This week concludes a short series on Winning and Losing – a subject that’s been sat on the backburner here at /amodelofcontrol.com for over three years (I originally asked for suggestions on the subject back in January 2017).
/Tuesday Ten/423/Everyone Must Win
/Tuesday Ten/Winning and Losing
Unexpectedly, picking songs and then writing about them was much, much easier for songs about Losing last week than it was about Winning this week. As it turns out that most songs about winning are…hollow victories at best, and honestly, there aren’t a lot of songs that are absolutely about winning directly (the last song this week, though, absolutely is). Anyway, for those of you that suggested songs way back when: thank you.
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).
/My Dying Bride
/Bring Me Victory
/For Lies I Sire
One of My Dying Bride’s finest – and shortest – songs in recent years, lyrically it treads familiar ground for the group in some respects. Aaron Stainthorpe has been downtrodden and suppressed by an unnamed and unknown protagonist, and his own resolve and self-will allow him to fight back and “Bring Me Victory”. Victory, in this case, isn’t about winning but is about getting a positive result for oneself. This song was released on an EP later in the year, too, chiefly notable for the band’s extraordinary take on Failure by Swans, a band rarely covered by anyone.
/Faith No More
/A Small Victory
Also on fighting form is Mike Patton, who isn’t especially bothered about winning big. One of the many highlights from their still-outstanding Angel Dust – an album where the band went full-on with experimentation and doing whatever the fuck they liked, and still ended up with a critical and commercial success – this is a song seemingly about fighting back by pissing someone off. By notching up the small irritations of minor wins in life against them, one more prod in the back, one more raised middle finger. Faith No More were a combative band at the time, and it could be said that with the immense respect that the band hold now across the board, that they were the victors in the end.
/Play To Win
/Penthouse and Pavement
The sharp, cynical politics of Heaven 17’s early singles presaged the “greed is good” era of the eighties, as Thatcher and Reagan’s policies only widened the disparity between rich and poor. With a view from such politicians that if you were rich, you were a “winner”, and if you were poor, well, you were a “loser” – and attention was lavished on the rich. The sharp synth-funk of Play to Win pretty much spells out what was to come – step on others, advance yourself without caring who you push down as you “win”. That this wasn’t seen as a hollow victory by those who did “win” sums up the age, and much of what followed.
KITE are one of those bands I never got into when I perhaps should have done, so I’ve missed out on the sizzling live shows I’ve heard friends rhapsodise about, and perhaps some extraordinary songs too. The skyscraping power of Victorious is one such song – that in its melodic refrain, reminds me of some overblown eighties movie soundtrack. That power, though, is tempered by the subject – where the song’s protagonist encounters someone whose victories, like their friendship, was in the past, and a new victory is a long, long way away.
A fairly rare Curve track features this week – one of the B-sides from Blackerthreetracker, the EP that made their industrial leanings explicit and perhaps began to pave the way for their later work. Triumph is a brooding monster of a track that still has the shimmering layers of guitars too, but is clearly a song about the victory of the self. “You are the master of your own work / You’re not a slave to your own ideals“, Toni Halliday explains, a needed kick to someone to remind them that they can win their own battles.
/Everyone Must Win
Amid Mansun’s all-too-brief period in the spotlight, particularly around the time of their first two albums, they were incredibly prolific. This seventh EP was something of a stopgap between those two albums, and like the other EPs, the B-sides were just as worthwhile as the A-sides. The swirling, ripping snarl of Everyone Must Win made the band’s debt to Magazine clear by them collaborating with Howard Devoto, and to brilliant effect, as Paul Draper casts an eye on British society of the time, one that wanted success and fame, but didn’t want to have to do anything to get it…
/The Clockwork Dolls
/The Ballad of Black Jack Jezebel
One of the fascinating things about the regular suggestion threads that I post is that certain patterns have emerged. Certain bands or styles have become regular suggestions – so one person has become known for suggesting New Model Army songs, or American Punk, for example, and another has become known for her excellent folk-related suggestions, and this one was an early example of that. The Clockwork Dolls – as far as I can tell – are an American group who have been lumped in with steampunk, with a particular nod to Victoriana in their songs (at least of that era), and this song is a spritely, intriguing ballad about a female card shark in old America, who keeps winning by fair means or foul, until she’s brought low by misplaced love, and wreaks terrible revenge, to finally win in her own way.
/Six By Seven
/The Closer You Get
The caustic, bitter power of Six By Seven didn’t exactly endear them to the wider music-buying masses in the late-nineties and beyond, even amid that ugly period post-Britpop. But it did inspire some quite brilliant music by the band, and Chris Olley often used his musical platform to make some brutal swipes at others. As confirmed in his lyrics book The Things I Make, the glowering closer to The Closer You Get looks at those bands that did “win” during Britpop, sipping champagne with Tony Blair, getting endorsement after endorsement, and making vacuous, sixties-aping pop. With a small, devoted fanbase and integrity intact, perhaps Chris Olley won the long-game?
/Forces of Victory
If ever there was a band that I wanted to lead me to victory, Gogol Bordello would easily be one of the first considerations. There has long been something uplifting and inspiring about Eugene Hütz and his band, with their cross-cultural reach and joyous chaos, and on this track, Hütz is looking for inspiration as people come together to force and inspire change, and thus victory against oppressive forces (and right now, all-too-often Governments). Vote Hütz for victory!
/We Are The Champions
/News of the World
Reputedly the catchiest song of all, according to Scientific study, this typically bombastic Queen song soundtracks pretty much any sports success (most recently Bayern München winning the Champions League final on Sunday night). Unsurprising, really, as Freddie Mercury delivers a vocal that details the overcoming of unspecified adversity and then succeeding beyond their wildest dreams, before the song turns into a flag-waving frenzy of joy. It has become the song played at the 80s Night at Whitby, too, when Real Gothic F.C. / F.C. 2019 Gothenheim have had their occasional wins, and no doubt, when we can return to play again, hopefully I’ll have another chance to hear it in that circumstance…