Friday 11 January 2008

And we cover our lies with handshakes and smiles...

Earworms of the Week.

Not counting last week's Earworms of the Year 2007 marathon, it's been a few week's since I last a normal earworm post. So why don't we get 2008 off to an entirely predictable Friday evening earworm start with lots of guitar based nonsense.....

10. "When Under Ether" - PJ Harvey

Ah, Peej. Anyone who has listened to "Rid of Me" will know that there is something otherworldly and more than a little disturbing about PJ Harvey. She's hidden it better recently, and her last couple of albums have brought her fairly mainstream success and a mercury music prize, but on her new album ("White Chalk") that weirdness is back: she discards her guitar for a piano and puts on a very long, white Victorian dress. She also sings in a strained, whispered voice that seems to a little higher than she normally sings and is right on the limits of her ability. All of this together conspires to make the album sound more than a little oppressive. This particular song appears to be the tale of an abortion:

"Something's inside me
Unborn and unblessed
Disappears in the ether
This world to the next
Disappears in the ether
One world to the next"

The tone is not quite of regret, but neither is it quite matter-of-fact. Haunting. It's an album that took a while to grow on me, but it's superb.

9. "Cello Song" - Nick Drake

I've long had and adored "Way to Blue: an introduction to Nick Drake", but the other day I nipped out and bought "Fruit Tree", a boxset of Drake's three albums, a DVD and a booklet. The likes of James Blunt and Damien Rice show that there is a massive market for singer-songwriters, but listening to these albums made me think how much better than any of them Nick Drake was... brilliant. The albums have been remastered and they sound fantastic, and I really could have picked any number of his songs for this list. I'll settle on this one simply because I love the way that Drake uses his voice as an instrument alongside the cello. If you haven't heard any of his stuff then I strongly urge you to check him out.

8. "Loughborough Suicide" - The Young Knives

A very local, East Midlands reference point for the Ashby-de-la-Zouche based Young Knives, and another in their line of songs about nervy, inadequate types. Given the subject matter, and given the band's tendency not to play anything entirely straight, this song is done with a surprising amount of sensitivity.

7. "Exit Music (For A Film)" - Radiohead

The song from "OK Computer" that always has the most impact on me. Sure, it's not as obvious as "Paranoid Android" or "Karma Police" or "No Surprises", but the starkness of this song gets me every time. Listen to it on a really good pair of headphones, and you start to hear the catches in Yorke's voice as he sings; to hear each laboured breath he sucks in between the lines. It's the song that first really convinced me of the album's brilliance, actually.

6. "Brianstorm" - Arctic Monkeys

The song that shows quite how muscular a rock band the Arctic Monkeys can be when they put their minds to it.... without ever letting go of that lyrical cuteness. See you later, innovator.

5. "Neighbourhood" - Space

Perhaps it's entirely appropriate, on the day that Liverpool becomes the 2008 European Capital of culture, that I have a song by a silly, novelty Scouse band trapped on my internal jukebox. It seems a little ridiculous to think of it now, but there was a time in the 1990s where Spaced were able to forge a career successful enough to warrant putting out a Greatest Hits album. Actually, I'm being unfair. Although songs like this and "The Ballad of Tom Jones" make Space sound like a novelty band, I think that there might actually have been a bit more to them than that. "Avenging Angels" is a good song, for starters. Two top ten albums and three top ten singles (one of which -- Tom Jones -- I bought). That's not such a bad career, eh? La. Actually, is that more than Ringo?

4. "Glory Box" - Portishead

Brought to mind as I went through the "P's" on the Alphabeticon the other day. A timeless classic. The loop seems to go on forever, but it never once drags and Beth Gibbons sounds sassy and sorrowful all at the same time.

3. "Caribbean Moon" - Kevin Ayers

I was introduced to Kevin Ayers on Mike T-D's shuffleathon CD from the tail end of the year. That song ("Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes") together with a ringing endorsement of Ayers from my friend The Eye in the Sky, and my interest was piqued enough to pop out and buy a compilation album. Kevin Ayer's appears to have one of those restless talents that is not happy to be tied down to one particular style, and the album is filled with a kaleidoscope of different types of song. I would imagine that it's fair to say that "Caribbean Moon" probably isn't his most highly regarded song... I would imagine that the cod-reggae accent he chooses to sing the whole song in would put paid to that... but it is stupendously catchy, and that's the reason it's the song that's stuck.

2. "Aggro" - The Enemy

I'd heard of this lot a long time before I actually heard anything by them. They were yet another band from that production line of indie guitar bands that are currently marauding all over the charts.... along with the likes of the Pigeon Detectives, the Hoosiers, the Wombats and so on. I knew that they were from Coventry, and I knew that they looked like urchins, but in spite of a string of hit singles, I didn't hear a single song by them until approximately a week ago when I finally listened to the album that LB had lent me some time before. Bloody hell. I was so wrong. Yeah, alright they are still from Coventry and they do still look like urchins, but they are not in the least bit like the Pigeon Detectives or the Hoosiers or any of that lot.... this is a band that is more (superficially, at least) from the bloodline of Oasis and Kasabian, with a touch of the blast and energy of the Arctic Monkeys and the social conscience and urban landscapes of bands like Hard Fi and the Clash. I loved this lot from the moment that the opening chords of the opening chords of the album kicked in --- with this song. There's more to follow with the likes of "Away From Here", "Had Enough" and "We'll Live and Die in These Towns". "Aggro" is the song that I've been 'worming for most of the week though.

1. "Two More Years (MSTRKRFT mix)" - Bloc Party

This popped up when I was listening to LastFM the other day (something I almost never do, with most of my listening coming off my iPod or the radio in my car. This time I just typed "Interpol" into the radio player thing, and off I went on a magical mystery tour that encompassed bands like System of a Down, TLC, Damien Rice, The Shins, The Postal Service, Arctic Monkeys, The Bravery, The Rapture and the like). I'm familiar with the song, of course, but this remix adds a totally different and dirtier guitar riff that takes the song off in a completely different direction. I suppose I sort of expect remixes of famous songs to add a shitty electronic beat to a song and to take it off in a leftfield direction. There's something brilliantly bold about taking a song by a guitar band and changing something as fundamental as the guitar riff. I loved it and I've now downloaded it too.


So there you go.

I'm keen to get some Guest Editors lined up to do this slot... I reckon it gets a bit boring if I do it every week, and it's good to get a bit of variety now and again. I know I ask this a lot, but who wants to have a go? Stick your details in the comments box below and I'll get in touch and we can arrange a date. New blood is especially welcome, but it's a new year, so feel free to apply even if you've had a go before. I've done it loads of times and there's no statute of limitations. It's not too arduous - all I need is that you start your week with a clean sheet of paper, and on the Friday of that week you submit me a list of the ten tunes that have been taking up the most brainspace, together with a bit of blurb about each one. It's not about producing the coolest list of songs you can think of and it's not really something you should be able to prepare in advance. You're not allowed to edit, either. If you can't get the tune from the Coco Pops advert out of your head, then I'm afraid that has to go down on the list. That's all there is to it.

Apply in the comments box below. All welcome.


  1. I've seen Space live a few times, and thought they were great. Perhaps linked to the fact I had a major thing for the lead singer - Tommy, was it? I never saw them as a novelty band, but I'll stick the CDs on this afternoon (while I repaint a wal in my living room - my life's a riot), so I'll keep that in mind.

    As always, I am a willing and able-ish guest editor. You have my details should you get desperate!

  2. I would love another go as a guest editor, if you want me?

  3. 'Exit Music' is my favourite song on OK Computer too...

  4. Yeah, I'll be a guest editor - why not afterall? :)

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