For this week, it’s time to turn my attention to another subject I should have done long ago and start a fight. Musically, at least.
Needless to say, there are an awful lot of songs about fighting in one way or another, be that physically, mentally, or metaphorically. There are humorous songs, serious songs, and some downright stupid ones, but it became quickly apparent that even in my own collection, I had a hell of a lot of options once again, so for a second week running there will be bonus tracks on Spotify. Other suggestions – as I’m sure there will be many more than this, of course – are welcome as always.
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. 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).
/The Indifference Engine
Let’s get warmed up in the ring with “chap-hop” king Professor Elemental, whose three minutes of verbal punches are hilariously silly, joining the long tradition of the rap “diss” track – disparaging another rapper in rhyme. But this isn’t like your standard, vicious diss track, no violence, but almost Monkey Island-style humourous insults instead, where the best one wins. The Professor certainly wins, on points, I’d suspect.
/LL Cool J
/Mama Said Knock You Out
/Mama Said Knock You Out
Potentially the best of the “diss” tracks in hip-hop, though, comes from LL Cool J in his early days, with this towering track where he absolutely roars out of the traps. The general view prior to this was that he was already waning after his first album, but this track turned the tables brilliantly, maybe fighting against the odds really does force the best work from you. Also of note is that both of these opening two tracks feature videos in boxing rings…
No dissing here, instead a glorious, two-minute pop-punk blast celebrating one of their teenage loves – kung fu movies. It celebrates the genius of Jackie Chan in particular, but Bruce Lee, Mr Miyagi, Johnny Wong and others all feature too. I can’t think of any other song that displays the youthful obsession with a film genre so brilliantly (and it’s use of samples is pretty awesome, too).
/(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)
/Licensed to Ill
The Beastie Boys back in the 80s were a very different bunch to what they became – rather than the serious, politically-savvy hip-hop grandees they are nowadays known as, they were bratty kids, really, sticking two fingers up at just about everyone. This song was one of the more overt examples of that, even if it is taking the piss out of half their audience: the idea that fighting for the right to get pissed, break shit and be stupid generally was far more preferable to actually engaging in the real world of politics and change. Even so, the video is a hoot.
/8 Mile OST
The film 8 Mile seemed to get Eminem a whole lot of respect for its gritty portrayal of a rapper overcoming the odds to be a star, and nowhere was his fighting spirit and desire to succeed better shown than in this song. Unusually for this genre, particularly in recent years, this is a blast of positivity, one burning with the passion to not fuck up, to take that one chance to elevate yourself beyond the current. In other words, fight for your chance, as you might not know when the next opportunity may come, if it ever does.
/The 5ifth Column
Moving west from Detroit to Chicago, and hopping genres to industrial-metal (ish!), a similar bristling determination rips out of this track, packed with savage riffs, breakdowns and Jason Novak’s impassioned lyrics that are absolutely determined to face down those that try and hold him down. Sadly his bandmate Jamie Duffy ended up not surviving the longer fight of life.
/Boy Sets Fire
/After The Eulogy
/After The Eulogy
Hardcore has a whole slew of songs on this subject, be that fighting for real or fighting for what you believe in, and this song is one of the latter – a brutal, anthemic three minutes devoted to this one ideal: Keep fighting. Keep striving for better. Never give up. It’s ironic, I guess, that punk and hardcore are frequently viewed (from outside the scene) as being negative, violent realms – songs like this put lie to that idea and remind that it can be a unifying, uplifting force for good.
/Rolling With The Punches
/An Orchestra Of Wolves
For many smaller or up-and-coming bands, keeping the band together and moving forwards and upwards can be fight enough, as Frank Carter’s barked lyrics here attest, a tale of trying to hold everything together in the band, making sure it all works, but also an element of self-doubt as they fight on. Of course, this is another without a happy ending, although rather less extreme – Frank Carter left the band after this first album.
/The Rolling Stones
/Street Fighting Man
The summer of 1968 was one of unrest and political uprising, and Mick Jagger, according to his lyrics, anyway, found himself on the outside looking in. In many cities there were big protests, and violent crackdowns on them in almost every case. And here, Jagger seems to be willing on the fight, but feels powerless himself to get involved – aside from singing about it and helping the fight for rights gain wider attention.
/Vulgar Display of Power
Now I think about it, it really was a difficult task picking one song to sum up this album – probably the single most aggressive album I own. Everything about it sounds like it is spoiling for a fight. The cover even depicts a man being punched in the face (of which there are various, conflicting stories about how that came about!). This image pretty much sums up the feel of the music, too – the thrash (or groove, if you really must) metal contained within is like taking twelve rounds in the ring, a relentless assault of chugging riffs and Phil Anselmo’s vocals that sound like he is about to start on you imminently. Just check the titles – Mouth For War, Fucking Hostile, Rise, hell, even This Love is brutal. Fucking Hostile, though, is the most vicious demonstration of the fighting power within – less than three minutes of hyperblasting beats, with Anselmo offering to take everyone on. What was scariest was that no-one doubted him…