Tag Archives: punk

Top 10 Songs of 2013: #4 – “Recovery” by Frank Turner

23 Dec

Frank Turner

Frank Turner is no stranger to this whole music thing. His road to get to now was just a slight bit unconventional. You see, Turner’s first music love was Iron Maiden metal. Yes, the picture above does juxtapositional wonders: tattoos on his fingers hugging an acoustic guitar. His folk fervor came after his initial band, Million Dead – a post-hardcore effort with songs like “Murder and Create” and “Pornography for Cowards” – split up. After coming across Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, Turner had an apotheosis: fuse his hardcore roots with a punk-infused folk style and see what comes of it. Five albums later and fit with a full backing band, The Sleeping Souls, Turner has just reached the pinnacle of his solo career with his 2013 effort Tape Deck Heart, which coincidentally was inspired by another break up; this split was of the love variety.

Turner, of Meonstroke, Hampshire, has developed a unique style based on his illustrious and diverse career. It seems that when you blend hardcore and folk together, you get an esoteric form of punk. His music is laced with an acute acoustic vibe that maintains punk angst and power. Think Violent Femmes mixed with celtic punk mixed with Bob Dylan. It doesn’t seem to mesh, but Turner skillfully does it, and he does it particularly with the #4 song on our list – “Recovery.”

In 1962, Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield penned the song “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” and this ditty concisely stated a fact of life. Breaking up is indeed hard to do. Turner wrote and recorded his new album after the collapse of a long-term relationship, and this adversity sparked some tremendous music. “Recovery” is not your usual break-up song, though. Turner’s lyric is jam-packed with candor and passion. In a sense, Turner, whose vocal is that of a strained raconteur, is pleading throughout the song, and the subject of his emotional petition is skillfully placed as the conclusion of the piece when he sings “Darling, sweet lover, won’t you help me to recover.”

Turner, in an ode to Dylan and other folk songs of the past, packs in so many words in each verse that the song plays like a short story. The music permits this lyrical burst. The Sleeping Souls help drive the piece, which is carried by a swinging piano and heavy percussion. The acoustic guitar glides with Turner’s busy vocal. Musically, the climax comes at around 2:15, when the Turner’s vocal falls out after the bridge in favor of a small piano solo and rising guitar. The strength of this song, though, is Turner’s masterful lyric.

Perhaps the strongest lyric is the full second verse.

“And I’ve been waking in the morning just like every other day
And just like every boring blues song I get swallowed by the pain
And so I fumble for your figure in the darkness just to make it go away.
But you’re not lying there any longer and I know that that’s my fault
So I’ve been pounding on the floor and I’ve been crawling up the walls
And I’ve been dipping in my darkness for serotonin boosters,
Cider and some kind of smelling salts.”

Fumbling for his ex-lover’s figure in a daze and then realizing that it was his fault that she is gone. Then following this pursuit by searching for anything (serotonin boosters, spiked cider, and smelling salts) to lift him up from the crippling depression he is feeling. Talk about truth, right? Turner does not want to paint an optimistic picture here. Before hitting the last chorus, where Turner sings of the long way to recovery, he croons, “Because I know you are a cynic but I think I can convince you. Yeah, cause broken people can get better if they really want to. Or at least that’s what I have to tell myself if I am hoping to survive!”

He, like most after break-ups, cannot shake the thought that perhaps if he changes he can convince his ex to come back. But, in honest fashion, he realizes that he is only telling this to himself to “survive.” He intertwines the metaphor of drowning into this piece, and that is a smart decision because while the listener drowns in the sound and words of this piece, Turner is quite literally drowning in his words, trying desperately to rise up into recovery but undergoing a song-wide realization that he may not be able to do it without his “darling, sweet lover.”

The World Will Miss You, Lou

28 Oct

Lou Reed

“There’s only X amount of time. You can do whatever you want with that time. It’s your time.” — Lou Reed

I was watching TV around a week ago when I heard the instrumentation of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” in a Playstation 4 advertisement. In it, two friends take on different competitive video game roles and sing the song to each other. Considering that the deceptively complex song is most likely about some combination of Reed’s sexuality and drug use, I found it funny that it was used in a commercial about mindless simulation. A week later, Reed is dead, and I am here writing a post I do not want to write. Seventy-one years fit the variable in Reed’s apt quotation, and, while the years seem cut off too soon, Reed once stated that he always believed he had something important to say, and there is absolutely no doubt that he said it.

Without Lou Reed, music is radically different. The underground New York rock scene of the 1960s – an extension of the crafty Beat generation – was instrumental in dynamically changing the face of music as an art form, and Reed had perhaps the grandest impact on this. One of the main reasons behind this shift was Reed’s uncensored lyrics. His sobsersided voice crooned about unconventional topics like heroin, drug dealers, withdrawal, and sex. While some musicians in the mid-1960s hid these elements under cheeky metaphor and symbolism, Reed just came out and said it. The Velvet Underground’s debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, saw barely any commercial success, but is now considered one of the greatest albums of all time. Reed, who wrote all of the songs (by himself or with other bandmates), scripted songs that still penetrate listeners like the cold tip of a needle. “Heroin,” for example, features lyrics like:

‘Cause when the smack begins to flow 
Then I really don’t care anymore 
Ah, when the heroin is in my blood 
And that blood is in my head 
Then thank God that I’m as good as dead 
Then thank your God that I’m not aware 
And thank God that I just don’t care

Lyrics like these were unheard of. Reed was the unmitigated voice of a popular underground of perpetual drug users, prostitutes, and eccentric virtuosos. The album, aptly recorded during Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable tour, was a work sticky with Warhol’s artful experimentation (including the iconic album cover) and, despite its small initial draw, was so inspirational that Brian Eno once famously proclaimed that of the 30,000 albums sold, 30,000 bands were created. Quite simply, Reed and his bandmates (especially viola player John Cale) were almost fatidic – like musical Nostradamus.’ They bent conventions and complacency and engendered the youth to rise up and talk openly about topics that were affecting them. It should come to no surprise to anyone that Punk aficionados consider Reed to be a Godfather figure.

Not enough can be made of Reed’s impact and intelligence. He was a rare breed of musician – a transformer. He shook away common conventions and formed his own music to tackle his own personal feelings and demons. His religion was rock ‘n’ roll and guitar, as he said, and he was damn good at it. And while Reed was the first to admit that everything happens for a reason and when it’s your time it’s your time, it still is very hard to say goodbye to a musical legend like Reed. His music will forever live  with every clandestine artist, closeted individual, and so-called misfits, helping those in consternation understand that the only people who have issues are those who spew hate.  He opened up a safe, artistic community for everyone living in the “underground.” So … while there may be no consensus on what “Perfect Day” is explicitly about, I will reach to the lyrics “you just keep me hanging on” and hold on to Lou Reed as a musical inspiration. The world will miss you. I hope you are enjoying your walk on the wild side.

Tubthumping – One-Hit Wonders

4 Sep
If you were cognizant in the late 90s, this creepy baby is implanted in your mind

If you were cognizant in the late 90s, this creepy baby is implanted in your mind

Oh yeah, the “I get knocked down” song. I remember that one. Wasn’t that by Chumbawamba, or something like that? I guarantee that if you are a product of the 90s (like me) you took one look at the purple baby with the huge mouth and thought of taking a “vodka drink” and a “whiskey drink.” Chumbawamba’s 1997 classic “Tubthumping” left an indelible mark on our impressionable minds for better or for worse. While some argue that the song is trash, I’m here to defend its merit as one of the better one-hit wonders.

First, Chumbawamba. Did you know that the band was active for 30 years before breaking up in 2012. 30 years. Yes, that means the British punk band had been together for 15 years prior to the release of “Tubthumping.” Many forget – or didn’t know – that Chumbawamba was a protest band at heart. Most of the band’s music focused on issues like animal rights, class struggle, and feminism, etc. –  the word “tubthumper” is used to describe someone who often jumps on the bandwagon with populist ideas. Thus, the band’s cumulative lyric is far more deep than “He sings the songs that remind him of the good times. He sings the songs that remind him of the best times.” But, it is the simple lyric of the late 90s mega-hit that helped draw so many listeners in.

As a group of talented musicians, though, they could not resist the temptation to sample a few Easter eggs for the careful listener. The “Danny Boy” reference is explicit, but at the end of the song the trumpet samples Clarke’s “Prince of Denmark’s March.” But, let’s be honest, the reason the song gained such immense popularity was because of its repetitive, punk-fueled chorus that proved to be beyond infectious. I can’t imagine many who have not hummed the beat to themselves during the reading of this post.

And that is why “Tubthumping” should be praised. The song has tremendous lasting power. Some may consider that feature to be a grand part of its “annoying” factor, but I think that earworm power cannot be overstated. Plus, come on, it’s not like many songs today that lay down a simple percussion track and a catchy synthesizer riff to maximize catchiness and listens. There are legitimate elements to “Tubthumping.” Enjoy!

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A Riot in Soho

1 Apr

Soho Riots

Formed at Liverpool University in 2012, Soho Riots is an Indie foursome with a penchant for infectious rock and a flavor that mixes The Killers with Matchbox 20. For such a fledgling band, Soho Riots plays with almost effortless skill, focusing mainly on terrific vocals and catchy beats. The tunes move quickly with punk-like rhythms and moving guitar riffs. It’s always exciting coming across a band who, despite maintaining the fire of youthful vigor, construct songs fastidiously. It is this balance that makes Soho Riots a band you most certainly want to keep an eye out for on either side of the pond.
“Who’s Your Man” is a perfect example of what I write above. The song features a driving rhythm and a neat guitar riff that hug efficient vocals. It is a model of a well-developed piece. And, above all, the song is damn catchy, sticking with you after it ends. The toe-tapping is quick, memorable and has the makings of a great single.
“702” immediately yells alt/punk to me. A little Strokes, Weezer, and other alternative rock/punk fusion bands come to mind. The song, though, feels most like an early Killers song – a high compliment. It has the sheer potency to find a diverse audience, and I’m happy to share it with you all.
Find out more about Soho Riots: Facebook, Youtube
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