Hello, this is DJ PP99. I’ll be taking over the decks in the Song Bar for an evening of ‘bright songs about dark subjects’ and big-money bingo.
The writers and performers of the following songs have done something so wrong that they’ve become right. Their pairings of dark subject matter with upbeat music should be plain wrong, but they’ve tossed the songwriting handbooks into a Tin Pan Alley dumpster, given Ivor Novello a wedgie, and let their own sonic instincts run wild.
These are the kind of people that put pineapple on the pizza, wheels on the surfboard, and sleeves in the blanket. Yes, they are sick, sick, sick.
And yet I have no doubt at all that the Song Bar’s dancefloor will be full.
Young Fresh Fellows – Celebration
A song about the imminence, inevitability and potential comforts of death that, despite the lack of any religious get out, isn’t just bright – it’s positively gleeful.
Reverend Gary Davis – You Got to Move
The Reverend preaches joyfully about death and says that when god calls everyone must answer – though he doesn’t sound quite so sanguine when it comes to himself. Wonderfully, he really does make his guitar sing.
The Smiths – Girlfriend in a Coma
A bouncy little pop song that takes on a dramatic and wholly inappropriate subject, earnestly runs with it for a while, but then gets the stitch and bored with itself. It’s teenage angst in a nutshell. A painfully funny gem.
Heavenly – Hearts & Crosses
Without warning, this pleasantly lolloping and fey pop song lurches from teen romance to date rape – the attack itself indicated by a strident and creepy organ solo. Afterwards, however, the music carries on its merry way as if nothing has happened – much like the uncaring world. It’s tragic in ways that a more circumspect approach would never manage.
Jun Togawa – Suki, Suki, Daisuki
We’re presented with a toe-tapping slice of 1980s electro-bop that has all the precise, synthetic and modulated upbeat underpinnings you’d expect. But, unnervingly, everything sitting on top of that is slightly off, which sets the scene for a lyric that is very off – "If you don’t say you love me, I’ll kill you!" Hilarious and unnerving in equal measure.
Ben Lee – I Love Pop Music
Starts out as a saccharine and clichéd though very danceable pop song, but then suddenly starts offering portents of doom and pointing the finger at the catastrophic failures of our politicians. Listen out too for the backing vocalists sweetly joining in with mocking reactions and chastisements of their own. It’s both lovely and unexpectedly subversive.
The Hold Steady – Chillout Tent
It’s the age-old story of trips that pass in the night. At a music festival, a girl who has eaten too many magic mushrooms meets a boy who has taken too many pills, and after perfunctory medical treatment they make out in the chillout tent. This could’ve been all kinds of judgmental and sordid, but it’s funny, romantic and uplifting instead – especially when the kids get to sing for themselves.
The Clash – The Right Profile
Jaunty guitars, a boot-stamping beat and oompah band horns are incongruously and yet effectively marshalled to tell the tale of actor Montgomery Clift and the night he drunkenly and irreparably smashed his famously pretty face in a car crash.
Gin Blossoms – Lost Horizons
A big and anthemic song that sounds as if it’s going to be a delicious and generous serving of deep-fried Americana, but the lyric concerns a bored and trapped alcoholic beginning to realise that the drunk don’t work. It’s a bomb hidden inside a baseball.
The Primitives – Crash
An electric guitar’s glittering arpeggio launches a rock'n'roll song that’s as bouncy and thrilling as Marilyn Monroe out on manoeuvres, but the song’s feisty and argumentative lyric is a domestic drama that denounces the unfettered rock and roll outlook, urges a wayward loved one to save themselves from the inevitability of a broken neck, and then, while serving up a thorough telling off, dismisses them entirely – "Shut, shut your mouth coz I’m not listening anyhow!" Glorious.
B list? Well, those those that very nearly made it:
Richard Thompson – I Feel So Good
Hoodoo Gurus - I Was a Kamikaze Pilot
P!nk – So What
Childish Gambino – This Is America
They Might Be Giants – Someone Keeps Moving My Chair
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Going To Hell
The Dandy Warhols – Not If You Were The Last Junkie On Earth
The Mighty Diamonds - Cat O’ Nine
The dB’s – Amplifier
Katrina And The Waves – Going Down to Liverpool
Guru’s wildcard pick:
Mental As Anything – Nigel
Thanks for playing everyone and providing me with so many riches to choose from.
Now for the important bit. Yup, it’s eyes down for the big-money bingo …
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Always look on the … bright songs about dark subjects. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.