Monthly Archives: January 2010

Music Videos, pt II

Radiohead – Videotape. This is the winner in a contest for making a Radiohead music video to their latest album In Rainbows (the “Aniboom video contest”). It is an illustration of the uncanny, with everyday objects suddenly an inexplicably coming to life when no one is around. It reminds me of scenes and moods from films like 2001, Solaris and The Abyss. Exceptionally well made. The contrast with the very emotional song is very effective.

Blur – No Distance Left To Run. What is the most vulnerable human state of being? To be asleep. It suits the song’s lyrics of “thank you, good bye” – and Damon looks hilarious at the end!

Apparently he has said this about the song at some point: “It upsets me, that song. It upset me singing it. Doing that vocal upset me greatly. To sing that lyric I really had to accept that that was the end of something in my life. It’s amazing when you do have the guts to do that with your work, because it don’t half help you.”

Nits – dA dA dA. Being the title track from the last album of the band’s “golden era” (my opinion), like much of the rest of the album it deals with growing up/coming of age/childhood. This is a recurring theme on many other of their songs, like “Boy In A Tree” and “The Infinite Shoeblack” from the previous album Giant Normal Dwarf.

Please be patient with the Finnish announcers at the beginning of the video. The man on the right is a good friend of the band and even appeared briefly on their album Wool via telephone.

R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts. Well, what can I say? This song has become incredibly popular and has, like U2’s “One”, become a bit of a cliché. But R.E.M. or the song itself can hardly be blamed for this, and it is still a great song and very powerful live. The moment where Michael Stipe starts miming the words still gives me goosebumps.

Coldplay – Trouble. Another ballad! There is not much to say about this one: it is one of Coldplay’s best songs and probably their best video. It is a perfect illustration of the lyrics.

Björk – All Is Full of Love. A gorgeous, beautiful song with a gorgeous, beautiful video. Like so much of Björk’s work, it is completely its own thing and was very different when it came out. It still is. All is full of love.

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The Best Song In the World: “Secret World”

The best song in the world was written by Peter Gabriel and is the last song on his 1992 album Us. The lyrical theme is about the aftermath of a relationship, with regret mingling with a feeling of resolve and starting over. The “secret world” is defined as that world that exists between two lovers that no other have access to.

I have loved this song for well over 15 years now and I always return to it. At least twice every year it gets stuck in my head for days, keeping me awake at night and refusing to leave me alone. For me the ultimate version is the ’93/’94 live version; the arrangement, the players, the delivery – it is flawless. The 2003 version is good too and has a more satisfying end, but I prefer Manu Katche’s more delicate drumming.

I think PG as a lyricist has been severely overlooked. He has a vocabulary and set of idioms that is all his own  – “you put out and I recieve” – and he is one of the few  songwriters who can bring tears to my eyes. He does the sort of pamphlet/declarative writing very well too: “with no guilt and no shame / no sorrow or blame / whatever it is / we are all the same”. In fact, looking at it now, I realised just how much that particular section of this particular song has influenced my own writing.


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Live Music

This, in my opinion, is the whole point of music – playing it live. Music is an event; it takes place when performer and audience meet. Music is an outside entity; it is created when performer and audience merge. I have experienced this for myself, but only a bare handful of times and always as an audient. A live performance has the ability to in a very real and tangible way change the people involved. One person enters, another person leaves.

Given the experiential nature of music, and the way a live performance involves many more senses than a studio record listened to through a stereo system, I have found many to be be of the opinion that live records are somehow inferior entities, below both the sweaty gig and the considered studio album. I disagree, and have always done.

I think the way I started to really listen to and be affected by music plays a big part in this. I can point out four, maybe five records that really got me interested in music, and two of those are live recordings. Well, one and a half at least: The Nits’ Urk and U2’s Rattle & Hum (for more on R&H, see my Achtung Baby review).

An important effect of this was that when at the tender age of 9-10-ish I heard the studio recordings of these songs, I became aware, at least subconsciously, of the concept of rearranging music. Of adding, removing and changing parts of songs to make them work better live, to add variety for the players and to accomodate new ideas. I was downright disappointed in the Joshua Tree version of U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” for example. At the very onset of when I started to really listen to music I was given the impression that live music was somehow better.

And it has been like that ever since. Of course there are exceptions, but take a band like King Crimson: here, the studio recordings are actually less important than the live performances. Yes, their albums provide an opportunity for considered statements and the introduction of new material to the audience, but it is not until the pieces have been played live for at least one whole tour that they truly become what can be. Very few KC songs are ever better in their studio versions. And happily in KC’s case there is a plethora of live material availiable for purchase and immediate download on the DGM Live website, currently spanning 40 years of playing.

I do not have a conclusion or anything to all this, I just wanted to present a few thoughts on the subject. Let me say this – I missed Leonard Cohen’s recent touring in Europe due to lack of money, and I am instead very very greatful for the live recording made in London that was later released on CD and DVD. Without it, I never would have had my life changed by hearing “A Thousand Kisses Deep”.

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