As part of the promised diversification of content in my previous post, these weekly articles will document the songs and artists I’ve been listening to during my time away from the blog.
Despite a meticulous brainstorming session with my housemate as to what to call this series, I’ve taken the executive decision to disregard her suggestions (much better than mine) to name this series ‘It’s Monday’. Clever? Not really. Considered? Nope. But, a reference to David Bowie’s 1977 stormer ‘Joe The Lion’? Absolutely, so it will stay.
Published at the start of every week, these posts will provide five songs to discover (or re-discover) and indulge in. For those who’d like this on Spotify, a playlist is available to follow at the bottom.
Mad Tom of Bedlam – Jolie Holland
A free, bouncing percussion-led composition, ‘Mad Tom of Bedlam’ offers a unique exploration into aural sparsity and vulnerability. While Holland’s vocals provide little in straight and narrow-ness, they offer a simultaneously elegant and punchy follower to the captivating accompaniment.
Successfully executed experiments of this sort are difficult to find, yet Holland strikes an excellent balance of power between herself and the liberalism of her drumming accompaniment. Cultivating a sound not dissimilar to Fiona Apple’s 2020 LP Fetch The Bolt Cutters, ‘Mad Tom’ is a wonderful offering from an artist much more accustomed to somber and heartfelt blues than buoyant idiosyncrasy.
Just Like Arcadia – Psychic TV (1988)
Accessibility isn’t a term often thrown at Psychic TV, or their original incarnation Throbbing Gristle. Specialising in the creepy and unsettling, their songs can range from beautifully constructed structures of divinity to a child singing over a Casio keyboard for two minutes (not as successful a combination as Jolie Holland and her percussive friend).
Still, there are morsels of forgiveness across their discography, and ‘Just Like Arcadia’ is one of these. A peculiarly danceable ear worm directed by a catchy hand-clap and three note bass line, it’s hard to resist the impulse to tap or nod your head along. Genesis P-Orridge’s deadpan, single-toned expressionism offers an oddly fitting contradiction to the softness of the lyrics (“If you could understand / You would take my hand / and I would spread so far / Just like Arcadia”).
In ‘Just Like Arcadia’, Psychic TV demonstrate their ability in crafting easy, uplifting tunes alongside their more challenging output.
Alpha Venom – Sophie Hunger (2020)
Released only a couple of weeks ago, Sophie Hunger’s triumphantly defiant ‘Alpha Venom’ is a brilliantly powerful three minute hit of synth delirium. It’s an unrelenting powerhouse which seamlessly emancipates itself from fierce anger into rebellious delicacy from verse to chorus.
She stands her ground against a fierce adversary as she reminds them “Don’t forget who makes the music”, later becoming “I’m the one who makes the music” in the final throws of the song. Whatever war Hunger may be fighting, ‘Alpha Venom’ is the omnipotent weapon of choice. It devastates in its shameless confidence, and is never easily forgotten.
Wrong – Everything But The Girl (1996)
While Everything But The Girl (EBTG) were somewhat late in announcing themselves to the 90s club scene, they were certainly efficient in making up for lost time. ‘Wrong’, the lead single from their tenth album Walking Wounded, is essentially a simple track – dominant percussion ahead of a stylish riff, spearheaded expertly by the gentle vocals of lead singer Tracey Thorn.
However, ‘Wrong’ is a masterful coalescence of the lyrical themes of EBTG’s earlier releases and the infectious sounds of the club scene, without compromising either component. This track is a mover but is still an emotional tale, owing to its main lyrical hook, ‘Wherever you go I will follow you / Cos I was wrong’. This gives the song a vital, tragic romanticism, leading to a composition able to not only stand alone from the others, but also be utterly addictive.
The Belldog – Eno Moebius Roedelius (1978)
A swirling, directionless masterpiece, ‘The Belldog’ is an essential Brian Eno composition. Crafted alongside the duo Cluster, it holds a reminiscence to Eno’s earlier work ‘Another Green World’ in its lack of specific destination. Descending pianos amongst a fuzzy synthesiser riff create a soundscape of dreamy haziness, you could almost float in its magnificence.
Eno beautifully serenades his creation, setting the scene in industrial bleakness (‘Most of the day / We were at the machinery / In the dark sheds / That the seasons ignored’) before escaping into an irresistible back-drop of night (‘And the light disappears / As the world makes its circle through the sky’). The song is stunningly awe-inspiring, sounding decades ahead of 2020, let alone of 1978.