Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Heavy Metal Memories

Hard Rock. There's a genre that gets no respect. Not from people who don't wear leather pants and do that devil horn thing with their hands anyway. But what if I told you metal needn't be all about goat slaying and the ritual sacrifice of virgins? If I said that it provided what must be, with all apologies to Moscow by Genghis Khan, the greatest videoclip ever produced? You'd say I was crazy - and I probably am. On that note I present to you the epic that is Judas Priest's Breaking The Law

Security guard of major bank is asleep at his post.

Priest comes out of a porn shop. He may very well be up to something dodgy. Who are we kidding? He's a priest!

Suddenly Ian Fitzgerald, bank employee, sees something that troubles him. Is it Ronnie Biggs wielding a shotty and demanding all the cash in small unmarked notes?

Bollocks to that, it's Judas Priest and they've got electric guitars.

Hostages are forced, at Fender point, to listen to the band’s manifesto on why sometimes you have to break to law.

The vault is then located (via a giant door that says BANK), the plastic bars are ripped away by the rock behemoth that is Rob Halford and the gold records are liberated.

Yeah, just look at those bars go. This is sensational. Rob is the hardest man ever to come out of Sheffield.

Security guard wakes up and is so inspired by the raid that he rips out his wooden guitar and ROCKS OUT LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER.

Anyone can spend $10m on a video and not have it come anywhere near the quality of this. I’m calling for the return of plastic bars and wooden guitars to the music video of today. As an added bonus we present the song (alas not the video) in it’s entirety,

Download: Judas Priest - Breaking The Law

This song ranked #225 in the TSP 1000

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Immerse your soul in love

It's no secret I utterly adore Radiohead. There's a Radiohead sticker on the pickups of my guitar (an instrument I got into because of the Oxford lads) and the OK Computer poster takes pride of place on my wall.

Like any good fan, I've been known to frequent the occasional Radiohead site in search of meaning behind the songs. Perhaps the most interesting is the immaculate closer to The Bends album, Street Spirit (Fade Out.) The song that speaks of cracked eggs and dead birds and blue houses touching the petrified protagonist had an unusual birth. Below are the words of singer/songwriter Thom Yorke speaking candidly about the track, transcribed from a long-lost interview and once-hosted at the now-defunct Follow Me Around:

'Street Spirit' is our purest song, but I didn't write it... It wrote itself. We were just its messengers... Its biological catylysts. Its core is a complete mystery to me... and (pause) you know, I wouldn't ever try to write something that hopeless... All of our saddest songs have somewhere in them at least a glimmer of resolve... 'Street Spirit' has no resolve... It is the dark tunnel without the light at the end. It represents all tragic emotion that is so hurtful that the sound of that melody is its only definition. We all have a way of dealing with that song... It's called detachment. Especially me... I detach my emotional radar from that song, or I couldn't play it... I'd crack. I'd break down on stage... that's why its lyrics are just a bunch of mini-stories or visual images as opposed to a cohesive explanation of its meaning... I used images set to the music that I thought would convey the emotional entirety of the lyric and music working together... That's what's meant by 'all these things are one to swallow whole' (sic) ... I meant the emotional entirety, because I didn't have it in me to articulate the emotion... (pause) I'd crack.... Our fans are braver than I to let that song penetrate them, or maybe they don't realize what they're listening to.. They don't realize that 'Street Spirit' is about staring the fucking devil right in the eyes... and knowing, no matter what the hell you do, he'll get the last laugh... and it's real... and true. The devil really will get the last laugh in all cases without exception, and if I let myself think about that to long, I'd crack. I can't believe we have fans that can deal emotionally with that song... That's why I'm convinced that they don't know what it's about. It's why we play it towards the end of our sets. It drains me, and it shakes me, and hurts like hell everytime I play it, looking out at thousands of people cheering and smiling, oblivious to the tragedy of it's meaning, like when you're going to have your dog put down and it's wagging it's tail on the way there. That's what they all look like, and it breaks my heart.

I wish that song hadn't picked us as its catalysts, and so I don't claim it. It asks too much. (very long pause). I didn't write that song.'

Deep, indeed. But is this Yorke being serious, or just acting facetious and wily as he often can be in interviews? If it is indeed a song that represents no light at the end of the tunnel, and mere darkness and hopelessness, it seems to be out of place on the album as a whole - an album that, whilst bleak at times, is ultimately fairly upbeat. Consider the case of title track The Bends, which Yorke has openly stated is a joke song and not meant to be taken seriously. The song features the line "I wish it was the Sixties/I wish I could be happy/I wish, I wish, I wish that something would happen" - a line Yorke discredits with the quote Do I you wish it was the Sixties? No! I don't wish it was the fucking Sixties - Levi's Jeans wish it was the Sixties - I certainly fucking don't".

Couple this with (Nice Dream), a song about a half-drunken dream Yorke experienced and wrote a song about. The opening lines are positive and (in admittedly a strange turn for Radiohead) happy, with Yorke crooning:

They love me like I was a brother
They protect me, listen to me
They dug me my very own garden
Gave me sunshine, made me happy

The second verse of the song is perhaps darker, with its imagery of an angel being unable to help Yorke for fear the sea would "electrocute us all." But maybe there isn't much to these words as what you'd think - the demo version of the track, which is floating around on the Interweb somewhere, has the second verse replaced with something much more in-line with the positivity of the song:

You cannot melt or unwrap me
I'm a sweet man made of chocolate
Your liquorice eyes will enrapt me
Will be creamy, soft and milky

The Bends is much too upbeat to finish with a song that is pure in darkness and so deeply depressing; so are Thom Yorke's words on it true, or just another in-joke victory on the blindly devouring musical press? Keep in mind, this is a man who wore shirts to interviews with the slogan 'Presse Nes Pas Avaler' - French for "Do not swallow the press" or literally do not believe what the press says, and has had high-profile spats with most of the top music magazines in the UK, including NME.

As is with most music, the only one who knows the true answer is probably the artist himself. A satisfying answer? Of course not. But that's part of the artform - the best music makes you bring something of yourself to it, rather than laying bare its visceral carcass for all to see.


Sufjan Stevens - Chicago (live at KRCW)

The Clientele - Since K Got Over Me

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Hype killeth the fan

I used to believe that your love of a band is largely dependent on your personal attachment to music. I suppose it has happened to anyone who has fell in love with a band. You hear a guitar riff, a lyric stings you, the drumming is so tight, you fall in love.. and there it is, just you and the music.

The story varies somewhat if a band is only just emerging from the ranks. At the beginning you do your best to promote the band as best you can. You make mixed tapes, lovingly brag about them to friends, crossing your fingers they'll finally make it down to Australia. You know they will be huge. You know if only people knew about them, they could think about them in the same way you do.

Although it is frustrating to a degree, there is occasionally a moment where you embrace the idea of a band being largely your own. It can be a personal entity. The band can look to their small mixed collective of fans. There would be a feeling of requited excitement when an extremely oblique reference is cited in the commercial music press. You are proud because they deserve it. You are proud because you found them "first".

Then something changes. Your band is everywhere, somehow. In supermarkets. Clothes stores. Their songs are played twice, sometimes three times when you go out. They become so common and unspecial. People know about them and your space is somehow invaded. You notice a change within the band too. A feeling of jaded complacency in their performance. A sense of arrogance in their interviews. An impression that they really couldn't give a damn anymore.

Is it not strange that such an affinity should change upon worldwide exposure? In the end, it's just you and the music, isn't it? Perhaps the love of a band extends far beyond what you listen to in your bedroom. It is the entire appeal of a band, it is their image. Their attitude and approach towards music and performance. It's difficult to ascertain why a band's appeal would be cheapened upon wider recognition. Maybe it's just ironic that the love for your band would ultimately be crushed by the masses of teens who claim to feel the same as you do.


Arctic Monkeys - From Ritz to Rubble
The Faint - Worked up So Sexual
The White Stripes - My Doorbell (videoclip)