Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Worst 200 Songs, Part VII: #80-61

*This originally appeared over at Tom's blog with hideous visual representations intact

I must be cruel only to be kind.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet, c.1599-1602, III.IV, 178

Oh, love is found in the east and west
But when love is at home, it's the best
Love is the cure for every evil
Love is the air that supports the eagle
It's called love
And it's so un-cool
It's called love
And somehow it's become unmentionable
It's called love
And it belongs to every one of us
It's called love
And it cuts your life like a broken knife

New Order, 'Thieves Like Us', April 1984 (FAC103)

80. Reef - 'Place Your Hands'
(1996, #6, TM)

DL: Post-Euro '96 Britrock known in its superior form as 'It's Your Letters', sung from the point of view of a man who hadn't passed a solid in a fortnight. Of course, many will clearly dissent.

AN: Quite like this I’m afraid. I find it difficult to be snarky about such unabashed optimism.

JG: I’m sure Gary Stringer thinks he’s being all emotive like Bob Mould by singing like that. But in truth it sounds like a labrador having its testicles sandpapered.

TM: Dull riff, though the vocal irks most: “Oh righ-ah-ht!” This is debased ‘blues’ bellowed with the humility of a Premier League player’s wage packet. Rawk & Roll at fun-point: I conscientiously object!

79. The Fratellis - 'Chelsea Dagger'
(2007, #5, DL)

DL: Worthless, infantile and moronic landfill 'indie' yob-rock that hasn't aged well at all. Conventional old rot that I truly expected to bag a Top 20 placing. Ear-gratingly compressed production too.

AN: I went to New York in 2007 and saw a giant poster of this utterly forgettable band in Times Square. The noughties: what the Jesus Christ happened there?

JG: All The Fratellis ever really had was the football terrace chant from this, and that became tiresome quickly enough. Otherwise, this is just gentrified meat and potatoes pub rock.

TM: Horribly unpretentious bass-line. Lairy chanting. Bullshit about a “blagger!” A desultory evocation of the emptiness of being on the hedonic treadmill; fuck the morals, it’s Made in Chelsea!

78. Foo Fighters - 'All My Life'
(2002, #5, DL)

DL: I really can't bear the overblown bluster of the Foos at the best of times, taking the crunchy power of Grohl's former band and discarding all the angst and integrity from it, and this typifies why.

AN: This is an especially poor effort from a conspicuously terrible band whose popularity has always baffled me. A lame attempt to borrow Queens of the Stone Age’s leftfield kudos.

JG: This is the epitome of former young Turks slipping into an irrelevant, comfortable and slack middle age, but who think they’re still The Shit. Rather than just shit.

TM: Generic rock vocals. While there is more offensive stuff in our list than this, it does exemplify an aesthetic mediocrity. Metal-lite exerts a mystifyingly persistent hold over so many; why?

77. The Mavericks - 'Dance the Night Away'
(1998, #4, DL)

L: The late '90s swells with records that make me feel nauseous for personal reasons, and the arse-end of high school was a low I'd never wish to return to. This drags me right back. See also Vengaboys.

AN: Novelty shite.

JG: Ubiquitous though it is at weddings and the like, I don’t hate this. It’s not forced. It’s not really all that slick or commercial. That’s not to say I like it much either, mind.

TM: Dire strumathon; a mariachi panto in the aisles of WalMart. The vocalist vacantly, consciously echoes Roy Orbison. This sort of hollow jollity depresses me more than the old Mozzer.

76. Right Said Fred & Friends - 'Stick It Out'
(1993, #4, RC)

DL: 'Deeply Dippy', 'I'm Too Sexy', 'Don't Talk Just Kiss' - all pop genius. This long-forgotten Comic Relief single is the epitome of awfulness however. They would never trouble the Top Ten again.

AN: I’m grateful to Robin for pointing out with his choices just how awful the early nineties could be. I’d forgotten.

JG: Is there a rule somewhere that says all Comic Relief songs must be embarrassingly unfunny, with cringeworthy cameos from BBC stars of the day to boot? This is even worse than Michael Buerk headbanging to 'Bohemian Rhapsody'.

TM: Inexplicable tosh, with Caine impressions and sub-Carry On innuendo. Puerile use of varied talents: Cook, Laurie, Fluff. I like ‘Deeply Dippy’ but this is shite, like this now grimly ironic Newsnight ditty.

75. Zucchero & Paul Young - 'Senza Una Donna (Without a Woman)'
(1991, #4, RC)

DL: Unwittingly funny drone not miles away from Jimmy Nail's infinitely superior 'Ain't No Doubt'. Self-pitying, sexist snooze-fest that doesn't even make sense in duet form: unless they both had a go.

AN: Some ‘80s kitsch is beyond even the revivalist fetishism of the hipsters. You can’t redeem this.

JG: Dreary. Next.

TM: ‘I changed the world’ with a Knopfler-esque guitar solo! Airy, ’80s sophisto-schmooze. I find it hard to hate the sound of this, but Yello or Art of Noise it is most certainly not. Clunky if not quite as bad as this.

74. Gym Class Heroes, Ft. Adam Levine - 'Stereo Hearts'
(2011, #3, BB)

DL: God damn you for resurrecting the UK profile of Maroon 5. Gym Class Heroes really do embody the worst excesses of novelty US hip-pop, with a typically imbecilic chorus from Adam Levine. Dreadful.

AN: I mean obviously it’s the Adam Levine parts that make this unlistenable. There are some dreadful voices in the world.

JG: I do welcome the use of turntable crackle on this. It’s years since a big charting hip-hop song had that. But otherwise this is pointless.

TM: Flimsy confection that makes #75 seem a work of unalloyed poignant humanity. “Make me your radio!” Simple-minded, half-hearted and witless: devoid of crucial things like desire and humour.

73. 4-4-2 (Talk Sport) - 'Come on England'
(2004, #2, RC)

DL: Everytime I hear an unofficial football song, the more my soul is charred. Glamour models, TalkSport and a blasphemous cheapening of a Dexy's classic. It's a good job football already has a bad name.

AN: Can’t think of anything more to say about these shit football novelty songs. They’re just shit football novelty songs aren’t they?

JG: One of the great many reasons I’m glad I was living in Canada for the whole of Euro 2004, and wish I could live there during every major international football tournament.

TM: “Like ’66”? Nah. TalkSport demolish a great, overplayed song. Such beery misappropriation makes one mourn the loss of the intense working-class spirit of bands like Dexys. This country’s dream debased.

Because giving 'your all' for 'Engerlund' is what will win us a trophy!

72. Elvis Vs. JXL - 'A Little Less Conversation'

(2002, #1, AN)

DL: Another football-related offering. Overplayed relentlessly to the point of collosal irritation, and sounded like a cheap Fatboy Slim knock off. Adopted by Dubya in 2004 as Republican propaganda too.

AN: Hmm. I can’t actually remember why I chose this. It’s the final nail in the coffin of nineties dance music, I suppose. Big Beat committing suicide.

JG: Fatboy Slim was shite. Absolute shite. So having a second-rate Fatboy Slim facsimile ripping into the fabric of one of Presley’s more interesting songs really corrodes the heart.

TM: Included on an 'Engurlund' footer tie-in compilation. The title becomes an all too literal credo for nihilist nullity. Dreary, B&Q-friendly ‘funk’. Just how dismal is bad dance music?

A little conversation would generally be better, like!

71. USA For Africa - 'We Are The World'

(1985, #1, DL)

DL: Good to have this in lieu of Band Aid. Trite, plodding, embarrassing. Seems even more patronising now the formula's been employed ad nauseum by Cowell and his revolving door of jumped-up semi-finalists.

AN: Profoundly ethically dubious and disastrous in its effects on a global scale. The rich beginning to justify the murderousness and inequality of their neoliberal project by revivifiying nineteenth century philanthropic propaganda.

JG: Controversial choice? To my mind “We Are the World” (like its Band Aid counterpart) contributed to the misunderstanding of African famine as an act of God, rather than the consequence of political decisions made with the West’s backing. Thus, shite song and shite cause.

TM: “We’re saving our own lives!” These histrionics are paradigmatic of how charity has acted as self-help and a boost to sundry musicians' careers. 7 minutes of sanctimony and hand-clapping delusion from the emoting roll-call.

70. LMFAO - 'Party Rock Anthem'
(2011, #1, DL)

DL: This 2011 chart-topper features GoonRock, and I couldn't put it better myself. For every Lana/Gotye there's at least 20 of these in the Top 40 at any time. You can't demand someone to have a good time.

: Don’t mind it.

JG: Half Scooter, half Flat Eric: all toss.

TM: Out of the CPR-flecked, windy haze: the utterance “Homeboy!” Tedious, easy chords attend priceless insights like: “We going to make you lose your mind” – why can't a mainstream dance hit be an ode to mindfulness for a change? “Everyday I’m shuffling” – what?

69. Enrique Iglesias - 'Hero'
(2002, #1, TM)

DL: How can so many people have such strange ideas over what constitutes a sincere and heartfelt song? Even by 2002, this had been done to death. Still demands a scrap more respect than Westlife though.

AN: We used to have this album on loop at the Italian restaurant in Hexham where I worked after me A levels. Needless to say I don’t have a lot of time for it.

JG: Shit.

TM: Melodramatic, emotional popular song needs richer embellishments – like Haircut 100’s heart-bursting marimba here. This is entirely redolent of the 9/11 moment – profuse humanity hardening into reaction.

68. Paul Nicholas - 'Grandma's Party'
(1976, #9, TM)

DL: Oh, go back to much-loved sitcom Just Good Friends, penned by the late John Sullivan. There's no doubt these stupefyingly banal '70s hits deserve their place but I'll not miss having to endure them.

AN: The time signature/phrasing in this is actually quite remarkable. A fascinating piece of music.

JG: Can you imagine attending a party featuring Paul Nicholas and his grandma? I’d be off down the railway line after that.

TM: Capering clowning follows the overdone solemnity of #69. Tragedy followed by farce and all that. This is an equally dismal party prospect as #70 with Nicholas a far too eager to please host.

67. Tenacious D - 'Fuck Her Gently'
(2001, #38 - album, DL)

DL: I once remarked that I didn't think I could ever friends with anyone who liked Tenacious D. I have been proved wrong, but this is neither clever nor funny. Just crass and as hideous as its authors.

AN: Novelty shite. Henceforth I’ll just say NS, I think.

JG: Has there ever been a less funny comedy rock outfit than Tenacious D? This is humour for FHM readers, i.e. cunts.

TM: “Sum lur-u-urve”: this evokes a greasy, beardy, lank-haired hell; human relations reduced to the cash nexus. “That’s fucking teamwork” – this is team-less individualism all the way. Profoundly unlovely.

66. Brian Harvey & The Refugee Crew - 'Lovin U'
(2001, #20, TM)

DL: Wyclef barely revisited the UK charts again after teaming up with MDMA hoover Harvey - 'Hips Don't Lie' aside - but re-emerged later as Will.I.Am. The musical equivalent of running yourself over.

AN: This is great.

JG: The musical equivalent of the Quintinshill rail disaster, with Wyclef Jean and Brian Harvey pissing around in the signal box whilst the 6.00am troop special ploughs into the night train from Euston.

TM: After the cringingly unfunny ‘humour’, comes an enjoyably laughable folly. The dispiriting words: “IT’S BRIAN HARVEY!” are followed by an epically tame rendition of the oldest football chant going.

65. Matchbox - 'Midnite Dynamos'
(1980, #14, RC)

DL: You could probably be forgiven for thinking this is Shakin' Stevens. What the fuck was this doing in the charts in 1980? No wonder people sought solace in John Peel and Closer as perfect antidotes.

AN: Sounds like a Dennis Waterman theme tune.

JG: You “only come alive when the old moon shows”? What, you’re werewolves? Well you bloody look like them! Good and night.

TM: Pitiful, limited Americophilia. Its baseness is exacerbated by their performance of it against the backdrop of the Confederate flag. Clapped-out revivalism plus pre-Civil Rights nostalgia: a fucking awful brew.

As far as backdrops go it's...
64. M People - 'Search for the Hero'
(1995, #9, TM)

DL: Wasn't Mike Pickering a key player at Factory Records? You can see how M People were seen initially as a classy, soulful combo yet by 1994 must have been writing specifically for Anodyne Shite FM.

AN: Don’t mind it.

JG: More self-help nonsense that reeks of the post-1979 enforced individualisation of society. This could function perfectly well as something A4e play to the unemployed during 'Employment Skills' training whilst quietly stealing taxpayers’ money.

TM: Actually a relief in context, at least during its PSB-lite intro of warm synths. BUT, a none-more-Blairite exhibit of crassly ‘feel-good’, fluffy materialism. Mere self-help makes islands of us.

How many consumer products has this song flogged?

63. Simply Red - 'You Make Me Feel Brand New'
(2003, #7, DL)

DL: *Not the most obvious SR single, but by 2003 Hucknall was bludgeoning perfectly acceptable soul standards to death in arrangements that must have pissed off dogs everywhere. A bit like driving too fast over a series of aural speed-bumps. Ooft! Ouch! Fuck! Bastard! Shall I press charges?

AN: Simply Red once walked into the Wellington Pub in Riding Mill causing much consternation amongst the waiting staff who worked there, including my friends Grant Edgeworth and Richard Lognonne, who relayed the information to a rapt audience the next morning at school. “He was wearing fucking leather trousers”, said Lognonne.

JG: Human beings who are “brand new” tend not to have the linguistic capability to sing. How I wish that were the case here.

TM: Pointless mauling of a rather lovely Stylistics song about the redemptive nature of human communion. Needless to say, he’s an affable enough luvvy-socialist. This is just needless. Lasting 305 seconds.


62. Paul Anka - 'Having My Baby'
(1974, #6, DL)

DL: This is unsettling, gruesome and worrying enough even when you don't imagine Josef Fritzl singing it, as I am now. As Willy Wonka once offered: "Shush. For some moments in life, there are no words".

AN: Nice keyboard sounds in this. But it’s crap.

JG: Proto-MOR that presages every cynical 'romantic' bastard ever since. Phil Collins must have been taking notes in between bouts of trying to ignore his vocalist dressing up as a fucking tree.

TM: “I love what it’s doing to you”. The “seed”. An automaton-lady appears just to re-iterate Anka’s self-glorifying tripe. It’s odd that this cloying claptrap didn’t cause a drop in Western birth-rates.

61. Brian May - 'Too Much Love Will Kill You'
(1992, #5, RC)

DL: Self-marrying May initially dealt with his post-Mercury grief by re-recording 1988 offcuts and then, in tandem with Roger Taylor, over two decades of attacking the legacy of Queen incessantly in a series of ever-inventive ways. (Could have gone on for much longer)

AN: This statement is factually inaccurate. Love saves you, everyone knows that. An extremely pernicious statement.

JG: I’m sure Freddie Mercury gave his full blessing in his final weeks for his close friend to release this later-period Queen song as a solo single, but the fact is that Brian May just can’t fucking sing.

TM: Would-be profundity from my namesake. Backed by pompous, precious music that we supposedly ought to be in awe of. Pizzicato, inevitably. “You’d sell your soul” – not to Faust but to Lloyd Webber, nemesis of the musical.

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