A curious quirk of this series is that I occasionally get suggestions from friends for a subject to cover, and often, they are smart, considered subjects that I might not have thought of.
/Playlists /Spotify / /YouTube
/Related /392/I, Me, Mine /Tuesday Ten/Index
/Assistance /Suggestions/100 /Used Prior/7 /Unique Songs/89 /People Suggesting/57
/Details /Tracks this week/10 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/10 /Duration/44:22
This week is one of those. My friend Shreena asked a couple of months ago about two subjects that I might cover, and it turned out that both had some fascinating suggestions when I opened them up on the usual suggestion threads: so over this week and next, I’ll be covering both.
I start this week with “difference” – it was originally suggested as “deviation”, but the more I looked at the songs suggested, and the final ten, the more I was sure that “difference” was a more appropriate description. Either way, these are songs about the differences that mark us out as individuals, but also those differences that might bring us closer together. Some of the subjects are positive, some are not so, but there are ten great songs here.
Thanks again to Shreena for the excellent initial suggestion, and also – as ever – to everyone that has suggested songs. The stats are in the box above, of course.
Finally: see some of you tonight on my latest livestream, /TheKindaMzkYouLike/019, with the now-usual mix of 90s alternative and newer related sounds.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound me. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/Ben Folds Five
/Ben Folds Five
Ben Folds, always the outsider, rather created an outsider anthem with one of their first, and most enduring singles, even if it was poking fun at the same time. It is important to remember the context: by 1996, every alternative band, good and bad, had seemingly been swept up by the major labels in a stampede to the next cool thing, and it didn’t take long for many of those expensive deals to quickly cost a lot of bands their shirts (and in some cases, a whole lot more). Underground both celebrates and mocks those alternative scenes in every small town, where everyone tries to be different and often ends up looking like everyone else in the room. All very familiar, frankly – even if as many of us have aged, we’ve found our own styles, and remain different.
/Queer As Folk
One artist who has very much found their own style is Grace Petrie, even if – as she describes in what has probably become her signature song – it was a difficult route to it. Black Tie is a fabulous kick to the shins of gender conformity and the “norm”, as Petrie offers reassurance to their younger self, trying to negotiate teenage hell when they’ve already realised that they were different to their peers (by their own definition, “socialist, feminist, and lesbian“). But hidden in what is a warm-hearted song are a number of jagged political barbs (some of which are genuinely brilliant couplets, such as “The images that fucked ya were a patriarchal structure”), and a plea for narrow-minded people (such as, you know, TERFs), to fuck off and mind their own business, and let others live their own lives as they wish.
/Levelling The Land
For those young enough not to remember – and indeed as a reminder to those that are – The Levellers were genuinely a huge thing in the early nineties. They had number one albums, high-charting singles, and headlined Glastonbury too (although I still think their barnstorming Glastonbury ’92 set is better than their headlining set in ’94), and were among the bands at the forefront of fighting against what became The Criminal Justice Act and have been fundraisers for various causes too over the years.
Much of that sentiment was encapsulated in their track One Way, which opened their greatest album Levelling The Land and for a while felt like it became a bit of an albatross for the band. A huge, rousing song that celebrates individual thought and action, as a means of bettering oneself and helping to agitate for change, now I’m older it perhaps holds different meaning to me, as I can continue to celebrate being different but also understand that there are occasions where I need to temper that feeling to achieve what I want to do. But that’s just me.
/Was (Not Was)
/Out Come The Freaks
/What Up, Dog?
Recorded in three separate versions over the years – with different characters sketched out across the songs – but broadly, the same concept is employed. Here the differences are not celebrated, as frankly the, er, different people (or societal outcasts and terrible people, if you will) are doing awful things and being called out for it. The original version is a late disco track from 1981, it was then drastically changed into the slow jam of (Return to the Valley of) Out Come the Freaks in 1983, before being resurrected into the hard-as-nails funk-soul glory of the 1987 take that’s the version I know best, and the snarling takedown of the gutter characters is as hilarious as the song is truly brilliant.
One of the standout tracks from the uneven Deviant saw JS Clayden on top lyrical form, as he sneered at the idea of conformity (a common theme in his songs over the years), wondering who was the one who failed? The one with the regular career and suburban house, kids and “normal” life, or the one who followed their dreams and became a performer. I think many of us in the “alternative” world had a fear of growing older and becoming more conservative, and shedding parts of our images that made us interesting, perhaps. While some certainly have, many of my friends have actually taken routes that deviate from the norm more than ever, keeping their identity and core beliefs intact – and crucially, helping to make a better world in some pretty bleak times.
/Dark Days + Canapés
Obaro Ejimiwe, who is Ghostpoet, has long specialised in gloomy meditations on standing away from the crowd in various ways, as if he doesn’t associate with the world around him. The exceptional Freakshow, with taut post-punk guitars screaming through a doomy bass-led song, has him showing his disdain for the consumption-obsessed modern world (as he stands in Westfield, of all places), and people that he sees that he cannot relate to. The unanswered question to me, though, is whether Ghostpoet is seeing himself as the “freak” here, or everyone else. I kinda suspect the latter…
/People Are People
/Some Great Reward
One of DM’s most immediate pop songs, there’s no doubt about that, but also one with some of the tritest lyrics Martin Gore ever wrote, at least in my opinion. That said, the message at the heart of it, one of anti-racism and anti-discrimination, is at least a sound one, a plea to celebrate difference rather to use it to divide and conquer. Sadly, of course, that’s a plea that has very much fallen on deaf ears in our current generation of politics. As for the sound of Depeche Mode by this point? This is where they really started sounding like the globe-straddling behemoth that they became by the end of the decade.
One of the first grunge tracks a few years before the genre got coined – and still one of Dinosaur Jr.’s greatest songs – this is three-and-a-half minutes of fuzzy rock perfection, as J. Mascis prevaricates over making a move of some sort on someone, emphasising what they have in common along the way. Either as a potential confidante or lover, who the fuck knows, but as befits the slacker stereotype Mascis quickly embodied, nothing much really happens aside from some amazing guitar work and lots of indecision in the song. The original Freak scene, too, was one of the people who wanted to be different and came out of the sixties counterculture.
/Bloodied Yet Unbowed
/Redemption At The Puritan’s Hand
The gradual move Primordial has made from a raw Black Metal band to an expansive, epic folk-tinged doom has been fascinating to follow, but I must confess that I prefer that latter sound. Their lengthy songs and albums can take a bit of getting into, too, but some songs make clear their power instantly, and this song was one of them: a celebration of difference and individual thought and drive, where vocalist A.A. Nemtheanga pays tribute to those who’ve no regrets in their actions, accepting that we each have to do different things to push our lives forward.
/Kermit the Frog
/The Muppet Show
One of the most incredible, awe-inspiring legacies of Henson’s Muppet Show and Sesame Street is that it has always, always celebrated difference, and – especially in the case of Sesame Street – gone to great lengths to ensure that the Muppets and actors alike used reflected the diversity of the children (and adults!) watching the show, to ensure that children began to understand and celebrate such diversity, rather than shunning it.
And what better way to close out this /Tuesday Ten on difference than to have Kermit the Frog first lamenting his green colour, as he blends in and doesn’t stand out, before coming round to the idea that maybe, just maybe, he can accept what he is, and become confident in himself – and accept others for what they are, too, whether they are green like him or not.