Archive | March, 2017

Certain Songs #827: Kacey Musgraves – “Merry Go Round”

Album: Same Trailer, Different Park
Year: 2013

Kacey Musgraves is one of the leading lights of what might be my favorite pop music trend of this decade, female country-adjacent singer-songwriters who write their own songs and plot their own course. Obviously Miranda Lambert, but also Brandy Clark, Sarah Shook, Nikki Lane, Margo Price, the list is way longer than you might thing.

In Kacey Musgraves case, she’s been able to balance what are progressive lyrical viewpoints while remaining within the Nashville machine enough to enjoy a huge amount success with both of her albums (and a well-regarded Christmas record).

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Certain Songs #826: Joy Division – “Dead Souls”

Album: Still
Year: 1980

Still was, of course, a posthumous mop-up operation that was one half odds and sods and one half live album. And as such, it was pretty much, both in terms of sound and style, aimed at completists, as opposed to the casual fan.

(Which raises the question of whether or not there are any casual fans of Joy Division, though I guess that the enduring popularity of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” probably means that there are.)

In any event, the clear highlight of the studio outtakes that made up the first disc of Still was “Dead Souls,” featuring a bright crunchy guitar from Bernard Sumner and fine tom work from Stephen Morris, and one of those songs that has a long intro. A very long intro. In fact, Ian Curtis doesn’t even open his mouth until two minutes in, by which time the rest of the guys have cycled through a verse and a chorus instrumentally.

But man, it was worth the wait, as “Dead Souls” has one of my favorite openings of any Joy Division song.

Someone take these dreams away
That point me to another day
A duel of personalities
That stretch all true realities

And the way he sings that opening verse is absolutely chilling: not just nightmares, but nightmares that could be his own past lives reaching out to trouble his current one. I doesn’t really matter who they are, but rather that every single night the voices are there.

That keep calling me
They keep calling me
Keep on calling me
They keep calling me

With Sumner riffing hard between every line of the chorus and Peter Hook making scary-ass ghost voices on his bass, the chorus of “Dead Souls” sounds like complete and utter insanity made manifest. No wonder Curtis took so long to start singing: he was probably thinking “do I even want to confess this?” while the rest of the band was looking at him in the studio.

Where figures from the past stand tall
And mocking voices ring the halls
Imperialistic house of prayer
Conquistadors who took their share

As the song wears on, Curtis gets more and more unhinged, as do Sumner and Hook. And Morris is so rattled that he’s playing his snare on the wrong beat every few measures, as if he’s looking around the studio to see where the voices are coming from. Because clearly now they’re hearing the voices, calling all of them. Calling you. Calling me. They keep calling me. And calling me. They’re now all in the same dream, maybe recording this song is part of the dream, and maybe it’s going to go on forever.

Luckily though, Curtis just thinks “fuck this” and high-tails it out of the studio without another word, and while the rest of the band shakes it off, they finally figure out that the best thing is to just end the song and pretend like that whole fucked up dreamstate thing never even happened.

“Dead Souls”

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Certain Songs #826: Joy Division – “Dead Souls”

Album: Still
Year: 1980

Still was, of course, a posthumous mop-up operation that was one half odds and sods and one half live album. And as such, it was pretty much, both in terms of sound and style, aimed at completists, as opposed to the casual fan.

(Which raises the question of whether or not there are any casual fans of Joy Division, though I guess that the enduring popularity of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” probably means that there are.)

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Certain Songs #825: Joy Divsion – “Atmosphere”

Single, 1980

Joy Division’s music has been classified as so dark and moody — some might even use the term “gothic” — that what is frequently missed is how breathtakingly beautiful it could be, as well.

And nowhere was that beauty more breathtaking than the dark and moody “Atmosphere,” which was released twice as a single in 1980: first in France as a limited edition, then posthumously everywhere else.

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Certain Songs #824: Joy Division – “Twenty Four Hours”

Album: Closer
Year: 1980

This is all about the contrasts. Light and dark, fast and slow, floating and driving. The way that Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris fall apart during the slow parts and come together during the fast parts.

I’m sure that to some of you, the words are important. But I’ll be honest here, I’ve listened to “Twenty Four Hours” countless times in the last 35-plus years and I couldn’t quote you a single line.

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