I think of music as a rainbow, with songs fashioned out of various styles helping to colour different parts of my day, or accompany my mood. I can’t say that I appreciate some genres more than others – for instance, Tuesday evening saw me bopping across my living room to some honest-to-goodness rock’ n’ roll, with gems by Elvis, Chuck Berry and Gene Vincent. Yesterday evening I was in the frame of mind for something harder and heavier, so out came the Lacuna Coil, 80s Metallica and Cradle of Filth. I do like to keep tabs on songs I’ve come across recently, though, and here are some tracks that have formed part of my latest playlists:-
(1) The The – Giant:- taken from their 1983 album “Soul Mining”, this track combines a catchy beat with kettle drums and existentialist lyrics. Every time I listen to it, I find myself howling “how can anybody know me, when I don’t even know myself?”
(2) UB40 – King:- It is hard to believe that this song is almost forty years old. More strongly indebted to dub than the straight-pop-reggae that the band would become celebrated for, this song is a bittersweet ode to the king of the civil rights movement himself, and lingers on in the air after it fades out.
(3) The Acid – Tumbling Down:- As I’m sure was the case with a good number of other listeners, this track displayed itself to me during the closing credits of the first episode in the brilliantly acerbic HBO Series “Sharp Objects”, starring the sensational Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson, together with a host of other talented actors. Bleak and mordant, “Tumbling Down” is, for me, the quintessential instance of electronic minimalist music executed to resplendently dark effect.
(4) Joy Division – Decades:- The huge influence of this band on different forms of independent and alternative music has long been acknowledged. Far less mournful and plaintive than some of Joy Division’s previous offerings, the melancholy inherent in this song nevertheless transports the listener to a netherworld of hope, nostalgia and regret alike. I just can’t get enough of it.
(5) Miriam Makeba – Quit It:- Having first come across the awesome riff at the song’s opening in the form of One Self’s “Bluebird”, which rather effectively samples it, it was interesting to listen to the original. Soulful, sad and genuine, the song acts as an admonition to individuals engaging in addictive and potentially ruinous behaviour.
(6) Claudja Barry – Love for the Sake of Love:- Music fans of my generation, if they were partial to late 90s/ early noughties r’n’b, will immediately identify the opening chords as emanating from Montell Jordan’s “Get It On Tonight”, but how far superior the original is! Dripping with sex and sensuality, Barry’s silken voice intones “we were made for each other. We belong together”, and who’s arguing?
(7) Front 242 – Masterhit:- Far less abrasive than their later songs, which were to become more clearly identifiable with the industrial sound, “Masterhit” is an exercise in electro-goth-pop, and a pleasing one at that. Can be played before or after Depeche Mode’s “Master and Servant” for intriguing comparison.
(8) Red Lorry Yellow Lorry – Talk About the Weather:- Still on the gloomy side of things, this 1985 release lamented the tediousness and mundanity of social niceties in the place of emotional intensity. Buoyed by the ingenious riff in the middle of the song, it’s no wonder that this is a staple of dark music.
(9) The Chameleons – Swamp Thing:- Sending itself into the airwaves with a faux-country-and-western riff, this song is everything that an 80s indie song should be; melodic, genre-bending and unusual.
(10) Orties – Plus Putes que Toutes les Putes – If you’re a fan of European horror cinema, you may have watched (or at least heard of) the French/ Quebecois collaboration “Grave”, released in English as “Raw”. The film draws us into the (at times rather repulsive) evolution of an awkward, virginal teen who is embarking on her university career into a more confident young woman with a voracious appetite, both sexual and otherwise. At the exact moment of the beginning of her transformation, she stands before a mirror and embraces her dusky otherness as she gyrates to a hip-hop track with fiendishly heavy beats featuring lyrics referencing necrophilia. Darkly decadent stuff!