It’s baking outside, I’m coming out of the back of my first bout of COVID, and really, all I want to do is hide indoors, with a fan on and a continual supply of water. I’ve already covered extreme heat a few years ago, on /Tuesday Ten /337 /Hot Hot Hot!!!, by the way, so go there for that.
/Subject /Quiet, Silence
/Playlists /Spotify / /YouTube
/Related /300/Bring the Noise /Tuesday Ten/Index
/Assistance /Suggestions/84 /Used Prior/15 /Unique Songs/64 /People Suggesting/39
/Details /Tracks this week/10 /Tracks on Spotify Playlist/10 /Duration/56:31
Instead, I’m dialling things back a little, as this week I look about songs about quiet and silence. It doesn’t necessarily mean sounds that aren’t loud, that’s for sure, but most of the songs are perhaps more reflective.
Needless to say, next week I flip the script and cover sounds about being loud. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who got involved as ever, and gave some fabulous song suggestions.
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).
/Enjoy The Silence
Like many Depeche Mode singles, there are many versions of this. There’s the six-minute album version (with an unusual fade-out mid-song, followed by quite a bit of dead air!), the four-minute single, the seven-minute live version, even the slightly-less-than-four-minutes remixed single version by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park that heralded a (sometimes fascinating) remix compilation. None of them detract from the utter majesty of one of the band’s greatest songs.
Martin Gore here fashions a relationship between two people as a place of calm, of safety, and most of all, of quiet satisfaction. Where words don’t need to be said, and silence is comfortable and reassuring. Anton Corbijn’s video takes the concept further – Dave Gahan as a King in the mountains, wandering his domain for a quiet place to sit and think.
Also, let us take a moment here to reflect on the contribution of the late Andy Fletcher to the band, an essential, unflinching cog in what they did for so long, after he died at the end of May.
/World Shut Your Mouth
Julian Cope has had a hell of a fascinating career, really, leading The Teardrop Explodes, a surprisingly successful solo career, a music writer and archivist that helped resurrect interest in a number of genres, and one of the earliest musicians to “get” the internet and use it to reach his fans.
One of, if not his biggest, hits, it is a relatively straightforward rock song, really, as Cope tells an admiring tale of a non-conforming woman who sticks two fingers up at their naysayers and, well, tells them to shut their fucking mouths.
Also of note here, Julian Cope’s amazing, ladder-like microphone stand in the video, that allows him greater height to impressive effect.
/The Smashing Pumpkins
It is perhaps an amusing irony that quite a number of the songs featured this week are really quite loud. Arriving on a torrent of phased guitars and Jimmy Chamberlin’s thunderous drums, this song leans rather heavily into shoegazy stylings that Billy Corgan had clearly been influenced by, and also appears to detail his, er, difficult mental state at the time. Both mute with fear at revealing his true state, but also terrified of the silence of solitude, it reminds that everything was very much Not Well with the band in 1992/93. Despite that, it includes one of Chamberlin’s greatest drum performances and one of Corgan’s greatest solos, too – and conversely leads directly into the sunny front of Today on the album…
/Silence (feat. Sarah McLachlan) (Airscape Remix Edit)
By some considerable distance the biggest selling track Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber wrote together – in fact it has probably sold more than most of the FLA back-catalogue combined, even if it was a collection of remix versions of it two years after initial release that was the hit. It isn’t perhaps hard to see why the later remixes hit paydirt – the original version takes us down a New Age trail that Michael Cretu of Enigma had perfected years before, while the remixes upped the tempo and sent them straight to the heart of the dancefloor. Belgian Trance act Airscape were responsible for the version you’ve danced to at every industrial or trance club since before the Millenium (big build, fade out, even bigger build, almighty drop into euphoric climax. You know the one), although the silence and tranquility Sarah McLachlan craves in her vocals is nowhere to be found in this or the eleven-minute-plus Tiësto rework…
The elegant, majesterial title track from Japan’s third album didn’t quite deliver the hit their label was demanding, but it has stood the test of time in a way many of their peers just didn’t. David Sylvian’s rich vocal belies a weariness already, as if he’s even then tired of the rock circus and couldn’t wait to get the fuck out of London and escape to somewhere, anywhere, quieter and where he wouldn’t be bothered by music industry Suits. The moment where Sylvain near-shouts “stop!” and the music all but follows him into a brief period of silence is a work of art, too.
Later turned into an astonishing, euphoric rave-up on their final tour nearly a decade ago, in the original form as the opening track on their third album, Silent Shout broods like a bitter goth. A song of fragility and mental anguish, it is a(nother) song this week about being unable to put into words important things that need to be said, and instead turns down the rabbit hole of nightmares and fears. There are few words, because those moments of silence from The Knife, where they don’t speak, are the most terrifying of all.
Mark Alan Miller’s long-running Out Out project got a shot in the arm in 2016 with the excellent album Swan/Dive? (the first in eight or so years), and it rather unfairly got a bit lost in the mix. It was, for the most part, a searing, angry State of the Nation record, one that was one of a few sounding the alarm of what was to come. The groovy, multi-layered rhythms and barrage of synths of opening track Shut Up! was a raging highlight, as Miller tore into right-wing hypocrites and had a simple message for them: Shut up, someone else would like a word. Sadly, six years on, they are still waiting for that to happen.
/Better Be Quiet Now
Even with the years of distance since his untimely death, listening to Elliott Smith’s songs still sometimes feels like accidentally eavesdropping on a friend’s darkest times. Better Be Quiet Now is a perfect example of this, as Smith agonises over a connection that may or may not happen, and he prevaricates over whether to say something, or simply stay quiet, brooding with his thoughts. Even though it’s obvious that the cavernous silence of his (enforced?) solitude is making things much, much worse, giving time to doom-laden thoughts and possibilities.
/In A Silent Way
Unlike many of my friends, there are elements of Jazz that I adore. I don’t really know where I got the love of it from – my dad was rarely more than a casual fan, and few of my friends or peers were fans either before I got to University and beyond at least. I’ve got back into it again in recent years, exploring artists I’ve never heard before or never really explored beyond the stone-cold classics, and some of that exploration I can thank Bosch for (it has an extraordinary jazz-leaning soundtrack, thanks to the titular character’s deep love of the genre).
Miles Davis, mind, I’ve been listening to for many years. But not this album before, I don’t think – which turned out to be one of the more controversial ones, where he went fully electric and moved into jazz-fusion territory. It’s still after-dark, shadowy music, mind, the results of late-night improvisations and sleepless nights playing music – and this first half of the album certainly takes you on a journey where your silence is needed, to catch the exquisite detail of the music that at times is gossamer thin.
/Do Not Go Quietly Unto Your Grave
One of the bands that tilted me into listening to more jazz, perhaps, was the incomparable Morphine. A band who replaced guitars with saxophones and could still rock harder than most, but most of the time were content to drift into more contemplative styles, as the late Mark Sandman explored the depths of desire and lust in his songs. From their first album comes this almost celebratory song, where Sandman takes the position of an older person, nearing the end of their life, and imploring younger people listening to take life with both hands, and do everything they can in “a world gone to hell”. In other words, don’t approach death quietly: do everything to the max and enjoy it while you can.
Sadly Mark Sandman never had the chance to follow his own songs advice, dying onstage from a heart attack in July 1999, aged just 46 – although he was clearly doing what he loved until the end.