Posts Tagged ‘The Smiths’

TFF_Mad_World

Nobody will ever fully agree on “the greatest” song or songs ever written. Music, art for that matter, is incredibly subjective, and as such has many inherently different values to different beholders. Just like awarding Grammys for “best” music, or Academy Awards to movies and games, it really is a fool’s exercise to try to delineate between the best of the best when in all actuality, the differences between quality works of any art are so personally subjective that it becomes a popularity measurement. The songs I feature in this series are what I believe to be the greatest songs ever written, for reasons that are mostly personal, but also are of a certain quality level that maintains some legitimacy to the claim. You may disagree…and that’s cool. Feel free to comment on the post with your thoughts about this or you’re own greatest songs ever written.

The first Tears For Fears album, The Hurting, was responsible for opening up my eyes to the alternative music scene that had been gelling together since the mid 70s. In fact, The Hurting signaled my departure from listening to hard rock stations and bands; it ushered in my own personal musical awakening that led me to Punk, New Wave, Post-Punk, Post Modern, Goth, etc. If it wasn’t for the discovery of The Hurting, I may never have discovered The Smiths.

I recently came to the realization that the Tears For Fears classic song, Mad World, off of The Hurting,  was also worthy  of being placed in the same category as How Soon Is Now? as Greatest Songs Ever written, according to Me. The opening drum beat starts with an odd jungle cadence of the concrete variety, laying down a bleak landscape. As this beat segues into a heavy, foreboding synth line, Curt Smith’s  vocals,  vulnerable, melancholic and even incredulous, echo the overwhelming helplessness that modern life seems to have wrought on humanity, as poignant today, as it was  in 1983.

 

All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places
Worn out faces
Bright and early for their daily races
Going nowhere
Going nowhere
Their tears are filling up their glasses
No expression
No expression
Hide my head I wanna drown my sorrow
No tomorrow
No tomorrow
And I find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
The dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles it’s a very very
Mad world
Mad world
Mad world
Mad world

 

 

 

As bleak as the song is when it starts, there is a pop sensibility woven throughout the song that keeps it from being just a novelty of the New Wave age from which it was born. Add very relatable lyrics and subject matter that will continue to endure as long as the human race continues to progress at breakneck speeds, and it’s a song worthy of sitting right next to How Soon Is Now? as two of the greatest songs ever written.

When comparing the two songs (and I don’t really want to compare them, because they’re both masterpieces in and of themselves) it is an interesting footnote to this piece to briefly consider the quality of the covers of these two songs over the past thirty years. And again, this only a personal perspective, but going back and reviewing the various covers of How Soon Is Now? there is a realization that it’s a damn near uncoverable song. Probably a testament to Johnny Marr’s virtuosity in both writing and playing, and Morrissey’s inimitable vocal styling, but there is not a single cover that stands out as worthy of it’s source.  I appreciate and welcome new and different arrangements, but it seems that every cover I listened to, just couldn’t strike the right tone with either the intro, or the vocals…or both. In fact, the best cover I found was the all-instrumental  Rockabye Baby! version from the album Lullaby Renditions of The Smiths.

Mad World, on the other hand, has one specific cover by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews that first appeared on the soundtrack to Donnie Darko. Their version transcends the source material to the point that the arrangement in and of itself has allowed it to stand apart, generating it’s own spate of covers. In fact, I saw Tears For Fears cover the Gary Jules/Michael Andrews version of their own song at KROQ’s Inland Invasion 2004.

As I went down the rabbit hole of cover versions of Mad World, I also discovered that Susan Boyle also did an amazing cover. I have to admit, after researching this piece, I became a Susan Boyle fan.

I dare you not to get chills when you listen to these two cover versions below: Gary Jules & Michael Andrews  and Susan Boyle. Now please excuse me while I go wipe the tears out of my eyes.

 

 

 

The-Smiths-How-Soon-Is-Now?

The Smiths

 

Nobody will ever fully agree on “the greatest” song or songs ever written. Music, art for that matter, is incredibly subjective, and as such has many inherently different values to different beholders. Just like awarding Grammys for “best” music, or Academy Awards to movies and games, it really is a fool’s exercise to try to delineate between the best of the best when in all actuality, the differences between quality works of any art are so personally subjective that it becomes a popularity measurement. The songs I feature in this series are what I believe to be the greatest songs ever written, for reasons that are mostly personal, but also are of a certain quality level that maintains some legitimacy to the claim. You may disagree…and that’s cool. Feel free to comment on the post with your thoughts about this or you’re own greatest songs ever written.

    I have always maintained The Smiths is one of the greatest bands ever; and How Soon Is Now? is one of the greatest songs ever written. The opening guitar riff is unmistakable. Johnny Marr’s rolling guitar jangle folding back unto itself, abruptly accentuated with what I can only describe as a warped train whistle preluding a lush and vaguely psychedelic melody destined to frame Morrissey’s painfully relatable lyrics:

 I am the son And the heir Of a shyness that is criminally vulgar I am the son and the heir Of nothing in particular   You shut your mouth How can you say I go about things the wrong way I am human and I need to be loved Just like everybody else does   I am the son and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar I am the son and the heir of nothing in particular   You shut your mouth how can you say I go about things the wrong way I am human and I need to be loved just like everybody else does   There’s a club if you’d like to go you could meet somebody who really loves you so you go, and you stand on your own and you leave on your own and you go home, and you cry and you want to die   When you say it’s gonna happen “now” well, when exactly do you mean? see I’ve already waited too long and all my hope is gone   You shut your mouth how can you say I go about things the wrong way I am human and I need to be loved just like everybody else does

The legendary John Peel had an interesting take on The Smiths lyrics in general:

“I mean on more than one occasion I’ve actually laughed out loud at Smiths lyrics, & I don’t often do that, I don’t often laugh out loud at anything very much. I think that they’re very funny lyrics and I cannot understand why people assume that what they do is essentially miserable. I suppose because there’s a lot of references to death and pain & so forth in the lyrics but again its done in the way you know were it’s sort of ironic. I don’t see them as being miserable at all, I get rather cross when people tell me that they are”

Morrissey’s lyrical brilliance works lies in being both ironic and sincere, and more than a little relatable. He manages to touch very specific, yet universal human emotions, many times from the perspective of being homosexual in the rough-edged, industrial grittiness of 70’s and 80’s England. With How Soon Is Now? there is that commonality of looking for relationship…human touch and companionship…but not being able to overcome a deep shyness to connect with someone else on the same level, the way everyone else seems to be able to. It reminds of a time in college when I agreed to go clubbing and immediately felt so out of my element, so awkward, so pathetic that I spent most of the night sitting in a booth alone, waiting for my friends to close the deal with their new acquaintances so that I could get a ride back to my apartment. Of course it didn’t help that I couldn’t dance, was probably dressed inappropriately, had no gift for small talk and held more than a little disdain for the club-kid stereotypes that populated the club. Looking for love in all the wrong places so to speak. More often than not it’s songs that strike a deeper chord that tend to live on and influence other artists. And the greatest songs are the ones that make you stop whatever you’re doing at that very moment and just listen.  How Soon Is Now is firmly planted at the top of that category. Thirty years after its release, it still stops me in my tracks and causes me to break out in chills.

The Queen is Dead

Posted: January 27, 2014 in Music
Tags: , , ,

The Queen is Dead

Here’s how this particular trip down the rabbit hole went:

When I started this post, I wasn’t sure where I was going to go. All I knew was I wanted to highlight a couple of bands I saw at The Echo back in December…

Holograms
TV Ghost

I started with referencing one of my favorite movies, Riding Giants (Mavericks is going off today as of the time of this writing). Unfortunately, it became too convoluted…and thematically weird.

Then, I thought I would examine post-punk…because that’s the overwhelming influence on both of these bands. This led me to Wikipedia and a quote from Jon Savage describing the sound of post-punk and groups like Devo, Throbbing Gristle, Siouxsie and The Banshees and The Slits like:

harsh urban scrapings/controlled white noise/massively accented drumming

This brought me to a 2010 article by Jon Savage in The Guardian: The Queen Is Dead is an anthem for our times:

http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2010/dec/15/smiths-queen-is-dead

And finally I ended up here:

The Smiths…the greatest band of my time. And yours.