Greetings, Glancers! It’s been a while since I’ve done a ‘Favourite Songs By X’ list, so I thought I would bring it back with a band I’m assuming most readers won’t be familiar with. Regular visitors to the blog will know that one of my missions is to try to recruit readers to the Manic Street Preachers army – my never-ending posts about them hopefully gaining the band a few new fans. However, one of my greatest hopes in music is that The Music gains has a much larger audience. The Music was, to my mind, the best British Band to emerge in the 2000s. In an era filled with ‘The’ bands and poncy solo singers – the so called saviours such as Franz Ferdinand, The Libertines, The Kaiser Chiefs, The Strokes, The Killers, were all shite to me – vain, watered down indie which appealed as much to the Michael Buble crowd as they did to rock fans ashamed to admit they liked guitar based music. The Music fully embraced their guitars and rock history with an unmatched swagger and no fucks given approach, while fusing stadium pounding choruses and earth shattering riffs with a funk/dance combo. Nobody else sounded like them, and nobody has since. They should have been the biggest band in the world.
It all started out promisingly enough, with a string of Top 40 hits in the UK and a debut album which peaked at Number 4. The four lads were regulars on the festival circuit and while touring burned them out a little, they managed to record what I consider to be the best album of the decade – by some margin – their follow up Welcome To The North. While the more grandiose, less dance-oriented approach garnered less acclaim in the critical outlets, it has become a cult fan favourite. The grueling schedule would take its toll, along with some substance abuse recovery, but four years later the band would release their third and final album – the darker, less inspired Strength In Numbers. While still containing a number of great songs, it seemed like the band were in a transitional stage. Sadly, before we would learn what would come next, lead singer and write Robert Harvey announced he was quitting the band in the midst of writing for their fourth album. Fortune, in this instance, had not favoured the brave but instead the bland, and while rock around the world slipped into obscurity, one of its final great hopes – never given the attention they demanded – played for the final time together, and vanished.
Fans were delighted to receive a Double Album collection of singles and rarities shortly after the group disbanded, but it wasn’t conclusive; there are plenty of songs which the band played and recorded which were left off, and who knows what other delights the fourth album could have given us. Harvey went on to work with noted knob Mike Skinner on a couple of minor projects and can now be found on Youtube releasing the odd acoustic song. He still has the pipes and the talent, but I haven’t believed in the latter portion of this decade that any great new material would be coming from the ex-members. My hope now is that people can find what they did release, that the band will be re-evaluated, re-discovered, or encountered for the first time. In today’s knitted, don’t walk on the grass, sit down concerts, empty smiled, doped up on yawns, world in which music is gradually heading backwards to a pre-Beatles era of back-patting, song sharing, anti-creativity, The Music ruptured the very core of passion and stomped their songs all over the bodies of any activists who stood up for bland rights.
Here is my rundown of my favourite songs by The Music, complete with helpful links so that you can become a fan. As always, much of the ranking is changeable. This is music to make you attach alligators to your arms and go punch some bears. Click the links and enjoy some absolute belters.
38. Disco (Debut Album)
Why not start with probably the strangest song the band ever recorded, just to alienate anyone who sheepishly clicks the first link. It’s a song of two halves, the first being a dirge-like crushing rock song which picks up pace swiftly before exploding into a truly manic second half. That manic second half is led in by increasingly ridiculous and funky drums and Harvey’s vocals getting more bizarre with each line. If you’re not busting out your most over the top, wall slamming dance moves by the end of this, then you have no business being alive.
37. Let Love Be The Healer (Rarities)
Every so often the band through all subtlety out the window and went all in on an old fashioned driving rock song – or at least their version of such things. The distorted chaotic riffs are still accounted for and the pounding drums are more streamlined into a single arrangement – with all the trappings of their usual style removed it’s refreshing to see that they can still deliver the goods.
36. Fire (Strength In Numbers)
Very few songs on their final album sound like what was on the band’s debut – this is one of the most obvious callbacks. It doesn’t meet the euphoric heights of their best work from that era but it shows that they were still perfectly capable of knocking out another hit in the vein of what made their name. There are two great colliding riffs, the drum and bass work is exquisite as always, and Harvey’s vocals are hovering somewhere above the Mir Space Station.
35. Hands On Fire (Rarities)
Never going down the standard or acoustic ballad very often, and typically only on B-Sides, Hands On Fire feels more like a Harvey solo effort – such is the influence of the rhythm section. The verses are nice enough, but the chorus brings the drums and a bigger melody. It’s not a song I feel the need to listen to much, but every so often I give it a blast as a nice riposte.
34. Too High (DA)
There’s only one way to close out such a wild and over the top debut, and that’s with this mini slow-building epic. Although things start out quietly enough with more of the wonderfully toned guitar riffs we’ve come to expect, things become more insane as we near conclusion. Not quite to the extent of the album opener, or indeed Float (not included on this list), but enough to make you take notice. Seeing them perform this (or any of their songs really) live is an awe-inspiring experience and another where you just have to give yourself over to the band and go with it. The greatest rhythm section since Zeppelin? On this evidence it’s pretty damn close.
33. Body Or Soul (Rarities)
An early unreleased demo which showcases everything the band would come to be known for – effects on the guitars, bass and drums to make you get your tappers on, vocals stunning vocals, freestyle instrumental chaos, and melodies to send you sailing to the stars. The only thing really missing here is big budget production, more work on the lyrics, and something extra to justify the 5 minute running time.
One of the band’s biggest single consequently has one of their biggest riffs – run alongside the drums it makes you groove like a loon. The sub-hippy lyrics and sentiment set the tone but allow Harvey to belt out the melodies – stadium stuff this, and how this isn’t still regularly being played to crowds of thousands is a complete mystery. Who needs Dance music when you have this?
31. Drugs (SIN)
There’s this dark synthetic tone and style which runs through the band’s final album, recalling something like Depeche Mode or the more dance-oriented moments of the Goth movement. The vibe is so consistent that some of the songs become indistinguishable from each other, but every so often one of them has a belter of a chorus – Drugs being a prime example. Harvey is more restrained for much of the album but he lets loose here. We get a neat little bridge too – another piece lacking from the album as a whole is them not twisting songs to the next level by adding a code or a bridge or something extra. Great lyrics throughout too
30. Vision (SIN)
The aforementioned synth tone runs through this one, a throbbing beat and a guitar which sounds like a DJ has tinkered with it setting us off. This one is a little of an opposing force to Drugs – here we have a fantastic verse but a more mediocre chorus.
29. Get Through It (SIN)
The band at their most WipEout. This sounds like it was straight out of a futurisic video game, the background synth like a guttural force driving the verse before the beast of a chorus which will see any listener howling ‘COME ON!’ with no care for who’s watching.
28. The Rain (Rarities)
I’ve always felt like some of the B-Sides of SIN should have been on the album instead of what did make it. They don’t have that dark synth tone and are on the whole more positive sounding. Then again, these lyrics include choice cuts like ‘there’s nothing I can do to stop the violence’. The band have never had an issue making anguish sound euphoric. While the verses are decent enough, this is all about the chorus. Even the guitars take a less prominent seat and let the melodies speak for themselves.
27. One Way In No Way Out (Welcome To The North)
It says a lot about Welcome To The North that this is my least favourite song on the album – and that it falls inside my Top 30 yet every single other song on the album also makes the list. This is what…. Doom Metal mixed with Mad Max Three? It certainly marches along with the confidence and speed of a T-Rex after a belly-full of Triceratops. Like basically every other song on the album the chorus is a joy, peaking with a recap of the thunderous riff and a short bridge. If this is the album’s weak-point, you know you have a world conquering record on your hands.
26. Traps (Rarities)
Scratchy distorted waves and another dance-laden beat give way to a shimmering mock riff before the dual vocals work their way through a simple verse. There’s a lovely transition into a gorgeous pre-chorus all while the background distorted noise swells into some sort of recognisable shape before a brief explosive, yelling chorus. That’s the essence of the whole song, though we do get an instrumental and expanded take on the pre-chorus as the bridge. Not a song many know, but another which I think would have helped their third album.
25. The Price (Rarities)
Another song cut from their last album, this one has the dark synth which helps it fit tonally – where it differs and excels is having a constantly successful melody. The verse is just as strong as the chorus while both serve their traditional purpose. It’s one you can see being blasted in a club alongside any piece of rave music or Master Of Puppets. This is a fine example of why metal fans and ravers come together in support of the group – vicious guitars and vocals and a beat and melody to pump up any crowd.
24. The Last One (SIN)
Once more with the dark synth; we fade in with what sounds like it’s going to be a straight dance track. Then some slightly ominous guitar joins in. The verse takes us straight back down the dance route and I love the single note bass throughout. Then we get another gripping pre-chorus, the bass changes ever so simply, and we blast off for yet another epic chorus, Harvey’s vocals wailing like a siren. Everything else is a repetition, but when your core is this good you don’t need to add any frills.
23. Ghost Hands (Rarities)
The band released this song to the public shortly after splitting, saying it was a song they had recorded for their abandoned fourth album and that it was too goo to not share. They were right; the song showcases everything they had accomplished and learned to that point – the mixture of tasty beats, scratchy guitars, massive riffs and ever bigger choruses. There is a touch of the dark stuff from SIN, a sense of the jubilant majesty of WTTN, and the brazen confidence of their debut. It’s an instant classic and makes you wonder what could have been, even if the song has no business almost reaching six minutes.
22. Welcome To The North (WTTN)
The title track and the opening track of the best album of the last twenty years has quite a lot to live up to. Of course, we didn’t know that at the time. As the opener of their second album it still had a heavy burden given the success and delights of their debut. Naturally those fears are gone in moments. With exquisite production and a more focused attack the song swells insidiously from the first second, leading into a riff heavy and melodically unusual verse. The chord progression and vocals shouldn’t work so well together, yet they do, and the chorus has some of the stomp and pomp of the debut. You get the sense that this song, like others on the album, could easily get expanded out to eternity for an all- night rave session, although the tone here feels much more serious than the lighter more simplistic upbeat nature of the first album.
21. I Need Love (WTTN)
Maybe the simplest, straightforwards rock song on WTTN, I Need Love doesn’t quite dispense with the quirks and dynamics which always raised the band above everyone else. As usual there is a hypnotic riff which encompasses everything else, but this is really a showcase for Harvey’s vocals. The best part of the song is the double bridge which first slows things down with a mournful melody as Harvey apologizes before exploding into a ridiculous vocal refrain.
20. Strength In Numbers (SIN)
The opening track and title track of the band’s final album was also the first single. It all sounded good – a blistering riff set to thumping beat and leading to a huge chorus. While it may not have been a sign of how good or bad the album was going to be, it certainly got a lot of good press and got my hopes up for more of the same. Harvey lets his vocals go to all their high points – something not done enough on the album – and the usual flair for adding in additional bridges, riffs, and casual swift corners before bringing it all around is there. For what would turn out to be a swan-song, it’s a damn good one.
19. Breakin (WTTN)
Replacing a guitar riff with a cheesy vocal hook pays off here, largely because the rest of the song is so heroic. I love the transition from the cheesy riff into an altogether different verse tonally, and again how the verse builds it back up to the riff and chorus. Some nice hand drum stuff and wonder vocals all round. The little drum middle section is groovy as hell and leads to some classic Harvey ‘skeep ba da ba dee’ vocal ticks. Every great single needs something like that, sham on.
18. Freedom Fighters (WTTN)
A drum intro more funky than a tramp’s sentient jock strap gives way to a ripping series of riffs and chugging chords. Flawless verse, pre, and chorus melodies once more – everything the debut had in spades but here with just that increased know how and maturity. Lyrically it’s on the ‘lets join together and dance for freedom’ side of things, but it’s done with such sincerity and swagger that you’d have to be even more of a cynic than I am to not get down with it.
17. Cessation (WTTN)
I remember reading once how the band, or Harvey at least, didn’t know what the hell they were doing when they wrote this. It’s maybe the band’s fastest, most furious song, and it’s just as awesome as that sounds. There is a fiery urgency in the delivery from each of the four lads, and while it’s musically simple and the verse melody is short on notes, the chorus is damn great and another double bridge section (particularly the Mastodon-esque drums in the final part) raises it to headbanging levels of insanity. So much layering on the vocals too
16. Alone (Rarities)
We’re back in ballad territory. An acoustic song with a few electric moments and studio layering. It’s all about the melody and depending on how you feel about Harvey’s vocals you’ll either love it or hate it. He reaches some crazy notes on this one. A short, contemplative song for drifting away too.
15. The People (DA)
The balls. If there is any true hallmark of the band’s early days, it’s the balls. To start a song with a snippet, cut and paste riff in an era of nu-metal and Euro-pop, and have the whole song be better than anything either genre has ever produced takes some balls, but to do it seemingly without a care in the world and with a V-shaped Gallagher swagger really takes the biscuit. It’s all a call for change too – to better ourselves. And then throw in a mostly wordless chorus which is still more memorable than most choruses from the past twenty years – genius. We’re not done yet – lets chuck in once of those cliched dance break build ups before the final chorus – once again, who needs DJs when rock music does stuff like this?
14. Bleed From Within (WTTN)
An eerie, sultry riff with a darkness which would fit more neatly on their next album this anti-violence ode is as perfect a power-pop rock song as you can get. The cacophony of drums is lethal, the riffs combined with Harvey’s emphatic howls are chilling, and just when it sounds like they’ve drained the well by the second minute, one of their best bridges comes in from nowhere and leads the song down the rabbit hole to an underground orgy which spreads it to past the six minute mark, with not a second to spare.
13. No Danger (SIN)
You should know by now how I feel about instrumentals – even when my favourite bands do them I generally don’t enjoy them. I love each of the instrumentals The Music recorded, and the two on this list are exceptional. That’s all the more interesting when you remember how integral Harvey’s vocals are to the group but a confirmation of just how strong the rhythm section is. This was a hidden track at the end of their last album, a near 8 minute epic which runs the gamut of emotions and feels even more haunting now that we know it would be one of the last things we’d ever hear them record. It takes its time, starting out with a series of repetitions of the same riff, growing and growling with each loop and being joined by more layers of chords. Somewhere around the four minute mark it branches off into good old buck nuts territory for a mosh session, elbows in throats, fists going everywhere. Then it gives us a breather before one final push, a confident strut towards glory. Thank the Gods for whoever first noticed these guys, and fuck the world for taking them away.
12. Raindance (Rarities)
I didn’t hear most of The Music’s B-Sides until the release of their rarities compilation. While a lot of the songs there were remixes of existing hits, there were a number of superb songs I was stunned to have never heard. This was the first of those which really made me sit up and take notice and wonder why it hadn’t made an official album. This song would have been a great fit on their debut, though maybe it would have slowed the tempo too much. A ballad at its core, it really comes alive around the halfway mark, once we’ve gone through the simmering verse and chorus a couple of times. The bridge kicks in, Harvey once again pushes his vocals to stupid registers, and the various elements of the song come together – for fans of the first album, this will be one you’ll enjoy.
11. The Walls Get Smaller (WTTN)
The other really great instrumental narrowly misses out on my top ten. It’s another hidden track, this time coming at the end of Welcome To The North. A funny thing is that it mimics a riff I’d had in my head and which I used to play years before the band even existed. Sometimes those things happen. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. Or maybe it’s because it’s so feckin’ good. It couldn’t be any simpler – a very easy riff (if I was good enough to write and play it when I was 12 years old then it can’t be that difficult) given a demonic presence thanks to the drums and tone is repeated over and over. That’s mostly the whole song – except additional layers are added to the riff, it is played at different positions on the neck, and it has a little second riff wraparound to give it a cyclical nature. The drums continue to thrash and shift and then halfway through they play an ascending even more simple version of the riff before a slight pause, then an explosive return to the main riff again. It’s so simple, yet so effective, and like their most popular songs is another you’ll want to jump about like a maniac too – regardless of whether you’re in trackies or leathers.
The main ballad/slow song from the debut, Turn Out The Light is lead off by one of the most seductive, shadowy riffs I’ve ever heard. It’s soft and simple, lonely, and as is their style, it repeats throughout the song with additional snippets and inflections which give it subtle differences each time around. The lyrics take the form of a late night conversation, the type of which will strongly evoke nostalgia and familiarity in anyone who’s had one. Harvey gives it a lungful with each line, and the band are maybe at their most restrained. They leave enough room to jam and rock out towards the end of the song, but at its heart this is a sumptuous soulful ballad.
Most people would choose the previous song over this one, but I don’t think this gets the credit it deserves, being at least on par with Turn Out The Light. It does the same job, but for the second album. If anything this is more lonesome. It has that same shadowy tone, the same seductive atmosphere. Man this album is so underappreciated. This love song is very subtle and wholesome, with lovely lyrics which could be about love, hate, depression, and a less repetitive nature than the one above. Verse and chorus melodies are both peerless, the brief guitar licks beautiful, and that final vocal blast in the final chorus cements Harvey as one of the best singers we’ve ever had.
Wow, what a way to open your debut album. It’s everything the band is, across their three albums, condensed into a single song. As if the title didn’t give it away, this is a song you can dance to – you’ll find it hard to resist – but it’s also smart, inventive, and heavy. Lyrically it covers most of their favourite subjects, and tonally it has atmosphere in spades. It features one of my all time favourite song introductions, building and building and building until the epic verse and eventual collapse. The song literally collapses under its own weight as riffs stutter midway, pause, swirl, come back in another form and the digitized beats fumble and fragment. Yeah, that ending is probably one of my most favourite too. Everything in between is equally great, Harvey howling in agony and ecstasy. I will never tire of those first few seconds as the distortion surges in melodically. Then the tribal drums pop off around the minute mark and I’m lost in another world. Few bands have the ability to transport me anywhere – these guys did it with the first song on their first album and I haven’t landed again since. Music for the best headphones or biggest speakers you can find.
One of the last songs I got around to, this one never appeared on their compilation album and I only found it years after they split. It’s a B-Side from Strength In Numbers and my lawd, what a belter. Man, this could have replaced almost anything from that album and made the whole stronger. It’s the band at their most urgent and stripped back. It’s a song which relies almost entirely on melody and emotion – the two top-most things I look for in a song and after I heard it for the first time I couldn’t get it out of my head for days, not that I wanted to. It’s far from their most adventurous or experimental song, but unquestionably one of their best from the melodic standpoint.
The opening and closing songs from Strength In Numbers are arguably the best songs on the album – everything else in between is hit and miss. This closer is fantastic in every way and a stark departure from the tone and sound of the rest of the album. I still remember the first time I listened to the album – when this song finished I was in a daze and sat asking myself why – why didn’t they take the approach of this song for the rest of the album? Why didn’t Harvey ‘go there’ with his vocals like he does here? Why couldn’t they have made a couple of other songs as good as this one? In truth, this almost feels like a solo effort, such is the barren instrumentation when compared with 90% of their other work. It’s mostly Harvey’s vocals and an acoustic guitar. Gorgeous melodies as you would expect, crisp vocals, clear poetic lyrics with a hint of desperation. The barest hint of bass. Some light synth stuff going on. I’ve always said that the sign of a great song is if you can strip it all away to just the vocals, or the vocals and a single other instrument, and lose none of the impact. This is as stripped away as the band have ever been and it ends up being one of their finest tracks – you get the impression that they could have surrounded this with riffs and drums and all the rest and that it still would have been good, but why bother?
5. Getaway (Debut)
This is the one; if you’ve heard a song by The Music, this is it, and it’s probably their quintessential song. No other band in this generation has so brilliantly fused rock and dance, no band has so flawlessly brought together the opposing elements of dancing and headbanging, and no song perfectly embodies this better than Getaway. Subtle pounding bass and a sinister guitar line get things going before Harvey’s vocals present the central melody. Then the cliched drums for a laugh, then more chugging guitars, all building and building. And it never really stops building until the roof is torn off. It’s funny how the verse and chorus melody is essentially the same thing – different lyrics of course – but it all aids in that building. We get the extra ‘oooohhh’ hook to spruce things up and we get that rave/dance trope of pulling the music away almost like you’re hearing it from under water, before building it all up again to one final 1000 hit combo to the face. It’s so simple – but this is how you make a rock single in the new millennium.
4. So Low (Rarities)
The final B-Side on my list is another that I didn’t know existed until they released their compilation. You can tell immediately it’s from the WTTN era. It starts innocently enough with a sweet, shimmering riff soon joined by a single beat. A second guitar joins playing single notes and Harvey brings a warm, sunny vocal. But wait, the lyrics are a bit of a downer so why and how are the melodies so brutally gorgeous? The bridge sees the vocals straining and the melodies reaching, then holy gawd the chorus – what a piece of art. I mean, it’s just the title sung with a noose around Harvey’s nuts, but it’s incredible. I admit that a lot of this isn’t going to be for everyone, but for me this ticks exactly every box and sweet spot. Show me another singer who can sing that chorus in that way, and with so much raw emotion. Please, really do, because that’ll be someone I want to listen to. This B-Sdie utterly wipes the floor with anything any British or US rock band was putting out at the same time. Or since.
These top three songs represent another level beyond anything else The Music has done, and they all appear on Welcome To The North. I had the impossible task of choosing between them so really they represent a joint number 1. As impossibly amazing as So Low is, this is God Tier shit. In essence it’s your typical rock structure, with riff, verse, chorus, bridge etc, but it’s the heart, it’s those melodies. It all speaks directly to me, which is one of the things I’m constantly hunting for in music, and it’s just…so…happy. I’m not usually one for songs which are overtly joyous, but as I’ve said before when one of my favourite bands does it the results are usually glorious. This is glorious and I almost don’t want to share it with anyone else.
2. Guide (WTTN)
More of the same. It’s just iconic, anthemic stuff, and barely anyone knows it. This isn’t the sort of song to be played in a stadium to 50000 people, this is a song to be played from the sky to an entire continent using the yet to be made-alien technology-largest speakers in the universe. Of course, the combined force of 100 million people jumping and singing together to the song with the power of the speakers will cause the very Earth to rupture and us all drop into hell, but who gives a fuck. If you’re gonna go, it may as well be while listening to this at the end of the world. Is this the greatest chorus every written? Maybe not, but it’s right up there.
- Open Your Mind (WTTN)
This is how to end an album. This is how to end one of the greatest albums ever. Every ounce of this song is dripping with goodness and I tear up every time. I want to be able to sing like this, without suffering a prolapse, and I want the world to hear this. How can a song be so understated yet grandiose at the same time? I have no clue how this came into being, how it’s so epic yet simple. Why do I love it so much? Quite simply one of the best songs of all time, yet only about twelve people have ever heard it. Man, they changed the world of music and nobody noticed or followed on from their lead. It’s not to late – get out there and buy it.
Well now, that was a saga of hyperbole. But honestly, I fail to see how anyone who genuinely loves music, wouldn’t love The Music. They’re called that for a reason, people! From sardonic jaded metal heads to pill-pooing ravers, and every generalization between, there’s no reason why you won’t like this. For someone like me who was bewildered as I watched a lot of my friends praising much of the indie rock from the Noughties and was dumbfounded by the critical praise those crappy little bands were getting, while this band was increasingly being ignored, The Music felt like my band. They took the best out of genres I didn’t really like – dance, disco, madchester stuff, added in Led Zep vocals, grunge aggression, and groove metal riffs, and mashed it all together to make their own thing. They’re long gone, but if you have a spare four minutes to spare, if you happen to stumble upon this lowly site at any point in the future, go click one of the songs above – it may just change your life. At the very least, you might go ‘hey, that wasn’t bad’.
Let us know in the comments how you feel about The Music and what your favourite songs are!