Monday, 28 November 2011

10 Great Metal Songs

I've done punk songs, now it's time to pay tribute to it's older brother. Metal. I'm not going to attempt to classify every song here as Heavy Metal, Black Metal, Thrash Metal...fuck it! Just metal! It really was the first genre of music that i gave my heart to and it still reminds somewhere for me to hide my head in frequently. No other theme this week except awesome metal's 10. Oh yeah...NSFW lyrics all over dis.

1. "Everything Ends" - Slipknot

Let's start off with the nine. Slipknot were brought into my world as I was leaving high school and entering college. Their album Iowa was released in 2001 and blew my mind. Track #5 "Everything Ends" had a large hand in that. Front man Cory Taylor wrote this about a young and misguided attempt on his own life over, what else, a girl. Metal has a very sharp and dangerous exterior, which is why many music fans tend to be skeptical, but underneath that are some great and heartbreaking stories.

2. "Run To The Hills" - Iron Maiden

Holy shit this song is so effin' good.  Britain's Iron Maiden are one of those bands that everyone knows, but not everyone can name one of their songs. This is for you. A cynical look at Europe's conquest of the Native American inhabitants of the New World, it's actually the rhythym section on full force here. The drums and rumbling bass conjure the image of a stampede of horses charging into the fog of war in the great plains of North America. Metal has a knack for epic lyrics...usually involving war or death in some way.

3. "Here To Stay" - Korn

Korn were one of the centre pieces of bringing a fresh sound to metal in the 90's. Using funk elements and at times a clear hip-hop influence they were able to reach an audience outside of the usual acid-washed, long-haired stereotypical metal crowd. Thats not to say the energy and power of metal wasn't there, Take "Here To Stay" which was actually off of Their 2002 album The Untouchables, a soaring and triumphant return to the ear shattering and mind bending music they were renowned for.

4. "Forest" - System Of A Down

I've mentioned System's political and socially conscious place in the music world before, but stripped down to their music they are a metal group. 2001's Toxicity catapulted them into the ionosphere without surprise. Every track on that record is a revelation. For some reason "Forest" always was one track from the album that I would constantly go back to.

5. "Cowboys From Hell" - Pantera

Pantera were prominent in the late 80's and 90's metal scene. Their musicianship, energy and unapologetic attitude toward critics made them the perfect metal poster children. "Cowboys From Hell" was what finally made the world turn and appreciate Pantera, it's a 5 minute lesson of riff-ography and general badassery. It really showed that metal can be loud, powerful and melodic. Almost perfect.

6. "Immortal Corrupter" - Gwar

Gwar take alot of heat for being a joke. While they're the first ones to accept it and give it right back, what they aren't known for is incredibly well written metal songs, which is a shame. So this entry is mainly on here to shine some light on the masterpiece that is their 2001 album Violence Has Arrived. Namely the song "Immortal Corrupter" from start to end it's a savage ride of metal power chords, machine gun drumming and clever and infectious vocals of Oderus Urungus (aka Dave Brockie). When I do my Top 100 Metal Songs this will be in the top 10. Truth. It's that good. And no, I didn't forget spellcheck, 'Corrupter' is spelt that way on the album sleeve. Who gives a fuck. When you record a song this important, spelling errors are the last thing you should be concerned with.

7. "Something Inside Of Me" - Wicked Wisdom

Something from the women of the metal world, of whom there are many and they are dangerous. Wicked Wisdom features non other than Jada Pinkett Smith on lead vocals, yep thats Will Smith's wife. She actually proves herself a very capable lead singer in the metal world. This song would always get wedged in my memory, it's hard to forget

8. "Her Ghost In The Fog" - Cradle Of Filth

This song is downright cool. Cradle Of Filth's albums weave stories that find their roots in all sorts of mythology and tales. "Her Ghost In The Fog" is actually a powerful and epic love story. A young, beautiful woman is raped and killed by men of the clergy. The woman's lover finds her and pieces the clues together to find those responsible. The 5 priests are later burned alive in their church in retribution. Some very impressive guitar work and drumming throughout this song, as well as very suiting male/female vocals in an almost operatic fashion.

9. "Waste" - Skrape

I honestly do not know much about Skrape, but if you're a metal fan and can track down a copy of their debut release New Killer America, for god's sakes do it. A buddy of mine at the old radio station found this gem buried under a pile of whatever cds we were sent free that week and we took a chance on it. Just well crafted, high-intensity metal. Exactly what we were looking for. "Waste" is just one of many good songs off the album. Try also "Sunshine", "I Know" and "Broken Knees".

10. "Invisible Kid" - Metallica

You're goddamned right I did it. Metallica is my favourite group, so how could I not include them? I also decided to include a track from the controversial album St. Anger hoping to get some comments. I know it's picked on often, but i have yet to hear a convincing reason why it's a bad record. And i'm not in denial.
"Invisible Kid" is one of many excellent tracks off St. Anger and album full of energy, rage, passion and about 9 million "Fuck You's" screamed right in your face.

Monday, 21 November 2011

10 Great Long Songs

Well it's parade season. Parades, long drown out attractions that inconvenient traffic and force on-lookers to stand in the cold for a minimal payoff. Especially this time of year. Theres something about them though that still brings the curiousity out in people. Got me thinking about songs that don't fit within the standard 3 and a half minute format convenient for radio stations and general mainstream. But they still deserve a listen. Here's 10 great Long Songs. (and no i'm not doing In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida)

1. "Thin Blue Flame" - Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter never ceases to amaze me. Every song i've heard of his is different from the last. The advantage of writing a song without limits of time is to have the pacing and the ability to achieve the atmosphere you desire. A couple of the songs on this list build to a marvelous musical nadir. This one clocks in at 9:38.

2. "Dr. Phibes Rises Again" - Misfits

Coming in at 6:49 "Dr. Phibes Rises Again" is the longest Misfits song on record, and it's only found on an album of b-sides and demos, 2001's Cuts From The Crypt. It's a tale of murder and betrayal from beyond the grave, based on the movie it shares a title with. According to the liner notes the song was originally recorded by the Misfits side-group Kryst The Conquerer, and re-recorded with the new Misfits line up.

3. "Marquee Moon" - Television

In the 70's Television were harrowed as one of the forerunners of the punk movement. Then in 1977 they did the unexpected by releasing a near 11 minute, musically intricate track called "Marquee Moon". It blew critics away with it's craftsmenship and even required a few members of Television to be replaced due to their lack of skill for some of the guitar work. The whole second half of the song is pretty much a solo afterall.

4. "The Decline" - NOFX

Clocking in at over 18 minutes "The Decline" is this lists' champion of duration. NOFX had an idea to instead of making quick short punk songs, why not make one epic long one? They soon discovered that recording and mixing such a track was a nightmare. They vowed to never attempt it again. Apparently there is a rumour that "The Decline" syncs up with Pink Floyd's film "The Wall", i've never tried it.

5. "The Outlaw Torn" - Metallica

From Metallica's longest album is one of Metallica's longest songs. It's usually regarded as the best off of 96's Load. Back then CDs could handle 75 minutes of music on them, Load comes in at 74:59. The last 30 seconds had to be left off of this track just so it would fit. This song gets into my psyche so much it hardly feels like the 10 minutes it is....i find it difficult to pick a favourite Metallica track, I typically change my mind daily, but this one gets the nod in high rotation.

6. "Jesus Of Suburbia" - Green Day

Yeah I know this one is mainstream and has been played in it's entirety on radio, but goddamn it's a great fucking track. We all know the story of 2004's American Idiot, how their original album's worth of songs got deleted off their computer and lost forever. Thankfully. I feel this album was a return to form for Green Day and a very impressive step in a new direction. "Jesus Of Suburbia" is a flawless example of that. I mean flawless too.

7. "Bartender" - Dave Matthews Band

2002's Busted Stuff was compiled of songs originally recorded during the Lillywhite Sessions with producer Steve Lillywhite. The band opted not to release it as they felt the songs were too depressing, however after the positive reaction from fans at live shows and the leaked bootlegs got around the internet, DMB relented and released the songs on Busted Stuff. Dave Matthews Band are notorious for long songs and their extended jamming during concerts can make them even longer. Songs like "Bartender" however make it a welcome sin.

8. "When The Levee Breaks" - Led Zeppelin

I could've chosen from a multitude of Zeppelin tracks, i've always been rather fond of "When The Levee Breaks". Something about the intro and the way the music resonates throughout the song. I read it was actually a difficult track to lay down in the studio, which is also why they rarely played it live.

9. "The Mariner's Revenge Song" - The Decemberists

This one could've been included on a number of different themed lists....and i'm sure it will appear again at some point. Even if that is against my rules. It's just a great song that I can never get enough of. And at 8:47 that says quite a bit. It weaves a tale through the eyes of son seeking to avenge the death of his mother. The instruments used really capture the era the story takes place in as well. If you haven't been made aware of The Decemberists until now, you're very welcome.

10. "Konstantine" - Something Corporate

I was about to include this one on last week's list, but had the idea for Long Songs and saved it for here. The person who introduced me to it referred it as our generations "Stairway To Heaven". It's another one of those songs that builds and builds until the song's crescendo. Something Corporate were typically known for emo-esque love songs, and delivered a doozy with "Konstantine". It wasn't even included on an album until Songs For Silent Movies and even then only on Japanese import. It's an autobiographical song about singer Andrew McMahon's relationship with his ex-girlfriend. Most of the lines are about situations that actually happened to him. Enjoy it.

Monday, 14 November 2011

10 Great Songs With Girls' Names

Women are the best thing about being a heterosexual male. Seriously, they're sexy. Men write songs about women all the time...some are a little shy and hide the song's meaning behind metaphor and imagery. Others just come out and name the song after them. Here's 10.

1. "Valerie" - Steve Winwood

What ever happened to Steve Winwood? He was huge in the 80's and one day simply wasn't there anymore. It wasn't until Eric Prydz sampled this one in 2004 that people went "Oh yeah.....". Valerie's identity has never been revealed, but Winwood's lyricist insists she's real.

2. "Felicia" - The Constellations

Musicians love strippers. It's a fact. They make no apologies for explicitly including strippers in videos and stage shows. It's no surprise then that many songs have been written about the pole dancers. Chris DeBurgh, Van Halen and Akon are a few that come to mind. The Constellation's 2010 funky tune is about one named "Felicia".

3. "Rosanna" - Toto

For a long time it was common knowledge that this song was written about Rosanna Arquette, until a 2002 interview with Toto's guitar player revealed that while she was dating Steve Porcaro (keyboards) the song just shares her name and nothing else. This one takes me back.

4. "Angie" - The Rolling Stones

Another song where the titular girl's identity is shrouded in specluation. Many thought it was about Angela Bowie, David Bowie's wife. Jagger himself claims Keith Richards came up with the title after his own daughter's name. Either way it's a very sweet song and was uncharacteristic for the Stones at the time, as it's entirely acoustic.

5. "Kathleen" - Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter is one of the world's best modern songwriters. Hailing from Idaho he's had a huge following for most of the last decade and has yet to have any real mainstream success. "Kathleen" is off his 2003 album Hello Starling. The opening line caught me instantly "All the other girls here are stars; You are the Northern Lights". Other songs by Ritter to check out "Harrisburg", "Thin Blue Flame" and "Stuck On You".

6. "Suzanne" - Weezer

This song was used during the closing scene in one of my all time favourite flicks, Mallrats. In fact, the monkey in it's 2001 cousin Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, was named after this song. "Suzanne" features all of Weezer's dork poetry and classroom love letter mentality that you'd expect, but in an endearing way. Theses songs weren't an imitation of themselves yet.

7. "Judith" - A Perfect Cirlce

It's pretty clear what this song is all about. Someone having blind faith and calling themselves and others sinners for very small and petty reasons. Judith was Maynard's mother's name, she was paralyzed by a stroke and still held on to her faith.

8. "Sylvia Plath" - Ryan Adams

We all know who Sylvia Plath was, poet, authour of The Bell Jar and a seriously depressed woman. She committed suicide at age 30 by sticking her head in the oven and leaving the gas on. Odd that Adams is singing about wanting a woman like that, maybe he merely means a strong willed woman. Someone slightly eccentric and shows her love in different and imaginative ways...come to think of it...I want that too!!

9. "Veronica" - Elvis Costello

Love that there are many solid singer/songwriters on this list! This one came about during Costello's collaboration with Paul McCartney. Though Costello claims it's not one of his favourite songs for it's pop sensibilities and accessibility, it's definitely a great track. It's clearly about his grandmother wasting away in a retirement home. Grim places they are.

10. "Jane" - Barenaked Ladies

I seemed to have my choice of many songs named "Jane" or "Mary" or any combination of the two, The Barenaked Ladies' "Jane" always reminds me of my childhood and the lovely musical awakening I had there. So I picked this one to cap the list off. I always enjoyed BNL's more seriously toned tracks to their poppy pun-filled ditties. It's actually named after an intersection in Toronto, Jane & St. Clair. I guess since I was coming of age like the character in the song I identified with "Jane", though in my mind it was a different girl I was singing about. Who was that girl? I'll never tell.

Thanks for reading! Write a comment! Request a list!!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

10 Songs About War

Here in Canada, the 11th Day of the 11th month is committed to remembering those who gave their lives for the freedom we enjoy daily. I am not a politcian. I am not a philosopher. Nor am I in any position to give a detailed and lengthy rant about the evils of war, but typically it sucks. Sadly almost every civilization has experienced it in one form or another. Their muses and artists have not ignored the subject either. Here are 10 great songs about war.

1. "Rooster" - Alice In Chains

Vietnam inspired many great songs. Funny how such a futile and seemingly pointless occupation could inspire so many. I guess it isn't funny when you think of it. This one is about Jerry Cantrell's father who's nickname in Vietnam was "Rooster". The lyrics really exemplify the horror the soldiers experienced over there and the backlash they were ambushed by upon returning home. The video features Cantrell's father telling it from his perspective.

2. "Fortunate Son" - Creedance Clearwater Revival

Americans are silly....and sometimes terrifying. Upon it's release many patriotic Americans hailed "Fortunate Son" as a new anthem for those proud to wave the red, white and blue and believed it was a tune in favour of their new war. If they listened to the lyrics however, they would see it was critical of how rich and powerful politicians start wars that the poor end up being sent to fight.

3. "White People For Peace" - Against Me!

Against Me! have never been shy about where they stand on the politics of war. 2007's New Wave feature "White People For Peace" which screams for a halt of unnecessary bloodshed in the Middle East. As the lyrics unfold it paints a picture that makes the current events of a war on terror so baffling you almost wish it was just words in a song.

4. "One" - Metallica

I almost did this list and forgot about this one...."One". Metallica usually try to keep music and their own personal alignments seperate. This song is actually based on the Dalton Trumbo novel Johnny Got His Gun, which takes place in the first world war. The lead in the story gets horribly wounded in the trenches, loses his arms, legs, face and voice but is still being kept alive. This song also was Metallica's first foray into the world of music videos, which features clips from the film adaption of the novel.

5. "B.Y.O.B" - System Of A Down

Lets keep the metal theme going. When this song was released I heard many people lamenting about how sad it was that System Of A Down made a party anthem. I found it sad that so many listeners missed the point so badly. It's a plea to us who blissfully ignore whats going on to our fellow countrymen over seas. Ignorance breeds ignorance. It also serves up the "respected" government officials who start this shit and expect those who voted them in to clean it up.

6. "Straight To Hell" - The Clash

I don't talk about these guys enough, but they were always so much more to me than "Rock The Casbah" or "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?". I'm sure you recognize the intro riff that MIA used in her 2008 track "Paper Planes". The song was written about the American soldiers having children with Vietnamese women. "Going straight to hell" is those kids expecting America and the "father" they find there to be their salvation.

7. "No More" - Eddie Vedder

Although it was included as a bonus track on the iTunes version of the Into The Wild Soundtrack, it wasn't on the original release and doesn't really jive with the rest of that album's vibe. It is a straight forward, kick ass, grass roots protest song. Which is what this generation needs more of.

8. "Hero Of War" - Rise Against

Rise Against do a good job here of describing how it must be to get trucked off to another country and follow orders you may or may not understand. People come back as heroes, rightfully so, but maybe they aren't so proud of the "heroic" acts they carried out while they were away. Too many stories have been told of prisoner and even fellow soldiers being treated less than humanely. Just important to view all sides of an issue.

9. "Born In The USA" - Bruce Springsteen

Another one of those songs that people kind of missed the point to. Sure many Americans are proud of the country they are born in. I'm Canadian and I thank my lucky stars for my nationality almost daily. But Springsteen's song was more about how the Vietnam vets were getting spit on upon their return from a lost battle, unlike the heroes welcome veterans from other wars have always received. Don't think I could have done this list without the Boss either. Just didn't feel right.

10. "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" - The Pogues

I've said some things here and included songs that might not say the greatest things about the wars of this crazy world. What it all boils down to is the fact that there are men and women fighting everyday for a cause. Whether you support that cause or not, those soldiers, wherever they were born, deserve to go home and fulfill their lives. They all have families. They all have hearts and minds. Every last one of them deserves your respect and gratitude. That's what November 11th is all about. Not wars. This song speaks for itself.