Pitchfork 500 Electro Part 1 – Art to Liquid

The mid-’80’s were a haven of experimentation. New technology – sampling and sequencing – had appeared, which threw open the doors of possibility to those with the imagination to use them to their full potential. Oh, and had a spare £10,000 knocking about for a Fairlight. Here’s the first three of a selection of six Electro-ish tunes. Well, sort of Electro.

Art of Noise – Beat Box (Diversion One)
Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Relax
Liquid Liquid – Optimo

The Art Of Noise were an electro-pop quartet from London, with Trevor Horn producing and Paul Morley talking bollocks about them. Which meant that, even at the time, they were supremely irritating. After listening to them again, they are still supremely irritating.

Without meaning to turn this into a rant about how Art of Noise were supremely irritating, they really were. I’ve got a low tolerance threshold for pretentious bollocks – or at least, pretentious bollocks that isn’t half as clever as it thinks it is – and Art Of Noise’s “Beat Box” seems to me like a bunch of art students mucking about with a Fairlight. Considering Cabaret Voltaire were sampling using tape loops in the mid-‘70’s, I don’t see how this can be seen as being a whole new way of making music, as its fans have done. Still, people sampled it, people like it. Your mileage may vary.

The Art Of Bollocks, More Like

Oh, and their “Best Of” is called “Influence: Hits, Singles, Moments, Treasures”. See? Supremely irritating.

With nearly thirty years distance, it is hard to imagine what a massive storm Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Relax” caused in the UK. As a 12-year old, the fact that there was a record at number 1 in the chart that was blatantly sexual was shocking. Especially as I didn’t really know what the song was going on about. Oh come on, I bet you didn’t either. What was even more hilarious was that the song itself had been pootling around the chart for weeks until Mike Read started reading the lyrics whilst playing it on his radio show. Realising belatedly that the content may not be happily termed “family friendly”, he ripped the record off the turntable, called it “obscene”. As a result, the song was banned by the BBC.

And You Thought Chris Moyles Was Bad

For those younger readers, you have to remember that this was a world in which pretty much all the music you heard broadcast, whether on TV or radio, came from either the BBC or ITV. There were few, if any, independent stations and those that existed were blander than bland. There was no internet, of course. You might share music with your mates, and there were some great music magazines around, but to hear something yourself it generally came from the BBC. So for them to openly ban something – what drama! You just had to hear it!

“Relax” stayed at number one for five weeks, and did end up teaching some people a lesson. If you want to stop people hearing something, don’t tell them about it. What you don’t do is tell people you’re not playing something, because they will go “Ooh, bet it’s something naughty!” and go out and buy it in droves.

That’s not to say that “Relax” is just a naughty record. It’s far more than that. It’s a very, very good record that is also quite naughty. That squelchy sound is still remarkably icky.

Liquid Liquid’s “Optimo” was one of those songs that I used to hear in fabulous late-80’s/early-90’s Newcastle nitespot Rockshots. Perfectly pleasant dance music, and charming to think that it’s now 18 years old. Aaah, they grow up so fast! But not entirely sure what it’s doing here. One of the top 500 tracks in the past 30 years? Nah. Oh, and it’s in GTA IV too. Woo.

Next up, some more Electro-ey goodness with Shannon and Section 25. If you liked this, read the other posts in the series here.

MP3: Relax (Come Fighting) by Frankie Goes To Hollywood

MP3: Optimo by Liquid Liquid

Buy “Influence: Hits, Singles, Moments, Treasures (Best Of)”

Buy “Welcome to the Pleasure Dome: 25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition” by Frankie Goes To Hollywood

Buy “Liquid Liquid”

The Pitchfork 500 METAL Redux – Metallica to Neubaten

Something about American heavy metal of the ’80’s manages to be comical and quaint. Sure, it doesn’t have the hair or the spandex of the earlier glam metal period, but there is the whiff of Beavis and Butthead about the new Metal that came grinding out of the US in the mid-eighties.

Metallica – Battery
Slayer – Angel of Death
Saint Vitus – Clear Windowpane
Einsturzende Neubauten – Halber Mensch

Metallica are the über-thrash metal band. Their po-faced, earnest view of life, without any glint of sunlight found in the hardcore contempories like, say, The Minutemen, makes them a bit of a drag to listen to. Plus, compared to Swans, they were comparative lightweights. There’s nothing on Master Of Puppets that can compete with the grinding horror of Cop or Greed. Part of this attitude is definitely a touch of revisionism on my part; after all, who can take a band seriously that have therapy sessions and shop at Armani?

I like my rock music to fuckin’ rock, man, and I don’t want excuses. I want my rock bands to drive out to the desert in a pick up truck, take mescaline, and play loud all night surrounded by Mexican drug dealers. I want my rock bands to get stupidly drunk and get into fights, and end up with severe head damage. I want my rock bands to rock. Not talk about their inner demons to a psychologist, then go out and buy a just fine and peachy black mohair sweater. But it was in the sale, dahling!

Like The Shorts, Dude

My dumb attitude aside, would I like Metallica after finally hearing a track from what is widely regarded as their classic album, Master of Puppets? Er, no. Or rather, well, not really. Yes, I can see how they reinvigorated Metal following the hairspray and tapping hell it’d got itself into. Yes, I understand their influence spread far and wide. But it just doesn’t move me that much. “Battery” does start with some elegant, delicate Spanish guitar before a double-tracked guitar presages the coming storm of the phenotype thrash metal riff. Then up steps James Hetfield, gruffling on about “Hungry violence seeker, feeding off the weaker\Breeding on insanity” and the like. For whatever reason though, this song, and Metallica’s material in general, isn’t my thing.

Slayer, on the other hand, eschew the whole question of spoilt whiny American brats playing loud music about why they were so grumpy, by playing loud music about Josef Mengele. That’s show the parents! Seriously though, Slayer took the whole Satan1-worshipping schtick started by Black Sabbath and Judas Priest and took it to a whole new level. Starting at about a billion beats per minute (ok, 210), and heralding a truly magnificent example of the “Testicles caught in a mangle” scream from vocalist Tom Araya, “Angel Of Death” is a far more METAL affair than “Battery”. Dig that mid-song tempo change! Thrill to the yelling about Auschwitz!

Plus, Slayer’s subject matter did not go unignored by the record industry, with the cover being banned and the label disowning the release. For all the fuss about the lyrics though, it seems clear to me that they are hardly glorifying the Holocaust; the song personalises the horrors perpetrated to the listener, putting them in the place of the victims. There’s certainly no indication that the band were trying to do anything other than express their revulsion of the whole thing.

In contrast to the corporate backing of Metallica and Slayer, St Vitus went for the much more indie route. Signed to SST, they were as much influenced by Black Flag and the likes as Metallica and the new thrash metal scene. As a result, the music is more grungy and a clear precursor to the stoner rock of Kyuss (and thence to Queens Of The Stone Age). “Clear Windowpane” is like one of Black Sabbath’s more psychedelic moments, with some of the guitar riffing sounding oddly like Joy Divison gone metal. After quite a few listens over quite a few months, I’ve found myself quite liking this.

Which is where Einsturzende Neubaten come in. The experience of growing up in ’60s and ’70s Germany was far from the comfortable world of the US, yet strangely similar. Germany had experienced a massive consumer boom in the sixties, yet still suffered from the (totally righteous) guilt of the previous generations actions in WWII. So a generation had grown up, surrounded in comfort, yet with an unspoken, hidden history that poisoned this apparent affluence and made the younger generation question everything that their parents told them.

There is nothing quite as disturbing as massed German voices to a child of the WWII generation. All it speaks of is noise and pain, of cattle trucks and gas chambers. And that is all the song is; overlapping fronds of half-understood words. The translation I’ve got doesn’t make a massive amount of sense, though it appears to be about humanity being partially replaced with robotics by some agency (“You don’t see the transmitters and cables\Hanging, laid long ago\From your nerve endings they hang”). The effect is far more chilling than all those thrusting power chords and bollocks in a mangle singing. And not an Armani sweater in sight.

Out of these four bands, I’ve only seen Einsturzende Neubaten live, back in the late ‘80’s. I remember, for some reason, driving down from Bath to London in a knackered old Citroen 2CV with a bloke called James and a lady whose name completely escapes me, and having to fix the accelerator linkage with a bit of cloth. I also remember being amazed by Einsturzende’s use of a long, thin sheet of metal which was bashed with hammers to make a fantastic drum sound. My memory is generally hazy at the best of times2 but there’s a vague memory of angle grinders too. And that we also saw Band Of Holy Joy, about as far from Einsturzende Neubaten in sound as you can get (if not attitude though – their ethos of finding whatever instruments they could find to play, rather than the usual guitar/bass/drums, shows a remarkable similarity).

So, of these Metal acts, of various stripes, which did I like hearing? Einsturzende Neubaten’s “Halber Mensch” is a stunning song, but not something you can comfortably listen to on a regular basis. St Vitus was a surprise, and Slayer is, despite now being a touch cliché-ridden, enjoyable in a funny sort of way. Metallica? Nah.

Next up, we go all nouveau disco, featuring the Rudest Song Ever.

Author’s Note: I’m very sorry this has taken so many months. Sometimes it’s hard to write about music which you don’t feel in your heart. The next lot aren’t going to be that easy either, but I’ll try very hard to get the articles written quicker. Especially as there are some absolute, utter, fantastic records coming up, including two that are in my top-100 best songs ever list. Well, maybe top 500. But you know what I mean3.

1 Did you ever hear about the dyslexic Devil worshipper? He sacrificed a goat to Santa.

2 Damn you, Guinness!

3 You’ll just have to wait and see. Two songs before we got to 1987. Can you guess?

MP3: Angel of Death by Slayer

MP3: Halber Mensch by Einsturzende Neubauten

Buy Metallica’s “Master Of Puppets” (CD/MP3)

Buy Slayer’s “Reign In Blood” (CD/MP3)

Buy St Vitus’s “Born Too Late” (CD/MP3)

Buy Einsturzende Neubauten’s “Halber Mensch” (CD)

The rest of the Pitchfork articles are here.

The Pitchfork 500 Indie Explosion Part 2 – Cocteau Twins To Billy Bragg

In the mid ’80’s, British Indie music woke up from its glum post-punk nightmare and started to produce music that was, if not out and out happy, at least willing to step outside its front door with something approaching a smile. Of course, this was largely due to the huge amounts of drugs it was consuming, but never mind. IndiePop sprung to life. All was sunny. Kind of.

Cocteau Twins – Lorelei
New Order – Bizarre Love Triangle
Billy Bragg – A New England

In 1984, Cocteau Twins were a promising, if slightly Gothic, ambient/dream pop band, hailing from the unlikely environs of Grangemouth, Scotland. Then they released “Treasure”, the first in a series of records that are as good as any other records you could care to mention. New bassist Simon Raymonde (now owner of the superb Bella Union record label) helped the band develop; they built entire worlds from spiralling shards of sound, cascading like waterfalls through a cathedral made of champagne ice, and….

Ok, ok, I’ll stop there. Writing about Cocteau Twins brings to mind the classic Frank Zappa quote: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”1. Whilst I can happily write about Liz Fraser’s shockingly beautiful singing, Robin Guthrie’s effects-laden guitars, Simon Raymonde’s looping, graceful basslines, the thundering drum machines, often all tied together with additional sounds from Lord only knows where, nothing can quite prepare you for the majesty of their music. At their heights – heights which precious few bands reached even once, let alone over three or four albums and as many EP’s – they were, quite simply, the best example of how music can transcend the mundane and become something utterly transcendental.

“Lorelei” is probably the first time they peaked. Starting with a guitar line so simple that even a 5-year old could play it2, then bursting into their trademark booming drums with Fraser singing a deceptively simple vocal line. It’s often said that she sang nonsense lyrics, or made-up words, but this isn’t entirely true. Interviewed in the mid-’80’s, she stated:

Well, I do sing about life. Life with Robin; coping with him. They’re all words that I sing. There’s none of it that’s just nonsense

(You can see the seeds of their destruction in those three little words, “coping with him”. More of which later).

I must have listened to this song well over 1,000 times. No exaggeration – when this was first released, I taped it from my brother3 and played it again, and again, and again. I’ve always had a copy on CD; I used to play it early in the morning when chilling out after club nights; I’ve argued with myself many times whether to put this, or Blue Bell Knoll, or Heaven Or Las Vegas onto whatever iPod or iPhone I’m currently messing with. Even returning to it for this article, I was hearing new things; all those overdubs of Liz’s vocals and the subtle ways the drums change throughout the song, for example. This song showed the world just what they could do.

After this, the band rose to even greater heights during the rest of the ’80’s, but Fraser and Guthrie’s relationship went downhill as Guthrie’s drugtaking got out of hand. A major label deal took them away from the loving bosom of 4AD and their records made clear that all was not happy with the band. They broke up in 1994, after some promising changes to their sound that had pointed to a potential way out of their creative hole.

Cocteau Twins have slowly but surely been gaining recognition for their amazing records. Whilst they were reasonably big in the ’80’s and ’90’s, they seem to have fallen away from sight since their split. Sadly, it seems as though a reunion just won’t happen. The scars from Fraser and Guthrie’s separation are apparently too deep to heal enough to perform together; from a purely selfish point of view, this is a massive shame. Considering the complexity of their music, they were a fantastic live band and one of the best I’ve ever seen. Maybe they should do the re-release, re-master thing (with extra material, please, folks). One of the few faults you could ever raise about the Cocteaus was that the production was never quite up to scratch; a quick wash and brush up could do wonders. In any case, this track is the perfect introduction to their magical world. If you have never listened to them before, I can happily say this with religious fervour: Listen. If you are don’t like this, you don’t like music.

New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” is another gold-plated, sure-fire, utter 100% classic record. Arguably, it’s their finest moment; only “Thieves Like Us” and “True Faith” can beat it. Those famous New Order trademarks are all there; the easy melodies, the lyrics that teeter on the fence between profundity and nonsense, and the deft mixing of rock and dance in a way that hardly anyone has bettered since. This isn’t Indie music; it’s pop, of the highest order.

But reading between the lines, the tensions in the band were starting to show. The album version features Peter “Hooky” Hook’s at the forefront of the mix, driving the lead melody. The single version (presented here) misses it entirely. Whilst Bernard “Barney” Sumner wrote most of the music (with some help from The Other Two, mostly drum programming), Hooky became increasingly disgruntled at how much he was being sidelined. He was also the least enamoured with the dancier direction the band were taking – partly because this seemed to make him redundant. After all, when you’re completely removed from the single version of one of your band’s best songs, you’re entitled to be concerned. The odd thing is that the song, in its single mix, is weaker without Hooky’s bassline.

Plus, the band had a unique setup, which didn’t really help matters. Every day, they travelled to a detached house in South Manchester and worked on their songs, making demos etc. They were paid a salary by Factory Records, and they effectively didn’t get any royalties. These were, by and large, pumped into The Hacienda nightclub. So, the band – Hooky in particular – decided that, as they were being paid a pittance by their record label and their substantial royalties were being spent on a mostly empty club, they might as well take advantage by drinking large amounts of alcohol there. Not a recipe for success. Still, tensions aside, the band continued to make classic records, and continued as a band (on and off) until last year, when it was finally announced that they’d had enough of each other4.

Anyway, back to “Bizarre Love Triangle”. What a song, eh? At their finest, New Order were so far ahead of their peers it was laughable. Trying to make sense of what makes this song so brilliant is a tough call, and one I don’t have the music theory chops for. So, if anyone can explain how the interplay between the differing keyboard and bass lines causes such a swelling of the heart, or how Barney makes the daft lyrics actually feel like they mean something, or how the song somehow straddles euphoria and melancholy, then you’re better at this than me. In any case, this is a brilliant, brilliant record.

I used to really dislike Billy Bragg. His ultra-stripped down sound, his overt politicism, and his Estuary English accent could make him easy to dislike to an unreconstructed snob like me. With years of living between hearing this song first and writing this now, I can finally see him for what he is5 – if not quite a genius, then a fine songwriter, a decent guitarist and an honest and emotional singer.

Of course this is by far his best known song, covered by many, but most stunningly by Kirsty MacColl. Starting off with a line stolen from a Simon and Garfunkel song, he wistfully sings of his lost love and yearning for a new romance to take his mind off his last one. With just him and his guitar, the song is a brilliant combination of the simple and complex, from lovelorn moaning to singing about satellites looking like shooting stars.

Chalk this one up to the value of this list. I’m very glad I finally heard this song for what it really is.

Next up, we go back to Metal; the new, thrashy, mutated Metal of Metallica and their peers.

1 Though admittedly you could see Michael Clark giving that a go.

2 So simple that Simon Raymonde actually played it live. Sorry, Simon.

3 Home taping is killing music.

4 Or more accurately, Hooky decided he’d had enough of Barney and Steve Morris, who initially stated they didn’t know what he was on about, and then decided they agreed with him.

5 And what most other people have seen, except me. The teenage me was a right dick sometimes.

You can find the rest of the Pitchfork 500 articles here.

MP3: Lorelei by Cocteau Twins

MP3: Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order

MP3: A New England by Billy Bragg

Buy “Treasure” by Cocteau Twins (CD/MP3)

Buy “Brotherhood: Collector’s Edition” by New Order (CD)

Buy “Must I Paint You a Picture – The Essential Billy Bragg” (CD)

The Pitchfork 500 Indie Explosion Part 1 – Mekons to The Smiths

The mid-’80’s saw the UK Independent music scene reach another of its many high points. For a couple of years, the scene had been characterised by ramshackle amateurism, post-punk dourness and not a small amount of glumness (following on from the late ’70’s glories). But as always in the ever-changing UK scene, like mushrooms growing from manure, some of the finest pop music known to man sprung from all over the UK. Others, like The Jesus And Mary Chain, found new ways to be angry and noisy and blew apart the hitherto moribund scene.

The Mekons – Last Dance
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Just Like Honey
The Smiths – How Soon Is Now?

The Mekons were a punk collective, formed in Leeds in the furnace of the punk years. Then they did the usual thing, and broke up. Then, being a forward-looking bunch, decided to not bother reforming in the mid Naughties like compatriots Gang Of Four and got back together in 1984 to do some gigs supporting the Miner’s Strike. Taking the opportunity to experiment, they added a violinist, an accordionist, and sundry other members and set about making a kind of ramshackle folk sound, using their curiosity and a certain amount of musical talent to make charmingly tuneful, if somewhat disorganised music.

Charmingly Ramshackle

“Last Dance” tells the tale of being drunk in a nightclub, watching some lovely lady dancing away on her own. Sure, there’s quite a few examples of this genre in everything from Country to Hip-Hop, but few have put it quite as charmingly as this:

“So beautiful, you were waltzing\Little frozen rivers all covered with snow”

You don’t get that from 50 Cent. There’s more to the song than just drunken letching though; the line “as if seeing you for the first time” points out that he’s not just randomly ogling, there’s a depth to this apparently one-sided relationship, adding a certain poignancy. The Mekons never really got any kind of mainstream success or recognition, but have continued releasing records to a small, loyal and fervent fanbase. And who can blame them? This is exactly the kind of largely unknown gem that the Pitchfork 500 does such a good job in digging up, and one of those songs that makes you glad to trawl through the whole load. Lovely, I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Jesus and Mary Chain were anything but lovely. Loveliness was not their thing. Their thing was noise, great big globbets of it. Noisy guitars, noisy drums belted out by a lank-haired goon standing up1, cooler-than-thou vocals from a man who looked like he hadn’t eaten in about 12 years. I cannot understate the shock value of this band in 1985. Hailing from Glum City Central, Glasgow, they exploded onto the scene, did 20 minute gigs which usually ended up in a fight, and wrote one of the best2 debut albums around (that’ll be Psychocandy). I actually got this as a Xmas present that year, which still fills me with pride.

Cheer Up, Lads, One Of You Will Have It Off With Hope Sandoval

But you know what, this is the wrong song. Frankly, “Just Like Honey” doesn’t have any of the buzzsaw impact of “Never Understand”, their first single. This is just a bit, well, girly. Worse, even at the time, it was shamefully derivative. Trust me, if a spotty-faced oikish 14 year old could spot that this was hardly original, then your number is up. Sure, the song is a good ‘un, but as far as the impact of the JAMC goes, the likes of “In a Hole” and “You Trip Me Up” had far more of an impact, at least in the UK. But as a demonstration of how you can take The Velvet Underground, mix in some Phil Spector drums, and fuzz it all up a bit, I suppose it’s got its merits.

As for The Smiths “How Soon Is Now?”, what can I say? If you’ve been reading this blog at all (and taking any kind of notice), you’ll be thinking “Oh God, not another 1,000 word post on how great The Smiths are and if you don’t like them, you’re wrong, you hate music and you probably eat kittens with dormouse sauce for dinner”.

Well, I don’t really like this song very much. There, I said it. Look, I know it’s sonically adventurous, I know it’s the single that broke them in the US3, I know it’s got some marvellously glum lyrics that encapsulate everything about Morrissey in one, nearly-rhyming couple (“I am human and I need to be loved, just like everybody else does”), but, but, but….I just don’t like it. There’s no little glistening glimmer of light in amongst the glumness, unlike in their finest hours. So for that, “How Soon Is Now?”, you’re fired.

Next up is the second part of this series, with the likes of New Order and Cocteau Twins. Sweet. By the way, long-term readers might notice the lack of YouTube videos; this is due to a lack of access to YouTube at the moment. Should be fixed soon, my friends.

1 Who later went onto fame as the lead singer of a twee indie-pop group called Primal Scream, who shamefacedly reinvented themselves as a hard-rocking, hard-drugging band, to much laughter from those in the know and much love from those not. I’m not a fan. Though I do like “Velocity Girl”, but let’s not get into that now.

2 Ok, maybe not “best”, but at least “most recognisable” and “strongly defined” and “better than anything they did in the future”. File under “Definitely Maybe”.

3 Like that counts for anything.

MP3: Last Dance by The Mekons

MP3: Just Like Honey by The Jesus and Mary Chain

MP3: How Soon Is Now by The Smiths

Buy “Heaven and Hell: The Very Best of the Mekons” (CD)

Buy JAMC’s “Psychocandy: Remastered” (CD)

Buy “Meat Is Murder” by The Smiths (CD) (What, you don’t have this already? Shame on you).

The Pitchfork 500 Great American Noise – Replacement Acid

Noise. Anger. Rage. Being a bit drunk. Big dollops of “fuck you” attitude. All this, and more, feature in this instalment of The Pitchfork 5001. Cue guitar intro.

The Replacements – Bastards of Young
Big Black – Kerosene
Scratch Acid – The Greatest Gift

We last saw The Replacements singing about trying to hook up with some poor, unsuspecting lady in “I Will Dare” (off an album that also featured the charmingly titled “Gary’s Got A Boner”). The Replacements ouevre generally centred around beer, drinking beer, trying to get more beer, trying to hook up whilst on beer, feeling terrible because of all that beer they were drinking, and the band themselves were clearly fans of, err, beer. However, the Reagan administration was clearly playing on Paul Westerberg’s mind, and “Bastards of Young” was their anthem to the lost generation – the proto Gen-X’ers – of the mid ’80’s. The lyrics are a resigned paean to youth that had little hope and even lesser chances of breaking out into the sunny world promised to them by Reagonomics:

The ones that love us best are the ones we’ll lay to rest/And visit their graves on holidays at best/The ones who love us least are the ones we’ll die to please

The band, normally mucking around drunk in the background, provide sterling backing to Westerberg’s heartfelt lyrics. The video was great too. I dimly recall seeing this on Beavis and Butthead (“Smash it! SMASH IT!”), but as all the copies I could find had embedding disabled, you’ll just have to look yourself. In the meantime, enjoy this live version:

The song became a minor hit, though in true Replacements style, even when they got onto “Saturday Night Live”, they still ballsed it up by turning up drunk and then compounded the issue by swearing on-air. This was to be their fate; a great, ramshackle band hampered by their own inability to knuckle down and stop using being in a band as an excuse to get drunk.

Big Black were another thing entirely. When I was a teenager, Big Black were the nasty, screwed-up band from the mid-West who hated you personally and wanted you to know it. Big Black were the one-stop shop for songs about all the unpleasant things in life. Mainman Steve Albini in particular had a particularly gnarly reputation; he deliberated set out to antagonise the liberal media and boy, did he succeed (to the extent that he went on to form the even more charmingly titled Rapeman). But, for one reason or another, I never really listened to any of their stuff.

One Of These Men Is Now A Lawyer

So, during the opening bars of “Kerosene” I thought “Hey, what’s with the scratchy, funk-punk guitars? Maybe everyone was just getting their knickers in a twist and this lot were just a bunch of pussycats”. Then the churning drum machine kicked in, and the full horror of The World Of Big Black came into terrible view. Boy, is this one fucked up song. I’ve listened to Shellac, some of those hundreds of albums he’s produced, and even some Rapeman stuff, but nothing quite prepared me for how beautifully deranged this band were in their prime.

The lyrics start off with a fairly bog-standard moan about how life in a small town sucks, dude. But slowly the protagonist starts to unravel, starts going on about arson, and then goes downhill from there. As Albini said, there’s nothing much to do in small Mid-Western towns aside from sex and arson, so why not mix the two? The backing, a carefully calibrated and uncompromisingly nasty noise, thunders away quite unpleasantly, and much higher in the mix than on normal records. This is an Albini trademark, making you aurally squint to hear the words properly, sucking you into the dark world he’s created.

The guitars are all angular and scratchy, a sound made by using serrated metal picks for that fingernails-on-the-blackboard vibe. “Kerosene” is widely regarded as their finest moment; I’m not sure whether it’s going to make me explore more of their back catalogue or if I should just enjoy this track on its own and leave the rest of their material in the seething pit of hell it inhabits. Listening to this is like eating a very, very hot curry – a wonderful combination of pain, terror and a strange kind of pleasure.

Another point that’s worth making in these days of confusion is how Big Black ran themselves. No contracts, no managers, no rider on tour, not even a drumkit (their drummer “Roland” being a Roland TR-606 drum machine), so they could just drive round in a normal car to gigs. The idea behind all this was to make themselves as profitable as possible, and to not get involved in any kind of record label control:

We were committed to to a few basic principles: Treat everyone with as much respect as he deserves (and no more), Avoid people who appeal to our vanity or ambition (they always have an angle), Operate as much as possible apart from the “music scene” (which was never our stomping ground), and Take no shit from anyone in the process (Steve Albini)

Might be useful to keep that in mind. On the eve of releasing their second album (“Songs About Fucking”), the band started to break; mounting pressures within the band, partly caused by bassist Dave Riley’s heavy drinking, and with Albini deciding that he’d done all he could do with the music, he broke them up. Guitarist Santiago Durango went on to be a lawyer. As you do2. As for Albini himself, well, he’s gone onto become possibly the most idiosyncratic producer since Martin Hannett.

Now, Scratch Acid I’d never heard of before. When I first listened to “The Greatest Gift”, I thought that it sounded remarkably like Jesus Lizard and the likes of Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion. The former is no shock; two of the band went on to form Jesus Lizard in 1989. As for the Blues Explosion, they dealt in the same kind of crazy, bluesy punk; lots of fun. At first I wondered why the hell this was here; after all, loads of other bands have dealt in the same kind of fucked-up noisy punk, and surely being one of Kurt Cobain’s wouldn’t be enough to include them. Then I realised – this lot were pioneers. Taking the psychobilly of The Cramps, mixing a good helping of Iggy and the Stooges and 13th Floor Elevators, their sound, ably demonstrated on “The Greatest Gift”, is one of delightedly screwed up noise.

Sometimes, even by being drunk and all messed up, you can be an original. The band split up, as bands do, and various members went on to form Rapeman with Steve Albini, Jesus Lizard, and all sorts of other bands, like some kind of mutating amoeba, spreading noise and weirdness wherever it went.

Next up, we’re back to the British Isles for a two-parter of some of the finest music on the whole list.

The rest of the Pitchfork articles are here.

1 For some reason, Pitchfork chose to chuck The Mekons in the middle of this sequence, followed by a bunch of British Indie Bands. To make for a more consistent set of articles, I’ve moved The Mekons to sit with JAMC, The Smiths etc in the next article.

2 Which is good, but still doesn’t beat James Williamson of The Stooges becoming a VP at Sony.

MP3: Bastards Of Young by The Replacements

MP3: Kerosene by Big Black

Buy “Don’t You Know Who I Think I Was: the Best of the Replacements” (CD/MP3)

Amazon’s Big Black Store (yes, such a thing exists!)

The Pitchfork 500 Bombast – Kate Bush to Simple Minds

The ’80’s was the decade of bombast. Everything had to be loud, brash, obvious. Music pummelled you into submission. Music had something to tell you, and it told you with fervour, without respite. Two of the most brash, fervent bands are represented here, along with a third artist who wasn’t exactly shy of making statements in her music.

Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)
U2 – New Year’s Day
Simple Minds – Don’t You (Forget About Me)

Following the huge success of “Wuthering Heights”, Kate Bush’s young life was turned upside down. The now-predictable tales of touring, promotion, enormous record company pressures and the like, eventually drove her to becoming something of a recluse. 1982’s “The Dreaming” had not been particularly successful, and three years later, after nothing more had been heard from her, NME ran a “Where Are They Now” feature on her. Somewhat inauspiciously, her new single was played on the radio three days later1.

That new single was “Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)”. The song itself wasn’t new; written three years earlier just after “The Dreaming” sessions, her record company had refused to release it under its original title of “A Deal With God”, fearing an unwelcome reaction in religious countries. They should have just gone for it; the song hardly deals in blasphemy. Instead, Bush’s voice demands that God swaps places with her, not so she can be God, but for God to see life from her side. The determination in her voice is frightening; this isn’t the hippy-dippy teenager of her early records, but a steely, confident woman.

The music, all thundering drums and Fairlight stabs, was made without any thought to ever performing live. Multi-tracked vocals, including using her own voice as a rhythm track, synthesised strings from those all-new electronics; the record is, as you’d have expected from her, remarkably futuristic for a chart-topping artist. Although some of the keyboards do sound a little dated, the track as a whole feels minty-fresh.

And, despite the religious concerns, the song doesn’t feel heavy-handed. “If I only could/I’d make a deal with God/And get him to swap places” is a marvellous chorus, defiantly railing at a deity that had forsaken her. Lovely stuff and well worth listening to again.

Years ago, I remember someone asking Tony Wilson (sorry, Anthony H. Wilson) what Joy Division would have ended up like if Ian Curtis hadn’t killed himself. He replied “U2″. As ever, his daft response had a whacking great big element of truth in amongst the crazy talk. Because U2 were at the time a clever blend of Joy Division’s more lively moments mixed with Bruce Springsteen’s stadium savvy, with a huge chunk of Evangelical fervour thrown into the mix. And I use capitalisation deliberately there – never, ever forget that above all else, U2 are a religious band, probably the most successful religious rock band ever.

With this song, Bono threw down the gauntlet to those who’d thought that previous album “October” wasn’t good enough. “War” was everything their growing legion of fans was clamouring for, and filled with the anthems that would go on to reverberate in stadiums throughout the world. One of my first gigs was at Cardiff Arms Park in (I think) 1984 and if there ever was a band to attract a 13-year old boy, it was U2 in the mid-eighties. That yearning! Those spiralling guitar lines! That sense of certainty in what was right and what was wrong! You didn’t get that from The Fall, I can tell you (it goes without saying that I grew out of that stage fairly quickly and moved onto the wonderful and bizarre world of The Fall, New Order and The Smiths).

Back to the song. Kicking off with an ominous piano line, quickly yelled passionately over by our Serious Artist friend Mr Bono, then in come the drums. Unusually for a U2 song, the piano drives the song, rather than being the backing for Mr Edge’s chiming guitar2. And lordy, the band batter you into submission over the song’s four minutes, making you want to pump your fist in the air on numerous occasions. Yes, Mr Bono, I will be with you again. For a pompous tosspot, you have to say he’s got the perfect voice for this kind of thing, and a pitch-perfect ability to write a lyric without quite going over the edge (no pun intended).

For all the stridency and bombast, I’ve quite enjoyed listening to “New Year’s Day” again. Takes me back to my early teenage years in a not entirely unpleasant way. Can’t say the same about Simple Mind’s “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”.

I don’t like swearing in this blog, much. But fucking hell, is this song shit, or what? I’ve had to listen to it quite a few times to make sure, but yep, here is my verdict: It’s Shit. Anyone who says “Yes, but it’s a guilty pleasure and weren’t the Eighties great and blah blah blah” should be given a firm shake. Seriously, it’s songs like this that made the Eighties shit, and it’s songs like this that The Smiths and New Order and the rest saved us from.

Everything about it is just wrong. That awful echo on Jim Kerr’s voice! Those rubbish drums! Oh, sweet Jebus, that keyboard sound! Everything that works well in “New Years Day” goes horribly wrong in “Don’t You (Put The Rest Of The Line In Parenthesis)”. I can hardly bear to write about it any more. I just want it to stop. I hate it so much I’m not even going to post the track; you can watch the video if you really want to give yourself pain. I think I’d rather listen to The Alarm.

So there we go. Three more songs down, only another 351 to go. At this rate I’ll still be doing this in my dotage. Next up, some Great American Noise.

All of my Pitchfork articles are available here.

1 Funnily enough, in 2005 Mark Radcliffe and Mark Riley ran a regular feature on their radio show, trying to track her down, and meet up with her, assuming that she’d completely given up on the whole music thing. Unbeknowst to them, she’d recorded a double album.

2 Every music writer is contractually obliged to use the phrase “chiming” when describing his guitar playing. Like saying Johnny Marr’s guitar is “jangly”. ‘Tis the law.

MP3: Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) by Kate Bush

MP3: New Year’s Day by U2

Amazon’s Kate Bush Store

Amazon’s U2 Store

Amazon’s Simple Mind’s Store (If You Really Have To)

The Pitchfork 500 – New Prince Heads

The next bunch of Pitchfork songs aren’t quite grouped in the same way as previous sections, in an easily discussed theme. Instead, the thing that unites these songs is that pretty much everyone knows them, and by and large, they are pretty damn good. And yes, I know I promised this back in August 2009. I’ve been busy, alright?

New Order – Blue Monday
Prince and the Revolution – When Doves Cry
Talking Heads – This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)

New Order’s “Blue Monday” is one of those songs that is groundbreaking in so many ways, it’s almost impossible to know where to start. Unique melding of early ’80s New York Disco with Mancunian post-punk? A dance tune that isn’t about anything remotely funky or sexy? A record that was so expensive to manufacture that despite being the best selling 12″ ever, it managed to lose the massively entertaining but entirely hapless Factory Records money?

Having spent much of the Eighties listening to New Order, I know this song inside-out. So writing about it 25 years (25 years! Sob!) later is a bit odd. And personally I’d have put “Thieves Like Us” on here instead. It’s a much better song. (Funnily enough Peter Hook agrees, saying “I honestly thought Thieves Like Us, the single after Blue Monday, was far superior.”) If anything, New Order wrote at least three better songs (“Thieves Like Us”, “True Faith” and “Bizarre Love Triangle”, and I’m taking requests for “Temptation” too), but this is arguably the first song to ever mesh dance and rock. Few people have done it since (if you say Primal Scream, or Stone Roses, you can leave now, as you are beyond redemption).

Because, at its heart, “Blue Monday” is barmy. At the time, everyone knew New Order were unusual, and probably unique – the combination of their record label’s laissez-faire attitude to release cycles, their own obstreperousness, and their open-minded attitude to music (and drug-taking) made them quite like anyone before or since. “Blue Monday” mixed the dance beats they had heard during their New York trips with their own dour Mancunian heritage, producing something quite astonishingly different. And you’ve got to love their live version recorded in a sweltering Maida Vale studio:

After moaning about Pitchfork’s choice of Prince song earlier, they’re far more on the money with “When Doves Cry”. It’s an odd little song, veering from a declaration of lust into how people take on characteristics of their parents. Again, Prince is happy to show us just what a marvellous musician he is. Lucky get. Have a look at this rehersal footage (apologies if it’s been taken down):

Just look at the ease with which he sings and dances around; just listen at the elegant simplicity of the song, a dance record with no bassline. What a mover. What a singer. Git.

Talking Heads managed to combine out and out kookiness with a sharp sense of melody, and this track – cunningly subtitled “Naive Melody” – had this in spades:

But again, I can’t say it’s my favourite song of theirs1. I just can’t get that excited about it. One of their more funky little numbers, it gracefully showcases their ability to mix their fluid post-punk with soulful backing vocals and Nile Rogers-esque guitar lines; but despite all that, it all feels a little cold to me. Saying that, you can hear their influence reverberating through the music of today.

In fact, all three songs (and the artists that made them) had a huge impact on modern music that is still being heard now; everytime you turn on the radio or listen to your iPod or Spotify or whatever, you’ll likely stumble across something that owes a massive debt to these bands. What’s curious is that the three musical geniuses on show here – Bernard Sumner, Prince, and David Byrne – are so different. Sumner can almost be called an accidental genius; despite his obvious gifts, he always gives the impression that he’s stumbled across this great song by accident (he once said something along these lines in an interview, that songs were gifts falling from the sky at night. But he had clearly been drinking). Prince, on the other hand, shouts “GENIUS” at you whilst dressed in purple pants, playing five instruments simultaneously whilst simulating sex with three semi-naked models. Byrne is somewhere between the two; he wears his cleverness and talent on his sleeve but tries to stay cool about it.

No matter though. All three changed pop music and helped diversify it with soul, disco, house, funk, and all sorts of “World” music (I hate that phrase). Without these three musicians, popworld would be a much duller place.

1 That’d be “Once In A Lifetime”, of course, with “Road To Nowhere” as backup. Oh come on, you know I’m right.

You can read the rest of my Pitchfork 500 articles here.

MP3: Blue Monday by New Order

MP3: When Doves Cry by Prince

MP3: This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) by Talking Heads

Buy “The Best of New Order” (CD/MP3)

Buy Prince’s “Ultimate” (CD)

Buy “Once in a Lifetime: the Best of Talking Heads” (CD)

The Pitchfork 500 Old Skool Evolution – Run DMC to BDP

Authenticity is a funny old thing. In most musical genres you care to mention, there’s always a die-hard bunch of fans who complain that these new artists aren’t as good as the old ones, things were much better in the old days, blah de blah de blah. Of course, they are missing the whole point that the artists they so venerate were in fact reacting to the status quo of their own time, and were trying something new and revolutionary. Wanting new music to be like the old is just hypocrisy.

Run-D.M.C. – It’s Like That
Crash Crew – On the Radio
Rammelzee vs. K-Rob – Beat Bop
Boogie Down Productions – South Bronx

In that respect, hip hop is exactly the same. Even today, you still get people harping back to the old days of these artists, with Run DMC often spoken of in revered tones. Yet these acts – Run DMC in particular – were trying something new in a genre that had only really started to get mainstream attention. With Run DMC, it was mixing hard, tough beats a million miles away from the jauntiness of earlier hip-hop, mixed with some of the best rapping ever committed to vinyl.

Listening afresh to “It’s Like That”, you’re struck by how little fat there is on the record. It’s totally stripped to the bone (unlike the superfluous and pointless Jason Nevins remix). You could drive an Escalade through the gaps between the beats. You really don’t need me to tell you this is a great record, do you?

Crash Crew’s “On The Radio”, by comparison, is much more like the hip-hop that preceded it. You know the drill, a bunch of rappers, a funky backing track, and lots of bragging. Perfectly nice in its own way, and the record cover is frankly superb. There aren’t enough scrambling bikes in music these days, you know.

I Like The Bikes

As for Rammelzee vs. K-Rob’s “Beat Bop” – blimey, it doesn’t half go on. A bit like a cross between Rappers Delight and the The Message, it’s entertaining enough, and certainly forward-looking, but sheesh, 10 minutes?

Boogie Down Productions “South Bronx” is notable for KRS-One’s fantastic rapping style. Rather than going 10 to the dozen, trying to get as many words out as possible, he makes a statement.

Then pauses.

Then makes another statement.

Then pauses.

In the 300mph world of rapping, he was a revolutionary; by being that bit more thoughtful, he gives you space to consider every word he says. And he had a lot to say; this track is a furious denouncement of MC Shan and his track “The Bridge”. Poor Shan had the temerity to state that the Queensbridge Projects was the birthplace of rap. Bad move, Shan. Backed by Ced Gee (of the Ultramagnetic MC’s), KRS-One goes off on one, and after an opening tirade (“So you think that hip-hop had it’s start out in Queensbridge\If you popped that junk up in the Bronx you might not live”), he goes on to explain how hip-hop really got started in New York. It’s a direct forerunner of the East Coast/West Coast beefs of the 90’s.

I called this article “Evolution”. And what I mean is that these tracks are a bit like the first fish that crawled out on land – a bit ungainly and caught between the simple elegance of what preceded them and the huge diversity that would follow them (I’m really not sure that the Crash Crew would want to be likened to a lungfish, but I’ll bet they’ve never been called that before.)

Because next up it’s the fury and rage and power of Public Enemy, then the polar opposites of A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, and with them, the realisation that there’s rather a lot more to this music than bragging and slagging. These acts showed the way, with small and big changes here and there that started to turn rap into a huge global megaforce.

MP3: It’s Like That by Run DMC

MP3: On The Radio by Crash Crew

MP3: Beat Bop by Rammellzee and K-Rob

MP3: South Bronx by Boogie Down Productions

Buy Run DMC’s “It’s Like This – The Best Of” (CD/MP3)

Buy Crash Crew’s “Back To The Old School 2 – We Are Emcees” (CD)

Buy “Bi-Conicals of the Rammellzee” (CD)

Buy BDP’s “Criminal Minded” (CD/MP3)

The Pitchfork 500 Missing List Part Two

For all the great songs on the Pitchfork 500 list, there are some right duffers. And there’s some great, well-known, hugely loved songs missing. Following on from Part One, this covers the years 1980 to 1982. These are, of course, my own personal choice. If you can think of a band that the Pitchfork writers have missed, let me know by commenting or emailing me.

Willie Nelson – On The Road Again (1980)
The Stranglers – Golden Brown (1981)

Of all the mainstream genres in the Pitchfork 500, country is probably the worst served (we’ll leave the whole World music argument for another day). Yes, there’s a few cursory nods in the direction of alt-country – Bonnie “Prince” Billy/Palace Music, Low and Wilco, and even those last two are pushing the definition somewhat – but there’s no out-and-out country music on here at all. For a self proclaimed list of the “Best 500 songs from 1976 to 2006”, that’s a pretty big miss, especially when there’s everything else from thrash metal (Napalm Death) to MOR (Fleetwood Bloody Mac). No Johnny Cash, no Loretta Lynn or kd lang, and no Willie Nelson.

It’s even stranger that a great tune like Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again” is missing. This is a song that’s beloved by all and sundry, from Bonnie “Prince” Billy himself (who plays it at live shows) to Hannah Montana (who named an episode of her show after the song) It isn’t in the list when horrible AOR dross like Hall & Oates “I Can’t Go For That” and Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” are. If you don’t know it, watch this:

Brilliant, isn’t it? A rollicking love song about the joys of the road, being with your friends, seeing new places, and being so utterly lucky to be able to make a living doing the things you love, it should be played to every single rubbish band that complain about having to tour. This is one of the purest songs out there about being a musician and the sheer fun it brings. The fact that it’s also a massive earworm helps too, as well as not having an inch of fat on it. Wonderful song and a baffling omission.

The Stranglers were a pub-rock band, who found punk rock and reinvented themselves. Notorious for their violence, both on- and off-stage – threatening journalists was one of their favourite activites – they released “Golden Brown” in 1981. About as far from their earlier punk numbers as was possible, it was a harpsichord-driven song in 13/4 time, sung in a terribly posh voice by Hugh Cornwell1. Now, that’s the way to get rid of your old fans.

I remember as a 10-year old, still young enough to be scared by punks, so it was weird to love this strange turn by one of the biggest punk bands of the day. The Englishmen abroad video merely added to the mystery of the song: Naive me (and many other people, in fairness) thought it was about a laydee of the foreign extraction. But of course, the lyrics are deliberately ambiguous, with one clear stand-out line “Through the ages she’s heading west” spelling out reality.

Yep, of course, it’s about drucks. That most feted, most dangerous, most revered and hated of all drugs, Vicks Vapour Rub heroin. It’s a bit bloody obvious when you listen to the first verse again:

Golden brown texture like sun
Lays me down with my mind she runs
Throughout the night
No need to fight
Never a frown with golden brown

See? I mean, why would a laydee be running with your mind? Why would you need to fight with a purdy laydee? So yes, drucks it is. And it’s a fantastic record – and tons better than, say, “Happy Birthday” by bloody Altered Images.

Two top songs, which would have quite happily sat in the list. Next time, we’re back with the list proper, and the flowerings of some serious hip-hop.

1 Surely the only punk rock vocalist to have a BA in Biochemistry.

The whole list is available here.

MP3: On The Road Again by Willie Nelson

MP3: Golden Brown by The Stranglers

Buy Willie Nelson’s “One Hell of a Ride” (CD Box Set)

Buy The Stranglers “Greatest Hits 1977-1990″ (CD/MP3)

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The Pitchfork 500 Goes Goth – Echo to the Banshees

Goths! Black. Patchouli oil. Hair crimpers. More black. Dry ice. Being miserable. Yet more black. Ah, it was fun being a goth.

Echo and the Bunnymen – The Killing Moon
The Cure – Close to Me
Siouxsie and the Banshees – Cities in Dust

I was a teenage goth, you know. Well, more like a half-goth. A demi-goth. A part-time goth. I was far too much into The Fall, Cabaret Voltaire and New Order to ever really go down the road of become a full Balaam and the Angel fan – but there was a definite gothic tendency in my mid-80’s listening. Yes, I had a Bauhaus record. And Sisters of Mercy too. More than one, in fact.

Goths!

Goths!

Anyway, this bit of the Pitchfork 500 veers from the jangly alt-rock, the goodtime rock, the hardcore-gone-catchy of the last bunch of songs. Whilst the US indie scene vied for a combination of reality and harping back to a mystical past, UK music veered off into strange new places.

First off, Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon”. 25-odd years after first hearing this, I still find it inestimably creepy. There’s a weird oppressive atmosphere over the whole thing, from Ian McCulloch’s just on the edge of hysteria singing to Will Sargeant’s Television-on-bad-acid guitar. It’s also, after 25-odd years, utterly fantastic.

“The Killing Moon” is a desperate wail of a song, underpinned by a sharp sense of drama and a cracking tune. And there’s not many pop songs that go on about the battle between fate and free will, though I’m hoping that The Saturdays will soon release a song about Cartesian duality to even up the mix a bit. Goes on for about a minute too long though, no matter what it says in the book.

Next up, it’s The Cure with “Close to Me”. Again, like Echo, there’s an odd atmosphere, but this time it’s more like the warm fug of a student bedsit with the windows shut against the cold, gas fire on full. The video is also one of the best suited to the song in history:

Isn’t that just great?

Robert Smith always had a way of writing a catchy pop tune which harboured dark, nasty thoughts underneath, and this is no exception. “I’ve waited hours for this/I’ve made myself so sick” isn’t exactly an ideal opening couplet for a sweet and gentle love song really, is it? Whilst I find The Cure’s records more than faintly embarrassing in the cold light of not being a teenager, there’s no denying this song’s haunting catchiness.

Finally, along comes Siouxsie Sioux wailing along with her Banshees. You know what, I don’t think I’ve willingly chosen to listen to a Banshees song for about 20 years. But you know what else? I really quite like “Cities In Dust”. I’d forgotten how modern and shiny the mid-80’s Banshees sounded (you can see exactly where Garbage got all their ideas from), and how striking a singer Siouxsie was.

There aren’t many rocks songs about the destruction of Pompeii in AD79, you know. Being inspired by a visit there, and no doubt with the fear of imminent nuclear destruction1 in the back of her mind, Siouxsie sings portentously about “Hot and burning in your nostrils/
Pouring down your gaping mouth”

Ok, so the video hasn’t aged quite as well as The Cure’s, but few videos from the early-80’s have, frankly. Still, Siouxsie is on imperious form and the video doesn’t leave you in any doubt about the subject matter. Which is nice.

So there we go, three songs from the UK Goth Explosion. Well, a bunch of black-clad miserablists couldn’t ever really cause an explosion, and Echo and the Bunnymen aren’t exactly goths, but you know what I mean. For songs that are, on the surface, really a bit miserable, I’ve rather enjoyed listening to all of them again. I wasn’t expecting that, I can tell you.

Back over the Atlantic for the next Pitchfork, to see what’s been happening in the strange and exciting world of hip-hop and rap.

MP3: The Killing Moon by Echo and the Bunnymen

MP3: Close to Me by The Cure

MP3: Cities In Dust by Siouxsie and the Banshees

1 You really had to be there, you know. The early ’80’s were great fun for nuclear paranoia. Honestly, you kids these days with your dirty bombs and bio-weapons; we had 10,000 Russian warheads pointing in our general direction, and an ex-B movie actor in the White House. Much more fearsome, frankly.

The whole Pitchfork 500 series of articles can be found here.

Buy “Killing Moon: the Best of Echo & the Bunnymen” (CD)

Buy The Cure’s “Greatest Hits” (CD)

Buy Siouxsie and the Banshees “The Best Of” (CD/MP3)

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