There’s a lot of anger about at the moment, and perhaps rightly so. Frustration at the seemingly never-ending restrictions, the false hope from politicians, the double-standards, the desire for a “normal” life again that sometimes feels like it’s in reach before being snatched away again. Oh yes, life back in Lockdown again really fucking sucks, doesn’t it?
So as some way of venting, I’m returning to a thread I started a while ago but wasn’t in the right frame of mind for it back then – songs about anger. Songs that are angry, about something or someone. Not, however, songs that you listen to when you’re angry. They needed to be angry songs in one way or another, that was my original stipulation, and the large list of songs that were suggested gave me a whole lot of food for thought, that’s for sure.
The original suggestion thread for this was actually back in summer 2019, long-predating lockdown, but I still got an awful lot of songs. No less than 178, in fact, with twenty-seven of those having been used before. There were surprisingly few duplicates, with 169 unique songs, and no less than 97 different people suggested songs. As ever, thanks for all of your suggestions and getting involved, even if it sometimes takes a while for me to actually get round to using them.
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).
One of the first wave of rap-metal bands, LA band downset. were originally a hardcore crew called Social Justice, and gradually moved more towards rap to the point that they changed their name, but the burning core of the ethos based on the original name remained. Their first single as downset. – and the first song of theirs I ever heard – was this brutal, raging burst, where vocalist Rey Oropeza lets loose all of his demons and disgust at the treatment of Angelenos by the LAPD (including his own father, who died at the hands of the force). Of course, complaints about US police by minorities are not new, and indeed continue to this day.
Also, as the video to this suggests downset. were a formidable live band (as I found out on one of their visits to the UK way back in September 1996).
/Bricks Are Heavy
Perhaps underappreciated grunge/metal legends L7 were uncompromising in many, many ways, and that even came to dealing with anger. Donita Sparks didn’t just want vengeance, although I suspect that came later. Instead, she spells out how she deals with her fury, by writing a list and adding the names of those who cross her to it, and by the end of this short, grind of a track, you’re rather hoping that you don’t end up on that piece of paper. Needless to say, the use of the song on the Natural Born Killers soundtrack a couple of years after release felt like an apt place for it to appear…
/Eternal Forward Motion
Justine Jones has had enough. Sick of being talked over, not being given her chance to speak (sadly not an uncommon case), she finds the space to talk and scream in the brutal lead track to Employed To Serve’s excellent 2019 album Eternal Forward Motion, where the staccato intro builds into a hulking monster of a metallic hardcore groove that is heavy enough to demolish buildings. One of the UK’s rising stars in metal, that’s for sure, the anger here is channeled into something positive – the sound of a band hitting their stride, and giving themselves that platform to help make a difference.
John Lydon was a prominent public face of the explosion of punk rock in the late seventies – whether he wanted to be or not, frankly – and while he may be just another reactionary Boomer these days, in the years immediately after the demise of the Sex Pistols, his work with Public Image, Ltd was genuinely fascinating. One of their biggest hits was Rise, where Lydon takes inspiration from the fight against Apartheid and allegations of RUC brutality to provide probably his greatest vocal performance, where he embodies the classic hook of this song through every sinew: “ANGER IS AN ENERGY“.
/My Life Is An Accident
/The Closer You Get
Looking back, it’s perhaps true that much of the earlier Six By Seven material was powered by the sheer rage of Chris Olley, who was angry with himself, his band, the music press, his family, and the fact that, somehow, they were overlooked at every turn. As we’ve just heard from John Lydon, though, that anger can be turned into a fizzing energy, and by the time of The Closer You Get, it had been channeled into an exceptional album. Highlights abound, frankly, but the stalking menace of My Life Is An Accident is where the anger really boils out. It starts calmly, a motorik rhythm a backing for Olley to start his sermon, before it gradually rises to a seething, deafening climax, his disgust and rage at his upbringing, relationships and even other bands all spat out in five jaw-dropping minutes, that eventually fades to nothing, as if exhausted with what has just happened. I’ve been fortunate to see this song a few times live, and it has never been anything other than a cathartic, enthralling song.
/The Thing I Hate
Christopher Hall didn’t often look outward in his lyrics, but when they did, they could be especially caustic, like on this snarling industrial rock track on Stabbing Westward’s third album. Deeply disappointed and furious with another party, Hall simmers and seethes through the track, but the critical point here is that Hall ensures that he is not consumed by his anger, refusing to stoop as low as the other and instead, apparently being the better person.
Slipknot arrived on the scene as nine nihilistic, vaguely-anonymous masked loons, and their extraordinary sound – somewhere between death metal, thrash, industrial electronics and punk – sounded like no-one else at the time, and perhaps helped to bring extreme metal in the new millenium to a far wider audience that it ever would have done otherwise. Listening back to their debut album, though, is still a shock. That opening track, (sic), is such a brutal outpouring of utter fury – Slipknot vs the World, pretty much – that it is rather amazing that following songs on the album somehow manage to up the ante further in different ways. That said, back on those early tours, this song as the opening track (!) live was not a song to caught in the moshpit for…
/Smash It Up
/Machine Gun Etiquette
Punk, at least before it became a fashion statement more than music, has often contained furious anger at the heart of the best songs, which is right, seeing as it was initially a statement against the status quo of the time, a way to express individuality and escape the stifling norms of the time. Dave Vanian and The Damned, though, were angry enough to want to destroy everything around them, metaphorically burn the world to the ground to start again, and what made them even angrier? The “Glastonbury hippies”, who clearly didn’t see punk-inspired revolution in the same way…
/Can We Talk About This?
/Tracks of Wire
The name of this excellent London duo – regularly covered on these pages over the past few years, of course – directly translates as “two furious”, and they have regularly used their anger to channel into songs that aim to make a difference, to ask questions of their listeners and force them to examine their behaviour. The striking opener to their debut album picked up on the threads from DV8‘s work of the same name, and the apparent last words of filmmaker Theo van Gogh before he was murdered in the street, calling out the hypocrisy of moral gatekeepers (and, by extension, politicians) amid punk-infused rock that explodes with anger at what they see.
/…Running The World
Finally, we turn to Jarvis Cocker for a song that still shocks. More correctly, it is known as Cunts Are Still Running The World, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the title needed changing for just about any airplay to ever happen. This song dates from 2006 or so, and in 2020, absolutely nothing has changed. In fact, perhaps, things are worse. Here in the UK, we have a corrupt chumocracy Government that is more bothered about enriching its friends and supporters that actually fighting a fucking pandemic or supporting its citizens, while in the US the outgoing Government has tried to incite a fucking coup rather than giving up power.
Oh yes, Cunts are still running the world, and like Jarvis, we have every fucking right to be absolutely fucking furious about it. And as the excellent recent series History of Swear Words details, it is good for you to swear about it, too. So let’s keep getting fucking angry, and make change happen.