Friday 16 January 2009

I don't want virtue to exist anywhere....

Earworms of the Week

> "The Fear" - Lily Allen

When I first heard this song, I quite liked it. I liked the way that Lily Allen was sending up those vacuous idiots who are so determined to be famous that they don't care how they get there. I liked that it was written in character, and I liked the understated observations on their stupidity and cupidity:

"I want loads of clothes and fuckloads of diamonds
I heard people die while they are trying to find them"

The more I've heard it though, the less I've liked it. Now, I'm not stupid enough to believe all of the things that I've heard about Lilly Allen, so I'm not going to fall into the trap of saying that she's dangerously close to throwing stones inside a greenhouse.... but her targets are sitting ducks, aren't they? Isn't their stupidity pretty obvious to anyone with half a brain? Do they really need to have it dissected and thrown back in their faces in a song? It's just a bit obvious, isn't it? That's not to say I dislike the song, particularly, it's just that it's a little bit too designed to allow people like you and me to look down our noses at people we need little encouragement to look down our noses at already.

> "Club Foot" - Kasabian

I don't like Kasabian. I don't like their swaggering, simian imitation of bands like Oasis and the Stone Roses. I don't like the way that they seem to take every opportunity to fire their mouths off. I hate the posing and the posturing. Every time I see their singer, I feel the urgent need to stagger around the room with my knuckles dragging on the floor and making monkey noises. They're the kind of band who will wear massive coats and sunglasses on the warmest day of the year. That said, there is something mesmeric about some of their music, and I found this song slipping so far under my skin this week that I've had to get the album out and give it a listen. I have never got round to buying their second album, probably put off by my dislike of the band, but I have to say that I quite what I've heard of that too. Apparently they're superb live too, but when they played at Glastonbury last year, I just couldn't bring myself to go and watch them. I hate the guitarists hats too.

> "Tarzan Boy" - Balitimora

I'm going to blame the pub quiz on Wednesday night for this one. On a bontempi organ round that also featured bizarrely upbeat versions of Joy Division's "She's Lost Control", Nirvana's "About a Girl" and Marillion's "Kayleigh", all earworm candidates in their own right, it was this song that stuck. When the song got to the relevant bit, the whole pub pretty much spontaneously broke into the "woooah oh-a oh-a oh-a"s, so frankly, what chance did I have?

> "Never Miss A Beat" - Kaiser Chiefs

Another band that I'm not overly fond of. I don't dislike them anwhere near as much as Kasabian, but I cannot get away from the idea that the Kaiser Chiefs are a derivative, britpop pub band who got extremely lucky and can't quite believe that they haven't been found out yet. I quite liked their early run of singles, so went to buy the album, only to discover that it was the singles plus a load of guff. I didn't bother with either of the following two albums and have become increasingly irritated by the band's posturing as a kind of sub-Madness, sub-Monkees, sub-Blur tribute act. Ricky Wilson is just a little bit too pleased with himself and you should never trust a band that has such an obviously frustrated frontman and attention seeker as their drummer. This song is fairly typical really, it's a sort of playground chant about having crisps for tea and although it's catchy, it doesn't ever really go anywhere. They're supposed to be very entertaining live, and Mike's been kind enough to offer me his "plus one" for the Arena gig later this year... so we'll see. I'm not exactly sharpening my poisoned pen, but let's just say that they've got a lot to prove.

> "Womanizer" - Britney Spears

I can thank the PA system at the gym for this one. After catching myself singing along on the way to the sauna, I had to think for a minute or two before I remembered who this actually was. It's alright, I suppose, in a kind of robotically efficient way, but it's hardly "Toxic" or "Hit Me Baby One More Time", is it? Actually, I saw the rather disturbing and hypocritical sight of a National Enquirer journalist pretending to be concerned about that time when Britney went a bit mental and shaved her head. Concerned? Don't make me laugh. You weren't concerned about Britney's mental health, you were concerned about selling copies of your rag and it's disingenuous of you to pretend otherwise, or to pretend that your coverage of her "breakdown" hardly helped with her recovery. Pah. Do I sound grumpy today? I'm actually in quite a good mood, but I might have to take Kasabian off the stereo as it appears to be making me angry. Great video this, though (she ties a knot in a cherry stem with her tongue and everything!). Good for you Brit.

> "Karen" - The National

Oh, now this is more like it. I discovered The National via "Boxer" and have worked my way as far back in their back catalogue as "Alligator", which features this song. Matt Berninger has got the most amazing voice: deep, rich and soulful. Although I don't really know what this song is about, and I fear for the couple at the heart of this relationship, I love the way that he seems to reach into this pit of emptiness.

"Karen, put me in a chair, fuck me and make me a drink
I've lost direction, and I'm past my peak
I'm telling you this isn't me
No, this isn't me
Karen, believe me, you just haven't seen my good side yet"

Fantastic band.

> "Reasons Not To Be An Idiot" - Frank Turner

This is a bit of an odd song really. I keep hearing it radio 1, and every time I hear it, it seems like some kind of a throwback. I can't think who it reminds me of, but it seems oddly out of time in on the radio 1 playlists. I'm also not sure that I even like the song all that much, to be honest. The "Get up, get down and get outside" lyric is sort of catchy, but what's he trying to say? It's better than many, I suppose, but it's hardly the future of music, is it? (even if he does have a great 'tache and even if it does namecheck The Smiths).

> "Ace of Spades" - Motorhead

Now we're talking.

I mentioned "Protect the Innocent" when talking about "Breakin' the Law" by Judas Priest last week, and this song featured on the same album. This may be the greatest rock song ever recorded. It's absolutely perfect as it stands and it even helps me get over the fact that Lemmy has a really unpleasant obsession with nazi memorobilia. Actually, this is a brilliant earworm and is welcome in my head anytime.

> "Highway Patrolman" - Johnny Cash

Originally appearing on Bruce Springsteen's "Nebraska" album", this song was covered by Johnny Cash some time before he started working with Rick Rubin. As a sensitive interpretation of someone else's song, I suppose it provides a clear pointer to the "American Recordings" with Rubin that were to so spectacularly revive Cash's career shortly before he died. Actually, in my opinion, Cash's cover of this song rivals his more famous cover of "Hurt". Yes, alright, there is something profoundly moving about the ageing Cash's take on Trent Reznor's song, especially when you watch the video, but he does a pretty damn fine version of this song too. First and foremost, it is a great song, featuring Springsteen's storytelling genius at its finest. It's not as melodramatic as "Hurt", but in its own way, and as the story unfolds in that wonderful bass voice, this is every bit as moving. It's a great record. Another good earworm, too.

> "Faster" - Manic Street Preacher

This song dropped into my head when I was playing football (badly) the other night. I've no idea where it came from or why it appeared, but it was a most welcome visitor. This song was the lead single from "The Holy Bible" and was thus my first taste of what remains my favourite Manics album. I remember them playing it at the 1994 Reading Festival, the first show that they played after Richie had gone into rehab, and a few days before the release of the album itself. Those first lines are remarkable:

"I am an architect, they call me a butcher
I am a pioneer, they call me primitive
I am purity, they call me perverted
Holding you but I only miss these things when they leave"

For me, that's all of the awkwardness and intelligence of the Manics at their best, with all those words shoe-horned into a furious rock track by a frantically gurning James Dean Bradfield. That record will be 15 years old this year. Time flies, eh?

And that's your lot for the week. As always, something of a mixed bag, but there are a few gems in there this week, that's for sure. I'm away down to the Gatwick area next Friday in preparation for my early morning flight to France to go skiing, so I may not manage to get any earworms done. We'll see. I might even seen if I can pressgang one of the volunteers to Guest Edit to do the hard work for me.....

Have a good weekend, y'all and stay classy.

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