Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part VI: #100-81

'The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography'
Oscar Wilde, Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891 (Norton Critical Edition, 2007, p.3)

100. Mick Jagger - 'Let's Work'
(1987, #31, TM)

DL: Reminiscent of and from the same period as George Harrison's seminal 1987 cover version 'Got My Mind Set On You', only totally dreadful. Somehow not as hilarious as his current guest spot though.

AN: Thatcherism dressed up as a rootsy work-song. I often ponder over the mystery of how The Stones’ best singles (‘Sympathy for the Devil’, ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’, ‘Gimme Shelter’) were so gloriously transcendent, when they were clearly such massive twats.

JG: Somewhere in the depths of a dark cellar, Iain Duncan Smith is assessing the potential of this shite as the soundtrack to a workfare advert near you. Scrub that toilet you lazy fuck!

TM: A personal bête noire: a ghastly paean to Thatcherism from the new establishment’s Stakhanovite ‘rebel’. This is a millionaire haranguing the “lazy”: like a triumphalist Tebbit speech set to ‘music’.

99. Templecloud - 'One Big Family'
(2011, #24, TM)

DL: One of many stripped back, 'haunting' and rubbish 2011 cover versions of middling rock records alongside Birdy and Charlene Soraia's efforts, this time flogging KFC. Really, who covers Embrace?!

AN: The remarkable credibility of cabaret in the 21st century: how did it happen? Quite liked the original though. In fact, I’ve just revisited 'All You Good Good People' and can confirm that it’s actually definitely better than completely mediocre. It uses the pentatonic scale, which is the magic one. I hope to speak more about this in future.

JG: This was complete toss when Embrace did it. What’s the point of a new version from a karaoke Winehouse? 

TM: Slushy middlebrow song in symbiotic relationship with KFC advertisement shock! This is more fraudulent family championing in Cameron’s Britain, appropriately harking back to late-90s insipidness.

98. The Thrills - 'Big Sur'
(2003, #17, DL)

DL: Typical of much charting indie-pop of the noughties. Backwards-looking, empty, ironic pretentions of musical authenticity. Oozing with desperate West Coast clichés at every turn. You're not American!

AN: The Thrills are Irish, so I forgive them. Almost everything about Ireland is good. Except Bono obviously. And sectarian violence. And the conservatism of the Catholic church. But I stand by my point.

JG: Right, I see. Shoehorning completely unwarranted Kerouac references into song is the way forward, is it? What’s next? Wipe those Dharma bums? 

TM: Merely another sort of middlebrow; this is in the Top100 ahead of Viva Brother due to its higher chart placing. This embodies dull competency and the line about “monkeyin’ around” is undeniably irritating.

97. Heather Small - 'Proud'
(2000, #16, DL)

DL: Takes me back to 2003 again, and a bleak pub jukebox on very narrow rotation when no one fed it with money. What have you heard today to make you want to rip said jukebox off wall? Insipid bullshit.

AN: Don’t mind this. Black female Londoners scarcely need criticising, even if this isn’t particularly brilliant.

JG: The main issue here (other than its contribution to the commodification and cheapening of the amateur sport of athletics) is with the appalling grammar – “What have you done today to make you feel proud?” Yourself, surely? 

TM: The message of the ‘motivational speaker’ in song form. Emblematic of the wilful self-delusion and ‘feel-good’ cajoling of the management culture that has served us so well in recent years...

96. Tonedef Allstars - 'Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Jurgen Klinsmann?'
(2006, #13, TM)

DL: Have there ever been any good unofficial football records other than 'England's Irie'? As a footballing nation, we really don't do sophistication very well. The musical equivalent of a tabloid spit-roast.

AN: Another football novelty song. Nowt more to say on this meme, I’m afraid.

JG: No. Just fucking no. 

TM: Not just deluded, but odious in its xenophobic idiocy. English ‘pluck’ is embodied by Warden Hodges and Frank Bruno. You think it can’t reach lower depths... and then the “It’s a Wayne’s World Cup!” sequence rears its repugnant head.

95. LeAnn Rimes - 'How Do I Live'
(1998, #7, TM)

DL: Celine Dion-lite late-nineties hit penned by restraining order pop architect Diane Warren. I'm sure it has tugged at the heartstrings of people with no personality the world over. Haven't missed it.

AN: LeAnn Rimes was a poor woman’s Shania Twain, whose ‘I’m Gonna Getcha Good!’ is one of the all-time great pop tunes.

JG: Conservative US music culture is all arse over tit, no? Here’s a good honest clean-living 15 year old girl from the flyover states wondering how she “gets through a night without you”. Oreos and soda pop, presumably.

TM: Rimes’s singing is incontinent in its deployment of melisma: “bab-e-eh-e-eh-y-aiiirrrrrrrr!” “no-o-ow-ow-ow!” Tedious, routine, compliant: monumentally unappealing in every conceivable way.

94. Barenaked Ladies - 'One Week'
(1999, #5, JG)

DL: I will get into trouble, but unfunny, annoyingly smug surprise UK hit that really must have worked better on the other side of the Atlantic. Pre-cursory caution for future rap-rock chart hazards.

AN: Don’t mind this either, largely because of some neat little harmonies in the bridge. As with ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, I feel like this is open about its frivolity, unlike, say, Ed Sheeran, who dresses up frivolous shite as bankable emo-lite pseudo-art.

JG: Not even the late Scatman John (clearly the template for this vapid nonsense) would have allowed a line such as “chicken de China, the Chinese chicken” to slip through quality control.

TM: There is an exasperating conceit in the singer’s delivery; you can practically hear the goatee beard. This is ‘zany’, but sadly not the Marx Brothers. It at least keeps its twaddle within 3 minutes.

93. East 17 - 'Thunder'
(1995, #4, JG)

DL: Particularly low ebb from a band approximately a billionth as treasured as their one-time equals Take That. It's this kind of lineage that leads up seamlessly up to N-Dubz. May sound good on 12 Es.

AN: Yeah this is pretty crap. I live right next to Walthamstow now. Weird.

JG: This song starts: “When the thunder calls you / From the mountain high / Better spread your wings and fly.” It’s all downhill from there.

TM: Pompous piano chords. Egregious Brian Harvey posturing and gesticulating in the video, alongside scantily clad ladies. “When it calls you!” “Whoah-oh-oh!” Plus, a silly backwards-vocal bit. Cretinous.

92. Mike Batt with the New Edition - 'Summertime City'
(1975, #4, RC)

DL: Oh such luck! There's a reason that some of these seventies hits haven't endured. Maybe sentimental and nostalgic for some, but surely vacuous, cheap and vacant to everyone else. I hate the 1970s.

AN: A pretty shockingly cynical co-option of the vitalism of funk and disco that quickly descends into MOR froth after an attention-grabbing intro.

JG: Bloody hell, did this flaccid, uninspired, sub-Mike Love crap really get into the Top 10 when The Beach Boys’ own Surf’s Up album sold about five copies?

TM: Carrot-topped Tory songster produces wimpy, inane ode to the weather, the city and a baby. He was later responsible for a preposterous science-fiction concept album and TV-musical (as brilliantly featured here).

91. 50 Cent - 'Candy Shop'
(2005, #4, TM)

DL: Misogynist 50 Cent really is a caricature of an absolute penis isn't he? After Eminem, such a shame to see Dre back something so cliched. Worst euphemisms for blow jobs in the history of music too.

AN: 50 Cent is so, so fucking terrible. For me he will always epitomise the awful mood of 2003, the year casual venality broke: Bush, Blair, Iraq, reaction in the air; The Darkness on the radio, Jonathan Ross on the box, Mohican haircuts, and just around the corner was the next entry …

JG: This is the sound of 50 Cent ordering a young woman to perform sexual favours for him. Hideous.

TM: Can he sound anything other than arrogant and unpleasant? Ah, what great days in 2005: Bush and Blair; the public lapping up sub-prime mortgages, thinking they can live the 50 Cent life. Fuck 'bling'.

90. The Libertines - 'Can't Stand Me Now'
(2004, #2, AN)

DL: Self-mythologising, glorified demo from band who were for the most part pure image over substance. Typifies the gaping universe between their popularity and rather non-existent cultural contribution.

AN: Thankfully I feel like I don’t have to go to any great lengths to convince people why The Libertines were so vastly obnoxious any more. But I would just like to remind people that Pete Doherty once tried to justify his heroin habit by saying that his mum would rather he was a drug addict than a vicar.

JG: I appreciate the autobiographical nature of this song, but I never really got the Libertines. It all sounded like a bit of an East London in-joke to me. Plus, that Carl Barat is an offensively earnest little runt, no?

TM: I wouldn’t put this higher than #108 or #102, but it is bog-standard stocking filler from Hexham’s most improvident son. Just a bit dull, really; sign of the undue sway of folk like The Strokes.

Well facking futile, indeed.
89. Adele - 'Chasing Pavements'
(2008, #2, BB)

DL: Can't say it does much for me, but it doesn't drive a grinding churn into the very pit of my stomach like the opening notes of 'Someone Like You'. Big hit, but now dwarved by omnipresent successors.

AN: Adele is just so boring isn’t she? Even FATM has some vaguely interesting arrangements. Watch barely human Guardian journalists attempting to justify their complete lack of conscience/consciousness here.

JG: The more I think about it, the more this song is basically a reiteration of Shed Seven’s ‘Chasing Rainbows’. At least choose ‘Getting Better’, if you must.

TM: Is she a one-woman boon for UK exports or a selfish objector to the 50p tax rate? Either way, the grain of the voice has always agitated me; this is so fucking tasteful and wearisome: leading nowhere.

As captivating as a crime scene in an ITV cop show
88. True Steppers & Dane Bowers, Ft. Victoria Beckham - 'Out of Your Mind'
(2000, #2, DL)

DL: Seems this was to the underground garage movement what Skrillex and Nero are to dubstep now. Hook-less arsewank that was deservedly beaten to the punch by Groovejet. This tune's still punishing me.

AN: I loved UK garage, hence I have a soft spot even for its more risible commercial incarnations.

JG: Somewhere in the bowels of deepest hell, Satan is assessing the potential of this shite as the permanent soundtrack to an eternity of being hosed down with Bernard Manning’s diarrhea.

TM: Particularly early-noughties pop stylings here. Misapplied drum ‘n’ bass and techno tropes; dismal vocals from ‘Posh’ and Dane: “Ice cream, you’re out of your mind”. Maddening, airbrushed opulence.

87. Oasis - 'All Around the World'
(1998, #1, DL)

DL: Ah, we meet at last. Thankfully I'm only having to endure the 5 minute edit (!) and am saved the 2,000 key changes and extended sense of coked-up, bloated aural violation of its 9-minute plus form.

AN: I am a committed and long-standing Oasis apologist, but my argument hinges on the fact that, post-Morning Glory, they did absolutely nothing of any worth whatsoever. Except for ‘Stay Young’, which is quite good. And ‘Where Did It All Go Wrong?’ which is a nice Neil Young pastiche (listen to the harmonies on line “alone under stormy skies” about half way through).

JG: The remarkable sound of Oasis ripping off their previous ripping off of Badfinger’s ripping off of The Beatles. 

TM: Epically bloated farrago from their disastrous folly Be Here Now. With every 8/10 review and sycophantic comment, you could sense people’s musical horizons narrowing. “Yeah I know what I know!”

"Yeah I KNOW WHAT I KNOW!" / Aye, all too little...

86. Little Jimmy Osmond - 'Long Haired Lover from Liverpool'
(1972, #1, TM)

DL: Why would you adopt a Scouse persona to snare some paedophiles somewhere? It's again an utter enigma as to why anyone would have not only wanted to listen to, but pay actual good money for this.

AN: Everyone knows this is shit, and why.

JG: It is patently ridiculous for a nine year old child to be singing a song such as this.

TM: What is ‘cute’ about this infernal little tyke singing a post-coital ode to a Scouse hippy? It is about as appealing as the prospect of a nuclear winter spent in Slough within earshot of Lee Newell.

85. Boyzone - 'You Needed Me'
(1999, #1, TM)

DL: It's constantly hard to comprehend that the people who identify with these teeth-grindingly blank records on any level are capable of fully-functioning emotions. Thank God boy bands have evolved!

AN: ‘Love Me for a Reason’: magic. Everything else they ever did: black magick.

JG: Isn’t the point of these slow schmaltzy songs for the singer to admit to a feeling of vulnerable dependence on another? Rather than the other way round?

TM: Hubristic and hyperbolic: you just know that it won’t end happily. Pedestals and human peculiarities don’t mix. He apparently ‘lies’ but is somehow redeemed by her God-like influence.

84. The Killers - 'Mr Brightside'
(2004, #10, DL)

DL: Yet another cheesy noughties indie-disco number totally inferior to the records it alludes to. Very popular this one, possibly more so than anything else so far, so reactions will be interesting.

AN: Hmm. Controversial. The Killers were obviously an utterly pernicious cultural force but it’s difficult to argue with this tune taken in isolation. The bass line in the chorus is particularly nifty.

JG: This song would be improved with the following lyrical amendment: “But it’s just the price I pay / Destiny is calling me/ Open up my eager eyes / Cos I’m Norman Whiteside!” Youngest goal scorer in World Cup history, I’ll have you know.

TM: Another entry damned by ubiquity. Not that it stands up that well to aesthetic criteria in its contrived ‘uplift’ and early-80s pilfering: having ‘influences’ doesn’t make your music interesting.

83. The Woolpackers - 'Hillbilly Rock Hillbilly Roll'
(1996, #7, TM)

DL: The most successful line-dancing hit our shores have ever produced? Or simply: the only one? The thing is, Emmerdale is shit, and God knows I've persisted with it. Stood no chance with awful genre.

AN: I never did try line dancing.

JG: Do you know, I think I preferred 'Old Pop in an Oak' by the Rednex to this. At least that had a (very, very) faint whiff of anarchy about it.

TM: Foreign influence can sometimes embed backwardness, as with this silly Emmerdale spin-off. As Meades argued: ‘Insularity and rural indigence prompt the same emotional landscape wherever they’re found’.

82. Paul Oakenfold, Ft. Shifty Shellshock - 'Starry Eyed Surprise'
(2002, #6, JG)

DL: As you may have gathered, rap-rock makes my skin crawl in a way not much else can, and even when one of its vocalists takes his dubious talents into other waters, the delivery continues to grate.

AN: Not great, but not all that bad.

JG: By the early 2000s, superstar DJs were the Rick Wakemans of their day, living comfortably in the sticks, inviting Crazy Town to appear on their half-arsed songs and pilfering the opening lick from Harry Nilsson’s sublime ‘Everybody’s Talkin’’ like right bastards.

TM: The inane flipside of dance music’s utopian dreams. Nilsson’s sampled ‘Everybody’s Talkin’’ is stripped of its splendour amid the downright gormlessness. “Seeing stars! Seeing stars! I’m seeing stars!”

81. Curtis Stigers - 'You're All That Matters to Me'
(1992, #6, RC)

DL: Some of these 'love' songs really are soulless. Said it before and I'll say it again: the only romantic love worth penning a song about is that of the dark, sadistic unrequited variety. Total shit.

AN: Crazy midi percussion track. Bizarre.

JG: Jesus, this is boring shit. Have we got any Michael Bolton songs coming up?

TM: Neutered horns, smugly clicking percussion, sanitised ‘gospel’ backing vocals, a waist-coated man earnestly emoting: is anything less liable to connect with me than an early-90s AOR ballad? So humdrum!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part V: #120-101

120. Typically Tropical - 'Barbados'
(1975, #1, TM)

DL: More borderline racist and embarrassing novelty tripe, once again documenting the 1970s plight of Brits abroad. just as bad as the Vegaboys hit that it inspired. Mercifully, this no longer happens.

AN: Is there something recoverable in the communitarian aspect to this, the call and response, the singalong element? Just playing Devil’s Advocate. Obviously I don't like it really.

JG: Typically Western staging of a troubled Third World state (as was) as the usual island paradise. Later revived by the Vengaboys to inform us that they were going to eat pizza.

TM: It wouldn’t be half as annoying if the singer didn’t adopt the cod-Caribbean accent, auditioning to be Sting seemingly. That 70s synth sound is grating, rather than charming as it can often be.

119. Bobby Goldsboro - 'Honey'
(1968/75, #2 - both times, RC)

DL: Gooey dreck that makes 'Seasons In The Sun' sound like 'I Know It's Over'. Thinking about 1970s pop makes me feel so very tired. A constant in these kind of lists, and quite rightly so. Make it stop!

AN: I’d never heard this before. When it started up I was ready to defend it as Bacharachian orchestral kitsch. But then the chorus spectacularly failed to happen. Not good. A Westlife antecedent.

JG: This is completely forgettable easy-listening fluff, somewhat enlivened by the curious line: “I impressed her with a puppy.” 

TM: Treacly ballad, monotonous enough to make ‘Windmills of Your Mind’ sound as adventurous as Nick Nicely’s ‘Hilly Fields (1892)’. “Guess you could say” such vapid smugness deserves a neck-wringing.

118. Kenny Loggins - 'Danger Zone'
(1986, #45, DL)

DL: One of my nominations and a staple of free CDs from the Daily Star circa 2004. Selected on the grounds that I couldn't imagine why anyone would possibly want to own it. Cinematically short of epic.

AN: Republican gym pop rock fuck.

JG: If you think about it hard, the individual elements (a continuous pulse-like rhythm, lots of synth bits, muted guitars) almost have something of Can or Neu! about them, but recalibrated for heinous Reaganite celebrations of jingoist toss.

TM: I resent the infernal persistence of these sort of films and this species of chugging, airbrushed 80s rock. Transformers: the Movie is nostalgic viewing for me and its music is at least enjoyably ludicrous.

117. Reverend and the Makers - 'He Said He Loved Me'
(2007, #16, DL)

DL: Laughably simplistic social commentary from the man who must have been dragged through several hedges backwards clinging onto the Arctic Monkeys’ coat-tails. Educated enough to lyricise better too.

AN: 2007 was a dark time for music. But then again, so is 2012. Will somebody please just do something good? It’s getting fricking desperate in here.

JG: Middle class types playing on their “northernness” to get away with writing some utterly ignorant Jeremy Kyle shite about chavs whilst having no more idea of such demographic environments than George fucking Osborne.

TM: Embarrassingly dire ‘northern’ vocals and sneering faces. The self-styled ‘The Reverend’ is a chancer, who claims to be influenced by John Cooper-Clarke. Evidence that Sheffield music is not always great.

116. Simple Minds - 'She's A River'
(1995, #9, TM)

DL: A world away from their innovative early work, this arrogant drone marked their last real dent into the hit parade. Even U2 did this kind of stadium synth-rock more convincingly. Sounds like cocaine.

AN: I had this on a tape of the Radio 1 Top Ten countdown in the early weeks of ’95. This was a lowlight. Human League’s ‘Tell Me When’ was also on there: an underrated little gem of a tune.

JG: She’s a river??? What the fuck does that even mean??? That you sit next to her and smoke doobies till you’re blue in the face???!!! No wonder she fucked off. 

TM: Clattering bunkum, with a U2 likeness and inexplicable Buddhist monk motif in the video. Once they had travelled; by 1995 their terminus was Stadium Rock gigs and lengthy features in Q magazine.

Hi, I'm Khalid from infamously masterly Dr Who
adventure 'Time Flight', walking a tightrope
115. Tina Turner - 'The Best'
(1989, #5, AN)

DL: Can't say it's one of my favourites, but for an omnipresent late 80s soft-rock track, it does its job. Can't see much in it actively worth loathing. It's just there and it's not going away soon. 

AN: My choices were shit, weren’t they?

JG: I usually enjoy this song more if one completes the time-honoured trick of exchanging the word for “you” for “I” and vice versa.

TM: It’s hard to overstate the prevalence of this bathetic, overblown song in 1990-95: music for bland, kitchen unit magnates. It was SAFC chairman Bob Murray’s favourite and a perennial at Crosby-Buxton era games.

114. N-Dubz - 'I Need You'
(2009, #5, DL)

DL: The very moment I heard "Facebook" name-dropped into the chorus of this, I decided I had dropped out of Radio 1's demographic. Light as an excuse for persistent online stalking too. "Bang bang shoes"?!

AN: An awful-sounding tune from a band with the most awful-sounding name in pop history.

JG: This is just an advertorial for Facebook, right?

TM: Petty, gormless anthem for misogynist stalkers: “I been searching all over Facebook”. “And that’s why we call them bitches” – pots calling kettles black and all that. Plus: silliest hat since #147.

113. David Gray - 'Babylon'
(2000, #5, DL)

DL: If you're missing faux-hippy Jo Whiley's tenure at the above station, don't, unless you sadistically enjoyed having boring, prematurely middle-aged singer-songwriters like this pounded into the ears.

AN: I vividly remember being 16 and hearing Jo Whiley (who I saw as a sort of female John Peel) hyping this up on Radio 1 in 2000 and thinking, hang on, something has gone badly wrong here. This was a seminal moment in the bourgeois incursion into the “indie” centre-left.

JG: OK, the man can sing, but seriously, how is this excessively cosy shite any different to nonsense like Des’Ree’s notorious 'Life', only masked by a slightly more refined lyricism? Music for pre-9/11 “End of History” bores.

TM: It’s my ‘5’ rating that keeps this out of the Top 100. The opening is surprisingly wistful and evocative; then the familiarly dismal chorus enters – so odious! He is also culpable for this utter calamity.

112. Tottenham Hotspur FC - 'Ossie's Dream (Spurs Are On Their Way to Wembley)'
(1981, #5, JG)

DL: This looks, sounds, and feels much more than thirty-one years old, featuring traditional football song platitudes that no one would ever actually say, not even pundits. But laugh at the funny Argie!

AN: Ossie Ardiles. Fucking hell.

JG: There was a whole generation of novelty football songs like this that in hindsight look like understandable attempts to create a happy image to counter the pockmarks of hooliganism and racism afflicting the Beautiful Game at the time. Still, none of the others feature Ardiles reading “in the cup for Totting-ham” off an autocue.

TM: Mild enough compared with a few of the football horrors to come in this list. Yet this is a tired, scarf-waving musical knees-up that even the most die-hard mockney wannabe could not rehabilitate.

111. Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin - 'Separate Lives'
(1985, #4, DL)

DL: If you take some of his songs on face value (excuse the pun) then some of Collins' work is fairly agreeable pop. Not even the U.S. R’n’B community can defend this, though. Like an egg throwing a strop.

AN: Phil Collins. Fucking hell.

JG: Every bit as turgid as only something associated with the dreaded Phil Collins can be. Nashville non-entity Marilyn Martin ended up as a realtor and therefore contributed to our current economic misery just as she previously contributed to our cultural misery. 

TM: Power Ballad exemplar featuring the receding one on auto-pilot, accompanied by Martin’s showy melisma. As far as separation songs go, not a patch on Peter Hammill’s Over. Not the last we’ll see of PC.

110. Kula Shaker - 'Tattva'
(1996, #4, RC)

DL: Sometimes you wish The Beatles had not bothered going to India after all. 'Strawberry Fields'-looting cod-mysticism that was somehow not even their worst crime. Hinduism via Sky Sports and Carling.

AN: I don’t really mind Kula Shaker. The thing is, they used to get slapped down and ripped to shreds in the NME and Melody Maker, so you could just treat them for what they were: a sort of sixties pantomime. Fast forward to the noughties and Noel Fielding is hailed as a comic genius; no one bats an eyelid.

JG: Of the many atrocities committed during the Britpop era, the entire catalogue of Kula Shaker ranks among the worst. Tenth generation facsimiles of various ’60s radicals with the ink so worn it’s impossible to know what any of it might once have meant. 

TM: Retro-rock with ludicrous mystical frills. Clemency for Mills’s ‘youthful indiscretions’ with the far-right would be more feasible had he not polluted our auditory senses with this unmitigated drivel.

109. Billy Ray Cyrus - 'Achy Breaky Heart'
(1992, #3, RC)

DL: I've got a theory about MOR Country rock: it's fucking shit. Like most genres that happily live outside of the mainstream UK charts, it takes a novelty record to enter the popular consciousness.

AN: Fakey mediocre shit.

JG: Another easy target, but this is the kind of easy-going depoliticised noddy country music (a music that began life as a folk music of dispossessed poor people) that is Republican through and through. At least the Dixie Chicks came to understand the connection.

TM: Cocksure country-pop from a vain specimen of traditional masculinity. If this isn’t bad enough he is also notable for allowing George W. Bush to use another of his songs as his 2000 campaign anthem.

108. Rod Stewart - 'Every Beat of My Heart'
(1986, #2, RC)

DL: Another mid 1980's power ballad with a heroic and patriotic sentiment. What commercial radio stations piped into wagons were invented for. Makes one think of amorous builders getting their oats.

AN: I’ve already expressed total incomprehension of the Rod Stewart aspect of life. This doesn’t change my view.

JG: Everything that is regrettable about patriotism – cloying sentimentality, the de-contextualisation of “national” signifiers (bagpipes in this case) and the screening out of real (Real?) social problems. All whilst living in tax exile.

TM: Absurd, bombastic Tartanry, with the Londoner Stewart bellowing: “Here’s one Jacobite!” Some of the most idiotically parochial lyrics ever, shouted out against a clattering 80s backdrop. Hell.

107. Fast Food Rockers - 'Fast Food Song'
(2003, #2, TM)

DL: Easy target, but about as funny as receiving a County Court Judgement on your birthday. Moronic to the point of nausea and more so when it was inescapable. Really, who pays good money for this stuff?

AN: I mean, this is a kids song isn't it? I find it hard to criticise this sort of thing without making vague gestures at the “infantilisation of culture” or something equally tendentious.

JG: An advert for various unethical food outlets performed by photogenic types who have clearly never been within 25 miles of any such establishments. Post-ironic in a bad way.

TM: As ‘amusing’ and appetising as an evening’s date with Andrew Lansley trying to sell his health reforms to you – if more coherent. It doesn’t exactly give Yeats or Donne a run for their money with its symbolic imagery.

106. Kaiser Chiefs - 'Ruby'
(2007, #1, DL)

DL: A pub rock 'indie' band that were in the right place at the right time; it was horrifying to see the expensive video and crisp Stephen Street production values applied to something so undeserving.

AN: People are talking now about a Britpop/nineties revival but the Kaiser Chiefs are proof that it never went away. The Vaccines are just the Kaiser Chiefs with less interesting arrangements aren’t they?

JG: Their early singles were at least faintly amusing, but Kaiser Chiefs had well run out of steam two years on with this boring song about unrequited love. Not exactly ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’, is it? 

TM: “Due to lack interest”: the Chiefs show admirable foresight of their own deserved obscurity today, with their sole utility as a punch-line for all too obvious gags about the 2011 ‘England Riots’.

105. Black Eyed Peas - 'I Gotta Feeling'
(2009, #1, DL)

DL: King of a thousand Prozac electro-urban anthems, its lyrical themes are utterly depressing in that we're stuck with hearing this at any major social event we ever attend during the rest of our lives.

AN: Good call Dave. Empty hooks running riot.

JG: The prospect of devil-may-care hedonism has rarely sounded so joyless.

TM: Liked this initially when I heard it: though that was before it gained context. Relentless airplay has worn away some of its appeal, but I still wouldn’t put this anywhere near a Worst 200 personally.

104. Brotherhood of Man - 'Figaro'
(1978, #1, TM)

DL: Tacky and tasteless as the Seventies efforts that have plagued our chart so far are, it's terrifying to imagine what the era has in store for us as we progress. An insultingly inferior ABBA pastiche.

AN: Novelty trash. Quite like the wah-wah guitars though.

JG: This is just embarrassing holiday music from the era when the Costa del Sol was a novelty. The roots of ‘Macarena’ and ‘The Ketchup Song’ can be found right here.

TM: Asinine simulation, nay, assassination of Abba’s daft but wonderful ‘Fernando’. This lothario lacks even the vaguest revolutionary credentials and this “magic” “Romeo” just seems a bit of a creep.

103. Nick Berry - 'Every Loser Wins'
(1986, #1, TM)

DL: Funny how few soap operas have attempted to release singles on the back of an in-house band since 1986. I defended 'Heartbeat', this I cannot. Precedent for many solo soap star pop careers, however.

AN: Wow, this is pretty bad. I reckon there’s probably a degree of global consensus straddling race/religion/creed about this.

JG: Quite apart from Berry’s flat voice (which required extremes of reverb, the Auto-tune of its day), the message of this song is complete Thatcherite toss. Because if every loser wins, then those that never “win” must therefore be undeserving incompetents who aren’t self-reliant enough, etc. 

TM: Garrulous piano tinkling does not disguise a rather dull song. Road / love metaphors, illuminating light in tunnels and pearls of existentialist wisdom: “Nothing is certain in a changing world”.

102. Viva Brother - 'Darling Buds of May'
(2011, failed to chart, TM)

DL: This inspired our project, and is a laughable failure in terms of a supposed ‘resurgence’ in meat-and-potatoes indie-pop. Note the stolen 'Some Might Say' passage. Britpop is not coming back! Capiche?

AN: British art really is terrible right now right across the board isn’t it? Just risible.

JG: Kagouls? Check. Button-down shirts? Check. Boring non-entities playing at being lads? Check. Roaring commercial success? Un-check. Viva Brother – the new Heavy Stereo.

TM: Astonishing that this hasn’t quite made the Top 100! “IT. IS. WHAT. IT. IS!” This derisory, strutting shite should live in infamy as a cautionary tale for all budding British ‘guitar-bands’. Laughable!

'Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now'
101. Staind - 'Outside'
(2001, #33, JG)

DL: Nu-metal was fucking horrible, but when its key players slowed down the tempo to show off their sensitive sides, the results were scathingly bad. How is this not monotonous? Charmless, ugly music.

AN: Ha. This cheered me up.

JG: Self-pitying, disempowering shite that aims low by simply asserting that all those beautiful people are just ugly and unhappy inside too. But postmodern capitalism rewards superficiality and plasticity. Shallow people are pleased with themselves. This, shockingly, is why you are unhappy. Dig deeper and the insights will start to come. 

TM: The dirge-friendly grain of his voice affronts almost as much as Lee Newell’s. Recently and somewhat aptly, a new Staind track entitled ‘The Bottom’ appeared on the Transformers: Dark of the Moon soundtrack.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Worst 200 Songs word-cloud #1

To whet public appetites before the next entry in our compendium of musical catastrophes here is a visual representation of the words I use in my entries; the larger the word the greater the frequency of its appearance in my writing:

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part IV: #140-121

'There is no surfeiting on gall: nothing keeps so well as a decoction of spleen.'
William Hazlitt, 'On the Pleasure of Hating', 1826, Selected Writings (Penguin, 1970, p.405)

140. R. Kelly - 'Ignition (Remix)'
(2003, #1, DL)

DL: Stupid, shallow RNB dross, but have often wondered if R. previously sang ''It's the original to Ignition''. Yet I am not going to Google it to find out. I'd like to punch this song in multiple organs.

AN: In an era of remarkable efflorescence and vitality for American R’n’B, it was a shame that R. Kelly’s lowest common denominator surrealist adolescent puerility acquired such widespread credibility. The epitome of average: mainstream, mediocre, bloated, boring.

JG: The opening line “now normally I don’t do this” promises much. Sadly, the song then starts.

TM: I liked this at the time, partly out of admiration for its soulful chord-sequences, partly as a wilful liking for mainstream pop. This ‘remix’ now sounds inert and who’s actually heard the original?

139. Craig Douglas - 'Only Sixteen'
(1959, #1, RC)

DL: Yet if I used these lyrics as part of a defence in court I'd be on a register faster than you can say 'name and shame'. Especially if I professed to be the same age as her. Just painfully fluffy.

JG: Is it just me, or is this song actually about grown men grooming under-age girls?

AN: Another of Robin’s choices. I don’t feel qualified to comment really but if he chose this I feel certain it must be a bad thing in all kinds of complicated cultural historical ways.

TM: Plodding, would-be juvenilia and the earliest entry in this esteemed litany. “She was too young to fall in love”. To paraphrase Epic45, I’m getting too young for this sort of insipid crap.

138. Robson and Jerome - 'What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?' 
(1996, #1, TM)

DL: It really irks me to see Cowell lauded as an evil genius, when there's really no skill involved in releasing records on the back of TV programmes. Never found his putdowns witty or insightful either.

JG: Weak pastiche of Jimmy Ruffin’s classic, and one that regrettably set the template followed by The Soldiers today; that’s actors playing soldiers inspiring soldiers playing singers. Ouch, my head.

AN: Another paragon of pointlessness, and a bar against ’90s nostalgia. 

TM: The sound of a nation clutching the comfort blanket close, afraid to make strides into the future. “This land of broken dreams”; like then-PM John Major, they took refuge in dreams of rural retreat.

137. Busted - 'You Said No'
(2003, #1, TM)

DL: Was prepared to engage in some revisionism here, but now I'm listening to the fucking thing, these cod-Americanisms really grate. At least Blink 182 did/do this kind of shit with some wit and irony.

AN: I quite liked Busted’s 'Thunderbirds' tune. Another tune I don’t really have much to say about. It’s shit, obviously.

JG: The Eton Year 11 understanding of what punk rock ought to sound like.

TM: This particular future was a dead-end; a boy-band chasing after the rock ambulance. They present a whiny, brattish mode of masculinity – utterly lacking in charm in its “ME ME ME” lamentations.

Punchable, us?
136. Liz Kershaw, Frank Bruno, Bruno Brookes and Samantha Fox - 'Come Outside'
(1992, failed to chart, TM)

DL: Brookes was deemed a Radio 1 relic when he was just 35, but somehow not three years before in '92 when this alone should have seen him off. Almost endearingly crap in its long-lost, Bruno'd-up shame.

AN: The ’80s vogue for ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ committing suicide in a flurry of risible Major-era celebrity comedy awfulness.

JG: If anyone wants to understand the dark roots of the Matthew Bannister revolution at Radio 1, then look no further than this insipid vehicle for Bruno Brookes’s shatteringly conceit-driven ego.

TM: Two Brunos and two arch ladies defy all aesthetic criteria with a work that is both apocalyptically awful and weirdly enticing. As archaic in its way as #138: “slap ‘n’ tickle”, “bag of chips”.

135. Emerson, Lake and Palmer - 'Jerusalem'
(1973, #2 - album, RC)

DL: I think prog-rock may be pretty much the antithesis of what I look for in music, and this old fart's racket is typical of that which makes me evacuate any environment that it might aurally vandalise.

AN: Prog. Another genre that bored hipster revisionists should have left well alone.

JG: Listen carefully and you can hear the moorings that tied early prog rock to a genuinely grassroots artistic network tearing away as ELP develop into Great Artistes Who Really Mean It. Twats. 

TM: Re-envisioning of Blake’s ‘alternative anthem’ that strips out the dissenting vision. In ELP land, the mills are a threat not to the exploited populace but the picturesque view from the country house.

134. Gary Glitter - 'Dance Me Up'
(1984, #25, TM)

DL: I certainly don't want this on my hard drive. An awful piece of glam-funk regardless of any wider context, though it does help and a violent assault on the senses. Glad I never have to hear it again.

AN: Again, this is the sort of ‘80s kitsch valorised by Shoreditch hipsters, not to mention multiple Zane Lowe-championed bands of 2008-10.

JG: Long past his insouciant pomp, and long before a well-known series of deeply unfortunate events, this is Glitter’s pre-conviction low. 

TM: Horrific display of braggadocio and female objectification. It is okay as ‘he rocks’, says a YouTube commentator in a misguided application of Larkin’s Law. Oh, and the song is sheer, leering shite.

133. The Lighthouse Family - 'Postcard from Heaven'
(1999, #24, TM)

DL: Some records on our chart are there because they are wildly irritating, obnoxious, tacky or moronic. This is just nothing. Boring and empty. Like listening to wallpaper. Mahogany wallpaper at that.

AN: Hmm. The Lighthouse Family were a multi-racial Newcastle band. For that reason I’m willing to forgive them even this.

JG: Mick Hucknall’s most obvious successors were already going through the motions a mere two years into their career. This is flaccid non-pop, and Tunde’s flat, expressionless voice was never exposed to such appalling effect as here.

TM: Typically soporific slush from these favourites of Peep Show’s resident slick and unhinged businessman Alan Johnson. They came from Newcastle, though clearly from Osborne Road wine bar territory.

132. Modern Romance - 'Ay Ay Ay Ay Moosey'
(1981, #10, JG)

DL: Why do people residing in sunnier climes never make records about venturing up to our slate grey, overly built-up and dystopian destinations? I don't really mind this. If you squint, it's Joey Barton.

AN: What must going on a Mediterranean holiday have been like in the ’80s? Not good judging by this. Grudgingly, I admit that neoliberal capitalism may have been responsible for some moderate progress on the lifestyle front.

JG: The emerging New Pop spawned ABC, Scritti Politti and early Spandau Ballet. It also spawned this shite, proving that all pearls contain their kernel of turd. 

TM: A rare misfire from one of pop’s greatest eras; a simpleton’s take on Kid Creole and the Coconuts’ urbane, exotic cosmopolitanism. Here’s evidence that steel drums can sound workaday, not joyous.

131. Toto Coelo - 'I Eat Cannibals (Part One)' 
(1982, #8, TM)

DL: I do like a song I can relate to. Just not this one. At this point the New Wave sound of things must have reached saturation level. Reminiscent of Siouxsie and the Banshees, only completely inferior.

AN: A bad week for '80s excrement, this.

JG: Why the fuck would anyone saunter down to Woolworths and buy this shite when they could have Bow Wow Wow’s contemporaneously magnificent 'Go Wild in the Country' for exactly the same price?

TM: Inexplicable poppycock that has surely been given ‘ironic’ kudos within the context of ‘cheesy pop’ discos. 1982 was great; yet this is, as Carlin argued, an Opportunity Knocks idea of ‘raunchiness’.

130. Coldplay - 'Fix You'
(2005, #4, DL)

DL: How can such a huge sound seem so lacking in soul? Just another example of supposedly universal and all-compassing song-writing that just alienates all that aren't on board. If only Coldplay had bite.

AN: Everyone was fooled by Coldplay back in the day. Everyone. Apart from Alan McGee. Well done that man, inexplicably.

JG: Yes, they’re a pathetically easy target but they hardly help their cause with plodding neo-dadrock like this, do they? Remarkably, most recent offering ‘Paradise’ trumps this in the shit-ness department at every turn. 

TM: The vague sweet-nothings of banal popular song haunted the TV dramas of Dennis Potter; in forty years time this will surely elicit bemusement not fascination. What was that about light igniting bones?

129. Inner Circle - 'Sweat (A La La La La Song)'
(1993, #3, RC)

DL: Don't you just miss the halcyon days of 1993's cod-reggae stampede? Must admit this raises a subtle grin, for those disturbing nostalgic reasons again, but ultimately it makes UB40 sound authentic.

AN: The novelty arse end of early-’90s reggae-inflected pop. At the other end of the spectrum stood Ace of Base, one of the great musical collectives in human history.

JG: Inner Circle came out of the same mid-70s Jamaican reggae milieu as Black Uhuru and slogged away for years releasing multiple albums for little reward, with plenty of personal tragedy along the way. I don’t begrudge them this money-spinning hit, terrible though it is. 

TM: Watered-down, identikit reggae backs crude lyrical sentiments which desperately require some wit. The operative adjective is ‘leaden’. ‘Erotic City’ this most certainly is not.

128. Flo Rida (Feat. T-Pain) - 'Low'
(2008, #2, DL)

DL: I really couldn't give any more of a fuck about this irksome Shawty and the continent-sized club that she frequents any more than I give a fuck about Stranraer. Don't they care that they're generic?

AN: I hated these horrible, horrible R’n’B tunes from the mid-noughties, for which the formula was: tacky 808 drums, synths playing dystopian chromatic empty hooks, and notably nasty misogynistic lyrics. Usher’s diabolical 'Yeah' led the charge.

JG: It’s all a bit sad that R'n'b has become nothing more than a vacuous soundtrack to various dance-based teen movies (Step Up 2 the Streets, in this case), but such is life.

TM: “Like a pornography poster/She showed her”. Tedious ‘booty’ and brand obsession. Its parent album at least benefits from being the only Mail on Sunday ever not to feature the odious Peter Hitchens.

127. Sinitta - 'So Macho'
(1986, #2, DL)

DL: Well, gender roles certainly weren't dead in 1986. There is literally no humanity in this. Although the joke may be on me as I suspect it documents same-sex preferences as well as heterosexual ones.

AN: School disco trash.

JG: Simon Cowell’s first major pop music success, and it very nearly stalled until Iain Burton’s £5,000 loan guaranteed its release as a single. Without this, there might be no X Factor today. Burton, you absolute bastard. 

TM: While hi-NRG was often great, its two envoys in this list so far have been atrocious. While the music adds irony with every orchestra-hit, the lyrical outlook is tiresomely traditional and submissive.

126. Kate Nash - 'Foundations'
(2007, #2, DL)

DL: An admittedly warm and infectious chorus with some magical and delicate production bludgeoned senseless by numerous painful lyrical howlers. Which one's your favourite? “Intelligent input”? “Fit-tah”?

AN: Good call Dave. I wish we’d had more recent stuff on this list so far (probably should have picked more meself). It’s much more worthwhile critiquing stuff that people still like or have recently.

JG: A kind of ITV version of Lily Allen with infuriating longevity; annoying in much the same way that the fact that The Upper Hand is technically Britain’s longest-running sitcom is. 

TM: The video’s studied mundanity fits Nash’s accentuated mockney voice: animated socks, pink and blue toothbrushes; cup-cake feminism par excellence. The “Bitter! [...] FITTAH!” lines define ‘irritating’.

125. Showaddywaddy - 'Three Steps to Heaven'
(1975, #2, RC)

DL: Nothing wrong with the song, but as a cover version it does seem supremely pointless. I can guarantee that there'll be some very important cultural and political reasoning behind this nomination.

AN: Again, Robin Knows. I bet there’s something wonderfully savage about this on Sea Songs somewhere. Have a look.

JG: Like #133, this is failing non-pop by virtue of its total lack of discernible melody. Dave Bartram’s vocals are also strange, as though they had been auto-tuned years before such things were possible. 

TM: As with the landfill indie contingent’s pilfering of Britpop, it is the idiot copyists 15-20 years down the line who deserve maximum ire. Ageing teddy boys may have found solace; I resolutely cannot.

124. Boris Gardiner - 'I Want to Wake Up With You'
(1986, #1, DL)

DL: I think someone played at their wedding reception when I was a toddler and it made me retch even then. I would like 'Come Play With Me' by The Wedding Present as the first dance when I get 'spliced'.

AN: Quite enjoyed this, for some reason. Multicultural London; sweet, pretty lass.

JG: In hindsight, 1986 was a bit like 1976 in terms of the appalling state of the pop charts (and therefore of radio). No wonder raves were only just around the corner.

TM: He had played bass for Lee Perry, yet this is a wimpy frisbee of a record. There are courtly enough sentiments, but few signs of life. ‘This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.’

The video is beguiling, actually
123. Kajagoogoo - 'Too Shy'
(1983, #1, DL)

DL: Number one during my early weeks, but I've never solved the mystery as to why anyone would want to own this song, no matter when it was released. Just an inane, ridiculous chorus that grates terribly.

AN: And this. Fucking hell this is pretty good stuff, vocals and chorus aside. Which is a good portion of the song, allowably.

JG: It would be nice to think Kajagoogoo’s music could inspire me to a wittier riposte than “too shy? Too shite, more like!” But sadly it can’t. 

TM: Redolent of the worst eighties tendencies: Thatcher and machismo, with its Falklands homecoming motif. This lacks the brash, rich palette of Trevor Horn or the ideas of Paul Morley. Just galling.

122. Brotherhood of Man - 'Save Your Kisses for Me'
(1976, #1, RC)

DL: I knew 70s pop was a kitsch load of inoffensive yet somehow sinister arse from another galaxy before we started this project but now I feel this even more so. Maybe Flo Rida and LMFAO aren't so bad.

AN: More novelty tripe.

JG: More lightweight mid-70s escapism during a time of economic crisis. A musical precursor of Michael McIntyre, then. 

TM: Cultural complacency, 70s-style: not a pretty sight. A heftily moustached, wing-collared dullard leads inert dance routines and mouths a mid-Atlantic ode to a three year-old. Dorries would approve.

121. Westlife - 'The Rose'
(2006, #1, TM)

DL: Are there really people out there that are truly moved by this plodding and calculated, insincere guff? This is impossible to like. 'Westlife on auto-pilot'. What an ominous phrase. Lighters in the air!

AN: Westlife must win the title for least defensible boy band. Nothing redeemable about them whatsoever. I mean really nothing.

JG: Do the people who buy this kind of shite actually like it? And if so, why?

TM: 14th number-1 from ‘the boys’, pawns of Simon Cowell in his ongoing attempt to debase pop-culture. As Hazlitt argued, ‘Anyone will be almost sure to make money who has no other idea in his head’.