Sunday, October 02, 2005

Ten Best

As you may have guessed by now, I am hopelessly addicted to coming up with categories and lists. Oftentimes, the only way I can keep myself interested in the task of writing about music is by creating some little exercise that I can use to kickstart my rusty cogs, if only for a half-hour or so. Also, it has to be something with which I can amuse myself.

I kind of stole this idea from here. Only in my case, the idea isn't to come up with the ABSOLUTE, INARGUABLE ten best. It's just ten of the best. I think of ten songs I love by a band or person and then try to be briefly definitive in talking about them.

We begin, but of course, with Pulp.

1. “Common People”: Need you ask why? In little over five minutes, this is simultaneously synth-pop, arena-rock, a protest song, punk, satire, folk music, crushingly sad, and utterly uplifting all at once.

2. “My Legendary Girlfriend”: My favorite British dance song after New Order’s “Temptation.” Proof that drum machines and sequencers can evoke seething desperation, alienation and desire as well as anything else.

3. “Lipgloss”: Wrote about this one before. It’s where they elevate the most mundane of heartbreaks to great drama. Their most empathetic song.

4. “Mis-Shapes”: Jarvis all but disowns this one now, I think because its nerds-take-over triumph proved so hopelessly futile in time. Does this mean he didn’t realize that bittersweet failure is hardwired into the song to begin with? “Oh, we weren’t supposed to be.”

5. “This is Hardcore”: It took me some time to realize just how perfectly this song’s near-pornographic lyrics work as a metaphor for spending too much time trying to become famous and then pulling it off. Never before or since have the words “That goes in there” carried such a weight of defeatism and exhaustion.

6. “Sheffield: Sex City”: Wanted to include one of Jarvis’ pure monologues. Like “Legendary Girlfriend,” its seediness masks deeper concerns, personal and political.

7. “Disco 2000”: Laura Branigan’s guitar riff and the drums from Blondie’s “Atomic” unite with awkward lifelong longing.

8. “Help the Aged”: Pop and rock still, by and large, like to pretend aging doesn’t happen. This one dives straight in.

9. “You’re a Nightmare”: Had to include a rare b-side here, even if just to be contrary. Pulp have a bunch of what I think of as hip-swinging, mirror ball ballads and this is the most desolate, the most 3 a.m., of the lot.

10. “Blue Glow”: This is from the band’s most difficult era, the mid-‘80s, full of dissonance and low-rent production. But I have this sneaking feeling this era perfectly captured just how dire life in the Thatcher years must've been if you happened to be young, broke, and terminally weird.


Anonymous Bob said...

Not that your choice of Common People needs any defending, but is there a better Pulp moment than the "Well, what else could I do? I said I'll...I'll see what I can do" line?

9:43 AM  

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