The urge to get away is something that has been part of the popular music myth for decades – and probably as long as music has been enjoyed by humanity. It takes many forms, has been used in practically every style of music in one way or another, and has probably made many listeners consider their own lives and what to change, too.
So, this week is songs about escaping. Be that getting away from bad relationships, unhappy lifestyles, even the cops. There were 118 suggestions in total on the suggestion thread, with 110 unique songs and just five I’d used before, and 52 people suggested songs. Thanks, as ever, to everyone who took the time to consider songs for selection, and I only wish I had the time to cover more.
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).
/Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)
/Around the Fur
I remember seeing Deftones on this tour in London, and that show and this album transformed my opinion of the band. Gone was the desert-dry sound and barely decipherable vocals of Adrenaline, instead everything clicked into clear view on a razor-sharp album that was simply brilliant from start to finish. And live, they were a seething, roaring beast (and utterly, utterly relentless).
With Chino Moreno’s lyrics, their usually cryptic nature means that they can be interpreted a number of different ways. But on some occasions, they are more direct, as here. The bit I’m unclear about here is what the escape is from, but this astounding, roiling song drags you into the need to get away from something, anything.
Rather amazingly, I’ve been listening to Tom Shear’s project A23 for the best part of two decades, having discovered early single Purgatory on a compilation in the year after the release of debut album Contempt. His work has been remarkably consistent over the years, as he has delved into his own feelings and emotions on album after album. Many of his most remarkable songs – perhaps for the impact that they had – come from his earlier albums, and this track is another to take up the idea of driving as escape, but in a very different way to Chino Moreno’s thinking. Here, Shear is driving to get away and to give him space to think. He may well return, but that short period of escape gives time to assess and potentially make right.
Talking of songs I have a long history with, I’ve adored this song for over a quarter of a century (and there are few friends I’m still in touch with that I’ve known for longer, which is a little scary). Perhaps one of the lesser remembered singles from The Smashing Pumpkins’ greatest album, this deceptively sunny song sees Corgan fantasising about getting away into the stars to do something new – which perhaps can be seen in the context of the poisonous, intra-band tension that bubbled away while this album was recorded (as Corgan apparently recorded most of it himself). Also, fact fans, this song is the only successful submission I’ve made to The Chain (entry #6793) on Radcliffe & Maconie‘s 6Music show.
/Equally Cursed and Blessed
Like any scene in music that breaks through to the mainstream, things eventually go sour, and the Britpop scene – and the wider selection of bands that were sucked into the orbit of it, whether they liked it or not – was a particularly brutal example of that. The unhappiness of many bands in the glare of Britpop is perhaps shown by songs from seven different bands in the scene that were suggested for the subject of escape. Welsh band Catatonia had a meteoric rise, from indie darlings on their first album to chart-toppers with their second album International Velvet, and by this third album things were clearly not well. As this bitter song suggested, Cerys Matthews couldn’t fucking wait to get out of London, back out West to her homeland – perhaps not helped by the constant tabloid attention around her by this time. That need to get away from here is a feeling I’ve experienced before, too, as I fled London after the trials of my university years. London can be a suffocating place if you’re not prepared for it mentally, and happily I’m much better at dealing with that nowadays.
/I Am Disappeared
/England Keep My Bones
It is perhaps a sense of my deep love of this album – and how much it means to me – that this is now the fifth song from the album that I’ve featured in my Tuesday Ten series. This, though, is one of the few songs on the album where the burning defiance elsewhere isn’t in evidence – this is a song of despair. Both Turner and other protagonists in the song are depicted as escaping their problems in any way possible, slipping out unseen from difficult situations that result in hurt for others. Turner, though – unlike other artists that might have taken a different route – sees the escape for what it is, cowardice, and reflects harshly on himself for doing so.
/Time to Get Away
/Sound of Silver
Another artist I’ve featured a few times here is James Murphy’s ever-brilliant dance-punk band LCD Soundsystem, who even managed to leave with a flourish, split up and return with an album years later that was easily the equal of what had come before. But back before that escape of sorts, Murphy was thinking about escape on one of the many highlights on The Sound of Silver (seriously, are there any bad songs on this? I think not). Apparently about his ex-manager, and the clear need to get the fuck out of a business relationship gone toxic (another such business relationship is dealt with utter savagery on How Do You Sleep? off that most recent album), quite how Murphy managed to make this song so breezily upbeat I don’t know.
If ever there was a band that looked mainstream, multi-platinum music in the face and went…”nah”, Pearl Jam would be that band. After their initial, massive success, they have seemed happy to do their own thing, work with their existing fanbase and most importantly, try to do the right things along the way. As such, this song – the title of their expansive “best of” some years back, as well as being the title of my own series of reflective articles on important albums from my past, can be seen as the band accelerating away from an unhappy situation as a group, never mind it being potentially about a failed relationship. The key point, though – distance from a problematic circumstance allows a chance to reflect, change and adapt.
/Not Now James, We’re Busy…
/This Is the Day…This Is the Hour…This Is This!
Escape isn’t always something entirely serious, as the Poppies proved on one of their more barking mad flights of fancy. Rather than just relying on the Funky Drummer sample that everyone else was also using at the time, they expanded the James Brown references to a vague recounting of his arrest in September 1988 after a car chase, where, needless to say, he was trying to get away from the cops (this was his third arrest that year). What makes this that bit more batshit is how the Poppies manage to insert themselves in the story, and become less than innocent bystanders…
/Leave Them All Behind
/Going Blank Again
A first appearance for UK indie-shoegazers Ride in this series, with what as far I’m concerned is their greatest song – the eight minute epic that opens their second album Going Blank Again. It lazily builds a powerful momentum, as the vocals float on top, almost devoid of any emotion, as the band look to speed away into the sunset. Around this time, in 1992, shoegaze was no longer “cool” – the avalanche of alternative music from the US in the previous year had taken over, not to mention My Bloody Valentine basically taking the genre as far as it could possibly go with Loveless anyway – and this surprisingly melodic song was also Ride signifying that they could move on, and escape the ties of shoegaze. Their recent return to activity, where they genuinely sound fresh and new, only rams home just how adaptable the band were.
/Gotta Get Away
I was reminded of my age – and perhaps nudging into middle age as I turn forty-one in a couple of months – when there was discussion recently about The Offspring’s breakthrough album turning twenty-five this spring. This album was a big, big thing when I was about to turn sixteen (as I completed by GCSEs!), and is one of the few “modern”, or later-generation punk albums that I genuinely love, even now. At points it is crude and direct, but elsewhere had a surprising emotional depth – and also, the band were covering subjects some way ahead of the mainstream – particularly issues of masculinity and teenage gun violence (sadly, of course, issues still being debated now). Here, too, they were dealing with difficult issues – the escape here is from one’s self, trying to deal with mental stress and a disassociation from the real world. I’ve been there. I know that feeling. But I think I’m better now.