Write Here, Write Now: 5.26 – The Bottom Line

Big Audio Dynamite – The Bottom Line. Another 5 star song  – the politics of dancing

I remember this album coming out back in 1985. A fan of the Clash, and particularly the later albums, with varied music styles and experimentation, I was keen to hear this one, with all the sampling from movies, cultural references and continued political references. I loved the spaghetti western references, the song all about Nic Roeg films (Insignificance came out in the same year, with all its own oblique commentary on Monroe, Einstein, Macarthy and di Maggio) – it seemed like the world of music had just got enormously bigger and open to all kinds of association and possibility. The anti-apartheid march and concert in Clapham Common the following year had them playing and it was a fantastic experience – my first concert, I think – I was so eager to hear the album live.

Of all the songs on the album, the Bottom Line has the most joi de vivre – its rhythm just makes me want to get up and bounce around to it. And while there isn’t much to the lyrics, they have a general message of Thatcher’s Britain sucks, but that shouldn’t hold us back. And Mick Jones has a great way with a guitar – a real gun slinger, the way the track opens with lazily but perfectly rhythmic strummed chords, pausing at odd moments to pack in unexpected punches, cowbell drumming and let samples and singing slot into place.  It’s a glorious, rousing singalong – big dumb fun. Plus it was the first single to be released, so a good introduction to the album.

 

Write Here, Write Now: 5.25 – Wrecking Ball

Amelia Curran -Wrecking Ball. This is  what I seem to have been listening to tonight

Sometimes, it isn’t possible to be in complete control of what one does, of what one spends one’s time doing. Forces prevail, and one wakes at 3 in the morning, listening to a song on repeat that one had no memory of starting to listen to. We are not yet subservient automatons.

I can love you best of all. I am a wrecking ball” . Sometimes that is a credo I can believe in.

 

Write Here, Write Now: 5.24 – Hearts

L.S.G. – Hearts. Extraordinary. The best music in the world.

There will be moments in this year when I will dare to try to write about songs that are unimprovable, perfect, just joyous soundscapes that thrill me to my core, that drive me giddy with happiness when I hear their opening bars, that I know will sustain my listening pleasure from very beginning to the utter end – and I will feel faint about the daunting prospect of doing them justice. Will I even begin to be able to capture the wonder, the overwhelming body capturing, head ensnaring feeling i get from listening to such creations?

Tonight may well be the night more than any other night when that is so. There are no words to be described in this trance epic, but it is a seven minute symphony of soaring counterpoint and headspinning mathematical headfuckery to match Bach at his nerdy best.

There’s a simple thumping theme that launches from the very start. But very soon, its endless repetition does the trance thing of making me lose sense of the time signature. Is it 4/4 or 3/4? Then about half way through, the song drops out, leaving just the central theme and a glorious echo of what came before and what will come after.

I remember hearing it on Peel back in the nineties, and being so glad I recorded it. Fortunately, the title was Hearts, not Hertz, or even  Hz, so I could type in the text and listen to check the source.

Now I am dead tired, and before I complexly collapse. Pleasing others with further detailed analysis will have to wait for another day,  I haven’t done the track justice, probably, but tant pis.

 

Write Here, Write Now: 5.23 – Pressure On Julian

Blur – Pressure On Julian. A song for me!

Blur wee one of those bands I appreciated for existing rather than enjoyed for the music they made. Some of their anthems were good (To The End, For Tomorrow, End of A Century), their pop songs (Girls and Boys, Country House), and some of the post-Britpop songs (Song 2 and Coffee and TV). I prefer some of Damon’s music outside Blur (Gorillaz and Mali Music in particular).

It’s a tiring and troublesome time at the moment, so I was looking for a song with the word ‘pressure’. As the other word was my first name, I thought I should give this a go. A further reason was it is off of the second Blur album, which completely passed me by – time to reevaluate?

First impressions are of incessant whiney and intermittently choppy guitars, thumpy, clodhopping drums, and semi tuneless shouting from Damon. Solid melodic bass at least. In fact, it’s the bass I hang onto, when the guitar and vocals get a bit too much. a bit too all over the place, a bit headache-inducing.

There’s not enough of their pop sensibilities in this song. It’s a catchy song title and that’s it. And now I’ve got the whiney guitar in my head when I see the song in future. After a day in a west-facing office, getting all the sun (‘this bloody weather’), I’m fit to collapse. I won’t be revisiting this song in a hurry.

Write Here, Write Now: 5.22 – First Name Unknown

Primal Scream – First Name Unknown. Rumbling engines

I don’t get much opportunity to get behind the wheel of an automobile these days. Living and working in a medium -sized city with excellent public transport connections, there’s hardly any need. But when I lived in the UK, I used to chug around in an old VW Golf and the soundtrack for that would often be a double sided cassette with Vanishing Point on one side and Echo Dek on the other – two sides of the same, grimey, mechanical dubby noise, it was ideal for playing against the noise of the car engine and to go with the feel of the basic controls of the car – no power steering, poor clutch control, hand cranked windows, black rubber seals on windows and basic metal panels with paint faded by the sun.

I was never Kowalski, nor could I think of driving so fast, so long, or so strung out on amphetamines, but that film, Two Lane Blacktop, Soft Top Hard Shoulder, were all in my mind as I careered around the country lanes and dual carriageways of Essex.

It was all a glorious symphony of samples, ‘cool’ lyrics, anchored by deep heavy bass – this wasn’t music to listen to, this was a world of comforting noise to lose myself in viscerally as I felt at one with the machine I was driving.

Not much more to say than that, really. Except that I wonder if I should revisit the albums in their totality? Would they live up to my memory of them?

 

Write Here, Write Now: 5.21 – I Just Grew Tired

Black – I Just Grew Tired. Life isn’t always wonderful

Wonderful Life was a sublime song, a truly elegant slice of bittersweet melancholic joy, simultaneously decrying and celebrating being in the world.

This song was thrown up when I put ‘tired’ into my search engine – it’s been a demanding couple of weeks, workwise, and I spent yesterday doing some heavy gardening and childcare – being middle aged with young children, my body is really feeling the burn. A few days out of the daily routine, just to sleep, would be a much appreciated luxury, but sadly impossible in the current context.

I guess Colin Vearncombe lived his life in the shadow of Wonderful Life – it’s practically the only song of his I can recall. It’s therefore good to focus my listening attention on another song, even if I start the blog with the focus on the big hit.

Even though I don’t remember hearing this song before, I kind of knew what to expect – gentle keyboard-based music with lush voiced singing and backing vocals. No matter the subject, the sound would be restorative. And that’s pretty much what it is – a balance between the smoothly produced, unchallenging melody and the quiet desperation in a song of plaintive sadness and reflection sung in beautiful, clear tones.

There’s something very meditative and restorative about the repeated line ‘I just grew tired, grew tired, grew tired‘. When energy levels are very low, when demands are still there to carry on, sometimes having a phrase to repeat, over and over again helps to calm the breath, focus the weary mind on something very simple and ignore the body’s desperation for rest.

I think there are a lot of tired people in the world. Looking at my daughters, I feel like the human being has a long coil of sprung steel inside that gets wound up tight at birth and is slowly released over a lifetime. Sooner or later, after countless turnings of the key, the coil gets slack, weak or brittle and doesn’t work so well any more. We slow down and our bodies wear out, even as we are encased in them.

Is this a song about suicide? I’m not sure, even though it mentions death being easy twice. It feels more like the death of a relationship, than of a life. Though I don’t think it is bad to reflect on death, however discomforting that is. Its inevitability cannot be ignored forever, and possibly the most important lesson we can learn is how to prepare for a good death, to resolve oneself to its oncoming. That is not to say – leap towards it with relish – but appreciate the finity of our days and the transience of our appearance, come towards an acceptance of our fate.

One of many recent losses from the world of popular music, Colin Vearcombe left behind a legacy of songs that bring sadness, joy and calm, and as I discovered tonight, behind the shadow of the one big song, there are little glimmers of light in the rest of his catalogue to be discovered and savoured.

Write Here, Write Now: 5.20 – I Hurt You

The Pretenders – I Hurt You. Pulsing forcefulness against a junko partner

This is such a great song – there’s such a feeling in it, that impels, forces, oozes, drives it through to the very end.

One of the things I like about it, is how it is bass-driven. Right up front, close to the speakers, leading the lyrics. When it stops at 2.30, the whole thing pauses, waiting for it to reload and start firing again.

And Chrissy rides pillion on this mighty bass stallion – throwing out words impetuously, imperiously, impossibly magisterial, offloading verdicts and judgements with a twisted lip and a sneer.

All these years of loving this song, and I never really paid attention to the lyrics – “If you’d been in the S.S. in ’43, you’d have been kicked out for cruelty” – no halfway measures there.

There’s breathing, inhalation and exhalation going on –
“I hurt you

‘Cause you hurt me

So I hurt you

‘Cause you hurt me”

Tribal, stomping, like a shamen witch, around the cauldron, stopping every now and then to stick another pin in the voodoo dolly.

What am I forgetting here? It’s the guitar. Though a poor second violin to the mighty bass, echoing it through the song, it gets all rockabilly and then fluoresces into a beautiful flower a minute before the end of the song.  It’s an expression of Chrissy’s righteous anger finally boiling over and showing itself, molten and magnificent.

Need I say again how great it is? A rousing song every time I hear it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEgSuAjs4go