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The Five Songs On My Mind On March 30

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I shared my first list on March 19.

I plan to write a list once a week, similar in some ways to the great music lists by Sadi.

After this week this list will be getting even more diverse as, via Ruckus, I’m trying out some new bands. If you have a band you think I should check out, give me the name and I’ll give them a spin.

Keep in mind I pay more attention to the lyrics — especially if they are disturbing — than the music. That’s just the way I roll.

1 – “I Am the Greatest” by A House
This song has the best lyrics, full of cockiness and wit. This Irish band should have been so much bigger than it became. I’d take them over U2 any day.
An excerpt:

The music business is incapable of bringing music
to the future, as it sits just waiting to pounce on any third rate trend,
milking it to death, once again putting money where the music is not. I only
wish I was born before all the great ideas were used. While I struggle to
working around this, the most annoying thing is watching other people succeed
through stealing them. I could have been a legend in my own time; I could
have sold a lot of records; I could have enjoyed it as well. I could have
been a lot of things. One thing that I know I am and will always be: I am the
greatest.

Yes, much of it is like that, almost more talking than singing, but what he has to say is so fascinating that I love it.

2 – “Pride (In the Name of Love)” by U2.
I have issues with U2. I liked the band’s earlier albums when the songs were political and direct. War and The Unforgettable Fire were my two favorite albums. The Joshua Tree was excellent too but that’s when they started to transition into being more mainstream.

Then with Achtung Baby and Pop I just had to give up. Bono’s whole pose, with the sunglasses and mocking being a pop star while also being one, got old fast.

But I still love some U2 songs and one of those is this one. It helps that the song is about Martin Luther King, Jr., a hero of mine both for his beliefs and actions.

Excerpt:

Early morning, April 4
A shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride

I remember singing that song to myself back in U.S. history class, back when I should have been paying more attention to the lectures. And now I’m going to be teaching social studies or history. Poetic justice?

3 – “Captain” by Kasey Chambers
I was thinking about my first exposure to this artist. It was at South by Southwest in Austin three years ago. That’s like the best music festival for seeing up and coming bands and artists. Chambers was an unknown and was playing in the backyard of a thrift store.

As she sang, people planted in the audience were handing out a free sampler of her CD. At first I thought someone was just sharing but I soon realized they were managing to get a CD in the hands of everyone there.

Chambers sings alt country with a twist since she is from Australia. She sang some great original tunes plus some excellent covers.

But her best song – and the one that made me an instant convert – was “Captain”

Excerpt:

Well i don’t have as many friends because
I’m not as pretty as I was
I’ve kicked myself at times because I’ve lied
So I will have to learn to stand my ground
I’ll tell ‘em i won’t be around
I’ll move on over to your town and hide

And you be the captain
And i’ll be no-one
And you can carry me away if you want to

4 – “Rocking In The Free World” by Neil Young
I have been hearing good local musicians do excellent covers of this song and each time I’m reminded of just how good – and damning – his lyrics are.

An excerpt:

I see a woman in the night
With a baby in her hand
At an old street light
Near a garbage can
Now she put her kid away,
She’s gone to get a hit
She hates her life, and what she’s done with it
There’s one more kid that will never go to school
Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool.
Keep on rockin’ in the free world,
Keep on rockin’ in the free world
Keep on rockin’ in the free world,
Keep on rockin’ in the free world.

5 – “Brutal Equation” by Consolidated
I went through my punk stages and my techno stages, enjoying artists ranging from Bad Religion to Seven Seconds to Orbital and Chemical Brothers. One of my favorite finds along the way was Consolidated, a bay area band with political lyrics.

I still wear my Friendly Fascism concert shirt which always gets interesting reactions as people see a flag and peg me in one category and then see the words “friendly fascism” and have to think about what the heck that means.

If anything Consolidated is too political, giving more attention to lyrics than to music. But they also take questions after their show and let critics not only have their say but include those critics as samples on future albums.

Take this sample as an example:

People! This ain’t no job, it’s a mission.
And we don’t give a fuck about recognition.
They can’t censor us with their threats and psychological war of attrition.
Being a commodity is weak.
But it might be our last chance to speak.
Try to get a simple point across but too often the message is lost.
Meanwhile, the industry continues to grind out the cheese whiz.
If that ain’t censorship, I don’t know what is.

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.
  • Vern Halen

    U2 – I bailed on them earlier than you did – Fire & J Tree were already pretty mainstream. But I came back with “Beautiful Day,” and mainstream or not, one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

    Free World – scary how the song cuts right to the core of pretty much…. everything, really.

  • Scott Butki

    It is a beautiful song but is it really saying of much import?

  • Steve

    Only familiar with the U2 and Neil Young songs on your list.

    “The Unforgettable Fire” is my favorite U2 song of all time, because the electric guitar is pretty much absent. For some reason, I don’t usually enjoy their electric guitar much, would prefer to listen to Simple Minds any day.

  • http://chantalstone.blogspot.com chantal stone

    U2 will always have a special place in my heart. I’m a recovering U2 fanatic/groupie (actually followed them back to Ireland once…ok twice…but it’s a loooong story saved for another day), but I agree with you Scott, they sort of lost me after “Pop”, although they tried extra hard to redeem themselves with “How to Dismantle…”

    I suggested to Steve before, to give “Wide Awake in America” a listen…..only a 4 song EP but to this day, still remains one of my favorite records of all time. The first 2 songs are live recordings of “Bad” and “A Sort of Homecoming”…the other 2 are really great studio recordings.

    I always preferred U2 live, they’re much better, more themselves, in my opinion. I think I read somewhere like 20 years ago that they’re more comfortable live than in the studio, and to me, its kind of obvious. “Under a Blood Red Sky” is also a fantastic album.

  • Steve

    I seem to recall a documentary a year or two ago about the “Pop” album and how it was promoted, and I think the consensus of the band was that the album and the tour that followed was probably too rushed and that they should have taken more time to do everything right. Still, I guess I can still admire them for taking risks like that after over 15 years together.

  • Steve

    Actually, Chantal, I’m not much into live albums generally, I’ve only got about six I think (Phil Collins, Duran Duran, Tina Turner, UB40, Jean Michel Jarre, Depeche Mode, and I used to have Simple Minds live too, but I’ve lost it somewhere along the way) and I can’t say I listen to them much frankly. Although the Duran album was good, I think they doctored up the sound after the fact, it sounded great.

    Anyway, like I said, there’s just something about U2’s guitars that grate on my nerves, even more so live.

  • http://chantalstone.blogspot.com chantal stone

    I had an old bootlegged concert tape of Simple Minds, I wish I knew where it was. They are a great live band as well.

    I can see what you mean about the guitar thing, Steve. Actually I’m more of an acoustic fan anyway, but I love U2 so The Edge just totally does it for me.

    The music I listen to now (aside from the 80’s stuff) is more along the lines of Jack Johnson, Alanis, Howie Day….pretty tame stuff.

  • Scott Butki

    Thanks for all the feedback.
    Now we need to get Sadi over here.

    I liked some Simple Minds but thought lyrically they never matched up to early U2.

  • Steve

    If you’re interested, Chantal, their 1987 live album “Live In The City Of Light” is still available to buy. You might want to look it up, I had the double cassette version, but it may be available on a single CD (only 14 tracks), not sure.

    I grew up in the UK, so I tend to try to keep up with things there to some degree, I find the Canadian music scene here a little dull, though it is a little better than it was 10-20 years ago. I actually tend to avoid buying new stuff that’s played on the radio alot because they are good at playing it to death!! I try to find artists to buy that I enjoy that don’t get alot of play (at least not anymore), generally.

  • Steve

    Was it the politics you liked about early U2, Scott? I think Simple Minds’ 1989 album “The Street Fighting Years” was their most political, it was my favorite of theirs, though I’m not much into political music myself.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    I suspect that when you talk about being oriented to the words of a song, you’re still to a large extent thinking of the melody that carries them. “Pride” is a fine, righteous lyrical sentiment and all, but there are plenty of nice sentiments. It’s the tune under them that turns “Pride” into a memorable anthem.

  • http://chantalstone.blogspot.com chantal stone

    I agree Al…because no matter how profound the message or poetic the lyric, if the melody sucks, you’re never going to even listen to the song in the first place.

  • Vern Halen

    RE: #2 – I dunno.. it seems to me that sometimes a beautiful day has as much sense of import as anything else.

  • Scott Butki

    Yes it was the politics of U2 that I liked. Maybe I’ll download soem early Simple Minds. I just know that with Alive and Kicking I thought it was a bit underwhelming.

    Hi, Al.
    Yes, melody matters. There are some rappers and punk singers who have great lyrics – be it Public Enemy or Bad Religion – but I just can’t get into the melodies so much.

  • Steve

    True, Chantal, melody is key.

    Re. lyrics and Simple Minds, Scott, I always felt their best stuff came in the album I mentioned before and 1991’s “Real Life”, NOT their pre “Alive & Kicking” days, where their music, being somewhat more experimental back then, is the focus rather than the lyrics which I didn’t find to be particularly political in the early days, with few exceptions.

  • http://www.tantmieux.squarespace.com sadi ranson-polizzotti

    Hey Scott ~ I finally found you (sorry it took so long; i got lost) ~ good list.

    i like u2, but the older stuff mostly and neil young i love ~ not that familiar with the other bands but hey, can always broaden my horizons..

    thanks for the re-direct! durrr!!! (i swear, i’m not an idiot, the link just kept taking me to YOUR site…)

  • Scott Butki

    Oh my evil twin made it. Cool.

    Have you heard of Consolidated? If not, give them a try.
    Next list I’m going to mention a related band, the Disposable Heroes of Hypocrisy.

  • Steve

    Scott, shouldn’t that be “Hiphoprisy”?? They’re a rap group, right??

  • Scott Butki

    Oh you are right. That’ll teach me to type with a hangover.
    Yeah, they sing about hypocrisy but that’s not in their name.

    Meanwhile, Matthew has written a satire of lists of this type.
    Now I feel the need to make a new list to mock his list.

  • Steve

    LOL, Scott.

  • CourtJester

    FYI: “Live in the City of Light” is anything but. If you compare available bootleg versions of the concert in question to the commercial release, there’s no doubt that there was A LOT of time spent in the studio to make them an even better “live act.”

  • Scott Butki

    Ah, that’s cheating!

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Duke De Mondo

    Scott, might i suggest a wonderful album by the name of No Wicked Heart Shall Prosper by a buncha British scallywags called Selfish Cunt. I think you might dig it. I reviewed it here on Blogcritics a while back, a truly marvellous album.

  • Scott Butki

    III will check that out. Do you have a link to
    the review?