Top 10 King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard Songs

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard never fail to surprise.

Even before their almost impossibly productive 2017, they were renowned for their superhuman work ethic, genre-hopping tendencies, and unmissable live shows. Add the 5 albums of last year into the mix and you’re left with 13 full-length records containing everything from jazz to psychedelic rock to prog and back again, a truly unique discography befitting of a truly unique band.

But this year they’re taking a break from recording, so it seems like a good time to take stock. That’s right, today we will be ranking (see: attempt to) the top 10 songs from Melbourne’s finest. This has been a tough task, but please, sit back, relax, and get ready to be slightly irritated that your favourite didn’t make it.

10. The River

With each of its 4 tracks clocking in at exactly 10 minutes and 10 seconds in length, 2015’s Quarters is a bit of a mixed bag. Half of the album feels like padding to reach the necessary track lengths, full of endless jamming around ideas that would have been better served as much shorter songs. The same cannot be said for its opener though, that being the hazy bliss of The River. Gizzard have ventured into jazzy territory a couple of times, but this track is undoubtedly the greatest of those experiments.

The combination of the 5/4 time signature and production that has the band sounding as if they’re playing through thick smoke is a winning one, lending the track a lo-fi ambiance that’s as catchy as it is intoxicating. Spiraling riffs eventually ebb and flow towards a climactic and potent time signature shift, welcoming in slinky reworked versions of the main guitar lines that cement this as a stone cold classic.

9. Crumbling Castle

This one knocked about in various forms before it’s final incarnation appeared on last year’s Polygondwanaland as its opening track. First, there was a short, 3-minute version played live a few times, then a leaked instrumental demo recording, and finally the proggy behemoth that takes the number 9 spot on this list. The whole 11 minutes are essentially just the band flexing every muscle they have, and it works to awe-inspiring effect.

The main vocals and lyrics are fairly standard, but it’s the instrumentation that really lifts this track. The intricacy of the interlocking guitar parts is pretty much unparalleled in their discography, combining with bubbling synths to create an almost overwhelming experience. Add in some chant-like sections and a ferociously heavy epilogue, and you’ve got an album opener for the ages.

8. The Lord of Lightning

Murder of the Universe is a pretty polarising album. Some love the overtly mystical themes and the narration, but many dismiss it as a self-indulgent misfire lacking in any real substance. There is one thing that most agree on though, and that’s the fact that The Lord of Lightning goes hard. The ominous riff that hangs over the entire song combines with the propulsive drums and frequent freakouts to leave the track feeling like it’s going to blow apart at any moment.

And then it does! Towards the end, off the back of a signature Stu Mackenzie yowl, the guitars grind down to a sludgy crawl, transforming the song into something infinitely more intimidating. It’s perhaps the finest individual moment on any Gizzard record, and more than its earns the song its place on this list.

7. Sense

Paper Mache Dream Balloon is a bit of an outlier, with the manic, conceptual ambition of most releases absent in favour of a breezy psychedelic pop approach. This big a change in sound could have been a disaster, but thankfully it resulted in both an album that still stands as a high point of the band’s career, and yet another stellar opening track. Sense is a relatively simple song, with a repetitive acoustic guitar providing the backing for some sumptuous clarinet, but it’s this simplicity that gives it its charm.

Mackenzie drops his usual staccato delivery in favour of a delicate vocal that floats over the song instead of dictating its direction. The result is a short but instantly memorable track that more than matches up to its flashier, louder siblings.

6. The Bitter Boogie

While Sense, and most of the rest of PMDB, sound as if they were written specifically to be sung around a campfire in the middle of a commune, The Bitter Boogie wouldn’t sound out of place on a western soundtrack. The guitars and harmonica lean heavily on blues influences, while the looping bass and repeating vocal of ‘bitter bitter bitter bitter bitter…’ mixes in a more psychedelic edge.

These elements create a swirling, almost hypnotic groove that’s fantastic even by itself, but towards the end of the track, the vocals of Ambrose Kenny-Smith come in and lift things to another level. His abrasive, almost sleazy style dials the blues up to 11 and the whole thing instantly clicks, with his absence from the rest of the song only serving to heighten the satisfaction when he eventually arrives. The result is an often overlooked classic that only misses out on the top 5 by a hair.

5. Sleep Drifter

Top 5 time! That’s right we’ve reached the big time, and what better way to enter the final straight than with the finest cut from the 2017 microtonal masterpiece Flying Microtonal Banana? Seemingly inspired by a piece entitled Kara Toprak by Turkish poet Asik Veysel, Sleep Drifter showcases the band at their most confident and musically accomplished. Fittingly, the track floats along like a lullaby, with simple, childlike lyrics, ‘I can see you next to me / And it is lovely’ acting as the perfect accompaniment to the gentle yet groovy guitar melodies. The microtones keep you from drifting off though, keeping things intriguingly offbeat and adding in a distinctive and unique flavour that pushes this one into the realm of greatness.

4. Am I In Heaven?

Until it was usurped by Nonagon Infinity, I’m In Your Mind Fuzz was the best example of King Gizzard’s signature brand of frantic, tightly wound psychedelia. Despite opening with a deceptively chilled acoustic section, it’s best track, Am I In Heaven, soon descends into beautiful madness. The Aussies have never again sounded this jacked up, with the rhythm section and guitars galloping along at a thousand miles an hour creating a disorientating wall of noise in the process. Mackenzie’s vocals sit distorted in the mix, screaming nonsense and employing his signature ‘WOOOOOOOOOO’ to electrifying effect. By the time the chorus rolls around he sounds 50 ft. tall, as the chords rise with him. This is perhaps the best example of the band just throwing everything they have at a song and just seeing what happens, and it’s fucking glorious.

3. Head On/Pill

Great debate rages over which album of the 13 is the best. There’s no definitive answer of course, but at the same time, it’s definitely Float Along-Fill Your Lungs. The band’s third record is the most psychedelic they have ever produced, featuring sitars, trippy lyrical imagery and some beautiful kaleidoscopic artwork. The recent vinyl reissue of the album called its opener the ‘Gizzhead national anthem’, and a description has never been so apt.

Whenever this song starts appearing on setlists, fans across the world start talking in hushed tones on internet forums about the possibility of the band playing it when they come to their city, and its not hard to see why. From the euphoric twang of the opening riff through the wild, shimmering ride of the next 16 minutes, this is a song good enough to get you hooked on Gizzard forever. For such a long song, its remarkably catchy, and although it can get repetitive, you soon lose count of the endless cries of ‘PILL’ and just get lost in the psychedelic soup.

2. Robot Stop

As the opening/closing/anywhere in between song on the infinitely looping masterpiece Nonagon Infinity, Robot Stop never fails to get the loudest cheer when played live. It packs in enough ideas to fill an entire album, and even features the return of a motif from I’m In Your Mind Fuzz’ Hot Water, a moment that somehow feels like a natural fit instead of a cheap trick.

It’s got a totally unique energy befitting of its punk-style pacing, bursting out of the traps and quite literally never letting up. But for a track of this rapid a pace, it packs one hell of a melodic wallop, and as far as riffs and solos go this song is an absolute embarrassment of riches, with them all piling up on one another before cascading seamlessly into Big Fig Wasp.

It may well be the band’s defining song, but it’s not quite their best…

1. Float Along-Fill Your Lungs

So here we are, at the summit of Mount Gizzard. It’s been tough whittling down 13 albums to just 10 songs, but there was never really too much doubt about what sits at the top of the pile. The title track from Float Along-Fill Your Lungs isn’t just the band’s greatest song, it’s one of the best psychedelic rock tracks of the last 10 years, and yes you can quote us on that.

The central mantra of, ’Just float along, and fill your lungs / Just float along, and breathe a deep breath’, doesn’t just function as an appropriately hippy-sounding refrain, it encapsulates the vibe of this entire genre of music and of the band themselves. Mackenzie repeats it over a soundscape alive with a million colours, with guitars exploding and reversing back again amidst throbbing synth gurgles; it couldn’t fit together any better.

The result is something that’s somehow both relaxing and thrilling at the same time, with multiple listens revealing new melodies hidden under the layers upon layers of shimmer. Who knows if they’ll ever top it, and we suspect we’ll see them try soon enough, but until then, stay safe, and remember: rattlesnake, rattlesnake, rattlesnake… – Rory McArthur (@rorymeep)

Top 10 Car Seat Headrest Songs

Will Toledo’s Car Seat Headrest project is an anomaly in modern rock music, and a much-needed one at that; with one eye on the past, and the other on the present, the Bandcamp-bred singer-songwriter has offered listeners an overwhelming plethora of ambitious, consistent, and downright moving albums since the group’s inception at the beginning of the decade. 

It has been thoroughly exciting to see Car  Seat Headrest grow, not just in members, but from cult Internet darlings to one of the larger festival-crowd gatherings in recent years – and as they plough on through a tour supporting a remake of  Twin Fantasy, arguably their best record, we thought it only right to celebrate Toledo’s discography with a classic top 10 songs list!  Remember though: we are just teens of style, so don’t take this too seriously.

10. Cute Thing (Face to Face)

It’s important to differentiate between the two existing versions of Twin Fantasy (Toledo’s aforementioned magnum opus), because whilst the similarities may be obvious, the divergences are even more vast.  Take “Cute Thing” as an example: what was once a scuzzy, yelp-y, Who-referencing anthem for young, messy love is now cleaned up, dressed in its best leather jacket and taken out on the town for a banger more akin to Cheap Trick than Teen Suicide.  The structure is overhauled, the dynamics are tweaked, and the harmonies are layered in such a way that would bring a tear of beauty to Brian Wilson’s eye, whilst still retaining the wild spirit of the original in a balance that is easier in theory than it is on wax.  And plus those James Brown and Frank Ocean shoutouts never get any less awesome.

9. Misheard Lyrics (feat. Nora Knight)

And here’s the curveball.  Indie rock bedroom producer abandons guitars for electronic instrumentation” could be the most overused headline in digital media from the past decade, but here on Monomania‘s “Misheard Lyrics,” Toledo shows off his mastery of the laptop in a track that combines crisp handclaps with dreamy piano and a bouncy bassline in a duet with Nora Knight, who adds extra depth to the witty lyrics about a crumbling relationship coming slowly undone due to the writer’s own words being misinterpreted.  A seriously underrated cut on from an overlooked Headrest record.

8. I Want You To Know I’m Awake (I Hope That You’re Asleep)

Whilst Car Seat Headrest are appreciated for their unique style of dry, confessional humour, there is an underlying mark of depression that they are commonly associated with. And it doesn’t get any darker than this How To Leave Town track, which is approximately seven minutes of a person beating themselves up synthesised into chords, melody, rhythm and harmony.  The chugging acoustic guitars and driving rhythm section contrast nicely with the mumbled lyrics, as Toledo murmurs about being “a stupid, ugly, stuttering asshole,” whose lover “said it was a mistake to every try and help.  Resentment never sounded so bittersweet, especially when the song’s narrator starts to convince not only the listener but himself that he and his partner are nothing like John and Yoko, Sinatra and Gardner, or even their own parents.

7. Vincent

Two notes.  That’s all the first two minutes of “Vincent” are based on, trilling seemingly endlessly as ambient noise twirls around them.  Piece by piece everything enters until a raggedy, distorted guitar threatens to rip the whole thing in two–saved only by a funky backbeat the likes of which Toledo has never experimented with before.  Surprisingly groovy, darkly comic and typically epic, this highlight from Teens of Denial proves that even with a wider cast of collaborators, Car Seat Headrest could remain an engaging and interesting project well throughout the decade.  The inclusion of brass only adds to the journey of the song, leaving you thoroughly breathless as the final vocal rings out in its own defiance in the face of teen angst.

6. Famous Prophets (Mirror to Mirror)

The only real misstep of this year’s Twin Fantasy remake (subtitled “Face to Face”) was the group’s handling of the truly monstrous “Famous Prophets,” but at least it served to highlight the staggering ambition of the 2011 original.  Essentially in two parts, the penultimate song on “Mirror to Mirror” acts as the final chapter to the title track’s epilogue, and boy does it ramp up the pressure.  A constant game of cat-and-mouse between tension-and-release, the lyrics find Toledo musing on his favourite topic: a romance on its last legs and the anxiety and sadness that come with it. Only this time it’s even more personal than usual.  Apologies to future mes and yous, but I can’t help feeling like we’re through” he drawls over a numb, descending bassline, before things get biblical, with crashing drums, thrashing guitars and Hebrew screams.  It is often argued that Car Seat Headrest’s work is hampered by the lo-fi nature of its production, yet with this track, it only emphasises the intimacy of the performances – so that when Toledo finally yells in a cracked pain, “Why did you tell me?” over and over again, you feel like you’ve been granted an exclusive insight into catharsis in real time.  Utterly stunning.

5. Destroyed By Hippie Powers

No song in the Car Seat Headrest catalogue rocks harder with a supplementary “W” than this hilarious and touching Pixies-influenced number about the dangers of taking too many hallucinatory drugs at a party to impress your peers and then having to walk the effects off on your way back home.  Whilst the power chords will hit you in the face first, it’s the details that keep you coming back for more: the subtle clock of a cowbell, the lyrical nods to teenage clique culture, the shoebox vocals that shred Toledo’s vocal cords before the big crescendo – it all just adds to such a visceral listening experience, almost as sweeping as the trip that the song’s author found himself on.  All together now: “Tell my mother I am going home…”

4. Something Soon

If “Destroyed By Hippie Powers” is the band’s best rock song, “Something Soon” is by far their best pop song.  Toledo recognises the extraordinary lengths of some of his tracks, often preferring a formidable collection of minutes to a lean cut, stating that it gives him room to breathe and build up the music, yet something must be said for his ability to fit such a complex set of feelings into four minutes of near-perfection so irresistible that Smash Mouth (yes, that Smash Mouth) even covered it.  Opening on a twinkling Rhodes piano and pulsating hi-hats, every melody that comes from Toledo’s mouth is devised to the nth degree to be ironically screamed back at him by adoring fans across the globe, especially when the song roars into life at the chorus: “Heavy boots on my throat, I need/ I need something soon/ […] I can’t talk to my folks, I need something soon.”  When another trademark Headrest crescendo bursts open a kaleidoscope of sound, you can’t help but think the thing you need is more songs like this.

3. The Ending of Dramamine

Here is where it gets difficult.  Depending on what day of the week it is, any of the top three tracks here could have been number one – they all, in their own way, represent what is best about Car Seat Headrest: the ambitious song structures, the tightrope-balancing-act of humour and sentiment in their lyrics, the arresting ear for melody, the willingness to experiment and prescribe patience to their listeners.  But someone has to win bronze, and it’s up to How To Leave Town highlight “The Ending of Dramamine” to take that place.  Clocking in at nearly fifteen minutes, with a particularly trying five minute intro, this song is not for the feint of heart.  It patiently unfurls through its run time, the tick-tock of that ever present drumbeat backing a lonely drive through America in the night, its dark organs, reverberating synthesisers, and metronomic bass keeping that anxious groove locked in.  As more elements keep piling into the mix, the claustrophobia creeps in until the listener is left in solitude, with nothing but echoing guitar feedback for company.  Never fails to be breathtaking in its gloominess.

2. Bodys (Face to Face)

Everyone likes “Bodys.”  It’s the Car Seat Headrest song to the bleachers, a ’90s indie rock song indebted to The Beach Boys and realised for the modern age with a four-to-the-floor beat stretched out to over six minutes– a tune so heartfelt and witty that it is irresistible in every sense of the word.  The newer version of it only highlights the impact that those hooks(!), those guitars(!), that drumbeat(!) can have on a human, as it bounds its way carefree and sexy to the finish line with the kind of exuberance that only the young, thin, and alive can muster.  It’s the sound of a really good day, it’s the sound of telling your crush that you love them, it’s the sound of acing an exam, it’s the sound of getting a promotion at work, it’s the sound of the best night of your life with your best friends.  It’s really, really good – and that’s saying something considering its competition.  Everyone likes Bodys.  I really like Bodys.

1. Beach Life-In-Death (Face to Face)

I’ve been staring at this Word document for nearly twenty minutes trying to come up with a good enough reason as to why “Beach Life-In-Death” is the best Car Seat Headrest song, and I simply can’t.  It’s not for lack of quality on the track’s part; otherwise, it wouldn’t even be in contention with the rest of these fabulous numbers.  But it’s a fault on my part: it was the first song I ever heard from Toledo’s magical brain, and it’s the first song I think of when I wonder what sums up the group best.  It’s sort of like trying to describe why a certain parent is your favourite – I could list all these attributes as to why I admire it, but at the end of the day they’re not the exact reason why I love it so much.  It’s long, fast, loud, dynamic, funny, sad, heart-on-its-sleeve proud, huddled-up-in-bed anxious, and, above all else, defiantly human. 

The “Face to Face” version, in particular, offers a refreshingly adult perspective on the awkward, messy side to late teens and early 20s romance, where you’re old enough to know better but too young to truly commit. It’s a maturity that the “Mirror to Mirror” edition lacks, indulging itself in a slice of self-pity that hasn’t aged as well.  And the final scream that glitches and overwhelms the entire recording is pure bliss, a sweet release from all the pent-up angst derived from the confusion of not understanding people who are never meant to be understood in the first place. They’re living beings, and trying to figure them out like a puzzle is weird, but you can’t help it.  Enough of my pretentious ramblings – go listen to it, experience it, come back, and then we’ll talk about all those dog metaphors, eh? – josh adams (@jxshadams)

Top 10 Smashing Pumpkins Tracks

by sarah hughes (@hollowcrown)

With a career spanning exactly 2 decades, numerous line-up changes, drama and a 6-year hiatus, Smashing Pumpkins were a key group during the birth of grunge in the 90s. This band has made a huge impact on music from the get-go with their caustic debut Gish (1991), right through their peaks and even their most recent release Monuments to an Elegy (2014) inspires peers and listeners alike. With a very special North American tour coming up later in the year, featuring 3/4ths of the original line up playing exclusively songs from the first 5 albums, there has never been a better time to really delve into the band’s discography and pick their best tracks to date.

10. Tiberius

Despite being on a critical decline from 2006 onwards, with an apparent shift to a darker, more obscure tone, Monuments to an Elegy surprised listeners with a return of the band’s signature sounds. Frontman and driving force William “Billy” Corgan once stated he liked the idea of creating his own alternative universe through sound – which is clearly a sentiment he has presented to all of SP’s material. The track Tiberius opens the record with a swirling, dreamlike hook and restored our faith in Smashing Pumpkins.

9. Ugly

There’s a plethora of versions of this Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1996) B-side circulating the internet. The true beauty of this songs falls on its ability to fit any applied style – the structure and lyricism are so powerful that it can be all or nothing and hit equally as hard. For Corgan especially, this track is brutally confessional. For someone so reserved, it’s refreshing to feel him open up this much; it really connects the audience with the artist.

8. Bullet With Butterfly Wings

Being one of the band’s most mainstream hits, it would be easy to assume that this song is a watered down version of their raw sound. However, Bullet With Butterfly Wings is totally deserving of the praise it receives. This track showcases Jimmy Chamberlin’s pure talent on drums, more so than any other SP song. Coming from Mellon Collie’s first half “Dawn to Dusk”, it gives affirmation that the band had matured from their debut LP, Gish.  

7. Zero

For all its cliched angst, Zero is an infectious track that serves as a fitting outlet for rage on all scales. The vocals are unfiltered and angry, and provide yet another surprising performance from Corgan, as this was perhaps his first expression of the darkness explored fully in later albums. Additionally, this is an example of ex-bassist D’arcy Wretzky’s talent. This song serves as an important experimentation for SP and dictated the direction of the band in the turn of the millennium.

6. Ava Adore

Arguably the turning point for SP, 1998’s Adore seen a shift from abrasive melodic to extremely gloomy tones. It’s hard to tell whether the band were pandering to the mainstream with this album, as goth was in vogue circa the late 90’s or if they were pushing their own boundaries – either way, it helped produce a moody LP that carried a lot of atmosphere with it. Although the Pumpkins have consistently intended to create an “alternative universe through sound”, Ava Adore is the best illustration of their writing characteristics.

5. Soma

Dawning from the sophomore LP, Siamese Dream, Soma is one of the band’s most delicate songs. There was a lot of experimentation on this record as they were investigating their own sound, and that is very clear in Soma. Interestingly, throughout recording, they played with techniques such as overdubbing, and this particular song was dubbed over 40 times to create atmospheric qualities in this gentle, yet intense, track. These qualities are what hold Soma in such high esteem, that and the confidence of the group to break away from their own mould.

4. Today

Elevating the band from underground to popular culture, Today was a pinnacle of the grunge movement in the mid-1990s. It held its character as a Smashing Pumpkins number while becoming a staple of the movement. It’s hard to believe that this came from their second studio album as it demonstrates so well how to balance a song.

3. Bodies

Technically, the execution of this track is the bands best; boasting relentless bass and guitar riffs, hollering vocals and impeccable drums. Though never released as a single, perhaps because of its metal influence throughout, it is unmistakably a complete summary of SP’ original sound. It’s satisfying that they held onto their rawness into the third LP, Mellon Collie, and that they actually carried that integrity in their entire discography; there is a carnal anger undertone throughout. Bodies is the point in their career where they appeased the mainstream fashions while protesting their right to remain rough and interesting.

2. Quiet

Quiet only just beats Bodies to the second spot, simply because it was the pioneer for that carnal anger – consider it the mothership for the latter. There is a fresh, playful tone to this track that triggers nostalgia, even if this song wasn’t part of your life growing up. Objectivism is sometimes difficult to implement in alternative music, especially from bands as cathartic as Smashing Pumpkins, yet this track gives you what you need and asks for no relations in return.

1. Tonight, Tonight

Unsurprisingly, the lead single from Smashing Pumpkins most critically acclaimed LP, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness lands at number one. Tonight, Tonight is an inexplicably emotive piece of music, that has classical influences and progressively builds in maturity throughout; and a track that was paramount in cementing SP’s place in rock history. On one hand, the band’s raw style is integral to their collective character, on the other, their angst is wholly suited to a theatrical production – and on Tonight, Tonight the audience is graced with the pleasure of both in one succinct song.

Additionally, the music video for this track was ahead of any other band within the scene and further proved Smashing Pumpkins as not only musicians but all round experience providers.

2018-03-08

The Ten Best Strokes Tracks

by ewan blacklaw (@ewanblacklaw)

The Strokes are one of the first bands that come to mind when thinking of bands from the 2000’s. With their debut release Is This It, they created a potential album of the decade that gained mainstream attention, as well as a huge fan base stretching across the world. The band became the epitome of cool, like other New York artists before them, and inspired many other bands to follow the indie rock path. It could be said that without their first album there may not be so many indie bands over saturating the genre today.

Moving forward the band continued releasing good quality records, but never quite matching their initial effort. With different members working on different project, and some poor rating from critics, fans may not have had as many releases in recent years as they would have liked. However, with new material being a possibility next year, it is worth looking back at all releases and reflecting on some of the best moments from the NYC rock outfit. Also, with critics scores damaging reputations on some of the later albums, it wouldn’t be fair to say that the Strokes haven’t made some great songs released since 2001, in fact, narrowing down their discography to ten tracks was no easy task.


10 – Chances

Kicking the list off is an admittedly controversial choice, however, this track is from the band’s last full-length album Comedown Machine, the album that faced the worst reception upon its release, and is a bit of a hidden gem. While this album takes a different approach than some of their earlier work, it shows their growth into new genres and their desire to experiment with different sounds. Chances stands out as an example of the new sound gone right, the result of this experimentation is a synth-induced ballad that keeps the charms of Julian Casablancas’ vocals even through all the effects. This one may be an unpopular opinion but it feels wrong writing off Comedown Machine completely.


9 – Electricityscape

Next is a standout moment from First Impression of Earth, their third album which signals a massive transitional phrase for The Strokes. Coming three years after their sophomore record, and creating a five-year wait until the next time we’d hear any new material, this album often sounds conflicted. The one definite moment of clarity on the album comes with Electricityscape, which sound like the band not catering to anyone. With this track, it doesn’t feel like they are pushing a new sound too far, or trying to create something that feels safe, it seems that this is the balance of old and new that they were looking for, but could not quite grasp throughout the album.


8 – Reptilia

Reptilia is The Strokes’ most commercially successful song and it is easy to see why. All of the ingredients of a Strokes track are here; a catchy riff and baseline, a gravelly vocal performance and, of course, an intricate solo courtesy of Nick Valensi. This one is on every indie kid’s playlist and will always seem to have that reputation. The overplaying of the song may have taken away some of the initial joy of listening to the track, but it still stands out as one of their best. Combining Casablancas’ signature charm with a very tight performance from every other member of the band makes for one of the most memorable moments from The Strokes, as well as an easily identifiable hit that shows musicians in their prime making a hit to be remembered.


7 – Hard To Explain

Moving forward from Reptilia, there was a tough choice. While Last Nite is the other most easily recognisable and commercially successful song released by The Strokes, it misses out narrowly to Hard To Explain. Both are great tracks from a near-perfect album, however, Hard To Explain just has that X-Factor that really makes it stick in your head, without risking being overplayed, which cannot be said for Last Nite. The track offers a bit of variety within Is This It, with a quick beat from a drum machine creating a different sound, accompanied by some great confrontational lyrics to top it all off.


6 – Meet Me in the Bathroom

An underrated track often overlooked by Reptillia and 12:51 which appear on the same album. The track presents an easy going and optimistic approach, with Casablancas at his most cool and relaxed, telling stories of the past over a signature Strokes setup of quick-paced drums and rhythm guitar. Standing out as a fine example of how The Strokes can create a mood on a song, as well as a memorable melody and also switching it up from other tracks enough for it to stay on your mind. It’s no surprise that Elizabeth Goodman’s all-encompassing book on the New York rock scene during the noughties shares the same name.


5 – Automatic Stop

Another pick from Room On Fire, a great follow up record to their debut, that sees The Strokes sound amazing as always. The two guitars intertwining with some powerful vocals, all being kept grounded by a solid baseline and simple and steady drum beat. Automatic Stop makes for great music to reminisce to, filled with lyrics looking back at a relationship, or maybe just what could have been. It takes a lot for a track to stand out on an already solid album, but Automatic Stop nails it and stands out not just from the rest of the album, but from all releases from The Strokes.


4 – Barely Legal

One of the band’s best track that is sometimes forgotten about, Barely Legal draws on common themes from their debut project, such as romance and nostalgia and really amplifies them. This makes for a dreamy moment of reflection in the midst of a band in their prime making great songs one after another. Depicting a relationship in a truly Casablancas way, unlike most songwriters, still feels confrontational and undecided. This makes for one of the most relatable tracks from The Strokes, writing about personal experiences in a way that allows the listener to paste it to their life, acting as a soundtrack to a certain time in their life. This highlights one of the thing that makes Is This It retain its position as one of the classics from recent years.


3 – Under Cover of Darkness

Into the podium places we have a first and only appearance from Angles. That is not to say that the album is bad, in fact it’s one of their better releases, but as far as individual songs go the competition is tough. Leaping forward a decade from Is This It, this track sounded like one of the more distinctively ‘Strokes’ moments on the album, following that old reliable formula that produced some of their other great hits. Under Cover of Darkness uses this formula to its advantage but also adds to it, showing a different side of The Strokes that would be continued to be explored in years to come. Throw in a more raw performance from Casablancas and you’ve got yourself a well-polished indie rock hit.


2 – Someday

This song is one of the few that you will hear, from any artist or band, that captures such an inexplicable nostalgia from its opening seconds. Someday feels like a classic from the first time you hear it, without sounding like a recycled sound from some band before them. This feat alone would earn a spot on the list, but paired with some of the most iconic lyrics ever produced by The Strokes, the song really captures the ethos of the band; a casual level of cool that rank them with some of the great bands from the past.


1 – Soma

The number one spot goes to the essential track from the entire discography. Soma shows a band in their prime, and while often overlooked, this gem is everything that a Strokes song should be. This track features arguably the best vocal performance that Casablancas has given in his musical career and takes references from Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World and modernises them in a way The Strokes do in an original and interesting way. Soma plays a key role in cementing Is This It as one of the best albums of the decade, cementing The Strokes as one of the great indie rock bands and earning a spot on top of this list. This song truly epitomises the originality that was brought to rock music with Is This It and is everything good about The Strokes. The catchy tracks, the personal yet distant lyrics, the raw performances, the effortless cool- it’s all front and centre on Soma; the best song by The Strokes (so far).

The 10 Best Gorillaz Songs

Right – so we’ve had a breather from the Gorillaz for a hot minute now, we’ve had Humanz, and we’ve had a rather amazing tour, and now it feels high time to put into print the top 10 tracks Damon Albarn’s animated super group have put out, in there nearly 20 year history.

With every release of the Gorillaz, there is a decidedly different sound, from a range of noises, like old school blues to punk infused naughtiness in the self-titled debut, to the electro daydream of Plastic Beach, and most recently to the rocky dance hits of Humanz.

So here we have it, the top ten tracks from the Gorillaz.


10. Momentz

So at the start of the list we have this chronic-concerned track from Humanz, called Momentz, by the Gorillaz (I couldn’t help myself sue me). The track itself features the fantastic De La Soul, who appeared on Demon Days, and Plastic Beach, in the tracks Feel Good Inc. and Superfast Jellyfish respectively; and this Gorillaz veteran really hits it out of the park on this track, with verses that easily electrify the listener, and move perfectly in time with the fun, rock tunes going through behind the lyrics.

Coming very early in the album, it is part of the tour de force that, regardless of your views on the band’s latest release, is a perfect start to the album. It is beautifully geared towards a dance heavy sound to fantastic effect and including a frequent collaborator was a smart move; serving as a safe space for long term fans who may be hesitant of the old dogs trying some new tricks, Murdoc and the gang prove they’re more than up to the task and the results are proof the venture is worth it.


9. Tomorrow Comes Today

Jumping from the present, back to the band’s debut LP, we have Tomorrow Comes Today, which embodies a sense of cool, grim melancholy. This is communicated in the droning, off sounding guitars, and the slow, chilled out vocals.


8. Rockit

From the album D-Sides, we are gifted this funky, albeit dark, track, which comes across as a kinda satirical look at pop music, and the kinda lad culture that goes with it sometimes. It starts with a simple sounding drum-bass combo, and eventually spirals into a really dark horror sounding electro vibe, while constantly whittling on with nonsense lyrics (I’m walking to the something,Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla, Collapse, I’m drinking too much bla bla, Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla“) – it’s just utterly mad.

The weird lyrics, and the very prog rock sounding sounds, leaves us with this very catchy, ultra groovy bop that is one of the Gorillaz weirdest hits. The band smack together nothingness and some groovy noises to give us a fucking fantastic track, from an album filled with B-sides and cut content from Demon Days


7. 5/4

Right, we’ve had three tracks which are very electronic sounding, it’s time for something a bit different: 5/4.

This track (again from their self titled debut), is a very guitar heavy track, until the very end. It has a slightly odd sound, like how Blur might sound if they were in a universe where everything was more or less the same but three seconds of industrial dub was required in all music; it plays like your normal rock song, with solid vocals and lyrics, and a great backing vocalist, as well as great rhythm guitars and drums.

The way the song takes all its relatively simple pieces and puts them together, enticing the listener more and more with each passing second, in addition to the brief industrial sounding moments of electronica near the end really summed up what Gorillaz would be as a project: doing varying genres of music, doing them really well, and more often than not turning them into completely different things in the process.


6. Feel Good Inc.

Right, nae shouting, I am fully aware that this is probably the most popular Gorillaz track, and not undeservedly so: the track is fucking legit. It was indicative of what would become the Gorillaz sound. They have the powerful electronic sound as well as mighty swells from just guitars and unaltered vocals – as well as a wee feature from an absolutely fantastic featuring artist in the form of De La Soul.

The hot single, off the band’s second proper album Demon Days, has a very poppy feel to it, being very clearly structured, and a whole kinda sing songy vibe to it, which is not a sound heard often from the band: a somewhat welcomed change of pace.


5. Punk

BOOF WE’RE HERE! We’ve cracked the top five and this first spot in it happily goes to the joyous, clappy, energetic Punk which – as I’ve already said – creates a almost textbook expression for the kind of genre it wants to be, and this time it’s on the tin: punk.

Punk kind of stirs in lots of classic punk influences, from the Pistols, The Clash, and – to me anyway – mostly the Ramones. It starts with a shedding of the electronic sounds, having them in there but giving way for the perfect sounding drums and claps exchange. It is then followed by vocals from Albarn, which sound just perfectly punk, kind of moany at the start, getting angrier and angrier. This track is just fab and could start a party wherever ye liked.


4. Stylo

Up next is the automotive Stylo, off 2012’s Plastic Beach, a very electronic, featured artist heavy album. This track packs in Bobby Womack and Mos Def, both of whom have fantastic little bits in the track that would make perfect title and intro credits music to a weird 80’s B-Movie.

It has a constant RnB vibe to it, communicated in really lovely beats, and delightful vocals from Albarn/2D. It’s all of this and more than results in one of the band’s most amazing tracks.


3. Rhinestone Eyes

Oh, another track from Plastic Beach!!? Madness. No but for real, this songs haunting, prophetic, maddening vibe is really something to marvel over; the vocals are convincing, and emotional through voice alterations, and constant impossible-not-to-groove-to-tunes and then spiraling into rabid chanting choruses.

Popping early up in the album, it was imperative that Gorillaz impressed and they really fucking blew the roof off with Rhinestone Eyes. The track’s mish mash of different sounds and different tempo for the music is just, to put it simply, utterly pleasant.


2. Fire Coming Out of The Monkey’s Head

The Penultimate track. The Silver medal. Fire Coming Out of The Monkeys Head. This track (also off the fantastic Demon Days) has a kind of radio play/ radio news report vibe – this is owed greatly to top quality narration by actor Dennis Hopper.

The track, which consists mostly of this narration and smooth beats bounce in the background, has an unknowable Lovecraftian sorta feel to it and things narration wise get suitably dark to suit this eerie palette. Damon Albarn comes back with audibly sweet lyrics, though continuing the dreary tone with some apt negative lyrics, backed by accoustic guitars. It’s hard to describe this song: it’s a wee story, but also such a conventional song, probably the most odd track the band have put out.


1.Clint Eastwood

Spot number one, after much deliberation, goes to Clint Eastwood. The Gorillaz are no the kind of band that have one track which is definitively the best, they have a couple to be honest, and deciding on the el honcho was hard. However, Clint Eastwood blends fantastically vocals from Albarn and the rap feature from Del the Funky Homosapien , all backed by a cracking electronic tune, reminiscent of the theme from The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.

But what really sets this song apart is the kind of honesty of this track: it is a culmination of music with obvious rock and pop influences, as well as hip hop, and electro. For many it was the jumping off point for their enjoyment of the Gorillaz, and for an equally great number, the first few notes will let them know they’ll enjoy the next three or so minutes, as they will do the rest of their catalogue.

meta-chart

check out the above tracks in this handy playlist

Top 10 Bring Me The Horizon Tracks

by gregor faruqharson (@grgratlntc)

It’s not uncommon for bands these days to have a huge change in sound from their early days, and Sheffield metal-core turned synth-rockers Bring Me The Horizon have perhaps had the biggest change over the years. Their debut EP This Is What The Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For and first album Count Your Blessings is perhaps some of the heaviest metal/death-core out there. Yet, the band progressed to the point where they’ve donned the huge, arena rock sound we adore the band for today.

BMTH’s extensive discography and change of sound throughout their career make them the perfect alternative band to critique and list the ten best tracks from the band.

10. Chelsea Smile

A live favourite and arguably the band’s breakout track, this wee metal-core banger is recognisable by not only fans of the band, but any fan of heavy music. The opening screams of “I’ve got a secret” and subsequent lines pave the way for the tremendous breakdown that awaits listeners at the end.

The screams on this song when were frontman Oli Sykes was in his prime and it’s clear throughout. The way he utilises his voice box to effortlessly reach the high and low pitches is exceptional and any fan of the genre should appreciate the skill of Sykes.

9 – Doomed

The first song on the band’s latest album, That’s The SpiritDoomed is an excellent example to show how the act’s music has matured since the early days. The beautifully produced track starts slow and builds up to that exceptional chorus that fans all over just love to shout along to.

The synth work by Jordan Fish really adds a different element to the track, with noises and lyrics fading in and out making Doomed a standout, utterly cinematic release. If you were to listen to this without knowing the band, you’d be baffled at the older material.

8 – Antivist

Antivist is just one of those songs that make you want to mosh and crowdsurf. Just listen to it; the built up anger on this track is apparent straight from the first line. The shouts of “Middle fingers up, if you don’t give a fuck”  are lyrics to make anyone stop, listen and subsequently lose their shit. The rebellious nature along with the harsh vocals and guitar truly sum up what BMTH stood for at this moment in time.

7 – Oh No

The closing song on That’s the Spirit, Oh No is one of those tracks that stands out as being truly unique amongst the abundance of other BMTH songs out there; tamer compared to others, but nonetheless astounding. The chorus alone makes you want to have a slow dance, and there’s no sign of mosh pits to be seen during this.

Overall, the song is a masterpiece and uses every member’s strengths to their advantage. The perfect close to a tremendous album.

6 – Go To Hell For Heaven’s Sake

Appearing on the album Sempiternal, the track is heavy yet has a softer side, no doubt due to the new additions on this record. The riff that opens the track is signature BMTH and the guitar and synth work go hand in hand, as does the drumming from Matt Nicholls which keeps the up the pace. It’s the final section of the song that makes it special – the repeated lyrics of the title with the performances behind driving it results in a sonic charged yet tense listen.

5 – Can You Feel My Heart

Another one from Sempiternal and perhaps the track that defines the modern BMTH sound, CYFMH is one of those songs that makes you go “wow”. The start with the huge synths, the distorted vocals, even the huge chorus and scream along moments, the song defines what this new age of BMTH was going to be like. Even live, the song is just as popular, with fans using it a cathartic method of letting loose.

4 – It Never Ends

The only song on this list to come from the bands’ third LP, It Never Ends is a glorious example of what the Sheffield rockers were going for on There Is A Hell. Blending the sounds of violins and cellos with metalcore seems unlikely to work, yet this song manages it. The massive bridge of Sykes screaming “every second every minute every hour every day” is enough to send shivers down your spine. Despite the track not being widely appreciated in terms of live performance, it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that it’s one of the best songs the band have ever produced

3 – Throne

This was the second single we heard from That’s the Spirit, and boy is it a cracker. Throughout the majority of the track, we’re graced with some glitchy yet lavish electronic noises, backed up by some monumental riffs and drumming. The song as a whole is huge and made for the biggest venue possible. While some may dismiss the band’s latest album as too poppy, Throne shows that Oli and co. are more than capable of going hard when needed be.

2- Sleepwalking

The biggest hit from their 2013 release, Sleepwalking is an outstanding example of when electronic and metal collide for the better. The huge rock chorus blended with the screams in the verses works brilliantly. This album was the first which used the ability of Fish and it’s easy to see why he was such an influence on the band. Sleepwalking is one of those songs that when you hear it, you couldn’t mistake it for anything other than a Bring Me The Horizon tune. Absolute belter.

1- True Friends

A controversial choice but this is arguably the pinnacle of BMTH’s attempt to balance their harsh origins, synthy rebirth and pop-friendly attitude. The isolated vocals, which are more in turn with the singing Sykes wanted to go with on this project, smack delightfully into a rip-roaring clash of chilling violins and guitars. 

Live, this song is beautiful as it really does exemplify the versatility and talent of the band, something that can be seen on the faces of everyone in attendance as they, once again, cavort and kick off. True Friends is the manifestation of elements that any Bring Me The Horizon fan will adore, and it’s why it’s the top pick for this list.

meta-chart

check out the tracks above in this handy playlist

Top 10 Kanye West Tracks

by ethan woodford (@human_dis4ster)

Kanye West is arguably the most famous musician alive today. While this is largely down to his notorious persona and marriage to Kim Kardashian, Kanye would never be where he is today if it wasn’t for his raw talent and ambition. For years Kanye lent his skills in production to countless artists, and while this was, and still is, his specialty, he only ever wanted to be a rapper.

However, perhaps a foreshadowing of how Kanye would push boundaries in his career, the first solo track he ever recorded was done with his jaw wired shut. The resulting track Through the Wire ended up on his debut album The College Dropout which propelled him to stardom and ultimately where he is today.

Kanye West is a unique artist in many ways, and this is what makes his music so special, in that each track has at least something interesting about it; even when he misses the mark, it is never for lack of trying. Since Kanye has so many tracks worthy of discussion and praise, it’s as good an excuse as any to list his ten best tracks and celebrate the genius of Kanye West.

10. All Falls Down

One of the breakout singles from his debut album, All Falls Down remains one of his best songs and also one of his most conventional. Featuring many qualities associated with his music such as gospel and soul influences, layered production and socially aware lyrics, this track was Kanye already at the top of his game.

Accompanied by the luscious vocals of Syleena Johnson covering Lauryn Hills’Mystery of Iniquity, Kanye proves his abilities on the mic with his now signature mixture of wit, observation, and aggression. All Falls Down focuses on the pitfalls of consumerism and more specifically, how the system fails black people. By showing his frustration with hard-hitting lines about racial inequality whilst also landing quips such as “Couldn’t afford a car, so she named her daughter Alexis”, Kanye proved his multifaceted versatility and claimed his place among hip-hop’s elite at the time.

9. Flashing Lights

While Graduation is perhaps Kanye West’s least significant record, it boasts his talent for writing infectious pop-rap bangers, such as Homecoming and this track, Flashing Lights. West’s skill for production is the main attraction here, the beat being one of the best he has produced.

Lyrically, Kanye vents his frustrations with a relationship with a woman, and it is likely there is a parallel between his relationship with the public as well. Talking about how he feels dictated by the other party in the relationship and how his actions are scrutinised, the track explores how this effects Kanye. When the hook changes point of view from second person to first person, it also shows Kanye is able to look at himself critically. Although it is ultimately just a short snappy single, it was widely praised for being a breath of fresh air to mainstream rap at the time and still over a decade later, it still maintains that freshness.

8. Love Lockdown

Three albums into his career and Kanye West was a pop star. However, following the death of his mother in 2007 and the subsequent break-up of his engagement to Alexis Phifer, his public image began to fade as he consistently became the object of scrutiny. However, he proved here that he can let his skills as a musician speak for him. He created 808s and Heartbreak, a completely new direction for Kanye and the new sound is well represented on the lead single Love Lockdown.

Gone were the soul samples and witty remarks synonymous with his work, and in its place was minimal instrumentation, auto-tune vocals and more of a singing delivery. While this song and the album as a whole still divides fans and critics today, Love Lockdown still serves as a breakthrough moment in his career and music in general. The track’s production incorporates a simple drum beat, which then moves into piano chords before the iconic African drums kick in for the chorus. Once again, Kanye’s skills as a producer come to the fore here as he paces the way for a whole new wave of rap and pop music while at the same time turning his grief and pain into the recipe for his own success.

7. Bound 2

Somewhat of an anomaly on Kanye West’s sixth album Yeezus, Bound 2 features the soulful samples and playful lyrics we have come to expect from Kanye but contrasts to the abrasive and dark sound found on the nine tracks that precede the album closer. However, due to the theme of the album, the track fits perfectly. Documenting the rise and fall of “Yeezus”, the album ends with a happy ending, as Kanye accepts his past that he details on the rest of the album and looks to the future, that being with his wife Kim Kardashian.

Bound 2 is a love song in the most Kanye way possible; it oozes his personality and humour and with that shows it’s sincerity. This doesn’t sound like a man convincing himself that he is in love, moreover, Kanye is ready to move on from his past and be a better person and with that, finally enjoy a healthy relationship. Bound 2 is often overlooked for its wacky sound and often hilarious lyrics, but this gives it endless charm and personality and it benefits from that.

6. Real Friends

In 2016, Kanye finally released his most anticipated album yet. The album’s release was unlike any seen before, as its every final touch was documented via his social media, including its multiple name changes and track additions, and now removals, eventually resulting in the release of The Life Of Pablo, which was still tampered with and added to after it’s release – even at the time of writing, it’s still being tinkered with. Despite all the hype, the album ended up being his most inconsistent, but with the egotistical lows, came the introspective highs, such as Real Friends.

Laid out over a sombre beat, Kanye reflects on how his current life course has affected his friendships and family relationships. Considering his public perception at the time, this track was completely unexpected as many had assumed he was no longer able to look at himself in such a critical manner. The credit goes to the uncertainty of the track, at points Kanye blames his friends, but then blames himself, and instead of being hypocritical, this shows the complexity of human relationships and how no one really knows how to balance everything and please everyone and this results in a stunningly human moment from Kanye even at his most famous status.

5. Hey Mama

Kanye’s close relationship with his late mother, Donda West, has been well documented both in the media and in his music. Nowhere else is his appreciation and admiration for her displayed so explicitly on Hey Mama from his second album Late Registration.

After the success of The College Dropout, Kanye no doubt felt compelled to include this song he wrote a few years earlier in his next project as his mother had always supported his decision to pursue a music career despite originally believing he should complete college. Debuting the song on Oprah with Donda in the audience, Kanye shows his humility in thanking the one person who believed in him. The song tells the story of how his mother provided for him and promises that he will always be thankful and ultimately admits “I just want you to be proud of me.

Listening to this track over a decade since his mother passed away and knowing how the shock and loss affected Kanye and how is seemingly still suffering, it is an emotional listen but a wholesome moment in his discography.

4. Gorgeous

Undoubtedly his best album, Kanye solidified his status as one of the greats with the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010. While this list could have been the tracklist of that album, one stand out track is Gorgeous, a product of Kanye’s frustration with the racism prevalent in America.

Set over one of West’s most inventive beats, the sprawling guitar riff beautifully contrasts Kanye’s hard-hitting lyrics that express his frustration with racism in America. Perfectly executing his skill for mixing anger with humour, Kanye delivers some of his best verses on this track. Referencing everything from South Park beef to the theory that the government created AIDs to eliminate African Americans and featuring a guest verse from Wu Tang Clan’s Raekwon, the track personifies the hip-hop masterpiece that the album it comes from is.

3. Jesus Walks

Kanye continued to show his ambition on his fourth single, Jesus Walks. Told by everyone that a track about his belief on God wouldn’t get airplay, Kanye did what he wanted anyway and although this attitude has been hit and miss for him throughout his life, here it paid off and ultimately birthed his career.

The track features gospel samples and a classic Kanye beat as he discusses his own struggle with life and how his faith in God helps him through. From his first single, Kanye proved his ability to consider complex ideas such as redemption whilst still delivering a hit song with a catchy hook. Additionally, looking back at the track it seems to foreshadow his future work such as similar themes and the overlapping falsetto background vocals from Kanye himself that are reminiscent of future projects.

2. New Slaves

Yeezus is the album where Kanye showed that he really could do anything. Again going in a different direction than expected, the album featured jarring beats, violent and sexually explicit lyrics and boldly embraced his own ego.

New Slaves is arguably Kanye at his most creative, aggressive and passionate. Venting his anger at racism, especially in the fashion industry, the track sticks in your mind due to its raw power. Possibly his best verse ever appears in the latter half of the song and it has to be heard to be appreciated for its lyricism and sincerity. Ending the track stretching his vocal ability singing “I’m not dying and I can’t lose” as his vocals lead into a beautiful outro from Frank Ocean, the track claims its place as one of Kanye’s best.

1. Runaway

It’s no surprise why Runaway is often considered Kanye’s best track, and if not at least his most important in reflecting upon himself and his past. Looking back on his several failed relationships, Kanye rejects the toxic view that no one is good enough for him, but instead tragically releases it is himself that is the problem and that he needs to work on himself.

Opening with the now famous but still as haunting piano keys, the track has a chilling aura to it that is telling of Kanye’s admiration of Stanley Kubrick and the scores to his films. Kanye admits cleanly, and with no sugar coating, of the pain and hurt he has caused the people he loves and simply tells them to leave because he just is not good enough. The track ends with a long outro of initially indistinguishable lyrics that gradually clear up as Kanye sings the hook to the song once more, clearly full of emotion and sincerity. The distortion represents his own view of relationships and why he messes them up, but as his words eventually become understandable, it is clear that Kanye does have some heart, however, he now knows it’s up to him to find it on his own.

check out the tracks above in this handy playlist

RANKED: The Top 10 Black Sabbath Songs

For nearly fifty years now, Black Sabbath have been worldwide heavy metal superstars, widely touted as the genesis of all metal music. From humble beginnings in Birmingham as the Polka Tulk Blues Band to their final concerts at Birmingham’s Genting Arena in February, Black Sabbath are one of the biggest, most well known & legendary bands ever. Whether it’s Tony Iommi’s iconic riffs, Geezer Butler’s unmistakably brilliant bass playing the, or the instantly recognisable Brummie drawl of Ozzy Osbourne, everyone knows who Sabbath are, as the original heavy metal band. Who knew that a horrific workplace accident that cost Tony Iommi his fingers would shape part of history, but low tunings & heavy, doom-laden riffs are now the hallmarks of heavy music. Yet here we are, with the blueprint for all metal.

Sabbath have written & released countless iconic songs over their five-decade career, but the time has now come to narrow it down to just ten songs. Your hosts for this evening, and eventual targets of abuse because we didn’t include your favourite are Liam Toner (@tonerliamOliver Butler (@notoliverbutler).

10 – Snowblind – Vol. 4

Liam Toner: I don’t think I’ve ever heard cocaine described so beautifully before until I heard this track. Full of winter metaphors such as “crystal world of winter flowers” you might not have immediately guessed this was a song about a stimulant drug if the word “cocaine” wasn’t whispered blatantly to the listener at the start of the track. The song does actually have some quite pretty instrumentation throughout with the string section near the end and Iommi’s arpeggio chord progressions around 1:40 into the track.

Oliver Butler: By the time Vol. 4 came around, Sabbath were global superstars & enjoying the excesses that rock and roll stardom could only offer. During the recording of this album, the band ended up with more snow than the Alps, and wanted to call the whole album Snowblind as a wink to their new nasal neighbour. That bridge in the middle is an iconic Iommi riff, the sort that you hum out loud and tap your foot to at a moment’s notice. Whilst plans to call the album Snowblind were quickly put on ice, the band give a shout out to the “COKE A COLA” company in the album’s sleeve notes.

9 – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

OB: Another iconic Sabbath song here, and another classic case of them playing two songs at the same time, with a heavy, doom laden riff moving out the way for a chilled out acoustic section. It really feels like Ozzy hit a peak with his vocals on this record, especially with him shrieking “You bastards!” on this track. Do you recognise the bridge? Of course you do, it’s every modern-day metal breakdown you’ve ever heard, another part of the blueprint that Sabbath unknowingly put down.

LT: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath has an interesting dynamic going from the big and heavy main riff into the very relaxed and chill sections with softly plucked acoustic guitar creating an almost serene vibe. This serenity doesn’t stay for too long however and when this song goes into it’s bridge section. The shock of heavy riff sections into soft sections that takes place in most of the song is trumped by the sheer power of the riff heard at the bridge section. Dirty, dark and palm-muted this particular riff can be compared to breakdowns you find in metal and hardcore music years down the line. Sabbath influential as always here.

8 – Fairies Wear Boots – Paranoid

Oliver Butler: Looking back on it, Sabbath were always on the cutting edge, and it’s no surprise they were superstars, with Fairies Wear Boots being a prime example of what made them so damn good. FWB just feels like a jam, but with such coordination, chopping & changing tempos, chord progression & vibe to really change the feel of the song, straight from the stoner rock intro into the jaunty verse & chorus, complete with a screaming Iommi solo. There’s a reason they’re still at the forefront of people’s minds 50 years later, and it’s because of innovative sounds like these.

LT: Fairies Wear Boots shows the band at its best. The bands ability to easily change from musical idea to musical idea effortlessly in to sections that vary in style, tempo and tone is inspiring to take in. Every member of the band really shows their chops here, if it’s not TonyIommi’s bluesy lead riffs and melodies then it’s Geezer Butler’s busy bass playing and they all pull their weight fantastically and show you how tight of a band they really are. Sabbath in their early days could regularly play up to 6 to 8 sets a night quite often just jamming most of the time you can really see how this turned the band in to a well-oiled machine on this track.

7 – Symptom of the Universe – Sabotage

LT: Sabbath reminding us how ahead of their time they are as always on this one. The main riff of this song is a sound people would soon have to get used to when the sounds of Thrash Metal manifested a few years later. Punk band Doom would open their first Peel Session with a cover of this as well turning it into Crust Punk anthem which speaks volumes about the stretch of influence one Black Sabbath riff can have on music as a whole

OB: Sabbath is easily the foundation that modern metal is built on. There’s probably kids in metal bands today who think that Sabbath are a bunch of old men that your dad listen to, but little do they know what coarses through their veins, and as our man Liam Toner just referenced, this riff could have easily been placed onto one of the many thrash metal bands that broke through a decade later, and it wouldn’t have sounded out of place. It’s not so much Sabbath being ahead of their time, it’s more a case of them setting everyone else’s watch. It’s another classic case of Sabbath playing two songs at once, with the thrashy riff making way for a cool, sweetly picked acoustic bridge. Why? Tony fucking Iommi, that’s why.

6 – Iron Man – Paranoid

LT: Tony Iommi grabs the listeners attention at the beginning of this track with droning whammy bar sounds before the song erupts in to it’s main riff. Iron Man perfectly blends heaviness with catchiness in this song and Ozzy, singing lyrics on top about a great iron giant following the melody and rhythm of the riff itself is nothing short of anthemic. Although this main riff is probably a bit overplayed in people’s minds  due to it being a favourite riff for beginner guitarists often heard in music and guitar shops the rest of the songwriting on the track is far too interesting to ignore. At around 3:40 in the track the band plays a descending scale pattern that switches in the blink of an eye into a slow pummelling groove you can’t help but appreciate how much chemistry this band has.

OB: Bewwwwwwwwwwwn, bewwwwwwwwwwn, bewwwwwwwwwn, DER, DER, DER DER DER,DERDERDERDERDER, DER DER DER. Even typed out, you know how that riff sounds. Despite the fact that Randy Rhoads rolled his eyes when Ozzy suggested playing this in his solo outfit, the simplicity of Iron Man’s riff is what makes it iconic. But like many Sabbath riffs, they were simplistic in their composition, but with the innovative downtuning giving it a demonic presence, every Sabbath riff struck with the force of an atomic bomb. Best bit of this song though? Definitely the ending, beginning with Geezer’s rattling bass and ending with Tony’s howling solo right over the top.

5 – Hand of Doom – Paranoid

LT: Hand of Doom starts with quite a mellow bluesy vibe letting Geezer Butler’s smooth bass playing lull you into a false sense of security so when the distortion and the drums really come in that same riff now hits you like a tonne of bricks. A few minutes into the song and then the band fall into this very static head bang worthy groove. As this song ramps up it’s intensity throughout it always goes back to Geezer’s bass line. This is dynamics at their best.

OB: Anyone who say Sabbath aren’t blues influenced need to take a long, hard look at themselves to be honest. Geezer Butler’s smooth, muted bass intro feels like you’re slowly sinking into a cushy red leather armchair, with the band kicking in all as one feeling like you’ve just been booted off that chair by four angry Brummies. It’s the way the dimly lit smoking bar is incinerated by a fireball that makes this song an iconic Sabbath song. If you’re looking for a good place to start with Black Sabbath, Paranoid is easily one of the best records to absorb yourself in.

4 – War Pigs – Paranoid

OB: Just the whole fucking Paranoid album man, look at this list, listen to the album and you’ll understand why this list is more or less Paranoid’s track list. The album was originally meant to be called War Pigs, and the chap on the front cover is a War Pig. However, the band needed a single from the album, and hey presto, Paranoid was born.

War Pigs is another song that’s still as lyrically relevant today as it was when pen was first put to paper on this song. Right from the slow intro that’s had millions of hands clap along to it, right to the solo at the end, there’s few songs as anthemic as this.

LT: It’s hard to get a song as iconic as this. When this song gets in to its main section with those fast and precise 2 chord changes it creates a great feeling of anticipation during which Ozzy’s expressive vocals fill the gaps in the music as the piece builds into the absolutely devastatingly powerful riff that’s nothing short of an absolute classic.

3 – Electric Funeral – Paranoid

LT: It’s the bass wah on this track that really makes this song stand out. An already dark and heavy riff in it’s own right but the wah gives the main riffs an extra catchiness factor that keeps this song in your head. The song then shifts into a seemingly different song where the instruments pick up the pace and turn into a bluesy frenzy.

OB: Geezer Butler’s use of the wah still feels innovative to this day, with Electric Funeral being a prime example of this. Of course many bass players have used wah before & since, but nothing feels as cutting edge as this. It’s the slow, stoner vibe at the start that really makes this song, but the way it breaks from a slow, stomping groove into a total ragefest is textbook Sabbath.

2 – Black Sabbathh – Black Sabbath

LT: This is where it all begins. An eerie church bell rings out and then you’re hit with a crushing, dark but most importantly evil guitar riff that chills you to the bone. Black Sabbath is without a doubt the first heavy metal song created. The aforementioned riff is based on a tritone (sometimes known as the devil’s interval) and ever since it actually becomes a challenge to find a song in almost all metal genres that doesn’t feature this style of riffing. The song actually manages to get creepier in the verses when Ozzy’s haunting lyrical delivery describes scenes of fear of satan himself. To top it all off the last section of the song breaks off from its dirge and into a great mid-tempo groove section as the song comes to climax.

OB: What a way to start off your recording career as a band. Whilst Evil Woman, Don’t You Play Your Games With Me was the first Sabbath song to crawl into people’s ears, this is the first song that transformed the band then called Earth, into the heavy metal godfathers that are Black Sabbath. That doom-bringing tritone riff with Ozzy’s apocalyptic lyrics layered over the top is the reason it’s widely touted as the first ever heavy metal song, and that growing riff at the end makes it one of the best introductions to a band you’ll ever hear. From the mouth of Geezer Butler, this song was written at a rehearsal when they were still playing 12 bar blues as Earth, then when this song dropped at one of their gigs, the crowd went wild, and as they say, the rest is history.

Ooooh here we are folks! Nine awesome songs have been covered, but now we get to the final one, the one that both of us have argued & agreed that is the best Black Sabbath song of all time. What do you think it is? What’s yours? Be sure to tell us in the comments so we can roundly agree with you or roundly deride you for your wrong choice.

But before we announce the best Sabbath song of all time, we’d like to give honourable mentions to Changes, Cornucopia, Zero the Hero, Heaven & Hell, Zeitgeist, God is Dead?, Planet Caravan, Lord of this World, Under the Sun/Every Day Comes, N.I.B, Dirty Women and of course, Paranoid. You are all filthy, dirty rifferoonies, but unfortunately, this hall is for the GOAT-tier Sabbath tracks, and the GOAT-iest of all GOAT tracks is:

1 – Children of the Grave – Master of Reality

LT: This song is dark, it’s heavy, it’s menacing and just has so much power behind it. The lyrics spark images of revolution in the mind and the backdrop drop of this song really makes this a soundtrack to bring down governments too. At the same time the song sounds totally apocalyptic as well and especially when that mammoth riff in the middle section comes in. This is Sabbath at their absolute best, each musician on their own is doing some great creative work here but this song isn’t about the individual musicians it’s about each member coming together to make something truly mighty and timeless, never losing it’s edge.

OB: Right from the muted intro into the stomping riff, through to the emphatic finish, this is one of the definitive Sabbath songs. Like most Sabbath songs, it’s the little idiosyncrasies that make this song, from Geezer’s fiddly bits in the verse, Tony’s riff that make a three piece feel like a five piece, Bill’s little fills on the drums and of course, Ozzy’s iconic voice acting as a call to arms. Despite the fact it was written over 40 years ago, many of Sabbath’s song, especially their political & anti-war songs still pack the same punch today as they did when the needles first hit the grooves of Master of Reality.

Top 10 LCD Soundsystem Songs

By Josh Adams (@jxshadams)2017-10-19

When James Murphy co-founded DFA Records, he unwittingly put himself in the eye of the storm of a new dawn for indie rock in the inarguable epicentre for cool: New York City.  After toiling in obscurity for decades, he was rubbing shoulders with fellow Gotham residents and breakthrough acts such as The Strokes, Interpol and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs but his simultaneously stunningly unique and boldly derivative modus operandi was far more fascinating than anything else his contemporaries had to offer, despite his advanced age.  His creativity manifested itself in several ways: in the aforementioned record label, in his wildly eclectic DJ sets, in his dancefloor-ready remixes and, of course, in LCD Soundsystem.  What first started off as an outlet for anxiety has since grown into one of the most formidable musical projects of the twenty first century. Murphy, thanks to his own handiwork, now stands shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Radiohead and Arcade Fire in the leagues of rock bands who can headline festivals whilst not sacrificing their daring artistry.

In case you can’t tell by now, LCD Soundsystem are my favourite group of all time; this, coupled with the above, has meant that devising a list for their top songs has been no small feat – even more so when you take into account the fact that, well, Murphy hasn’t put out a bad album yet. This year’s brilliant American Dream – released several years after their supposed last ever concert – is another jewel in the adorned crown, and only made a prized spot on the list frustratingly more contentious.  Somehow, I managed to whittle down LCD Soundsystem’s discography to ten songs that I believe not only show the depth of the project’s ambition and innovation, but also are just simply their best. You wanted a hit?  Here’s a handful.

10. Oh Baby

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrc1zGEPPmg

The first song of their comeback record is arguably the prettiest song Murphy has ever concocted in his mad scientist’s laboratory of vintage recording equipment. He takes a step back from his trademark yelp to croon seductively – well, as seductive as a bearlike hipster who’s pushing fifty can be – over an instrumental that cannibalises the best bits of Dream Baby Dream by Suicide and Rise by Public Image Limited. Synthesisers twinkle, snares reverberate and basses rumble ribcages in which hearts are made tender by lyrics such as “Please wake me, for my love lies patiently” and “You’re having a bad dream, here in my arms“. This is Murphy, meditative more than ever.

9. Movement

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TT2izWpGDCo

And now for something completely different. For all of music journalism’s categorisation of LCD Soundsystem as a “rock band” – something myself I fall into the habit of doing – the project rarely ever flexes it muscles in stereotypically “rock” fashion; they usually take notes from the likes of David Bowie, Can and The Velvet Underground instead of, say, The Sex Pistols or NirvanaMovement is the lone exception to this ideology – and it does so in hilarious fashion. Everything about the song screams punk – no, scratch that, everything about this song just screams, with its crashing cymbals, distorted guitars and buzzing keyboards. And in the middle of it is Murphy, lambasting the narcissistic state of modern rock: “It’s like a movement without the bother of another meaning, it’s like a discipline without the discipline of all of the discipline.” The early LCD singles proved Murphy was just as effective at writing hysterically acidic lines as he was at making you move over the course of several minutes or more. Movement, in just over one hundred and eighty seconds, showed he was a master at condensing that volatility too.

8. 45:33

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72-ebRSMJdE

In a career full of dauntingly long songs, 45:33 doesn’t take the cake; it ransacks the whole fucking bakery. Originally commissioned by Nike as a piece for running (including warm ups and a cool down section), Murphy took the chance to make an incredibly long, continuous piece of music inspired by E2-E4 by Manuel Göttsching, and ended up with a six part disco masterpiece that’s probably going to be the only song he’ll write for a digital format over an analogue one, due to the spacing limitations of vinyl.  The extent of the track’s ambition becomes even more breathtaking when you consider that Murphy writes all and plays the vast majority of instruments on all his own work – it is this that proves his dedication to his artistry.  The song itself starts off with cascading layers of synthesisers trailing off into the nether before a steady, melancholy groove kicks in – one that was enhanced in the band’s initial last shows by a raging, rapping Reggie Watts. The real surprise is the use of an instrumental, demo version of fan favourite Someone Great from their masterpiece Sound of Silver; however, the tranquility is shattered by some of the grooviest beats in LCD’s discography, with crazed brass, slippery bass guitar and the always-present arbitrary percussion complimenting the unrelenting energy.  The final part takes the form of an ambient epilogue, clearly influenced by Brian Eno, with cosmic vocal harmonies calming everyone down and sending them off into the night after the madness of the previous three quarters of an hour.  Indulgent?  Potentially.  Brilliant?  Absolutely.

7. How Do You Sleep?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBLagwi_m2c

The death of David Bowie rocked every music fan’s world in some way or another and for Murphy – himself a collaborator and close friend with The Thin White Duke in his final years – it seemed to send him back to the music of his childhood, where he once idolised Bowie.  The legend’s influence is all over American Dream – but so are the post-punk and new wave favourites of the 1970s and 1980s that have to come define a certain strain of indie rock that a young Murphy also came to fetishise.  Specifically, of course, the likes of Joy Division and The Cure, the haunting and sometimes downright terrifying atmospherics of which have been a direct influence of the mid-LP highlight How Do You Sleep?. Named after the barbed John Lennon song, which took aim at fellow ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, Murphy’s take on crumbling friendships set its sights firmly on DFA Records co-founder Tim Goldsworthy, who allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the label before escaping to England.  LCD Soundystem have never sounded this intimidating – Murphy wails in the distance, barely making himself heard over the sea of pounding drums and bubbling synthesisers.  Dissonant strings ramp up the tension until it kicks off into a stunning dance section, complete with cowbell.  Leisurely taking up nine minutes, the song refuses to let go of you until the final few seconds, constantly ascending to higher plains with increasingly eclectic instrumentation joining the fray as Murphy bastardises the lyrics to the song that originally brought him and Goldsworthy together – Gang of Four’s At Home He’s A Tourist, for the curious – to create a chorus: “One step forward, and six steps back.”  Almost certainly a shoo-in for the most danceable ‘fuck you’ of the twenty-first century.

6. Yeah (Crass Version)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pJseqQNQ_zA

If you ever had to play one LCD Soundsystem song on a night out, Yeah would absolutely have to be your only choice.  There’s two versions of the track that at different points in the night would equally be at home in any club; the ‘Pretentious’ version is an early-night, chill out jam that finds its groove and sticks with it, remaining so for as long as it can.  The far superior ‘Crass’ version almost acts as a sort of history of dance music, from its funk based origins to a heart-pounding, jaw-swinging, ear-drum bursting techno finale that itself last six glorious minutes.  It’s the highlight of every LCD Soundsystem show, with an amazing light show to back the transformation of any venue they’re playing in into an Ibizan ecstasy haven, with the track being extended even longer live, courtesy of a few timbale and cowbell solos from Murphy.  Considering the sheer power of the instrumental behind the man himself, the lyrics he’s spouting over the course of it are almost questionable. I mean, the word “yeah” is repeated incessantly hundreds of times (I lost count around the four hundredth and eighth “yeah”) for Christ’s sake.  But what Movement is to rock, Yeah is to dance music – Murphy’s always-sarcastic tongue is chiselling away at the repetitive nature of contemporary electronica, which what he sees is a desperate attempt at remaining relevant in the face of the changing trends of pop music. But to be honest, nobody’s really thinking of that when everything drops out save for a sole, echoing cowbell and a four-to-the-floor beat that propels the listener into the most exhilarating, physical moment of LCD Soundsystem’s career.

5. Home

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aBpl8YH9cjQ

LCD Soundsystem are often a band of unique parallels – rock music and dance music, originality and good-natured thievery and, with the advent of Sound of Silver, biting wit and searing emotional honesty.  The group’s third effort took the third of these to new lyrical heights, especially on cuts such as All I Want and I Can Change, but nowhere else is it more evident than on album closer Home.  Themes of home and being in a band are Murphy’s bread and butter, but here he confronts them head on, with a musical backing that winks at the detractors who claim he is nothing but a pop music pilferer by referencing himself: the percussion from Yr City’s A Sucker, the bassline from Losing My Edge, and the chord progression and vocal harmonies from Dance Yrself Clean all feature to form a majestic, tear-inducing whole.  It’s remained a staple of their live sets since its release in 2010 and for good reason: whilst its lyrical content could make even the most steely-nerved and hardy of people well up with existential sorrow (“If you’re afraid of what you need, look around you, you’re surrounded, it won’t get any better“), its beat is stubbornly bouncy and its synthesisers remain bubbly throughout, making it perfect for entry into the pantheon of LCD’s unmissable live tracks.  As the song coasts out on a lone guitar riff into a final cymbal crash, you can’t help but feel that if Murphy called it quits there, they would have ended on one hell of a bang.

4. Dance Yrself Clean

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoA0cTC228M

That drop.  THAT DROP.  There’s a reason that, despite its near nine minute long run time, Dance Yrself Clean is almost everybody’s first taste of the world that is LCD Soundsystem, and it arrives at roughly three minutes and six seconds in.  It is one of the most euphoric musical experiences ever put to wax, the stark minimalism of its components only serving to enhance the joyous nature of its outstanding whole.  There’s two keyboard lines – one distant and whistling, the other deafening and all-consuming – a stereotypical LCD drum pattern, and arguably Murphy’s greatest vocal performance to date, yet it still manages to completely overwhelm you and make you do exactly as the title demands. However, that’s not to discount what comes before it.  In order to reach the lofty heights it eventually peaks at, the previous three minutes do a damn fine job of setting the scene and subverting expectations, with its whispered lyrics and ominous synth chords.  Several Murphys sing in harmony numerous times, often setting up something that you eventually think will never come, until it tears your face off and blows your speakers up (the latter of which is apparently intentional, if its creator is to be believed).  The song shifts back and forth between these extreme dynamics regularly, keeping the listener on their toes, whilst Murphy pulls some of his best lyrics out of the bag: “Talking like a jerk, except you are an actual jerk, and living proof that sometimes friends are mean“, “Break me into bigger pieces, so some of me is home with you, or wait until the weekend, so we can make all of our dreams come true”, “Every night’s a different story, it’s a thirty car pile up with you, everybody’s getting younger, it’s the end of an era, it’s true“… the list goes on and on, until Murphy eventually loses his voice and is forced back into a meek mutter, sleigh bells closing us out.  If you aren’t left breathless, then you haven’t danced hard enough.

3. New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noag6ZyJcbA

For all the stunning attributes and adjectives that you can list about LCD Soundsystem, “gorgeous” would not be one that instantly comes to mind.  Sure, as they mature, their more tender side blossoms, but the original idea listeners have of Murphy and co. is one of danceable beats, clever lyrics and an obsessive attention to production detail.  New York, I Love You… flips that preconceived notion on its head, to a startlingly successful degree.  The Sound of Silver closer lyrically takes the form of a surprisingly direct ode to the titular city, criticising the thing it has become but still loving it for it was, as it musically goes through several transformations: from ambient ballad, to singer-songwriter waltz, and finally a blazing rock outro.  There are still strands of Murphy’s heroes embedded in the track – Eno and Reed, in particular – but it’s on New York, I Love You… that it’s confirmed to us that Sound of Silver represents a man stopping making music about music, and starting to make music simply to express himself.  It’s one of the most emotional songs in the LCD canon, and its rumination on home and nostalgia can strike a chord with almost everyone – just ask the eighteen thousand odd people who witnessed the song as the last number at the group’s then-last gig at Madison Square Garden back in 2011.  Despite their reunion, its power to bring tears and triumph to any venue in equal measure remains.

2. Losing My Edge

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xG4oFny2Pk

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where it all started.  Who knew that a plodding drum machine, an infectious bassline, a steady beat and some snarky vocals would kickstart a career as unequivocally consistent as Murphy’s?  Released at the right time of the early Internet era, Losing My Edge heralded the coming – or a revival, depending on who you asked – of a sound that previously looked to trip up over its own hype.  It’s easy to forget now, but its combination of post-punk sneer and turnarounds with bouncing electronics was a revolution to a generation of hipsters, and by an extent a wider mass audience, who weren’t alive to bear witness to the critical musical events that Murphy describes in the song.  At numerous points in your life, you could potentially find the inception for this track horrifically relatable: ageing music nerd finds that the bands he once championed being adopted by a younger, seemingly cooler generation; anxiety, but also inner conflict, ensues.  How can you be protective of records that aren’t actually yours?  Murphy attempts to justify this conflicted stance by using a rather extensive list of moments and bands in twentieth century culture – from Can to The Sonics, with Suicide, Daft Punk, Joy Division and, of course, Gil Scott-Heron in between – as a suit of armour to protect himself against the youth revolt of hipsterdom that he once ruled over.  Themes of age, of music, of cool, of us-versus-them that appear time and time again in Murphy’s music all come from this one place, this one song, married to arguably his most successful musical marriage of pure dance sonics and rock aesthetics.  I use no hyperbole when I state that this is my favourite song of all time and that it, in fact. took residency on the number one spot of this list, until…

1. All My Friends

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDRLW748j68

What else was it going to be?  LCD Soundsystem are one of those rare breeds that have a subjectively “best” track, one that is unanimously adored by the masses. It’s the closest song they have to one of those confounded hits that keep eluding them and it works pretty much anywhere: on your headphones, at a party, or in a field full of tens of thousands of people, it can be guaranteed you’ll be moved, physically and/or emotionally,  in some capacity.  But what makes it so special?  Its iconic, steady piano riff, its motorik beat,  its bassline cribbed from the best of New Order – so far, it sounds pretty archetypal for LCD Soundsystem. Yet it seems to be Murphy’s most carefully constructed song, so much so that by the time it reaches its glorious, heart-pounding peak from its humble beginnings the listener find themselves suddenly blindsided by euphoria – its transcendent finale really does feel like it comes out of nowhere, sort of like that old age Murphy keeps going on about.  The lyrics and melody straddle that potentially fatal line between mawkish and contemplative, those now stereotypical LCD themes filtered through the lens of friendship, in all its splintered, ephemeral forms.  Like the best of the groups’ songs, there’s a melancholy air to proceedings, only made definitively clear by the final yells of Murphy: “Where are you friends tonight? If I could see all my friends tonight…”  Simply typing those lines gave me chills; witnessing them live brought me to unanticipated tears.  If you haven’t heard it yet, do yourself a favour and stick it on.  You won’t regret it.  All together now: “That’s how it starts…

Top 10 Protomartyr Tracks

By Kieran Cannon (@kiercannon)2017-10-19

One month on from the release of Protomartyr’s widely acclaimed Relatives in Descent, now’s as good a time as any to cast a glance over the back catalogue of a band rapidly gaining traction within indie and post-punk circles. Since their 2012 debut All Passion No Technique, a remarkably accomplished but often-overlooked part of their discography, their songcraft and stage presence has grown tangibly with every new release, channeling post-punk sensibilities accompanied by snarling, cryptic lyrics in a manner which is not only relevant but utterly compelling. We’ve taken a look through all four albums in order to pick the very best tracks they’ve recorded so far.

10. Ypsilanti

Demonstrating frontman Joe Casey’s scholarly interests and his characteristic fondness of retelling stories from literature, often laced with dark humour and sardonic inflection, here he recalls the case study of three schizophrenics under the impression they are Jesus Christ. Fascinating, morbid and eye-opening in equal measure, delving into his lyrics is often enlightening but never does it feel like a chore. Like all good storytellers, his delivery – unnervingly detached during verses, explosive during choruses – is key.

9. Up The Tower

Greg Ahee shines here as his inventive guitar work and unexpected chord changes carry the mood throughout the entire song. Tension rests on the various riffs as they ebb and flow, ranging from frenzied bursts to tense palm-muted sections. The rhythm section thunders distantly throughout the majority of the track, suddenly erupting into action like an elephant stampede coming into view as Casey shouts “Throw ’em out! Throw ’em out!

8. Why Does It Shake?

To paraphrase an old football commentator’s cliche: a song of two halves. The first is boastful and defiant, the words of a brashful and self-confident man. “I’ll be the first to never diesnarls Casey, bragging that he has the whole world at his feet. After one final bombastic display, a doomed attempt at convincing himself that he’s “never gonna lose it“, suddenly the walls come tumbling down and the sustained pace grinds to a halt. Tentative drums and anxious guitar flickers back and forth as suddenly existential doubt floods in. “Why does it shake? / The body… / Why does it move? / The fear…“, a philosophical observation on the fragile nature of humanity from a man who is, himself, on the verge of a breakdown.

7. Scum, Rise!

An abrasive, industrial-sounding riff rings out throughout the whole song in what undoubtedly ranks as one of the band’s most archetypal post-punk offerings. Described as a “rallying cry for the dispossessed”, Casey’s growling delivery of “scum, rise!” sounds anthemic – like Spartacus egging on a slave rebellion or a revolutionary leader encouraging a proletariat uprising.

6. The Chuckler

The daily grind is conveyed here in nihilistic fashion. All the depressing travails of 21st century life – both mundane and global – are no longer a source of despair; instead, with a degree of resignation and hollow, deadpan laughter, he submits: “I guess I’ll keep on chuckling / ‘Til there’s no more breath in my lungs / And it really doesn’t matter at all / Ha ha“. Greg Ahee’s innovative songwriting again comes to the forefront, continuing to experiment sonically and structurally to great success.

5. Clandestine Time

Airy, reverb-laden guitars soar over driving percussion in a manner reminiscent of shoegaze on this instrument-dominated track. The interplay between Ahee’s riffs – which fluctuate in and out of focus – and Leonard’s drumming patterns is underpinned by Davidson’s stepwise bass hooks, all of which merges together in an infectiously energetic yet wonderfully nuanced way. The genius of this song lies in the way it never slows down yet still manages to build to a climax; the introductory section is revisited in the middle and outro, augmented each time by riffs carried over from previously, eventually culminating in a mesmerising final minute.

4. Here Is The Thing

Something of a throwback to the much-maligned “blasted trumpets” discussed in A Private Understanding, in the firing line this time is capitalism and indeed its profound impact on the course of history in Detroit, paying homage to Mark E Smith’s animated delivery. Ascerbic lines such as “Now you know innovative thievery in parking structures” and “In the grind of the day / It grows fat off your fear” brilliantly capture the resentment in the city felt towards the rapid onset of gentrification and the manner in which power is concentrated in the likes of millionaires and real estate developers.

3. Devil In His Youth

In light of the concerning amount of momentum far-right movements are gathering worldwide, this track feels more poignant than ever. Throughout the course of the song, an average boy living a privileged, suburban lifestyle grows into a figure of malice, a consequence of his skewed worldview and stunted social capabilities leading to rejection by his peers. As a result, he develops unsavoury and vindictive tendencies such as racism and misogyny, leading him to yell in angst “I will make them feel the way I do / I’ll corrupt them till they think the way I do“. Sound familiar?

2. Ellen

A beautifully heartfelt ode, expressed from the perspective of his late father, to his mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s and a rare, delicate moment of introspection; simultaneously mournful and celebratory of the memories he and his mother share. Placed in context, its gritty post-punk surroundings serve to emphasise how fragile this track is. The melodies feel out of focus and hazy, giving it a noticeably tender feel despite featuring the same distorted guitars and pulsating drums as seen previously. Ostensibly the only ‘love song’ ever penned by the Detroit quartet, the rarity of such a thing is also the source of its beauty. A prime example of quality over quantity.

1. My Children

The second single to be released from their latest album and one of the most complete songs they’ve recorded yet, Protomartyr have managed to distill almost every aspect of their music into a deeply satisfying 3 minutes and 42 seconds. An ominous, mumbled intro gives way to angular guitars as the anti-frontman delivers a caustic take on issues of growing old, remaining childless and the implications that might have on his legacy. As usual, attentive listeners are rewarded with references and easter eggs such as the sly Bowie reference when he sings “So don’t lean on me, man / ‘Cause I ain’t got nothing to give“, as well as the Greek mythological connotations of “My children / Ain’t got no mother / Came from my temple, all, when I thought them“. Perhaps a bit of an initial slow-burner, after repeated listens this track has established itself as arguably their greatest output to date.