Tuesday, May 30, 2006

"Whispers and Moans"

And while this title may sound like a song that could just possibly be about sex, it isn't. This is a song about escape, about running away and getting off the production line: "Dull, dull grey/The colour of our times/Cool, cool space/That I still hope to find." Or even "Slow, time bomb/The clamour of the street/I hear this town/It never goes to sleep." The sort of life, the sort of time and space where "I will catch the taxi driver/Weeping like a wounded beast." Doesn't that give you chills? The idea that our world can be so hurtful, even in its inert, deadening weight, that it reduces us to our innermost instinctual response?
What a song, what a simple, elegant expression of the storm within. It's an ackowledgement of the hammering sameness of most of our days, very similar to the one that Del Amitri sing about here.
This is simply a gentle call for release, a plea for freedom. And if that freedom comes from within, from the exalted state that we clamber into when we meet our match, our soul's mate, then we don't have to really *go* anywhere: "Then I wake up in your room/To share one piece of your life/When tomorrow comes we may not be here at all/Without your whispers and moans."
I like the idea that we can fashion our own little piece of space out of time, out of place, where we can just be, where the rest of the world falls away like a melting piece of film. Or, as Crowded House put it so much better: "We are the mirrors/Are the mirrors of each other in a lifetime of suspicion/Cleansed in a moment of recognition/You gave your life for it/Worth it's weight in gold/And growing empires and art collectors/And Alan's sound investments/Will one day be forgotten/One day be forgotten, yeah."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

"Must Get Out"

Where has the time gone? The last week has passed like a needle skipping over a record (gratuitous vinyl reference for the over 35s, there), with snatches of reality blaring out in between bursts of static and ear-numbing scrapes. And all the time, the sensation of time ticking away, a gentle but insistent ticking to remind me of the things I promised myself I'd do, of the plans I'd made for this afternoon, or that weekend.
And on the subject of ticking, I've been listening to a gentle, insistent song that has spent the last year slowly winding its way around my gut, like an indestructible garden weed. It starts with a ticking clock, a single piano note, a thrumming bass drum, slowly gathering strength, until "I’ve been the needle and the thread/Weaving figure eights and circles round your head/I try to laugh but cry instead/Patiently wait to hear the words you’ve never said."
In contrast to the many, many songs that bleed passion, conviction or desire that I've written about before, this is a song of shoulder-shrugged, almost bland acceptance. Yes, the singer knows, as he says, "I’m letting you down," but then again, "There’s only so much I can do for you/After all of the things you put me through." You get the sense this is a transactional relationship that's finally broken down due to a lack of credit.
I like, I mean LIKE, this song. Maroon 7 are as tight as any band Stevie Wonder put together and Adam Levine sings like a god. Anyone who saw them perform at the Live 8 concert can attest to the fact that they can do it live, too.
It's a slow, gently-charged song that forsakes the medieval passion and grandiloquent gestures of another time for, effectively, a shrug and a mutter of "whatever." And sometimes that's about as much as we can muster.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

"Do You Wanna Touch Me"

Music has always had a pretty adversarial relationship with the straight and narrow. I'm talking about things like censorship, political correctness and from time to time, even plain old good taste. Anyone that remembers the Judas Priest court case in 1985, or the sight of Frank Zappa, Dee Snyder from Twisted Sister and, get this, John Denver all speaking out in front of a Senate Committee against the labelling of records in the US, will know the sort of thing I'm talking about. Or the sad spectacle of James Brown being led away by the police on suspicion of transporting a minor across state lines. Or Whitney Houston's crack-fuelled meltdown.
A lot of folks argue that musicians and artists in general are special cases, that we might want to make allowances for their oddness, for their weakness, for the fact that they don't live by the same code that we, the general public, do.
Music doesn't like to be harnessed and wrangled, told what to say and what it can't say. And nor should it. But what's often more problematic is the sort of musician that comes along with that freedom of speech. Often it's simple human frailty that leaves a once-great musician washed up, broken on the wheel of addiction. Other times it's a lack of judgement that leads them astray. Other times it's just greed. The music business has the power to confer great influence and great wealth on individuals. And while it doesn't necessarily take that wealth away, it can just turn off the tap when it chooses to.
I'm not sure where this post is going except to say that today's SongWithoutWhich is, sadly, an example of a fantastic tune that's almost unplayable these days because of who its writer was, and has become. I can see all the various ironies here, believe me!
I've chosen Joan Jett's version for that reason, but also for the fact that Joan knows what this song needs: a proper, full-throated kick in the guts. This is music written from the pit of the stomach rather than the heart, or the head or even the groin. Yes, the lyric is about sex and yes, it's one of those panting-teenage-horniness songs, but listen to Joan's version and marvel at the sheer energy and power here.
This isn't so much a song about "lurve" as a chant from the football terraces, a romping, stomping declaration of intent. And no matter what's happened in the years since this was first written, you can't erase the sheer excitement, the adrenalin rush, that this song produces.

42 songs - Intermission

Over on Music to Grow Old To, they're listing favourite songs to match ages.... seemed like a decent challenge when I started to make my list, but it's turned into a bit of a brain-twister. In any case, here are 42 songs that do things to me.

I Saw the Light - Todd Rundgren
The Great Gig In The Sky - Pink Floyd
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight - Richard & Linda Thompson
Sweet Jane - The Cowboy Junkies
Say It Ain't So Joe - Murray Head
One of Those Days in England Pts 1-10 - Roy Harper
Desperadoes Under the Eaves - Warren Zevon
All Is Forgiven - Jellyfish
Come Back! (The Story of the Reds) - The Mighty Wah!
Me In Honey - REM
All or Nothing - The Small Faces
Don't Come Around Here No More - Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
White Punks On Dope - The Tubes
I Ain't Ever Satisfied - Steve Earle & The Dukes
The Needle & the Damage Done - Pete Wylie & The Icicle Works
Smile - The Supernaturals
Sylvia - Focus
Wear It Like a Cape - Del Fuegos
Hurt - Johnny Cash
No Surprises - Radiohead
Movin' On Up - Primal Scream
A Design For Life - Manic Street Preachers
Rough Boy - ZZ Top
Pink - Aerosmith
Darling It Hurts - Paul Kelly & the Messengers
Political Science - Randy Newman
Sheep - Pink Floyd
Second Rendezvous - Jean-Michel Jarre
"Heroes" - David Bowie
No Matter What - Badfinger
Ezy Ryder - Jimi Hendrix
Will We Be Lovers? - Deacon Blue
Wrecking Ball - Emmylou Harris
Renegade - Warren Zevon
La Grange - ZZ Top
I'm In Love With a German Film Star - The Passions
Go - Steriogram
Caroline, No - The Beach Boys
Rollin' Over - The Small Faces
Keep on Rocking in the Free World - Neil Young
Teardrop - Massive Attack
State Trooper - Bruce Springsteen