Just over two years ago, I asked for suggestions around songs involving the senses. Needless to say, this ended up being a gargantuan thread, with the easy decision made to split it out.
/Senses Working Overtime/Smell
So, this is the second of six posts on the senses. Like the first, this was finally dragged out from my “to do, sometime” list by the addition, at last, last week of the loss/change of sense of smell or taste to the list of symptoms likely to suggest that you have COVID-19 in the UK. This week is about the sense of smell, and it wasn’t particularly surprising to find that there are not many songs on the subject.
At least directly, anyhow. Most of the ten I’ve featured are directly about a smell in one way or another, as I found that these were the most interesting songs to feature. Once again, including that additional request a few weeks back to top-up what I had, there were 51 song suggestions for Smell. Two had already been used, and there were 37 unique songs, suggested by 39 different people. Thanks, as ever, for your input, everyone.
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).
/Du Riechst So Gut
Long a spectacular highlight of R+ live shows, this was the band’s debut single, although is perhaps better known from the 1998 re-release that added what was a genuinely eye-popping video (and little else changed). The title translates as “you smell so good”, and details a predator hunting down their prey using scent – and perhaps has a few parallels with Patrick Suskind’s novel Perfume (which was, coincidentally, recently adapted into a stylish German series that is now on Netflix – although it’s one where the book is an influence on the murderers, but still well-worth seeing). The video, mind, uses the band as werewolves hunting their prey through a masquerade ball – but still clearly using scent as their method.
What I had never realised until researching this week’s post was that just a few years earlier than Till Lindemann, Kurt Cobain had been reading the same book, and he also based one of Nirvana’s later songs on it. And indeed, where Lindemann simply used the book as inspiration, Cobain retells at least part of the story in the song, particularly around the protagonist obsessed with smell. It is also one of the best songs on Nirvana’s last album, too, as I see it – hulking great drums and one of Cobain’s greatest riffs pin the song down for the strange tale to be told.
/I Can Smell Your Thoughts
A Swedish band that was a new one to me when it was suggested by a couple of people in a recent thread on this subject, it immediately piqued my interest thanks to the striking title. It is an excellent song, too, an oh-so-sleazy goth-rock track that sees the vocalist obsessing over the details of an apparently illicit tryst, and not only remembering the visual details, but also the smells and other senses prickled by the events that happened…
The brutal intensity of so much of Diamanda Galás’ work means that their work is something I don’t listen to all of that often (and I’ve never had the opportunity to experience their work live, which I understand is the best way to do so). This album – performed and recorded live, as a performance piece back in the mid-90s – is apparently an album about someone who is confined with absolutely no possibility of escape. It is made clear on the notes for this album that it should be played at maximum volume, in the dark, and there is no doubt that listening to this in that format would reveal the utter claustrophobic horror that Galás is invoking. This piece comes near the end, as the victim makes the horrifying realisation of their fate, as they realise what they can smell.
/Smell The Witch
/The Smell of Rain
The first album where Mortiis took lead vocals took him in a distinctly gothic/industrial rock direction and was perhaps rather better received than his Stargate work. This track was one of the lead singles, but I’ve no idea why he is imagining the smell of the witch, and why he knows that she is still alive in some old house. The smell of rain, though? One of my favourite smells. After heavy rainfall or a storm, like the ferocious storm we had in North London on Saturday afternoon – the clean smell of the air, one that I can’t describe but I’m sure you know what I mean, reader is just a wonderful thing. This is a cracking song, too.
/”It” the Album
I saw Alien Sex Fiend at my first Whitby back in 2004 (yeah, I was a late starter on that front). Their live set appeared to last an eternity, and certainly far longer than the allotted time they had, and as I recall I chose to go and get wasted at the bar instead (’twas ever thus at Whitby, I guess…). They probably played this thumping slab of fuzzy deathrock, as they rip into someone that isn’t telling the truth, suggesting that their proclamations “smell like…shit”. As urban dictionary suggests, this is an insult with a multitude of uses!
/Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
The album that truly made OutKast global stars – particularly thanks to the monster hit Hey Ya! – it is really two solo-albums packaged together, one half is André 3000 (The Love Below), and the other half Big Boi (Speakerboxxx), and while they’ve worked together since, this was really their last album proper. But what an album – and there is so much more than Hey Ya! to enjoy. This is one such song, a sparkling kiss-off to someone they know who thinks they are so much better than everyone (it plays on the saying “She thinks her shit smells like roses”, in other words, she isn’t like everyone else), and it is a remarkably worded song, especially as there is so much to unpack. But if you don’t want the detail, it is a hell of a song to get stuck in your head (although some of the casual misogyny has not aged well at all).
By chance a second appearance for STP in the past month (I’ve only featured them twice in this series before that, in over fourteen years), and like Wet My Bed in /409/Lazy, it comes from their debut album Core. This was their breakthrough song, and the one that hooked me in the first place, a curiously obtuse song that was apparently about a news story they heard of someone who went missing, and their body was found sometime later by sniffer dogs (hence the reference to them in the lyrics). A lonely, horrible death, frankly, and such a smell is something I never wish to have to deal with.
/My Many Smells
This is an American punk bank that rather passed me by (although I’ve only really had a passing interest in most punk, to be fair), I’m only really aware of Rodney Anonymous thanks to his work with Caustic some years back. So a first appearance for the Dead Milkmen in this series, with a short, strange punk song about a protagonist who smells bad, and is happy to tell you all the ways that they’ve smelt bad – and invites you to smell them. Er, as you do?
The Skunk is famously smelly, the spray from its anal glands being a smell offensive and unpleasant enough to ward off predators as big as bears. But when I asked for this subject, I can’t say I was expecting a song about the animal to be featuring. But here we are, as Loudon Wainwright III tells a perhaps unexpectedly jaunty tale of encountering the smell of a dead skunk in the road. I’m fairly sure that this is a smell I never want to encounter as long as I live – unlikely anyway, of course, in the UK!