Everywhere I’ve looked over the past month, someone has been offering advice. Be that official Government advice, a Doctor’s advice, employer advice…your friend from down the road who did a first aid course once advice.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, there’s a lot of songwriters that want to offer advice on a variety of subjects, too. But also, there are a good number more that go against advice, and are gleefully telling us as much. I’m covering both sides of the coin here.
As is usual, too, there was a suggestion thread to get ideas, and it’s perhaps notable that this post has gone in a poppier direction than usual. There were 88 song suggestions, six of which had been used before, with 83 unique songs suggested by 44 different people.
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).
/No Good Advice
/Sound of the Underground
I suspect that by the time of this single – remarkably, only their second! – the members of Girls Aloud were absolutely sick and tired of getting advice from every quarter. Remarkably, in retrospect, a manufactured girl band that was brought together on TV in Popstars: The Rivals, the group – with their producers Xenomania – went on to be probably the most forward-looking, rule-breaking pop group post-Millenium, with a string of singles that sounded like no-one else and actually sounded like they were having fun doing it (even if some of the lyrics were absolutely barking mad). This song comes across like a chatter of advice, flying at your ears from all directions, has a monstrous chorus and a marvellous, spoken word outro that comes across as a giant middle finger to everyone.
/Once and Never Again
/Someone To Drive You Home
I’ve often had the distinct feeling that Kate Jackson was warning her younger self in her songs, such is the amount of advice she dishes out. But perhaps none of her advice was more striking than that in this stellar single of theirs. Amid a distinctly retro indie-rock groove, Kate Jackson is making it clear that the target of her ire really needs to dump the shitty, abusive boyfriend and deal with life. Needless to say, things aren’t always that simple, but I’m sure Jackson’s advice is well-intentioned…
The very definition of a sleeper hit, Dua Lipa’s debut album just seemed to grow and grow in popularity and never leave the charts (it was in the year-end charts in the UK in 2017, 2018 and 2019), sold tons and had nine singles – of which this was the sixth. Her first big success in the US, too, this track, like The Long Blondes track featured here, offers some sage advice on dealing with terrible men, in this case, an ex-boyfriend that she’s imploring her subject not to return to, with a set of rules to live by. I don’t especially like vocodered vocals, but this song is one of those that has such a strong melody that it’s impossible not to enjoy at least a bit.
/Know Your Rights
Let’s be clear – this isn’t the greatest Clash album, no matter how I look at it, but it does include some great songs, still. The forceful opener is absolutely one of them. As the band chugs out a fairly basic rhythm, Joe Strummer reminds the listener of their rights in the context of the Government and, more to the point, the police. This was so important at the time, with the swathe of riots across urban areas in England the previous year, as years of abuse and racist laws and policing finally provoked a furious reaction. This song strikes me as tacit support of those fighting back, and one that was needed in the time of Thatcher.
/Advice for the Young at Heart
/The Seeds of Love
Not perhaps the best-remembered single from this album (the title track is that), and this album is not as good as Songs From the Big Chair, either, but it still has its moments. This gentle, summery song is definitely one of them, a tender song that deals with the premise of love and growing old together. It made me think, too, about the vast expanses of life that you still seem to have when you are young and in love. Did I listen to the advice I received (whether I wanted it or needed it)? Probably not. Did I think I had all the time in the world? Absolutely. But I – and you, the reader – no doubt found ways to make things work, and when you find your true love, you will. Life never works out as you plan it, as we’re finding out right now. But my wife and I, I’d like to think we have a bond strong enough that we can grow older together, still love each other, and still ensure that we enjoy the time together that we have.
/Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances
There was much sadness among my friends when the announcement of Daniel Johnston’s death was made last year. I must confess that this was an artist who while I was aware of, I’d never sat down and tried to listen to, and this song suggests that maybe I’d made a grave mistake in not doing so. A wonderfully ramshackle, low-fi song that is vastly greater in heart than it is in recording quality, it feels like a rousing, warm-natured pick-me-up, advising the listener to not let their grievances and bad memories get in the way of true friendship and love. Reading the lyrics before I listened, I was afraid this would be trite. It’s anything but, and watching his frailty in the live video on the playlist above is heartbreaking.
/In The City
Much of LOCKS’s output deals with shadowy threats and monsters (and death) – both real and imagined. But none come with advice like the deceptively jaunty roll of In The City. A tale of heading down to the waterside to meet her sun-kissed friend, who has dramatic, mysterious advice for her. The only advice she provides is to “not go into the city”, and we’re told later that it’s likely to involve a horrible death. Quite what her friend actually is – a killer, a monster, a fantasist- who knows… but right now, we need to stay out of the city, as most of us are doing.
/Keep Yourself Clean
Here’s one way to clear your ears and mind, as well as offering useful hygiene advice in these strange times. Nathan Nothing, here to blast you with scorching electronic noise, while dressed in surgical scrubs and telling us to keep clean. Yep, some of the same advice well over a decade before COVID-19 advice, which broadly boils down to “clean yourself”, “clean everything” – as well as keep your distance from others. Needless to say, this being industrial noise – and quite unpleasant frequencies and sounds at points – means that this might not be for everyone. I suspect Nathan likes it that way.
/Much Against Everyone’s Advice
/Much Against Everyone’s Advice
They might be better known these days as 2manyDJs, but I still adore what the Dewaele brothers do under the Soulwax name, particularly this second album under the name, which refashioned the usual indie-rock sound to include sampling, electronics and grooves – not to mention a sense of humour and self-awareness that made it a hugely enjoyable listen from start to finish. The title song thrashes about with a wave of distinct anger that they are going ahead with their plans regardless, despite what everyone else seems to be telling them. It is almost a metaphor for their entire career – one that perhaps contrary to what many might have expected, has had a very long shelf-life indeed.
/Hate To Say I Told You So
/Veni Vidi Vicious
Talking of bands with a surprisingly long shelf life, here’s Swedish band The Hives, whose brilliantly smart and funny live show – along with a number of snappy, memorable singles in particular – has helped sustain them for two decades. And too right, too. The seeds for that long career were planted by this spectacular, knowing single (with a cleverly retro-styled video to match), where Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist tells us straight – he ain’t listening to our advice, as he’s going to be a star and better than you, and boy, that worked out well, didn’t it? The album sold the best part of 750,000 worldwide, and this song another 200,000 in the UK alone. Sometimes, ignoring the advice of others is good.
Right now, here’s my advice, then. Keep listening to instructions around lockdown. We need to stay home, stay safe, for a few weeks longer. I don’t want mine or your friends and loved ones ill or dying, frankly.