I am such a slack dude. As well as being a woefully infrequent blogger, I am guilty of not paying due attention to my fellow bloggers. One of these is my man Adrien Begrand, respected heavy metal critic and all round top bloke. It turns out he ‘tagged’ (or ‘tigged’, which was the terminology we used in the English game of chase) me for this seven songs deal:
“List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.”
Adrien’s list is here and Simon Reynolds’s – another top bloke who has partaken in the game – list can be found here. I suppose this makes me ‘it’ (or ‘on’, as our version of the game had it). A quick preface: some of these songs are not very new. They are, however, songs I either am enjoying or have enjoyed very recently. And, a side effect of my indolence, it is clearly no longer spring. But then it wasn’t in June either, so I reckon I’m okay there.
Anyway, I have on and off collated songs that define certain periods, inspired by the semi-annual compilations made by writer Nick Hornby. As I have dropped off a tad in that respect lately, this project is greeted warmly by me.
Sisqó – ‘Thong Song’
I used to consider this something of a joke when it was knocking about the charts. Sisqó, fresh out of unremarkable R&B group Dru Hill, had just released a song about very small pants. Ha ha ha, I thought, it’s a song about small pants performed by an unremarkable R&B singer. It also shares a title with a song by Kyuss and, what with Kyuss being awesome, this is automatically quite lame.
How wrong I was! ‘Thong Song’ began to grow on me while I was still in smarmy sarcast mode and as a result I guffawed at how worked up – in traditional R&B style – he got about the aforementioned smalls. But somewhere in the intervening near-decade something changed.
I remember making a list of singles-of-the-decade a while back. I also remember my peers being taken aback that I would dare to rank it in a similar region to Dizzee Rascal’s ‘I Luv U’; part of the reason I did so was in order to engender that very reaction. In 2003, indie-schmindie print magazine Magnet (is it still going? Apparently), celebrating its first decade in existence, asked various indie popsters about their decade. One individual, whose identity escapes me at present, mentioned they would like to have written ‘Thong Song’. Whether ironic or not, that statement was becoming increasingly agreeable.
I now have the single on 12″, and I love it. It’s also on my iPhone, actually, in lossless format. Happy accident: I first tried playing it on 33rpm, as the sticker didn’t instruct me otherwise. This was too slow, but the intro was intriguing. So I put on the instrumental version and it is beautiful. The violin sample takes on a new hue of melancholy in this wrong speed; the quasi-Garage beat shudders into a half-step/Dubstep tempo; the orchestral chops in the chorus increase in magnitude and the key change near the end is an awesome moment.
On regular speed, though, the song is something to behold. While it is still amusing that Sisqó puts trad-R&B mechanics usually saved for love toward thongs, and that – after banging on for three minutes – he has the audacity to claim ‘I don’t think you heard me!’, the composition is dense and inspiring. As I touched on, the beat is 2-step with an American R&B sheen, and there s so much going on in the mix! The layers of violin and vocal add massively to the very strong skeleton. Someone on a message board recently mentioned that when his music theorist friend first heard the song, he declared it the best piece of music he’d heard.
That dude knows what he’s on about.
Blackout Crew – ‘Put a Donk on It’
This is another one that began ironically. Recently the subject of much online discussion, I first encountered the song prior to that, innocently enough on telly. The top of the video showed a delivery being made to an average-looking house and I was intrigued as to what would follow. Cut to a home studio in which a set of scallies are sitting, and we get to the song proper.
The song is about putting a ‘donk’ on various types of dance music, though I am still unsure as to what exactly a donk is. it does mean we get shards of techno and R&B, among other styles, which all get donked, between bouts of surprisingly impressive rapping.
Reynolds described it as ‘a series of presets’, but the personality of the Crew carries it along very nicely. The beat is energetic, to fit the chatter; the short generic interruptions only serve to add to the cavalcade of glee and suburban happy hardcore pompoms. Each shaven-headed youth (I love them on my telly, but not sure I’d particularly want to knock about with them) brings his own bit to the table, and it’s over before it gets old.
I had joked with friends about it being single of the year, but it is very solid; the donk meme is now on the outs round our end, but served its purpose very nicely as everything from going out on a night, to being at work, to the washing up, all had a donk put on it. And now it’s over.
RTX – ‘You Should Shut Up’
The more I hear of RTX, the more convinced I am of their status of Best Rock Band in the World Right Now. Their first album, Transmaniacon, was absolutely stunning in an album-of-the-year kind of way. Ostensibly a return to 80s glam rock, the songs were produced to sound heavy as hell with a druggy haze enveloping it in a mess of psychedelia and auto-tuners. The last song was even a modern equivalent of ‘Rocket Queen’, albeit with George Clinton samples.
The second album (Western Xterminator, renamed RaTX for some reason) was more of the similar, and I was less in love with it. I only decided that on first listen and totally didn’t give it enough of a chance. It is really good though. (I have a particular issue with awesome rock artists, whereby they have to release one album and split, ripping my heart in two and leaving me lying on the bed-ah, as I’m left wondering what could have been. It stems from the diminishing returns offered by Andrew W.K. following his classic debut I Get Wet. So I wanted RTX to leave it at that. Same with Be Your Own Pet, only their second album was wonderful, and they split up anyway.)
The new RTX record, J.J. Got Live RatX (not a live album, though the press release states some of the songs will be performed live in future…) is a return to a form that was never really lost, and the song I have chosen opens proceedings admirably.
It begins with orchestral synths whose duration is cloaked in nods and winks, as a drum riff steadily builds. Then, suddenly, a massive wodge of guitar peals off a descending riff as erstwhile Royal Trux partner, and doyenne of hotness, Jennifer Herrema suggests ‘YOU SHOULD SHUT UP’, on account of you really don’t know what you’re talking about. And the album is off to the best possible start. The lyrics are about someone who’s done our Jen wrong, and are spat out in as spiteful a fashion as the riffs. Love it!
Secret Machines – ‘Dreaming Of Dreaming’
I have to admit, not really listened to this one too many times. While at a party the other month, one of the hosts recommended to me a band called The Secret Machines. I recommended Neutral Milk Hotel to him. He came back to last week telling me that he now loves NMH. I, conversely, forgot all about these Secret Machines.
How fortunate, then, that same friend sorted me out with a link to download a new SM (oo-er) song. In an effort to be a decent person, I downloaded it and it’s nice. From what I can tell. The rhythm is suitably propulsive, the song builds nicely and the fact that its duration is a solid eight minutes-plus bodes very well. That’ about all I can tell you at the minute, other than it’s good, sounds swell (for an mp3) on my headphones and listen to it here. Bloody hell, it’s not even on the album or anything!
Rosco P. Coldchain – ‘Hot’
Another song from a few years ago, but a very good one. In fact, I could quite comfortably say, without even fibbing a bit, that this is my favourite rap tune ever. Released on the Neptunes’ Clones set back in 2003, a.k.a. the dying days of the Neps being good, this was the best song on it. In fact, it is the far superior precursor to Snoop Dogg’s ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’. And ‘Sco is a superior rapper.
Minimal as it gets, this is odd rubbing sample-as-beat, while the sound of a pin dropping turns up in the mix later in the song. The hook is ‘Sco, who does the second verse, sandwiched by guests Pusha-T (from the really rather good Clipse) and Boo-Bonic, about which I know very little, other than he has a voice so strange it’s threatening. Like MC Ren.
Coldchain (who I initially confused with Tigerbeat6 artist Gold Chains) is so smooth, with such amazing flow, that he can barely be called a rapper in the traditional sense. He just speaks incredibly fast, with total clarity, in rhythm. Which pretty much totally defines him as a rapper, but you know what I mean. His lyrics are great (he can get away with gangster stuff on account of his believable language and being very scary), he has a menacing charisma and I love him (nobody else would be able to get away with dissing Prince in a song).
At the time I was so geared up for his album it was unreal. I listened non-stop to this song, his guest appearance on the albums ‘Hot Damn’ by Clipse, and his guest spot on Kelis’s ‘Digital Love’. Sorry, mustn’t mention that second Kelis album. Brilliant cyber-prog R&B doesn’t exist if it didn’t sell, so Wanderland appears to have been stricken from the record. Anyway, I listened and listened and listened… and the album still isn’t out. Will it be out? It must come out! Half a decade later!
Snot – ‘Stoopid’
Another old one! And yet another song I have been rocking lately. In short, Snot was a nu-metal band back in the late 1990s, when it appeared some nu-metal bands might be good, before Linkin Park, Static X and Disturbed started ruling the roost with an iron yawn. This was their single and, just as they were about to get big, vocalist Lynn Strait died. I was at the Fear Factory/Kilgore gig in December 1998 when the news broke, and it was very sad.
Tipping the stereotypes on their collective head in one short, sharp shock, Snot did away with the woe is me self-loathing and the ‘surprise’ kick ins of the chorus. And that annoying binary of either singing cleanly or screaming, displaying utter inability to manage anything more subtle. No, Strait could sing properly; he could scream while singing, in a dirty, California slacker take on the Tom Waits aesthetic with a nice line in ad libs.
Bass guitar was prominent in the mix, but not to the detriment of everything else. The drumming was more than just a case of hitting the skins as many times as possible. It was a song, in the sense that separated the likes of Metallica and Pantera from their peers. I love it and I always will. In fact I like it more as a twenty-eight year old than when I was seventeen, and I have only just bought their album, so there you go.
Lift To Experience – ‘Into the Storm’
Oh wow, all these words written, and still this to get through. I’ll keep it short, because I am actually planning something on the fascinating tale that is the career of Josh T. Pearson and his Lift To Experience. So, in short:
Best album of the decade. Released it, toured a bit, then disappeared. Vocalist went through years of personal demons before returning, somewhat triumphantly, with truly awesome solo shows. Why he is not ridiculously famous, given the fact that his story is as iconic as you can get this decade, and he totally fucking means everything he performs, is beyond me. And I think this is my favourite song ever. Seriously ever.
It’s ten minutes long, and sums up in microcosm everything that is inspiring about Pearson. You’ll just have to buy the album because (i) he needs the money, (ii) I told you, it’s the best thing this decade, and (iii) the song is so long that my digital file is about thirty terabytes big so you wouldn’t be able to download it anyway. Oh, and (iv) I don’t trust your headphones.
It’s got the melodies, insane guitar playing, remarkable arrangements that you swear are not the work of a trio but they are because I have seen this one performed live, mantras for days, crescendo that exposes todays post rock bands for the weak charlatans they are, lyrics, is the culmination of a concept that shouldn’t work but does, and then you have all the little details. One of my favourite things about Lift To Experience songs is when there is an instrumental (or even vocal) section, and Josh suddenly starts narrating. Most of the time I can’t even make out what he’s saying, but I really love it. And he does loads of it here.
It’s about the end of the world, and how Texas and Jerusalem are inextricably linked. In fact, there is one segment about how ‘when America falls the world will fall with her’ (it’s hard to explain, but even though Pearson clearly loves his country, it’s really not a blindly patriotic thing; it’s endearing in its purity). The album was out in early summer 2001, and I saw them for the second time in October 2001.
This was obviously a very politically sensitive time for people – as we were reminded the other day – and that section of the song was ridiculously intense. It really did feel like the world was going to fall, and maybe that’s what affected Josh so massively in the following years. Whatever the case, it was a performance to behold. So much for keeping it short…
God, I have to involve seven other bloggers? Damn. My two favourites have actually ‘retired’, so I’ll see if I can even think of seven:
Go! Go! Go!
Like seven people even read my blog.