As I mentioned last week on /Tuesday Ten/398, I went to see Nadine Shah at the end of February, and the support band were the hugely entertaining Melt Yourself Down, whose new single is the excellent Crocodile. As is often the way, a song triggered a thought about other reptilian songs.
/Tuesday Ten/399/Tyrant Lizard King
Unsurprisingly K and I came up with a few immediately – and agreed not to include dinosaurs at the time, as I was reminded of in the suggestion thread – but I clearly didn’t have enough songs. So, as is usually the way, the suggestion thread delivered the goods, with a good mix of reptiles and amphibians referenced. I find reptiles in particular fascinating animals, a number of which have survived, barely having to have evolved any further, for thousands, or even millions, of years.
Stats time, as usual: 170 suggestions were made, and unusually, just four of those had been used before (and one of those was the song that inspired this, and was only used last week!). There were 138 unique songs, suggested by seventy-five people. Also, at least 26 genus or species were mentioned, so there was more than I could have ever included. Thanks as always, to everyone who offered song suggestions, especially as this week’s was a really offbeat selection.
Photos as usual come from my own collection on Flickr.
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 opener to the album where St. Vincent began to become A Thing in the mainstream, where she took in more electronics and poppier edges, the album does start in a strange place. A synth-based rhythm pops and bounces as St. Vincent describes an escape out into the desert, taking off her clothes and becoming at one with nature, presumably. This marvellous escapism – it’s clear that she needs to get away, a metaphorical shedding of skin too, perhaps – is rather interrupted by a sound and a rattle from the bushes, as it is revealed that she’s nearly stood on a Rattlesnake. Perhaps not especially surprising is that the song seems to accelerate like a panicked heartbeat after that…
/Oil & Gold
Quite likely the only song that uses Parthenogenesis in a chorus and makes it rhyme (with the titular nemesis, fact fans), this fabulously strange pop song is one of those mighty earworms (and there are a few great covers of this, too, most notably from Iron Lung Corp.). The concept of parthenogenesis made headline news about fifteen years ago, when much to the surprise of zookeepers and scientists alike, it was found that Komodo Dragons are capable of such (and there have been now a number of cases of it recorded since). I find these enormous monitor lizards fascinating, and like spending time watching these formidable, imperious animals at London Zoo – one of the zoos that have been heavily involved in the conservation of this species.
One of thirty or forty songs featured, even briefly, in the cult nineties film Empire RecordsBelly, the band of Kristin Hersh’s step-sister Tanya Donnelly – and indeed The Breeders, the band Donnelly was involved in forming before leaving to work in Belly – but for some reason I never dug deeper into Throwing Muses’ work in the same way. This song is a slinky, glorious beast, the snake here rather clearly – to me, anyway – being a phallic reference as this song is absolutely about sex.
/Long Snake Moan
/Oh River EP
I featured PJ Harvey just a couple of weeks ago in /Tuesday Ten/397, so I’m going for one of the tiny handful of good PJ Harvey covers that I’ve heard. Liberty 37 was a relatively short-lived, deeply-intense rock band from the Swansea area of South Wales, releasing just two albums and a handful of EPs (and another EP was released last year, from (mostly) previously unreleased tracks). On one of their EPs was this extraordinary cover, which kept the heart of the song but Liberty 37 gave it a heavier base. A song of transcendence and power, the snake has a rich history of symbolism to humans, from being a symbol of fertility to demonic, evil entities, even to use symbolising medics and much more.
/Music for Chameleons
It’s remarkable to think that by 1982, the initial phase of Gary Numan’s fame was already on the wane. The stark, intriguing synth-led pop that he’d helped usher into the public consciousness was surging forward, but he was one of a number of artists left behind at the time. This song, though, is very much industrial-funk and quite, quite distinct as a song even within his unusual style, and was perhaps a sign that like the titular Chameleons, he was able to adapt and change his sound. It took well beyond another decade, maybe nearly two, though, for his work to be critically assessed, as a new generation of industrial and goth artists finally gave him the credit he deserved for his trailblazing work, and his most recent album Savage (Songs from a Broken World) was his biggest hit in decades. The animals themselves, too, are fascinating curios, animals with an extraordinary ability to adapt to their surroundings by changing their colours – and also, perhaps, one of the grumpiest-looking families of animals of all!
/Cobra Versus Mongoose
The Mongoose is an unusual mammal, one of the few mammals that is all but immune to snake venom, and the Indian Grey Mongoose in particular is infamous for the ability to hunt and eat cobras (here is a NatGeo video of said battle, involving what looks to be the Indian cobra). That’s quite the fearsome, small animal. As for the band, that are remarkable survivors – a Japanese punk band from the early eighties that came to wider prominence in the US in particular thanks to the devoted patronage of none other than Kurt Cobain, who’d asked them to support his band on the Nevermind tour, and until they were suggested for this, it’s a long, long time since I’d thought of them.
/The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll
/From Langley Park to Memphis
A rare example of a song-within-a-song, this, as Paddy McAloon’s most straightforward pop-song that became his band’s biggest UK hit by some distance. Something of a jab at one-hit wonders, the song concerns a washed-up pop star from decades before who’s stuck with basing his entire reputation on an awful, novelty hit (part of the chorus of The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll is the chorus of that fictional song), whose key line is “hot dog / jumping frog / Albuquerque“. Thus the appearance here. Frogs jump, needless to say, and some can jump many, many times their body length, and there are some bizarre records.
/Shudder / King of Snake (live)
One of Underworld’s greatest, most thrilling songs – there is a reason, too, I’ve picked the titanic power of the live version here – samples a man explaining that snake fighting is very scary. I’ve absolutely no doubt that it is, and getting anywhere near an aggressive snake would be trouble enough for me and quite a few others, I suspect. One story behind the song is that Karl Hyde was actually taken to a snake fight while in Japan (and the voice at the close of the song, explaining it, is the man who took him), but I’m struggling to find an attributed source for it other than what is basically internet hearsay. Instead, listen to this dancefloor monster emerge from the looped bass taken from none other than I Feel Love…
Just recently, I’ve been reading Jon Ronson’s book Them: Adventures with Extremists – from a few years back, but perhaps still relevant. It saw Ronson travel the world, talking to extremists who all seemed to share a common belief, that there is a shadowy cabal (and often described as lizard-people) running the world from behind-the-scenes. Needless to say, most of these people are fucking mad (and most of them have abhorrent views on race, too). 3TEETH have rather satirised this on recent single PRESIDENT X, which also jabs at this year’s Presidential Elections in the US, where the choice appears to be far-right or centre-right, and not a lot else. The song itself is an anthemic, industrial-metal stomp that has swiftly become a fan and live-favourite, complete with singer Lex donning a lizard-esque mask for the performance of it.
/Call of the West
An absolutely marvellous, early-eighties track that is perhaps something of a one-hit-wonder, about the glories of listening to international radio stations (in this case Mexican ones) from over the border, despite being unable to understand what the hell they are talking about. It’s a New Wave song, of sorts, that makes a few musical nods to mariachi music, has a catchy chorus, and a finale where the singer muses about being in a fantastical ideal of Mexico while eating “barbequed iguana” “in Tijuana”. Can’t say I’ve ever really fancied eating reptiles, myself. I’m a meat-eater, sure, and while I’ve eaten some exotic meats in my time, I’ve not gone down that route (with one exception of eating crocodile once in the mists of time). I don’t plan to, either…
Next week, /Tuesday Ten reaches the four-hundredth post in the series.