This week marks the end of /Tuesday Tens for 2021 (they will resume in the new year), as I prepare to round up what has been a very busy year in the ever-widening corner of music that this website covers.
Like many of these posts, I can’t remember where the inspiration for asking about this one came from, but a few weeks ago, with a few ideas of my own, I asked for suggestions on the subject of songs about breaking and/or fixing. Needless to say, I only got suggestions for one or the other, and in something I was expecting, vastly more songs about breaking than fixing.
There were 160 suggestions in total, with 23 of those used before. 134 unique songs were suggested, by 61 people. Thanks, as ever, to everyone who got involved.
As noted above, the /Tuesday Ten series now takes a break for a month or so and will be back in the first week of 2022. Look out for /Countdown/2021 beginning next Tuesday.
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 me. 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).
/Destroy Everything You Touch
I had to triple-check that I’d not used this majestic song before, and somehow, I’ve not. Ladytron’s finest moment by far, it comes from their excellent Witching Hour album, where they pulled together their icy, aloof synthpop with sometimes subtle shoegaze influences. But here, it was pure synthpop, and the results were extraordinary, as they tear into someone who can’t help but break everything and everyone that they encounter – and the inference is that they either don’t notice or simply don’t care. Ladytron did, and this song is a ferocious riposte.
/Ten Ton Hammer
/The More Things Change…
At their best, Machine Head were (and to a lesser extent are) one of the most formidable metal bands out there, certainly as a singles band more than their albums, and most of all, as a fantastic live band. One of those songs is indisputably the chugging monster that opens their second album – and perhaps unsurprisingly, Ten Ton Hammer remains a live staple to this day. A song seemingly about standing up for yourself, and fighting down feeling being weak and an imposter, every element of the song hits so, so hard, like that titular hammer, and little remains unbroken after this four minutes.
Back when Fear Factory were maybe the most forward-looking metal band of all, on their legendary album Demanufacture, even now it is still worth listening beyond the better-known first side of the album, as some real treats exist on the second side too. Long one of my favourite tracks is the mighty Body Hammer, a slower paced track that is built around a massive drum sound and another clinical, sharp riff from Dino Cazares. Sticking with the theme of the album (man becomes machine as he fights oppressive Government, is the broad idea), here the character turns himself into a tool of sheer destruction to fight and break the system down – something too that happens in the cyberpunk classic Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (released just a few years before this track was written).
/Some Things Are Meant To Stay Broken
The savage power of Prometheus Burning, somewhere between vicious industrial-noise and classic electro-industrial (and they swung between emphasis on both sides across their decade-or-so long time active), was one of the highlights of a sometime fallow period for industrial after majority interest in futurepop and industrial noise began to wane. This was the first track – opening their brutal debut album – that many of us heard, and it is an overwhelming, harsh six minutes. It set the scene for what was to come from the band – Greg VanEck created a chaotic maelstrom of noise, not far off Converter levels of aural brutality, with high-pitched squalls and metallic crashes surrounding distorted, heavy beats (and just check those air-raid siren howls that arrive late in the track), while Nikki Telladictorian unleashes a stream of consciousness vocal performance over and through it. This sounded like a world being shattered into pieces, and then reassembled through the grime and unpleasantness.
/Morning Dove White
Only a second appearance in this series for one of the great post-rave “might have beens”. Somehow label interference scuppered One Dove’s bright future (after tinkering that neutered their otherwise excellent debut album, the second album was never completed, and even this album wasn’t the hit everyone expected it to be). But even in their “pop-friendly” takes, the singles were quite astounding. Breakdown was a Top 40 hit in 1993, a shimmering, dreamy song whose multi-tracked, dramatic chorus disguises a desperately sad tale delivered by vocalist Dot Allison, trying to hold it together after an apparently disastrous relationship collapse. I’ve been through such a collapse and breakdown, and frankly, it’s no fun at all. Back to One Dove, mind, and other singles were better – the tumbling pianos and wordless, ecstatic chorus of White Love and, of course, the breathless, club-comedown of Fallen – but Breakdown was the breakthrough that never really was.
/Break Me Gently
Like much of this still-remarkable album, doves sounded rather broken throughout. As if everything that had got them to that point (among other things, their previous incarnation as Sub Sub ended when their studio burned to the ground in 1996) had ground them down to the point that they were questioning whether to carry on with anything. Break Me Gently is brushed drums, delicate guitars, and washes of synths (and quasi-choral backing vocals), as Jimi Goodwin watches a lover break his heart in a host of tiny ways. Like so much of this album, it is understated, quiet devastation.
/Get This in Ya!!
A smoko, as The Chats taught us non-antipodeans, is a short break from work (i.e. a cigarette break as we might know it). This gloriously bratty punk song (complete with non-ironic mullets in the video) sees the lead singer bothering workers who are on their “smoko”, with the clear inference that he’s out of work, frustrated and getting no support. For what became a novelty viral hit online, perhaps there was more depth to this than was first made out…
/Unfuck The World
/Prophets of Rage
Basically the Rage Against The Machine without Zach de le Rocha, and instead fronted by Chuck D and B-Real, along with DJ Lord along for the ride, this supergroup made quite a splash with their album and singles – especially as it was the best material any of them had been involved in for a while. The striking, distinctly unsubtle lead single Unfuck the World (it got playlisted on 6Music, with a fair amount of it edited for profanity!) set out the stall nicely. Rather than the searing, sometimes violent insurrection that is Zach de la Rocha’s general tone, here Chuck D and B-Real are more reflective, wanting to heal (or fix) the world by removing racism and violence and making the world a better place by non-violent protest. This is quite the statement…
/I Would Fix You
My wife has long held the view that the first Kenickie album was the youthful rush of a night on the town, while the second (and final) album Get In was the downbeat, hungover next morning, and I can see her point. I Would Fix You, the sixties-soul-influenced single, is a deceptively pretty song, where Lauren Laverne tries to disguise her own issues and problems by trying to make the life of someone else better, as if that will make her better too. Of course, that rarely if ever works. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kenickie split in 1998, Lauren Laverne becoming a well known TV and radio presenter…
/Fix Me Now
“Things don’t have to be this way / Catch me on a better day”
Away from the blustering power and confidence of Garbage’s greatest songs – particularly on their debut album – Shirley Manson often showed a surprising (at the time) vulnerability on many songs, and some of those were the highlights. The glorious Fix Me Now was one such song, where Manson is looking for someone to give her a pick me up, and the impassioned, soaring chorus seals the deal. That quote above is the opening, muttered line, and becomes the coda as things wear down. Interestingly, too, Garbage were one of the few bands suggested this week that had songs which could be breaking or fixing, rather than just one.