06 March 2009

Five Good Songs

I haven't said much about music in some time. Not due to a lack of interest, mind you, but mostly due to a lack of training in musical criticism. Music has had an almost immeasurably significant influence on me over the years, and I'd like to be able to say more about the music I listen to than I currently do. The problem is that reviewing many of the albums I listen on a track-by-track basis can become somewhat tedious, given that said tracks are not of the radio-friendly "Top 40" variety. Current 93, for example, is out to write good music with actual depth and feeling, not just catchy hit songs that will become fodder for the VH1 retrospectives of tomorrow.

Ultimately, when I do try to review an album, I wind up focusing on the strongest tracks. With that habit in mind, I've decided to forgo focusing on a single album this time around, and instead have opted to discuss a selection of my favorite songs (at least for the moment). In no specific order, the selections are as follows.


"13 Years of Carrion"
Death in June
Rose Clouds of Holocaust

One of the better songs in Death in June's already impressive library is the down-tempo number "13 Years of Carrion". The primary elements of the track are Douglas Pearce's vocals and acoustic guitar, but while those elements are enjoyable enough on their own, the use of synthesizers lend an additional dreamlike atmosphere to the song. A trumpet is also featured, which gives the middle part of the song something of a jazzy quality. "13 Years of Carrion" originally appeared on the 1995 album Rose Clouds of Holocaust, and it's atmosphere is present throughout the album. The dreamy and hypnotic quality of the album brings to my mind images of hypnotic sequences from some dimly-remembered television show of my childhood. An alternate rendition of "13 Years of Carrion" appeared on Death in June's Abandon Tracks compilation in 2005, a rendition which gave the song more of a Folk-ish feel.


The titular track from Jesu's 2006 Silver EP showcases all the qualities that makes the music of Justin Broadrick and company so great. Jesu takes the oft-depressing heaviness of Doom Metal, the distorted electronica of Industrial music and the uplifting soundscapes of Post-Rock and fuses these disparate elements into some truly great music. "Silver" is a shining (pun only somewhat intended) example of Jesu at their best. It's the sort of song to listen to whilst leaving home--there is a definite sense of loss in the song, but at the same time a feeling of hope that borders on wonderment, which provides a poignant counterbalance to the sadness. "Silver" brims with pathos and catharsis in a way that not many songs can.

"Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"
Bing Crosby

There are a number of recorded versions of this song, it being one of the most popular and memorable songs of the Great Depression. Bing Crosby's version of the song is among the best-known renditions, and happens to be the one I have. Whereas the primary appeal of the two earlier selections lie in the quality of the music, this time around it's the lyrics that make the song interesting. Aside from the fact that it comes from an era to which I am inexplicably drawn, I find the lyrics timely in two different ways. The most obvious reason is that the song is about living in hard times, the sort of times which are slowly and surely engulfing the country (and, it seems, the world). More profoundly, the song also reminisces about the bygone good old days, which just happens to be one of my major pastimes. I, like the man in the song, once was "building a dream", although my dreams were of the collegiate and academic variety, rather than the commercial and industrial. Either way, as the lyrics go, "now it's done." Some 78 years after its original conception, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" maintains its significance and appeal.

"Long Gone"
Dog Days

Thus far the list has been fairly down-tempo (and a bit depressing, too). Goatsnake's "Long Gone" is rather a different affair. Goatsnake's music is heavily influenced by Black Sabbath (as is all Doom Metal), with a healthy dose of Southern/Blues Rock grooves thrown in for good measure. Though it's fairly short--less than three minutes long!--"Long Gone" (from the 2000 EP Dog Days) is a thoroughly enjoyable romp through nonchalance at life's little obstacles, expressed through the unrepentant sauciness of the lyrics and the music. Goatsnake's sound is heavy and low frequency, which isn't much of a surprise if you consider that Greg Anderson (of Sunn O))) fame) is the guitarist.

Несокрушимая и Легендарная ("Invincible and Legendary")
Red Army Choir

Penned in 1943 at the apex of the Great Patriotic War by the great Soviet composer Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov, "Invincible and Legandary" is an uplifting and triumphant march and the de facto anthem of the Red Army. Say what you will about the Soviet government, the Red Army always had some of the best music. The version of the song I have appears under the erroneous title "USSR Army Song" on a French compilation album I found on the iTunes store. The album features a significant collection of popular Soviet songs from World War II, "Invincible and Legendary" being among the best. If this sort of music doesn't inspire you to drive the Fascists from the motherland, nothing will (here's some evidence that supports my theory).

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