts the second side of the vinyl album (you all own it, right?) very strongly.
358. Mofo (by U2 on the album Pop, 1997): Many people, apparently, don't like this album, but it's a very good disc, highlighted by this song, which has a cool techno groove and deeper lyrics than you would expect. Bono gives the lyrics some emotion, too, and we feel his pain when he sings, "Mother, am I still your son?" Meanwhile, the boys give us an ethereal vibe when the song slows down before ratcheting up again. I wish U2 had kept pushing the musical envelope, but on the next album, they went "back to their roots," meaning they tried to recapture the cash cow music that had made them global superstars. Oh well. This album isn't great, but it's far more interesting than their last two releases.
359. Moment of Forgiveness (by Indigo Girls on the album Become You, 2002): Like most Indigo Girls songs, the strength of this tune lies in its lyrics (not to bash the music, which is always pleasant, but it's not like it's revolutionary or anything). Amy's powerful voice takes over as she sings about trying to reconnect with a lover in a moment of weakness. There's no hope to rekindle the romance, but that doesn't stop Amy from trying. It's a common theme in popular music, of course, but as usual, the way it's sung and the lyrics used make it much sadder than you would think. It's why we cling to hope when it's all gone.
360. Monday A.M. First Thing (by Think Tree on the album Like the Idea, 1992): The first song on Think Tree's masterpiece (and final record) is a blast of odd techno-rockabilly-punk backing some of the most innovative and twisted lyrics you could ever hope to find. Think Tree, as I've mentioned here before when they've shown up, was a bit too avant-garde for the early, pre-Nirvana 1990s, and that's a shame, because this album is brilliant, and this song sets the tone. Here's just one excellent verse, to give you an idea of Peter Moore's lyrical genius: "Monday A.M. First Thing/And in walked an old crow named Poe/Who smelled like a library book I'd checked out/Some twenty-odd years ago/His dark gray parka sat on him/Like the shell of a crustacean/He had flowers to bring to his wife, Lenore/Back home at the bus station/Then his eyes lit up, he screamed, "My God!"/And dropped the bottle he was nursing,/And said, I was fired from that chair/You're sitting in, four years ago on a/Monday A.M. First Thing!" And that's one of six wild verses in the song. This is a wonderful song to begin this wacky album, and it's a shame that Think Tree disappeared not long afterward. If anyone is interested in this album, let me know and I'll burn you a copy, as it's long out of print. That's how much I dig it!
That's another ten songs in the bank. Will I ever finish my list? Only the blogging gods know for sure!