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Sunday, April 30, 2017

Number 8 - "The Underdog", Spoon


The Underdog - Spoon

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)

"You have no fear of the underdog/that's why you will not survive".

I find Spoon confusing. Mostly competent, they're one of those indie acts whose work TV shows love syndicating. Competent, but safe. Not a band to inspire fandom, but nor do they earn much criticism. And very occasionally they produce a single for the absolute ages.

As with a few entrants in this list, your humble compiler is willing to let one brilliantly crafted song outrank those of far more established artists, this being after all a song-based exercise.

Spoon seem to shine when they are as self-consciously musical as possible. This is a complex beast, the melody's not quite as simple as it first appears and catchy as hell. Vocalist Britt Daniel's voice is a great textural match with its brassy bottom end.

If music performs any sort of valuable social function, this song knows exactly what that is, and on that basis proceeds to excel in everything that matters.

If even one sad soul drags themselves off any terrible canvas to which they may have fallen in life bouyed naively by the sentiment that this song peddles, Spoon have already done the world more good than Bono will in his entire lifetime. And I reckon it's a good bet.

This never really charted, and none of the other noughties lists put it this high, I just think it's archetypally great by the one criterion I ultimately use in these tests...

"How many showers have I sung this under?"

I'm not ashamed to say it's flipping LOTS.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Number 9 - "Britain is Sh*t", Selfish C*nt

Selfish Cunt, Martin Tomlinson and Patrick Constable

Britain is Shit - Selfish Cunt

No Wicked Heart Shall Prosper (2004)

A lot of bands were assigned the rather mutoid moniker of 'post-punk' over the course of the decade, and the term was almost already meaningless the minute it was uttered. As if anything could come post-music's nihilistic end...

But of course the music did continue, it just wasn't punk anymore.  To suggest that for instance Green Day have in the slightest relevance to or provenance from the original seventies genre is to render the original meaningless.

Maybe it's in the art of reducing punk to shallow symbolism, void of all its original significance, in drawing an equivalence between The Clash and playing your guitar quite loud with a safety pin on, in failing so completely to understand punk, that you evoke in the process a perfect nihilism. The act of neutering punk's most genuinely transgressive dimensions becomes in itself the most authentically punk act possible.

And it's the authenticity that was so frequently lacking in the things terms like 'post-punk' or 'new punk' or whatever permutations were applied to during the decade. Music that almost always seemed to veer more properly towards other genres - pop at one end of the spectrum, hardcore or even emo at the other.

There's only one act since the Pistols that have given us any sense that they are in any way inheritors of punk's wholesale aesthetic, political and musical mantle, and that act is Selfish Cunt.

 Yes, it's in part about the notoriously violent concerts, the beating up crowd members, the cancelled gigs, the bannings from venues, but it's also about the overtly nihilistic take on politics, it's about the aggressively sexualised cross dressing of Tomlinson (if Brian Molko and Iggy Pop ever spawned ...)

And it's about realising that THE most punk instrument in this day and age MUST be the drum machine. The quintessential enabler of so many musicians not even good enough to play with a bad band.

And it's about the lyric, the give-nary-a-shit vocal delivery, the utterly vicious pillorying of the middle classes, the political classes, the working class. It wants to kick the whole lot down, not because it has a better world in mind, just merely that it's run out of interest in this one. It's petulant, destructive, wanton, and throughly non-didactic.

Are you listening, Green Day?

Above is a little video I made for YouTube as this is kind of a hard one to stream. See below for more hot cross dressing action, from when we last encountered SC earlier in the countdown.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Number 10 - "There is no Such Place", Augie March

Augie March

There is no Such Place - Augie March

Sunset Studies (2003)

The highest ranking Australian act you will find in this chart, rendering this the quintessential Aussie tune of the decade. So there.

Yet another example that great, timeless pop relies on little much more than one tremendous melody. It's plaintive, maybe it's a little affectatious, but its emotive power - even after all these years of how many listenings is there.

Where Glenn Richards can at times veer into the purple prose, as with a lot of the Augies' more recent material wherein you feel the song was being made to fit the clever-clogs lyrics with, ironically a less lyrical overall effect.

But here, the balance is just perfect. The final lines, which would have the option of being delivered as a heart-jerking crescendo, are instead just left to waft off with the tune such that the song leaves us with nothing so much as an abstract sense of loss, of longing.

It's evoking these senses so effectively without straying into cliche or becoming overblown by surplus emotive devices that places this near the pinnacle of the decades' genius.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Numbers 15-11, "Blood on My Hands"

I hope we all had Ricardo Villalobos in our SuperMuso teams this week ...

15.Fizheuer Zieheuer - Ricardo Villalobos
Fizheuer Zieheuer (2006)
Well. You either know it or you don't. Or you may just know it by the horns 'breakdown'. Yes, it's a 37 minute 'dance' track with a funeral speed 'breakdown' in traditional horns sampled from a Serbian gypsy folk group. 37 minutes of large-scale monotony, where the horns appear as oases amongst the seemingly never-ending dunes of "oom-pah" that blanket everything.

But this is not an exercise in banality. A desert at scale could be read as monotonous, but closer perspective will reveal much texture amongst the dunes. This is an exercise in monotony, but it's a deeply profound one.

If taken at one sitting and in the right mood, it's mesmeric to the point where the ear becomes, in the midst of the sameness, intensely attuned to the very subtle ways in which the track does ebb and flow.

If you're willing to give it your full attention, it is certainly one of the most profound musical listening experiences the decade delivered. And this man is without doubt amongst the finest practitioners of his craft, consistently pushing the boundaries of an often stale genre.

For the faint-hearted, I made a YouTube video for a shorter, 15 minute version. Give it space. You won't be sorry,

14.Evil - Interpol
Antics (2004)
Too easily derided. Maybe they invite it in their self-conscious hipsterism, but musically I do maintain they were easily a million times more creative than say The White Stripes, who readers will find rather conspicuously absent from this list.

This utterly irresistable dancefloor-filler was probably their finest moment. It ebbs and flows in a way so much contemporary pop just refuses to do. The "chorus", pitches up to what could be full crescendo about three times, only to push further, finally hitting the pinnacle - a series of emphatic drum smashes "Why. Can't. We. Just ..."

It's just a superbly crafted song, superbly produced. The only thing that genuinely sounds like Joy Division about this band is Paul Banks' voice. People were far too quick to dismiss them for their po-facedness, but this album and ... Bright Lights would probably both belong somewhere in a Top Forty Albums of the Noughties.

13.Moan - Trentemøller
The Last Resort (2007)
What to say about this? No, this wasn't on many other lists and never this high. But I'm still, after nearly a decade past, completely addicted to this. It's like the finest stuff Massive Attack ever did with their female guest vocalists.

Anne Trolle is the vocalist here, and based on this she deserves be known far wider afield than her native Denmark. Delivering her vocal this breathlessly could have easily come across as trite, but Trolle goes nowhere near that domain.

She serves up just ... just enough emotion to set up a conflict between the deadpan delivery and the almost desperately emotive content.

This entire work is a Danish tour-de-force, with the artist himself hailing from Copenhagen, where he's helped popularise a number of local acts through his remixes. The song just oozes Scandi cool.

But I swear it's not just because it's a Dane-ophile's wet dream that this one has earned its place here. Use your ears.

Brilliant video too. You can check out my Pinterest tribute board to Laika here.

12.Blood on My Hands (Ricardo Villalobos' Apocalypso Now Mix) - Shackleton
Blood on My Hands (2007)
Why is this at number 12? Who the hell is Shackleton?

Well, put simply, I don't think I know of a better, more powerful or significant artistic response to the events of September 11, 2001 than this. Shackleton's other works - particularly Music for the Quiet Hour are all well worth checking out for fans of stripped back yet moody minimalism.

It's both a response to the events themselves and a response to OUR response, but it totally avoids lecturing or moral posturing from any dimension. Instead, we're asked to create meaning from a set of almost uncannily disparate phrases.

"I'm standing on a mountain top/letting out a scream/it's the language of the earth, it is the language of the beasts." And it's thoroughly unclear throughout who our narrator is.

It seems to me that this work is drawing a very sophisticated parallel between the drivers of the terrorist horrors that were visited upon the world, and the response of our political leaders to those events.

We're perhaps condemned for failing to speak ourselves in anything less mute than "the language of the beasts", but we're never really sure. And it's from within that ambivalence that the song derives its power to deeply unsettle.

It's just a great, great work of art.

11.Walk In The Park - Beach House
Teen Dream (2009)
There's only ever really been one way to write a great pop song. Pick a melody. Pick a really catchy melody. Now repeat it ad nauseum. Congratulations, you're now an artistic genius.

In some dimension. Because it should simply be that easy. But if it's that easy then why has so much utter musical dross been written? If it's that easy, then why is is this SO sublime?