January 2008 Archives

The last track

25 January 2008

Oh gaad no. I'm stuck in Nick Hornby world and I'm not sure I can get out. I noticed that Chris Rand picked out some top songs to close out albums after picking up on a thread at the Guardian. And I fell in the hole. In between bursts of real work, I piled through the iTunes collection - a lot of it I've rated over the years so the job was fairly easy.

I tried hard to not bung in good songs that happened to be at the end of an album, but sound as though they were meant to be there as well and that nothing else would do.

The top two are easy. It's a toss-up as to which should come top but I reckon The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again (Who's Next) has to be up there somewhere. I'm surprised more people didn't namecheck it: that's an album closer if ever I heard one.

The masterpiece of structure is The The's Beyond Love on Mind Bomb: a masterpiece of delayed satisfaction. Matt Johnson said it's his favourite song, largely because of the lyrics. In all honesty, they're a bit too heavy handed. But the structure of the song is perfect. Not only do you have to wait for the end of the album for the song, you have to wait for the end of the song for the payoff of the full chorus. That's songwriting.

A bit more obscure is Hotel Womb by The Church from Starfish. Forget Under The Milky Way - the only hit single for the Aussie band (and resurrected in Donnie Darko). This is the real gem on the album: what would you put after this?

Some at the Guardian site put in Teenage Fanclub's Is This Music? But it probably tries a bit too hard to be an album closer. S*T*A*R*C*A*R at the end of Julian Cope's Autogeddon suffers from the same issue.

Also in the trying-too-hard department: It's the Sun by the Polyphonic Spree from The Beginning Stages Of... However, the whole album desperately wants to be liked - but that's its charm. Even if it does make you wonder if you are being surreptitiously brainwashed by some crazy Adventist cult.

Most of the lists tend to swing towards rock rather than anything else. In reality, with the exception of Prince and early Michael Jackson albums, most just shove the best songs up front and let the album fizzle out.

In the electronica and dance department, Orbital arguably has the best offering. Out There Somewhere? is dangerously close to being prog techno and not in a progressive house kind of way. The Girl With The Sun In Her Head is the real star of the album but this one builds and builds and builds to the final minutes making it a damn fine album closer.

Six Six Sixties which finishes the original version of Throbbing Gristle's 20 Jazz Funk Greats is the fitting finish to this album, with a cover shot at suicide spot Beachy Head.

On a happier note, there's Sensoria by Cabaret Voltaire on Micro-Phonies – the original from the LP rather than the much more famous single version mashed-up with Do Right which now sits at the end of the CD. The single is arguably better but it wouldn't work as the end of the album proper.

In the crazy corner muttering to itself, we have Beast Box from er...Beast Box by Luxuria. Lyrics are nutty as only Howard Devoto can do ("So, I'm in the beast box with my kid brother and there's all these scenes of awful suffering going on") but it's the song you've been waiting for all album. Well, the vinyl version anyway (it took me years to buy a CD player). Unfortunately, the CD adds a sub-par 'bonus' track.

Also in the mad as batshit department is Battle of Britain from Jah Wobble's utterly unhinged first solo album Betrayal. It's got one star in iTunes to make sure it never comes up on an smart playlist. Yet it's the ideal song to close out that album. But the world's wobbliest bassist (and I mean that in a good, 'why is my sternum vibrating' way) gave us Om Nava Shiva at the end of Heaven & Earth. Laaaarvely.

Guns'n'Roses didn't know where to go with Sweet Chile o'Mine on Appetite for Destruction, but they knew how to end the album with another song that's practically two glued together: Rocket Queen.

Motherfucker - Redeemer, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Yanqui UXO. This probably falls foul of the prog-rock test (ie would be half of the album). But the chamber rockers don't really do short numbers.

"Up is always good, right?"

11 January 2008

The big problem with marketingspeak is that, pretty soon, even the people using it forget what the words were meant to mean. People just slot them together like Lego in the vain hope that it gives the prospective consumer a warm feeling. Or maybe utter confusion is an effective sales target.

And it means you end up with crackers like this press-release headline: "MEN Micro Inc. Extends FPGA-based Universal Submodule Concept to Include XMC and Conduction-cooled PMC Formats for Increased Time-to-market"

Yes, use our product and slow your project down to a crawl. I have visions of the person signing this one off saying: "I don't want 'reduced' in the headline, it's not a happy word..."