Nightman’s Top 38 Songs By The Music!

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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.

32. The Truth Is No Words (DA)

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.

10. Turn Out The Light (DA)

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.

9. Fight The Feeling (WTTN)

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.

8. The Dance (DA)

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.

7. What Am I (Rarities)

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.

6. Inconceivable Odds (SIN)

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.

3. Into The Night (WTTN)

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.

  1. 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!

Ranking The Manics Songs – Generation Terrorists!

terror

Here we go again. You’ve read me harp on about the band long enough on the blog. But it’s still. Not. Sinking. In. My beautiful subscribers – it’s down to you to make the band big – bigger. Click the links. Buy the albums. Tell your friends. Lets Make Music Great Again! The more attention bands like this get, then the more bands like this will surface and the charts with be changed forever! Or more likely, none of that will happen. Still, give them a shot – you might like them. Probably not.

I’ve listed my favourite songs by them. I’ve reviewed their albums. I’ve been going through every effing song they’ve ever made and dedicating individual posts to those. I post my favourite lyrics by them most Mondays. As I look out the window at the uncharacteristically blue Belfast sky on the 15th of July 2019, I wonder what other scrapings are left at the bottom of the barrel. And it comes to me – ranking each song from each album. It’s just pointless and clickable enough to make for a five minute read on the shitter, and a frothy response in the comments. Please do both.

Below I present my ranking of the songs of Generation Terrorists. It’s not definitive, but shows my general feelings about the thing. There’s only one song here I don’t like – Repeat USA – and it’s barely a song anyway. I’m going to do the same for each album, at least until I get bored. Make sure to scroll to the bottom for a bonus list! Blisstus!

  1. Condemned To Rock And Roll
  2. Motorcycle Emptiness
  3. Little Baby Nothing
  4. You Love Us
  5. Crucifix Kiss
  6. So Dead
  7. Repeat UK
  8. Stay Beautiful
  9. Spectators Of Suicide
  10. Another Invented Disease
  11. Slash N Burn
  12. Damn Dog
  13. Born To End
  14. Methadone Pretty
  15. Natwest Barclays Midlands Lloyds
  16. Tennessee
  17. Love’s Sweet Exile
  18. Repeat (Stars And Stripes)

Next, my list of how album as a single rather than a double:

  1. Slash N Burn
  2. Motorcycle Emptiness
  3. Motown Junk
  4. You Love Us
  5. Little Baby Nothing
  6. Stay Beautiful
  7. So Dead
  8. Repeat
  9. Spectators Of Suicide
  10. Suicide Is Painless
  11. Crucifix Kiss
  12. Condemned To Rock n Roll

And finally, my list of how the album really should have looked in all its 18 track glory:

  1. Slash N Burn
  2. New Art Riot
  3. Motorcycle Emptiness
  4. Motown Junk
  5. You Love Us
  6. Little Baby Nothing
  7. Never Want Again
  8. Stay Beautiful
  9. Democracy Coma
  10. So Dead
  11. Repeat
  12. Spectators Of Suicide
  13. Suicide Is Painless
  14. Starlover
  15. Crucifix Kiss
  16. Sorrow 16
  17. Dead Yankee Drawl
  18. Condemned To Rock n Roll

Let us know your rankings and extras in the comments!

Nightman’s Favourite Songs Of All Time: California Dreamin’ – The Mamas And The Papas

California Dreamin‘ is a song that, up until recently, I wouldn’t have considered one of my favourite songs. Not because I never liked it, just because I never much thought about it. Typically when I talk about my favourite songs, they are the ones that have somehow shaped my life or my musical taste or are by one of my all time favourite artists. In this instance none of those statements fit. So why is it featured in this series? Like some song posts to come in the future, it’s simply because the some is so fucking good I can’t ignore it. I’ve been listening to it more and more in the last year and pining for someone to start a new pop movement where the songs are as strong as this. The song has always been there in my life, not because I purposefully put it on or had an album with it but more simply because it was released a good eighteen years before I was born and was so popular that it continued to be played on radio stations and in movies and shows as I was growing up.

That seems like a good place to start – the song was released in 1965 and over the next couple of years became one of the seminal counter-culture hits. It’s one of those songs which makes me yearn for the USA – as many problems as it has always had, sometimes something comes along which makes you want to be a US citizen living and breathing and existing in the same world that the song talks about. It was a hit single in the States and made the Top 40 in The UK, before a re-release in the late 90s saw it finally crack the Top 10. It’s one of those songs which is predominantly 60s but yet endures in each new generation both in its original form and thanks to copious cover versions. While The Mamas And The Papas version is the best, cover versions include Sia, The Beach Boys, America, and Nancy Sinatra have all had a turn yet it was some dodgy German techno thing which garnered the song its first Number 1 placement.

At barely over 150 seconds long, the song is a perfect example of how to do a pop single with no fluff. Perhaps more important, it’s a perfect example of how to do harmonies – in my mind it’s one of the two best examples of this type of harmony ever written, the other being Help! The song even has a lazy pace and a fake-out psychedelic intro in its short running time. That intro strikes me, quite clearly, as the band having no idea how to start the song and getting to the main melody in a smooth way, so instead they just said ‘fuck it’ and cobbled together a few seconds of bizarre psych guitar before blasting straight in. Those melodies? Forget about it. A few seconds in and I’m hooked forever.

Lyrically, it’s the writer yearning for the warmth of California while in a colder part of the country. I’ve never been to California, but the song paints such an idyllic vision of the place that it make it sound like paradise – coupled with the hundreds of movies and shows I watched growing up set in California, hell even the name California has a mythic quality to someone from the dreary, grey, bomb-drenched shores of Ulster. Hearing this song as a kid made me think of long sunny evenings, beaches which stretched as far as they eye could see, and carefree living – feeling which still pervades now even with the cynical mind of a grown-up.

I’ve probably mentioned it countless times on this blog, but the three main elements for me in any song are melody, lyrics, and emotion. This song ticks all three boxes – while I don’t think the band here showcase amazing technical skills or vocals, the lyrics are evocative, the melodies like glue, and it’s all wrapped up in an authentic package. Get those three right, and all of the other important components of music should follow naturally. Get those three right, and even if the other components don’t work, I’ll probably still love your song. Check out my Nightman Scoring System(c) posts for more information on how I break down songs into twenty different components. For now though, click on one of the links throughout this post and enjoy some nostalgic, sun-drenched, melancholic pop.

Let us know in the comments what you think of California Dreamin’ and if there are any other Mamas And Papas songs you think I’d enjoy!

Nightman Listens To – Bryan Adams – Get Up

Greetings, Glancers! We’re here, we’ve finally made it. At the time of writing this is Bryan’s latest album and so you won’t be hearing my thoughts on him for a while after this post. Thank Jeebus you say… and yet, you keep coming back for more. Now, the album contains thirteen tracks but four of these are acoustic versions of other tracks on the album. That leaves a pretty pathetic nine songs – I’m not going to bother with the acoustic versions, unless someone tells me they are radically different. So, for potentially the last time, lets do this.

You Belong To Me‘: What is this country wank? Aside from the twang guitar riff the rest of the song is okay – it’s incredibly simple and feels exactly like the sort of song which took a shorter time to write than the song actually lasts. It’s brief, the vocals are fairly clean as opposed to his usual gravel style, and the drums, bass, and guitar do exactly what they need to do to complete the song. It’s quite hooky, but quite forgettable.

Go Down Rockin‘: This has a similar vibe to Place Your Hands by Reef. There are no risks here, it’s old fashioned rock, sounds like it could be on a car advert featuring some Coupe zipping along a beachfront. It has a hooky chorus too, the lyrics don’t have anything we need to discuss, and even at under three minutes there’s too much repetition – still, it’s fairly fun.

We Did It All‘: Has some unusual (for Bryan) chord changes and rhythms in the verse, the chorus being more traditional and stronger. I quite like the chorus, tending towards that old school soft rock ballad style. There are some swirling effects which feel disorienting, the piano merges nicely with the rhythm guitar tone, but the lead guitar lines in the chorus feel misjudged and could have taken the song to another level if reworked. It does peter out towards the end.

That’s Rock And Roll‘: This starts out like another relic from the 50s. Then I guess that’s the point once I hear the lyrics. This is way too tame to really be considered rock and roll, even those tracks from the fifty had a fiery energy, burning passion, while this is just a pop song with 50s rock guitars and rhythm. The lyrics get worse as the song goes on, to the point where he’s explaining how to write a simple song… there’s a reason we progressed. Fuck those claps too.

Don’t Even Try‘: Right, so the whole album is going for a fifties vibe. The album so far is just a vanity piece, something which feels like a collection of bonuses that he should have given away for free or kept as an extra disc on an honest new album. All musicians reach that point when they decide to just do a covers album or force the fans to hear the artist’s inspirations reinterpreted. Having said all that, I quite like this one, though it’s about 60 years late to the party.

Do What Ya Gotta Do‘: Honestly, these songs are almost direct rip-offs of songs you already know, it’s quite funny. This one has a bit of The Who in it too, I like the refrain, again it has its hooks, not enough, and it’s incredibly simple. This was the shortest yet, barely scarping past two minutes.

Thunderbolt‘: This one has a bit of experimentation, I guess. The riff and backing is quirky, the drums sound very distorted, but there’s almost nothing to distinguish the chorus and verse making the two or so minutes feel very repetitive and annoying.

Yesterday Was Just A Dream‘: Finally. This one feels like a genuine Adams song and not something he’s nicked from his favourite childhood records. It’s quite sweet, and I like the melodies all the way through. I’d happily listen to this song again, but the rest of the album has left a sour quality which may taint anything good.

Brand New Day‘: We finish with a song that sounds like it could be a single (no idea if it was or not) and another which feels like a genuine Adams song, though it does have the fifties beat. The vocals in the chorus and pre-chorus sound like they have some silly filter on. More unnecessary clapping in the middle.

Well, that was… something. A bad something. Compare anything here with something like Thought I’d Died And Gone To Heaven and…. well, there is no comparison. Fair enough he can do whatever he wants, as any artist should, but you have to ask yourself if anyone else is going to want it. It’s a bit of a crap ending if he doesn’t make another album. I’m sure he had fun making it and the songs aren’t really bad, they’re just retreads of stuff done better sixty years ago.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Get Up!

Nightman Listens To – Roxette – Joyride!

Greetings, Glancers! In 1990, the pressure was on Roxette to release a follow-up to their multi-million selling second album. Momentum was on their side with that previous album seeing a number of hit singles as well as the re-release of their biggest hit It Must Have Been Love being played around the world thanks to Pretty Woman. The band were at their creative and commercial peak and the new album would prove to be an even bigger success. Like I mentioned in my previous Roxette post, this album was on regular rotation during car trips. For some perspective, we would spend most holidays at a caravan park on a beach near to where my mother grew up and the car journey from my house to our destination was roughly 90 minutes. Sometimes at weekends I would come home for a day with my dad, before returning the following morning. So there was a lot of time listening to songs from this album, along with other favourites of my youth. I’m sure there are a few I’ve forgotten about here, but overall it’s an album I know well.

Joyride. A great intro to the album with one of their biggest singles. You’d be forgiven in thinking this was the lead in to a concept album what with the artwork and the spoken intro. It ain’t. Roxette have this habit of including multiple great hooks in certain songs – this one has a tonne – the whistling part, the pre-chorus ‘magic friends’, the chorus itself, certain guitar parts – each is addictive and will gnaw away at you. If you like some of the weirder stuff on this site you’ll be please to know I actually did one of my delightful remixes to this song years ago, but I never uploaded it. I must get around to that.

Hotblooded. This comes in heavy, a little cheesy but we can forgive that. Mostly. I’d mostly forgotten the verse but the chorus is another one with fangs. Lots of raunchy lyrics, a fast pace, a harmonica solo, guitar solo, it’s pretty simple but with a decent rock flavour. Good vocals from Marie.

Fading Like A Flower. This was always one of my favourites, but then you know how I love the ballads. This is a power ballad following the 80s template. We have a piano lead in, a lot of atmosphere and emotion, a surge into a crunching chorus. It’s actually heavier than I remember it, more emphasis on the power than the ballad with plenty of guitar to drive things. It also has a greater pace and shorter running time than I remember, but it’s still just as good and gives me nostalgic chills.

Knockin’ On Every Door. This starts with some dated drum sounds before pulling out a very funky verse – lots of riffs and weird sounds along with Per’s fast paced vocals. It’s not very exciting but the chorus is another decent one. Things get weirder in the second verse with stranger vocals and a few interesting musical choices. It could do with a little trimming.

Spending My Time. I feel the same about this one as I do about Fading Like A Flower. It’s another power ballad, but this time the focus is more on ballad than power. It opens with just Marie and an acoustic guitar, very lonesome and atmospheric – especially when the synth and twinkles come in. Then the chorus drops, terrific vocals, nostalgic synth, pure 80s stuff even though this was 1990/1991. Downer lyrics, defiant guitars, massive chorus. It’s perfect power pop.

I Remember You. This opens with some didgeridoo sound before stabilizing. Riffs, decent pace, rock infused pop. The chorus has that annoying Def Leppard feel. The verses aren’t that interesting and the chorus is merely okay, making this the weakest one so far. Still, there is enough here that it is still worth hearing.

Watercolours In The Rain. Another acoustic opening, reminds me a little of Led Zep’s Tangerine. It’s very soft and sweet. This one is unusual in that the chorus doesn’t live up to the verse. It feels like a song that strives for greatness but doesn’t quite reach it.

The Big L. I remember this one feeling heavy. There’s a little bit of guitar there and it’s quick, but it isn’t heavy. We have dual vocals and the melodies are fine throughout. It does have terrible hand claps though, you know I hate those. It’s catchy but it’s one I would have liked much more as a child. This one goes on a bit too long too.

Soul Deep. It’s a rip off of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction but it’s still good. Marie yelps and howls, the drums are solid, and it’s upbeat. Not much else to say.

(Do You Get) Excited? A synth one which feels more in tune with the direction 90s pop was going. The synth also feels like any number of John Carpenter movies. It suddenly bursts into life for the second verse with a loud guitar riff, but the song doesn’t continue in that vein – the verses are still plain. The chorus is good but not as strong as the big ones here.

Church of Your Heart. This one is interesting – it’s another which tries to be a power ballad but just lacks that certain something. I think this one is too upbeat, for some reason I always treat power ballads as ones which come from a place of pain or sadness. This is just happy and though it has the same trademarks as those ballads it doesn’t strike the same chord with me. I still like it, just isn’t essential.

Small Talk. This is a weird song. It’s all drums and synth bass and strange spoken parts and little acoustic jingles. The chorus is okay. It feels very similar to Hotblooded but a less sexy version. A strange mixture, yet it mostly works.

Physical Fascination. Another weird one, or at least a weird intro. Lots of strange 80s sounds and funk stuff. It’s a bit all over the place but I do remember there were a bunch of songs like this – throw in as many instruments and sounds as possible and see if a song pops out the other end. A song usually does, but it’s almost always crap.

Things Will Never Be The Same Again. Ah yes, I always loved this one. I’m sure you can guess why. Somber intro. Sudden big synth and guitars. Atmosphere. Downbeat. You got it, it’s another power ballad. The verse melodies here aren’t as good as others but the pre-chorus and chorus are both great. It’s not as good as I remember, certainly not as good as the biggies, but still one of the better ones here.

Perfect Day. The closing song is another good one. Good verse, good chorus. This one doesn’t rely on silly sounds and production balls – just melody, vocals, idea. The album ends on a strong note.

It didn’t long before my brother started chopping songs from albums to make his own mix tapes fro car journeys, so quite a few of these didn’t make the grade. I also made my mix tapes and the only two songs I remember taking from this album were Fading Like A Flower and Spending My Time. My opinions haven’t really changed – those are the two clear best songs here, with three or four close behind. The rest of the album I can take or leave – there’s really only one crappy one and the rest are average album fare. What about you? Do you have any specific memories of this album or any of its songs? Let us know in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Let’s Dance!

Greetings, Glancers! Ugh, I’ve been dreading this one. Not for any understandable reason you know, but I’ve still been dreading it. Like when you went to a school disco when you were a kid and you got all concerned and sweaty even though you’d be seeing the same friends and classmates you’d seen a few hours earlier? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the title of the album that’s had me wary, along with the fact that we’re now well into the 80s – the decade when good musicians forget how to make good music. I’ve never liked the Let’s Dance song either, and I’ve been concerned the rest of the album will be similar. China Girl sounds familiar, but other than that I don’t recognise any of the songs listed. We’ve been hear many times before, but let’s dance once more.

Modern Love: Well, it starts with guitar at least, so that’s good. Uh oh, repetitive and crappy drums. Talking with accent. Garth Marenghi. Better singing, and I like the minor stuff. Neat melodies. There was this terrible pop song a few years ago which had a very similar beat and rhythm to this and now that I’m hearing this it’s clear the pop song ripped this off. It was this overplayed twee mess with… were there two singers? Thankfully I’ve put it mostly out of my memory, but did it have someone singing ‘infatuation’ over and over? Something like that. The guitar is mostly gone now, leaving jagged piano and prodding brass. It’s very poppy, but it’s good.

China Girl: Okay yes, obviously I know this one. I quite liked the main riff but the song doesn’t really lift off for me until Bowie belts out the vocals after the halfway point. It feels like a curious one-off pop single till that point – I like it, though not a favourite.

Let’s Dance: Ugh, I never liked this one. It just sounded too 80s cheese, mixed with a faux 50s rock swagger and disco sound. It’s not a bad song or anything and I like the parts of the song outside the main ‘Let’s Dance’ vocal and riff. I find it quite overplayed too.

Without You: So, this is a new one on me yet it feels familiar. I like these unassuming songs which don’t try to show off or be some big hit yet quietly do a better job. Like the previous two songs there is a prominent repeating riff, and as this is new for me it doesn’t feel annoying or overplayed. The vocals are gentle, the song is short, and it has an unexpected finish.

Ricochet: Clapping and jungle beats – two of my least favourite things. A stuttering beat and near spoken vocals. It’s certainly doing its best to not endear itself to me. Smokey jazz horns play over dissonant sounds and soundbites. It’s a bit of an experimental mess. I know what he’s going for here, but it’s nowhere near interesting enough for me to be anything more than a one time curio.

Criminal World: Another new one for me, but wait, isn’t this just China Girl again? That riff is very similar. It’s lucky the verse is slow otherwise it would have been nearly identical. There’s some deep bass funking along, the vocals are quiet. The chorus speeds up and brings the melody. Rinse and repeat, though I liked this one.

Cat People: Ah yes. I saw the remake when I was in my early teens and liked it okay if it has boobs and blood when you’re that age, it automatically gets a thumbs up. It starts with simple cymbal snaps, then a growing synth purrs its way into view. Bowie does his best deep voice – it’s all very slow and somber, like a proto-industrial piece. The build up is slow, then there’s an explosion of vocals and sound to take us into the second phase of the song – basically a heavier take on the first with added energy and drums. It’s great. We follow this with a funky instrumental section before the vocals return – this is one of Bowie’s better vocals for me. We end on a nice synthetic guitar solo and choir rendition of the chorus.

Shake It: Umm… Prince? This is very 80s and the lyrics seem like the sort of silly stuff you got back then. It’s not quite New Wave pop, but it has that vibe, tone, and sound and feels like it could have been recorded by any number of 80s groups. That’s not always a bad thing – it’s fun and it would probably be catchy after a couple of listens, but on this first hearing it doesn’t have enough to pull me in.

A mixed bag then – some good ones, some I knew, some new ones. There aren’t any songs I didn’t like, title track notwithstanding as I knew it already, but there are a couple which I didn’t care for. Mostly on the positive side then – maybe a couple I’d choose to listen to again and which would potentially be added to my playlist, but nothing immediately jumped out at me and landed on the playlist. What are your thoughts on Lets Dance? Is this the best of Bowie’s 80s offerings, or does he get better through the decade while his peers suffered? Let us know in the comments!

You Love Us

Generic Ratings: 1: Crap. 2: Okay. 3: Good. 4: Great

Ostensibly where it all began, the song where the band truly announced itself to the world, looking every inch like a band nobody wanted and instead claiming to be the band everyone needed, the band to save the world or implode trying. Hated by other artists, feeding off the finger-pointing and setting themselves clearly apart from every other act in the world, they unleashed this torrent of seductive, caressing hatred, mocking fans, mocking themselves, and looking like they were having the most fun in the world, living the rock and roll dream while admonishing it for the nightmare it truly was. It’s a fast paced, chugging rock behemoth that didn’t sound like anything on the airwaves, Bradfield’s sneering vocals and lightning fast guitars, Edwards and Wire’s luscious stares and snarling wit, and Moore’s marching band percussive attack, it’s one of the classic statements in all of rock music. Looking at it as a song on its own merits, it is fairly simple stuff with a plain verse chorus attack, but there is such joy in the melody, in the unashamedly big chorus, and such brilliance in the final, Paradise City style instrumental blow out, that it can’t be avoided, or disliked.

The first link below is the album version – in my opinion the best version. There have been multiple versions of the song, each one with slight notable variances, so try all the links below and find your favourite. There was also a ‘new’ version a few years back but I can’t find a good link to it.

You Love Us: 4/Great

Video

Heavenly version

Stars N Stripes Mix

Misheard Lyrics:

  1. Our voices are furry
  2. Realize and won’t be bought
  3. Honestly we can never be loved
  4. Throw some mess into your face
  5. Your lessons drill in heaven instead
  6. Parliament you flick like C4 (?)
  7. Your life a cycle holocaust/you love a psycho holocaust

Actual Lyrics:

  1. Our voices are 4Real
  2. We realised and won’t be mourned
  3. Understand we can never belong
  4. Throw some acid onto your face
  5. Your lessons drill inherited sin
  6. Parliament’s a fake life saver
  7. Your life is like a holocaust

 

Nightman Listens To – David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

BOW

Greetings, Glancers! We return to David Bowie and another album I know little about. Last time around I knew very little about Lodger which ended up being one of my favourite Bowie albums so far, so hopefully we’ll get more goodness today. As always, share your thoughts in the comments and make any suggestions for what else you think I should listen to.

It’s No Game (No.1)‘. Clicks. Hisses. Doors. Spray pain can being shaken? Music. Japanese. Shrieking Bowie. The music nicely fits the anguished vocals. Chorus (?) finds a little more stability. Some nifty guitar parts. That old glam beat comes in around half way but the general noise drowns out its power to annoy. I think I’d prefer it if the Japanese vocals were a bit more angry too. Nice guitar and shouting end.

Up The Hill Backwards‘. Chords, and twinkles. You gotta have faith. Sudden change and shift to a steady beat, organ backed, and plain talky singing with some gospel harmonies. Dirty guitar part. This is pleasant and poppy, mainly notable for the slight shifts in pace and the intrusive distorted guitar hisses. Final minute or so is instrumental.

Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)‘. Opens in a hasty manner with another jagged riff, some mouth trumpets, and thudding drums. The verses are at a gallop, there is a lot off industrial type noise in the background, beeps, crashes, dissonance. The guitars are formless at times, deliberately playing off key. I’m still not a massive fan of Bowie’s vocals, I suspect that will always be a thing, and you know that I don’t like the whole singing in English accents thing. More wacky guitar parts by Mister Fripp I believe – he seems to have been given free rein to do whatever he pleases, and the results are fantastic.

Ashes To Ashes‘. I know this one, and have always been intrigued by its oddness. Outside of the strange noises, there is a staccato type beat and funky bass. See, here I like Bowie’s singing in the verses, but not so much in other places. I like the call backs to previous songs. This was always one of my favourites before I’d ever heard a single Bowie album, and that hasn’t changed.

Fashion‘. My ow prejudice never allowed me to truly appreciate this – I think fashion is pointless, dangerous, and ultimately worthless – so of course a song with a name like that was going to piss me off, and it was made worse by apparently being a dance-oriented song. I always had an inkling that the whole thing was ironic, satirical, but I could never be arsed to find out either way. Listening now the song’s sentiments are obvious and the angular, gouging guitar lines are great. There’s a little bit of Pink Floyd in there too, which is always welcome, but the song as a whole doesn’t pull me in.

Teenage Wildlife‘. Bending in. Isn’t that the ‘Heroes’ riff? I’m hoping this is an anthem I’m not aware of but will love. Bowie vocals, affected with an operatic twang. I don’t like the piano – reverting too much to glam. The guitar is immense though. I know I get stick for saying things like this, but I feel like many Bowie songs would be better if he had handed over vocal duties to someone else. It is an anthem of a sort, just not the sort I was looking for. Hey, I still like it, particularly the middle part around 4 minutes. It has no business going beyond the six minute mark.

Scream Like A Baby‘. This starts out as something more akin to my tastes – a growling distortion, sudden mystery, a sense of threat, and here the vocals have more impact. It all falls apart in the chorus, but those verses are great, the riff working perfectly with the anger of the lyrics and vocals.

Kingdom Come‘. This seems to be following a similar rhythm to the previous song, though is immediately more upbeat – good vocals, good backing vocals, feels like a hit. Feels a little Motown. I see this was actually a cover – I had no idea. It loses a little impact towards the end, but otherwise I like it.

Because You’re Young’. Hold on. Hold on, what is this? This is more like it. That’s possibly my favourite Bowie intro yet, followed by a pretty good riff and ‘scary’ noises. This almost feels like Alice Cooper. Don’t mess it up. Uh oh, a sudden pause and wavering vocals. None of the rest of the song lives up to the start, which is a great shame, but as a whole it all balances out.

It’s No Game (No.2)‘. A steady bass and beat, regular guitar interruptions, nicer low range vocals, and a cool choir chorus. Great lyrics. He still seems angry. Camel shit. A sudden pause. Over? No, noises. Now it’s over.

Another one goes down. We’re into the 80s now, a decade where almost all of the successful artists of the previous decade(s) either fell apart or began releasing monumental amounts of crap. I know Bowie had some hits in the decade, but I don’t know much about his album input so I guess I’ll find out. This one.. I’d say it was middling for me, closer to the top than the bottom – some highlights but few standouts. There isn’t any filler and I can’t say I didn’t not enjoy a single song either – middling in other words. Let me know in the comments what you think of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and where it ranks in your list of Bowie records!

Nightman Listens To – Bon Jovi – Bounce

Greetings, Glancers. Like my Bryan Adams posts, we’re at the point now where I had stopped listening to new music by Bon Jovi. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard some of this album, and I’m almost certain I heard the title track upon release, but as I type this I can’t recall what it sounded like. Looking at the rest of the albums there isn’t a single song that I recognize. According to Wikipedia, the album was heavily influence by 9/11 – unsurprising. I’m hoping then that there are some insightful and emotional songs here which I will enjoy, but given that we are entering unknown territory I’m not holding out hope.

Just an additional note: In these previous Nightman Listens posts I’ve literally been listening to songs for the first type and typing my thoughts as they play. From now I’m going to try to listen to the songs twice – first to get my initial thoughts, and then the second time for the nuances and to allow the song a chance to grow on me before ripping it apart.

Undivided‘ has an unexpected start, lots of chugging distorted chords. Near spoken verse. Lyrics seem to hint at 9/11. Decent chorus. Repeat. Decent middle eight/chorus. Decent solo. Decent softer ending. Decent all round then.

Everyday‘ starts with beats and a bit of the old mouth robot. More heavy metal chords. Decent verse again. Decent bridge. Chorus doesn’t really work, thought it was building up to something better. Seems like an okay single but doesn’t get me pumped like their bigger hits – not quite as good as the first song.

The Distance‘ opens with a screechy riff and fast drums before giving way to a more mid paced intro then settling into a calmed verse. This feels like a traditional old school Bon Jovi power ballad. I hear some strings. Moves into a pretty good chorus. It’s odd how the guitars have a much more metal tone on this album – they’re really crunching – but the songs are soft at their core. Still, this is probably the best song of the three so far.

Joey‘ has a soothing piano intro. It’s not quite Baywatch, but close. It’s another storytelling lyric with near spoken vocals. More strings. Unfortunate it’s very plain – verse, bridge, chorus are almost indistinct. The piano part is the best part.

Misunderstood’ starts in typical soft rock Jovi style – you’ll have heard them play this style many times before. The verse doesn’t do a lot for me in the first instance, the pre-chorus is nothing out of the ordinary, but then the chorus comes in and raises the rest of the song – the next verse etc feels better based on the strength of the chorus. I like the ‘I-I-I-I-I’ hook a lot, but the vocals sound strained – it feels like he managed to hit it once in isolation and they just shouted ‘cut, let’s use that one throughout’. The solo is generic, there’s some phasing effect on it, but nothing new.

‘All About Lovin’ You’ gets me worried that it’s the band going country again, but this moves away into soft ballad territory. There’s a weird choice of guitar tone for the lead in the intro – usually the sort of tone reserved for some blistering solo. The lyrics you’ve heard a hundred times before, all about pages of life and faded memories. There are some plain strings in the background, I don’t like the drum effects in the verse, it’s inoffensive stuff that loved up couples can sway to, but the chorus rips shamelessly from Never Say Goodbye – same chord progression, melodies, even the strings. On its own this is fine, but they’ve done the same much better before.

‘Hook Me Up’ makes me think of drugs. Bon Jovi has never been a drug band, right? It certainly begins heavier than most BJ songs, the same crunching chord over and over with some strange effects in the background. A simple progression comes in, this breaks off into an atmospheric piano and bass section which is nice, though I could do without the scratchy, whispery stuff in the background. The verses are sharp, fast, I like how the central chords fade back in to add a dynamic layer – it’s nothing revolutionary for the band, but it keeps things fresh. The solo reminds me a little of Duran Duran’s Ordinary World riff, the rest of the song and the chorus has quite a lot of hiss and its melodically familiar territory, though the sudden finish is appreciated and caught me off guard.

‘Right Side Of Wrong’ has an almost great intro – I have a thing for piano and string intros anyway, so I’m hooked at the outset. Lyrically we’re in Springsteen territory again, the verse is fairly plain with just the piano, Jon, and some light acoustic guitars low in the mix. Unfortunately the rest of the song doesn’t live up to the opening 10 seconds. In fact, it’s one of the more boring songs the band has written – it’s very plain and unadventurous and like elsewhere on the album it just makes me wish I was listening to a better BJ song. This one borrows very heavily from Bed Of Roses, but it comes nowhere close to reaching the standards of that classic – disappointing.

‘Love Me Back To Life’ feels like a potential single from the get go. There’s a brief crunch chord intro, giving way to simple rock chords, strings, and voicebox – all BJ trademarks. The verses are commercially brief, the pre-chorus sets things up nicely, and the chorus is pleasingly melodic – another you can see crowds singing to. It’s nothing extraordinary, but a decent stab at a soft rock single by a band deep into their career. The solo is accompanied well by the strings, and it’s followed by a softer section where Jon attempts another forceful high note, this time it mostly works if sounding a little strained.

‘You Had Me From Hello’ kicks off in classic acoustic ballad territory – if you’re a regular glancer then you’ll know I enjoy simple acoustics and vocals, so this is promising for me. I could do without the organ. Good vocals, and simple, endearing lyrics and melodies which come across as meaningful and honest. Everything flows well, verse into pre-chorus, and on into chorus. It’s all understated and the volume is never raised beyond gentle. I would drop the organ/keys and change up the shitty drums. Not for the first time the harmonies help things immensely. There’s a slight change for the middle, I don’t know if the song really needs it, the volume gets marginally louder and gives the rest of the band thirty seconds to do their thing before returning to form. A welcome surprise, and maybe my favourite on the album.

‘Bounce’ is another song that’s clearly a single candidate – I’m assuming it was a single given it’s also the title track, but I don’t believe I’ve heard it before. Again the trademark BJ sound rips out of the stereo, stadium guitar tone, voicebox and commercial melodies. At least this time the band sound urgent – there’s a lot of ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ here, and it sounds as if they are attempting another ‘It’s My Life’ as a lot of the tricks used there are front and centre here. This song doesn’t come close to reaching those heights, but it’s still a perfectly good radio friendly rock song. Special points, I guess, for the ‘I don’t give a fu-fu-fu-fu’ pre-chorus which is sure to be a live favourite.

‘Open All Night’ closes the album. I typically want my rock albums to end in buoyant, energetic fashion, but this is one of the softer ballads on Bounce. It’s nice enough drivel, the verses are pleasant but uneventful, while the chorus has some neat hooks. It’s not one of their best ballads, closer to the bottom than the top but it will obviously have plenty of fans singing its praises – just doesn’t move me.

Overall I mostly enjoyed the album – as mentioned I knew very little about it and while it’s heavy on the ballads, there are a few decent rock songs I wouldn’t mind hearing again, and one or two others which hit the mark. No bad songs, but quite a few plain songs which feel too often like overly safe remixes of former glories. Some bands continue to churn out the same sort of song, the key is to make people want to listen to the new stuff rather than hear the new stuff and wish they were listening to the old. Let us know in the comments what you think of Bounce!

Unplugged – Guns ‘N’ Roses

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Greetings, Glancers! Remember MTV Unplugged? It was this show where bands, singers, performers played a mostly acoustic show in front of a small live audience. It was great. There are a tonne of bands, singers, and performers who never appeared though and today we’re going to talk about one of them. For more on the idea behind this post, click here!

This is my first choice of band I’d love to have seen perform an Unplugged show. You may think G’n’R would not suit such a setting and yes, you’re probably right. However, other heavy rock and metal bands managed it successfully so there’s no excuse for Axl and Co in their prime to not have done the same. I love the idea of such a balls to the wall, rock band of wonderful excess to tone it down and allow their talent, songwriting and performance skills speak for themselves with little or no frills, little or no production, and little or no filter or space between them and the crowd. Below is a dream setlist for a Guns ‘n’ Roses Unplugged show.

Track 1: Civil War (7-8 minutes)

Most sets, especially rock sets start out with a balls to the wall, fast paced song to get the excitement levels up to a million. This is MTV Unplugged though, so that approach my not work. G’n’R are known for starting out with something like Nightrain, accompanied by some spoken shtick like ‘from Hollywood – Guns And Roses!’. I think we still get that spoken intro, maybe a little more subdued so that leads nicely into Civil War. I feel like this would work brilliantly as a dark, acoustic song – check out the link above for a Slash and Myles version, though the whistles are crap. The band could play a little with the structure, changing up those spoken parts into something unique. Obviously the rest of the band would need to pitch in, so plenty of room for experimentation.

Track 2: Pretty Tied Up (12-13 minutes)

The thing about MTV Unplugged is that it gave the artists an opportunity to mess with songs in a different format and perhaps play songs that were not normally part of their setlist. We’d need a faster song after that intro, so why not go with something a little left field? I’m not the biggest fan of Pretty Tied Up but I think it’s ripe for some innovative tinkering. The link above gives an idea of the direction the song could take – it’s not the best cover but you get the idea.

Track 3: Mr Brownstone (17 minutes)

I think after two maybe not so well known songs they’d need to pull a more mainstream song out of the hat. You can switch Track 3 or 4 around if you wish, but I think the important thing at this point is keeping some continuity of classics going for a spell. The link above has an early live acoustic performance – I’m not too happy about the tambourine – there’s a place for it, but it’s used too much in that video. The song has a loose, jam quality anyway so it feels suited to a smaller unplugged setting.

Track 4: Welcome To The Jungle (22 minutes)

Yes, keep the momentum going with the classics. The link has an acoustic instrumental only version which gives a good idea of how the song could still retain its raw power even without the distortion. I like the idea of the piano filling in some of the guitar parts, so Axl could get down on those.

Track 5: You’re Crazy (26 Minutes)

This one was already pretty unplugged anyway if you pick the Lies version. There’s isn’t much they really need to add to this one, the crowd would fill in the blanks.

Track 6: You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory (30 minutes)

Well, we’d better get Spaghetti out of the way. A few songs from that album would work here but this feels ready made and has the added bonus of giving Axl a vocal break, something we know he enjoys. It’s a short one too, and a bit of a novelty, so true fans would be happy to hear it.

Track 7: So Fine (34 minutes)

Axl’s still taking a breather, so we’ll have another ready made slow-number that isn’t too far away from being acoustic in its original form. The song does pick up pace in places so that would lead nicely into another more up-tempo selection of songs. This is another curious choice which would be nifty so hear for most fans.

Track 8: Live And Let Die (38 minutes)

We’re over half an hour in and there’s still a bunch of big boys we haven’t heard from yet. I couldn’t find a decent clip to link to, so you’ll have to use your imagination on this one. Axl’s back, it’s a fast song, will get the crowd pumping again, which will lead nicely into our next pick.

Track 9: You Could Be Mine (44 minutes)

Another fast one with plenty of room to play around, but I think for this one they should just go all in on the guitars and play a stripped down version as close to the original as possible. Alternatively they could go completely in the opposite direction with something like in the link above.

Track 10: This I Love (49 minutes)

Chinese Democracy up now – don’t think I forgot about it. We’re already running tight to our time rule so we may have to cut back on the longer songs. This could be an Axl and Slash duet, the piano, vocals, and guitar mingling together for an atmospheric centerpiece.

Track 11: Patience/Don’t Cry (54 minutes)

Cheating a little here, but when the band play their mammoth live show they usually switch between Patience and Don’t Cry. I love them both and while the former is essentially an acoustic song already, the former could be stripped back without losing any of its impact. Both songs could have some piano added acting as an effective bridge between track 10 and 12. There’s an early live acoustic performance of Don’t Cry complete with terrible crowd noise in the link above.

Track 12: November Rain (62 minutes)

So, this would maybe be the most interesting song to translate into an unplugged setting. Technically you could bring out a backing choir and bunch of violin players etc. Alternatively, have them in place from the start contributing to other songs. Much of the strength of the song rests on Slash’s integral guitar parts which bridge the different sections of the song together, but you can still have those without full ear-splitting electric. Unplugged doesn’t necessarily mean 100% acoustic. This would be a chance for the pure core of the song to shine through. The link above contains an early, shorter acoustic version by the band and is quite different from what we eventually got.

Track 13: Street Of Dreams (67 minutes)

We keep the piano led sentimentality going with a song which is a highlight of Chinese Democracy even if Axl does try to mess it up with some weird vocals. It’s a crowd-pleaser, even for those who haven’t heard it, and you can get a bit of a singalong going in the big moments.

Track 14: Sweet Child Of Mine (73 minutes)

It had to be in there somewhere. If you want, swap this out for Rocket Queen or a personal favourite. While Nirvana played hardly any of their big hits for Unplugged, most bands tend to cover their most famous songs and for G’n’R they don’t come any bigger than this. Ideally it should be nearer the centre of the gig, but what are you gonna do? Various artists have covered this song in acoustic over the years, but I think the writers could knock those out of the park with their own take – Myles and Slash are in the link above again.

Track 15: I Used To Love Her (76 minutes)

Another acoustic original to wind things down before the inevitable big finish. The band wouldn’t need many additional flourishes to make this work – it’s good to go from the first whisper and gives the rest of the band a chance to add their own backing vocals. It’s a funny song and would work well in an intimate environment.

Track 16: Paradise City (83 minutes)

I was toying with not actually including this – how do you ever make an unplugged version of something that is basically six minutes of head-banging and lewd guitar fingering? As balls to the wall as the outro to this song is, maybe a wacky dueling banjo type ending would be entertaining too? Really anything they did with this song would probably work, followed by a ‘Good! Fucking! Night! Yeah!’ If that doesn’t work for you, close it with Rocket Queen. The link above is an acoustic instrumental version.

What about you? Which songs would you love to see in a an Unplugged G’n’R show? There wasn’t time for Coma or Estranged. I couldn’t fit my own personal favourite Think About You in either. Cornshucker would turn a few heads. There are plenty of tracks from Chinese Democracy which I think would work well – namely Catcher In The Rye –  but I tried to keep to my 70-90 minute time frame as much as possible. Let us know in the comments what your ideal setlist would be, and what other artists you would love to see perform in this style!