Like so many, I am angry, confounded, saddened by the state of the world. 2016 just keeps kicking us in the arse. I won't spill any trite words about the power of music in troubled times. I don't even think making ourselves feel better is entirely the point. I'm wary of self-tranquilising to the point of becoming numbed or complacent; we need that sense of horror and anger to foster meaningful action. Anger, I think, is not something to be afraid of if it is not hateful or violent or self-destructive. That said, I'm aware good people need to draw strength from where they can – to be inspired, to experience catharsis, to feel soothed, to preserve their mental health – in order to be effective, to go on, to heal. And that's where music can come in. What I like to turn to runs the gamut from angry and cynical, to inspiring and thought-provoking, to calming and reassuring. Here are a few songs I thought I'd share.
Starting at the angry, cynical end of things, Jarvis Cocker's blunt song 'Running The World' from 2006 pulled no punches in describing exactly who has the power in the world, and is unfortunately truer than ever. The song is an incisive, darkly funny critique of capitalism and politics.
Barry McGuire's classic scathing protest song, 'Eve Of Destruction', perfectly captured the countercultural mood of its day. Written by nineteen-year-old P.F. Sloan, it was a number one hit for McGuire in 1965, and it's hard to imagine anyone spitting out these lyrics of disgust and frustration better than he does in his blistering growl. Many of the lyrics are, obviously, specific to political circumstances of the time, but much of it still resonates and could apply as readily today. Particularly potent is McGuire's delivery of the line about religious hypocrisy: "Hate your next-door neighbour / but don't forget to say grace." Also, message aside, I am a fan of the fact the word 'coagulating' is incorporated into a rhyme.
It's interesting when a work of art's message feels relevant again and you find its meaning becomes clearer than before. I guess I always saw this as a somewhat fatalistic song about impending doom in an age of atomic fear, but now it's hitting me as a rebuke against complacency, against refusing to see potential catastrophe, and against the normalisation of things that should rightly invoke alarm. Sloan saw it as "a love song to and for humanity" and "a prayer" and hoped it would help "open a dialogue", but instead he and McGuire were ousted from the music industry.
"This is a cold war, you better know what you're fighting for" sings Janelle Monáe so powerfully on 'Cold War', from her 2010 Afrofuturist pop masterpiece, The ArchAndroid. The line 'I was made to believe there was something wrong with me' always chokes me up, and now more than ever, too many are afraid of their children growing up to feel like this. Monáe has said of this and other songs of hers: "I try to create songs that are uplifting because this world can drive you insane". 'Cold War', though it faces a sense of pain and injustice head-on, is not a bitter resignation; it ultimately uplifts:
...and it is, as to be expected, a beautiful thing.
There's a bit of a blip at the beginning of this copy, sorry about that. I have to say, after listening to this comp, having a good quality copy of this song is the only reason I'd want to buy it.
Oh well. Better late than never.
Also, if you haven't already done so, proceed
here* immediately to listen to Jarvis Cocker hosting 6Music's Rocket Science last Saturday. Three hours of Jarvis in top form, playing a quality selection of Halloween-themed songs. Heaven. By the way, if you stop the stream, you can resume where you left off - in case you don't want to listen to it all in one chunk.
I'm sure you'll want to track some of these songs down after listening to this broadcast, so let me start you off:
Edit: Let's all pretend we didn't see that gaff. I don't know what it is, but every time I've typed that today I've written the wrong name. I don't even like R Kelly. Very strange.
*Update: The show is long gone, but it turns out I saved it at the time (link):
Thanks to Jayenkai for originally hosting this track on his (sadly) now defunct website Pulpmania, and for letting me post it.
From Bar Italia:
A very Pulp reworking of a particularly obscure Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons song, very upbeat and smothered in beautiful 80s-sounding electronica. Performed exclusively for French radio as part of Pulp's first appearance on the France Inter Black Sessions in November 1992, a lot of work has clearly been put into this. It's very radically re-arranged, to excellent effect, and the performance is a good one - without having heard the original, it would be hard to know this was not a Pulp composition.
A brilliant description. As with their incredible Polnareff cover, 'Le Roi De Fourmis', this song is like discovering a great lost Pulp single. There are very few covers by Pulp floating around, which is a shame as they do such a good job of them.
I have to say I disagree with the second Bar Italia reviewer about the original, which is amazing:
Can anyone tell me the year this was released (think it is between 72 and 75)?
out of print
- February 19 2017
- February 2 2017
- December 24 2016
- December 23 2016
- November 25 2016
- November 19 2016
- November 11 2016
- October 29 2016
- October 7 2016
- September 1 2016
- August 29 2016
- July 30 2016
- July 19 2016
- July 14 2016
- Sat, Dec 24 2005
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