If like me, you’ve been despairing of politics of late, it won’t have escaped your notice that most right-wing leaders appear consumed by their own self, in extreme forms of hubris and arrogance. We have an American President that appears to believe he is above the law, and not far off the same with the British Prime Minister – both have been censured or threatened with investigation, and they seem to think they can just brush it off as if it isn’t important.
/Tuesday Ten/385/I’m So Happy You Failed
hubris: /ˈhjuːbrɪs/ noun excessive pride or self-confidence.
arrogant /ˈarəɡ(ə)nt/ adjective having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.
It isn’t just politics, though, as I’ve seen this through other people I know too. And, indeed, I’ve seen it in myself. I was accused – probably rightly – of extreme arrogance in my younger days, and maybe I’ve sorted myself out in the years since, so that I’m at least a little better when accepting my own failings, and where I need to do better.
Anyway – there were 113 suggestions for this month, with 103 unique songs suggested. No less than 16 of them had been used before, and 62 people suggested songs. Thanks so much, as ever, for all of your thoughtful suggestions, as there were some really good ones that I ran out of space to use in the end this week.
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).
/Pale Green Ghosts
By no means the only song addressing an ex-partner in this week’s post – perhaps an easy target when a singer or lyricist wants to vent their fury – but John Grant’s brutal takedown of his ex-partner here is grimly hilarious. The humour here is much-needed, too, as this album is – while glorious – a dark trip into John Grant’s fury and bitterness at the ending of a relationship (and much more, in fact), and it’s clear from this song alone that he sees the need to bring his ex down a peg or three. Bonus points, too, for shoehorning in both “supercilious” and “callipygian” into the litany of insults therein.
/I’m So Happy You Failed
Talking of scorching takedowns, I’d love to know who the hell this was aimed at (although a few sentences on Discogs suggests it might be about someone in Girls Against Boys! Which wouldn’t have been my first thought). A bitter swipe at a fellow musician, anyway, it is a glorious, sneering electro-indie-rock song complete with playground chants, a lengthy coda and very much a sense of time – this is so-turn-of-millenium sounding it hurts. Still a fucking great song, though – and one that I’d rather forgotten about for years until it was suggested by a number of people for this post.
/Do The Evolution
Pearl Jam have long been a band that have found their place, offering heartfelt, powerful rock that often has searing comment on the world around them. Through the prism of more recent events, Do The Evolution feels like a comment on present day politics, never mind those of twenty years ago, as Vedder lays into men that see themselves as better than others as they take every chance to make use of their inherent advantages. So, then, this is a song about the White American Male, effectively – something also covered in a similar fury by Acumen Nation (FWM) and Consolidated (White American Male (The Truth Hurts)).
The thundering opener from Curve’s third album Come Clean – where they shed the last vestiges of any shoegaze influence (curiously one of two bands this week who did so around the same time, but in very different ways) and embraced electronics and industrial to a striking degree. This song was all industrial breakbeats and titanic amounts of bass, got used in loads of TV and film slots (memorably in Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and is a seething takedown of someone who happily destroys others lives without a fucking care. Some of the lyrics haven’t dated particularly well, perhaps, but the song still rules (and I’m surprised it’s taken this long to feature it in this series…).
/Walking in my Shoes
/Songs of Faith and Devotion
One of the few songs this week where the hubris is that of the protagonist’s. Depeche Mode very nearly ripped themselves apart entirely – and Dave Gahan nearly died on the subsequent tour – around the time of this album, and as a result the bleak, unforgiving tone of much of the album is understandable. This song – one of the last flawless DM singles, perhaps – has a soaring, quasi-gospel tone to the chorus, and addresses their detractors by inviting them to consider their views and trying to understand, rather than simply accusing them of being arrogant rock stars.
/You Haven’t Earned It
Walking in someone else’s shoes is a saying reflected upon in this song too, but in a very different way – mainly as Tom Shear is directing his ire on someone who feels that they are owed everything, and perhaps that any criticism just bounces off them. We all know people like this – who feel that they are the centre of everything they are involved in, won’t accept any criticism and never feel that they have done anything wrong. One or two such people I’ve known have accepted their faults and apologised for hurt they’ve caused later down the line, but I also know of more that have never even got to that stage – and indeed got worse. Those people are, thankfully, no longer part of my life. This song is, though – one of A23’s greatest songs by far.
/Fit But You Know It
/A Grand Don’t Come for Free
A confession: I fucking hated Mike Skinner’s work as The Streets back when it was released. I can’t remember why, but clearly something about it just rubbed me up entirely the wrong way. A bit of distance and time, though – and now I’m older and wiser, perhaps – and I can now appreciate just how clever and detailed many of these songs were. Here, a somewhat cocksure Skinner is one-upped by someone he rather fancies in a takeaway – except the object of his imagined affections is even more arrogant than he is! This song, though, is worth it alone for the clever photograph-based video, and the little details that anyone who’s had a night out on the town in Britain will recognise, aggro’n’all…
As my wife pointed out, Ladykillers is pretty much the gender flip of Fit But You Know It. Here, Miki and Emma from the band are in their usual haunts (Camden Town!), and dealing with the shitty men that come onto them and remembering others, all of whom appear to think that they are “god’s gift” to women in different ways. With an arrogance that leaves them apparently unable to consider why women may actually find what they think is devastatingly attractive really rather repulsive. Also of note, of course, was how this song rammed home the stylistic changes Lush had made from their earlier, shoegazy albums to this punchy, power pop (that gave them greater success than they’d ever had before).
One thing about hubris and arrogance together is that such people – or in such situations – will rarely admit they are wrong, perhaps instead doubling-down on falsehoods or totally incorrect opinions, often only making the situation worse. This gloriously snappy song – and I make no apologies for featuring Jeays again so quickly in this series – was apparently inspired by a specific Brel song, and deals with a rich old woman who is stuck in her views and ways, even if they are entirely, completely wrong…
It’s a long time ago now, but it’s easy to forget that Peter Gabriel was a massive deal in the eighties, and much of that was down to So. It sold more than five million in the US, never mind elsewhere, and the clever videos for all of the singles – but most notably Sledgehammer, which also helped to raise the profile of Aardman Animations, who worked on the video – were part of that. Amid the glitzy singles and astonishing production (the detail on this album is something else), though, were a number of cutting critiques on the greed-led eighties. Don’t Give Up lent a sympathetic ear to those ravaged by eighties recessions and manufacturing industry decline, but Big Time looked further up. This was a character sketch of a social climber, one where everything has to be bigger, better than the rest, the ultimate extreme of “keeping up with the joneses”. Subtle it isn’t, but the video is glorious, and that bassline. It’s BIG, like everything else in this song.
Also, “big” is said in the song fifty-three times, just to make sure you get it…