Monday, 14 February 2011

Five Songs For Valentine's Wallowing

The Anti-Valentine’s Day music playlist is probably as much of a cliché as the Valentine’s Day one, with music fetishising heartbreak and desolation as much as it does love and mawkish sentimentality. But seeing as I myself am a cliché-ridden tit, I figured I was on fairly safe ground indulging. Nonetheless, in lieu of the full playlist, and because definitive lists are generally Just No Fun, here are five songs to soundtrack your misery this wallowsome day.

The Walker Brothers – The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Any More

What better way to start this group misery exercise than with what I think of as the definitive break-up, loneliness, whatever song. Scott Walker’s croon has always been mournful, but you don’t need a sad voice when you’ve got someone so desperate at being alone as the protagonist in this song. The song seems to creep along; tired, afraid to commit to itself as it basks in the misery, then suddenly, wham! The sun ain’t gonna shine any more! The moon ain’t gonna rise in the sky! The tears are always clouding your eyes, when you’re without her! Those chimes and those sixties melodies and harmonies tug at the heartstrings, but were there ever truer words spoken than those in that chorus? I think not. Wallow on.

The Delgados – Child Killers

So you found love, met “The One”, moved in together, settled down, got married and had kids – you won, yeah? All that’s left is the happily ever after, right? Wrong! Although the whole of The Delgados’ classic album “Hate” deals with the subject of post-natal depression, nowhere is it more harrowing and sweetly soul-destroying than in this 7 minute-long opus. It’s the rich synths, the lullaby-like quality of Alun Woodward’s vocals that softly lull you, while all the while lyrics suggest that “maybe soon we’ll find peace in another world, say goodnight”. Hell, the pizzicato strings and orchestra in the outro could soundtrack a desperate, deranged woman kissing her child goodnight before stepping into traffic, a peaceful smile on her face. It’s that dark. And if you consider there’s supposedly no love purer than a mother’s love, then this song; this wretched, beautiful, heart-rending song, sits on here as snugly as any other.

The Auteurs – Light Aircraft On Fire

No, I’m not just picking the most antisocial sounding songs I know. A friend recommended a different Auteurs song for this, and though I wasn’t going to pick that one I knew there’s no-one better for a lazy anti-Valentine’s sentiment than King Curmudgeon himself, Luke Haines. Scuzzy guitar intro, vocals so repugnant they should be given an Asbo, and lyrics proclaiming (according to the liner notes at least) that “if you cut your lover slack, you’ll get a fucking monster back”. Alright, the recorded version shuns the swearie, but come on, you’ve got a song called “Light Aircraft On Fire”. It’s catchy. It pretty much espouses being a tyrant in a relationship within the first ten seconds of it (the first ten seconds of the album it’s cut from, too). It’s by Luke sodding Haines. It’s so far from the sentiment of Valentine’s Day that news of it will only reach Earth fifteen years after it’s happened.

The Cure – Disintegration

Considering they’re the same band that wrote “Friday I’m In Love” and “Love Song”, The Cure sure have a morbid streak running through them. This shouldn’t really surprise me, but what gets me every time is this track, number 9 of 10 (or 10 of 12) on the album of the same name, their 1989 classic which you really should listen to. It’s gothpop by numbers, but with a great groove, and a fantastic vocal performance by Robert Smith, which veers from distant, almost distracted, to a frantic, pleading, desperate yelp by the end. But what’s he singing about? Some people say post-breakup, but nuh-uh, it’s not that at all. He’s singing it from a point of view of a dead lover or husband, looking back at his now-widowed wife and child, apologising sure, but acknowledging the inevitability that “both of us knew how the end always is”. Coming so close to the end of Disintegration the album, an album jam-packed full of icy peaks and depths, it’s not so much a gut-punch as the last shower of soil on your coffin.

Richard Hawley – Coles Corner

Putting Richard Hawley and Scott Walker in the same list is always slightly suspect, but this is the kind of music both thrive in. Hawley does misery like few other, and Coles Corner is the epitome of that. Starting with soaring strings, recalling the aforementioned Scott Walker amongst others, before Hawley's wonderful rich voice flows in, singing “hold back the night, for us”, and it's this deep, lulling verse, with soaring orchestration which really draws you into the song. And then, the chorus hits – you notice the melancholy stakes have risen a little, but it's not until those final lines that it really hits you: “No-one there real, waiting for me, no smile, no flower, nowhere.” Bam! It's the sheer finality of that, as you listen you feel all the positivity just drain out of you, leaving you a shell of a man, barely stifling the tears as one of the most heartbreaking songs plays out its course, and with any luck, leaves you wallowing in just the right amount of misery for a day like today. Happy February 14th!

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