For the last regular /Tuesday Ten of 2020 – the first year where I’ve posted a new /Tuesday Ten every week from the first Tuesday in January to the last Tuesday in November since I started this series in March 2007 – I’m once again digging into my list of as-yet unused suggestion threads, for a subject that is perhaps more important than ever as we edge toward the end of this crazy year.
/Tuesday Ten/436/Tiny Changes (The Future)
/Tuesday Ten/Past and Future
/047/Documents of the Past
2020 has been such a strange year in so many ways. Pretty much everything we know and do has been upended in one way or another, our lives have changed for now, with working from home and little social contact the norm, and more use of the internet than ever. But also, it has us thinking about what the future holds an awful lot.
And that’s not the science-fiction future, the Year 2525 or anything. No, it is the near future I’m thinking about, what happens tomorrow, next week, next year. When vaccines might become an actual thing being administered, when something resembling normal life can happen again. And that’s what this week’s /Tuesday Ten is all about. The humdrum future that we look forward to, or dread.
Interestingly, too, when this was asked about back in March – literally a week or so before lockdown became a thing – we still had little idea of what was rolling our way. It also turned out to be a fairly difficult subject to cover, with 105 suggestions, of which twelve I’d used before. There were no less than 92 unique songs, too, with 42 people offering their thoughts and suggestions. Thanks, as ever, to everyone who gets involved.
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).
I was reminded of this song, and indeed that I once asked about this subject, thanks to an
excellent article on Pitchfork last week about how Leonard Cohen’s music has haunted the Trump era in America. He of course died just a day before Trump was elected, as if he decided that would be an apt time to move on. Of course, he’d seen The Future before, in 1992, and it was “murder”. A song written while he was living in Los Angeles, in the midst of a turbulent time – the fall of the Iron Curtain, the first Iraq War, the rumblings that led to the LA riots – and while others were perhaps suggesting that there might be a better future around the corner, Cohen was having none of it. Instead, he imagines a coming apocalypse, as actions are suggested or acted out that might hasten it, but amid the gloom, he wrote a fantastic, unexpectedly catchy song that became one of his standards – and indeed, thanks to Oliver Stone’s use of it in Natural Born Killers, perhaps helped to find him a new, younger audience, too.
/Please Tell Me You’re Not The Future
/Why Aren’t You Laughing?
A similarly bitter, pessimistic view of the future comes from the excellent Dutch dark-rock band GOLD, and this track was both one of the highlights of their 2019 album, and also the raging highlight of their set at 10 Years of Chaos in February (/Memory of a Festival/034). One of the focal points of the band is Milena Eva’s calm vocal delivery, the eye of the three-guitar storm that rages around her, and this song takes that idea to extremes, as she spits out her distaste of the political reality around her (and I suspect that could be in her native Netherlands as much as it was about other nations near and far, in this era of populism). The clear inference – the world deserves better than the terrible leaders that have led us into nationalism and, subsequent to the writing of this song, failure amid pandemics.
/Modern Life Is Rubbish
One of those songs that is so indelibly about life in a particular place – in this case inner North London – and is also a much-loved Blur song, perhaps because it speaks to so many of us about our own lives. This, too, is one of Damon Albarn’s greatest character sketches, a young-ish couple looking to make something of themselves in London, but find themselves dragged down by the drudgery of modern life, commuting, working and fighting to survive in what was, even in the early nineties, an expensive city to live in. But everything they do is to make for a better future, a better tomorrow, as it were, as the good times are always around the corner. Many of us, myself included, are still working towards that tomorrow.
/Nightflight to Venus
Boney M. – the band that was purely a front for Frank Farian – had remarkable success in the disco-era with some truly “out there” songs, and let’s be honest, a disco tune involving some traditional Russian elements (even using balalaikas!) about the legends around Grigori Rasputin, the mystic/healer/prophet/general nutcase that was prominent as the Russian Tsars finally fell in the early twentieth century. This song is, at least, the only one in this week’s set of songs that is about someone who could reputedly see the future, anyway…
Despite the title, this song does not go down the same route as the previous. One of the few songs from this FLA-era still played live, it is one of their relatively infrequent forays into slower, more reflective textures, but is still underpinned by a steel-edged drum pattern that live in particular stomps hard. There has long been a futurist sheen of technological progress in Bill Leeb’s work, but that is often, like here, tinged with an anger that things could be so much better. This seems to imagine a failing, dying world where nothing we can do will change it, and two decades on, where the climate emergency sirens are getting louder and louder, this song feels like one of many unheeded warnings for the future.
A very rare appearance for probably the biggest futurepop/melodic industrial group of all – a band regular readers will know I’ve never particularly got on with. But sometimes the most unexpected of bands and songs will just fit with a subject, and this is one of those, where Ronan Harris muses on his place in the world, and whether what he – and we – does will actually matter anyway. Even when we’re gone, the world will keep on turning, society will continue. Our own impact, for the most part, is infinitessimally small. That said, we all keep making tiny changes, the larger changes could happen.
/Head Rolls Off
/The Midnight Organ Fight
Talking of Tiny Changes… the late Scott Hutchison pledged in his excellent song Head Rolls Off that while he didn’t see much in his immediate future (something sadly confirmed when he took his own life a couple of years back), he was going to continue to make tiny changes in his life that might make things better for others – and there’s something strangely uplifting in the fatalism of this song, admitting that he’ll die, someone else will be born, and life will go on. That future, of doing good, was continued by Hutchison’s family after his death, in the form of the Tiny Changes charity, that is now helping the mental health of young people. A fitting legacy.
/Available In All Colours
One Minute Silence, at their height, were a band that very much lived in the now, asking pertinent political questions, being strongly anti-racist and whipping up a chaotic storm live (such that, as the story goes, they were reputedly banned from a number of venues as a result). One song that did look forward a bit was this three-minute moshpit-pipebomb of a track – seriously, that opening bassline is and was like a clarion call for the ‘pit to go absolutely nuts. But it’s all about the closing coda (and whopping great beat-down): “My future’s in the hands of fools“. Twenty years on, it feels less like a slogan, and more fortelling the future.
/Awakening of a City
The futurists in the early twentieth century saw the dawning of a new age, one where old norms would be swept away in culture and life, and new culture would be fashioned around the new technologies available. WWI pretty much swept away most of their ideas (and WWII did the rest), not to mention an uncomfortable support for fascism in Italy too by some of the members of the movement, but one of the more intriguing “what might have beens” from the futurists comes from music. Luigi Russolo explored in some details the idea of futurist music (there was even a manifesto, The Art of Noises), and his intonarumori (noise-making instruments) were his way of sweeping away classical music and making “new noise”. Early concerts were not especially well-recieved, by all accounts, and precious little survived, aside from fragments of this piece, which when reconstructed later on feels oddly contemporary now, the whirring of machines and atonal noise coming together to make an oddly soothing piece. But it isn’t hard to see how this might have been viewed as a horrifying future to some in 1914…
/As Soon As This Pub Closes (The Revolution Starts)
/The Northern Drift
Remember going to the pub with friends? A few drinks in, and suddenly your brain finds the solution to various political and social issues, and you put the world to rights with your mates. Yeah, tomorrow, once I’ve slept this off, we’ll change the fucking world. We’ll sweep away corporate greed, improve governance, sort out worker’s rights, improve the provision for the unemployed… I’d genuinely love for that to happen. But first, another drink.
I’m looking forward to the return of those random, social nights with friends. They will come back, we just need to be patient for a bit longer, it seems. I miss you all.