thee100club now on spotify

thee100club is now available as a playlist on the giant jukebox in the sky right here!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The 100 Club: Post Analysis

So – 100 days, 100 songs, one textbook display of OCD.

To recap – I set myself the challenge of counting down my 100 favourite songs over the last 100 days, as a countdown to fatherhood. I had a lot of fun piecing it together, sitting down each night and letting a few thoughts fall out.
Over 1oo nights – I’ve inadvertently contributed over 40,000 words to the blogosphere.

Thanks to all who logged on, skimmed occasionally, said nice things or had an opinion to share.

Thee 100 Club was as much about determining the characteristics of the perfect song as it was about the songs themselves. All the things I talked (too much) about over the preceding 100 posts were musical, structural reasons the songs made the 100.

I thought I should have a look at the non-musical characteristics of the songs in the countdown – in an attempt to isolate precisely what the traits of the perfect song are.
These are outlined below. Warning: Contains graphs and geek talk.

So Here’s The Stats…

Decade of Composition: Breaking down the decade from which each of the songs was released.

It is clear the 90’s were a golden era for thee100club. No surprise there – it’s where my teenage years were spent; where many musical discoveries in anyone’s life are typically made and cemented.
Drilling in a little deeper, let’s look at the year of release:

The big years were 1993, 1995 and 2005  – each boasting six entries in the 100.
I can’t explain why 2003 had no entries.
Overall – the average time of release was March/April 1987.
For context, Number 1 in Australia at that time was Paul Lekakis ‘Boom Boom (Let’s Go Back To My Room).

Geographic Origin:

It’s clear the UK is the epi-centre of the musical universe for me.
Good to see the Australian contribution comfortably exceeds the 10% minimum local content requirement as laid out by the government.

Length Of Song: The median song length was 3.41. The song of the longest duration was Led Zeppelin ‘In My Time Of Dying’ clocking in at over 11 minutes. Use this song to clock your pasta cooking time.
The song with the shortest duration was The Beatles ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’ at just over two minutes. Missy Elliot would not be happy.

Structure/Configuration Of Performer:

Most popular song post: By a large margin was The Kinks ‘Village Green Preservation Society’, for the reason outlined below (see a funny thing happened).

Least popular song post: Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band ‘Express Yourself’.

A funny thing happened on the way: The post about the Kinks ‘Village Green Preservation Society’ was picked up by the Kinda Kinks (official) website and resulted in a flood of visits – over 500 in 24 hours.
The same post was also picked up by a billiards website, but resulted in slightly less traffic.

Gender split: I’m ashamed to admit it, but only one song featured female lead vocals – ‘Needle In A Haystack‘, but it was written by a male.

Artists With Multiple Entries in thee 100:

  • The Beatles: 3
  • Bruce Springsteen: 2
  • Darren Hanlon: 2
  • The Music: 2
  • Redd Kross: 2
  • Suede: 2
  • Teenage Fanclub: 2

The Sum Total: So the perfect song was:

  • Most likely written in March/April 1987
  • By an English, band
  • Of about 3.41 duration

What I left out: Need it be said it is exceedingly difficult to come up with 100 songs that have defined my meagre existence. I had to leave out so many crackers – nothing by Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, Urge Overkill; the tail is a long and wagging one.

Of course the point of all this was a countdown to my impending fatherhood. Baby Scarlett arrived into the world at number three in the countdown.
We’re home now and she’s wrapped up like a burrito asleep in a crib at my feet as I type this.
I wonder what she’ll be listening to, via what medium in 30 years time?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The 100 Club: #01 – The Waterboys ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ (1985).

Well, here it is.
As close to the perfect song the earth has provided my humble ears hitherto.

So – out of the tens of millions of published songs in existence, how can I be so arrogant and exclusive as to single out this song, even from the rich spectrum provided over the last 100 days?

Well – let’s break it down.
Of all the things I’ve been blabbing about over the last 3 and a half months, this epic masterpiece excels in all. I’m talkin’ production, lyricism, delivery and phrasing,  adventurousness, mystique, self-deprecation and sheer indefinable spirit – this song hits and exceeds all watermarks.

Lyrically – it follows a simple device of comparing the protagonist to someone else, depicting himself in the negative light; pedestalising the ‘other’. He’s the one with narrow vision, while his object of inspiration has effortlessly experienced enlightenment. The central metaphor this is hung around is the fact he ‘sees the crescent’ but the other ‘saw the Whole Of The Moon’. It boasts some mind-blowing lines: ‘I saw a rain-dirty valley / you saw Brigadoon’. ‘I pictured a rainbow, you held it in your hands’, ‘I spoke about wings, you just flew’ – just three of many. The imagery is simply remarkable.

Production wise – everything is thrown at this.
I’m not going to pick it apart minutely here; but suffice to say – at 3.53; on the lyric ‘came like a comet’ along comes the sound effect of a comet flare; like literal fireworks! Those regal trumpets that enter majestically at 2.00. Listen on headphones; the trumpet on the left channel, answers/echoes that on the right. The layered sounds in the background generally. A sax solo coda – normally naff, just works perfectly here. There’s so much going on – it generously rewards with repeated listens.

Phrasing and delivery – it’s an odd arrangement, almost alluringly uncomfortable to listen to. There’s even an odd rap-phrased verse at 3.30, ‘Unicorns and cannonballs, palaces and piers, Trumpets, towers, and tenements, wide oceans full of tears’. The following line and its phrasing ‘every precious / dream and vision / underneath the stars’ gets me every time.  It merely confirms the sheer adventuress-ness employed here.

Mystique – The Other. Who is it? Over the years it’s been claimed and disregarded as a paean to (variously) Prince, CS Lewis – it’s quite likely it’s about no-one in particular, but I love the questioning it has evoked over the years, imbuing the song with a strong legacy.

So – I think this selection will surprise a lot of people. It surprises even me sometimes. The cheesy keyboards are not something I would immediately warm to.
The Waterboys (well, it’s essentially Mike Scott, the core of the band) aren’t a band I covet. I own a Greatest Hits only – that’s it. It’s not as if I’m a Waterboys completist like I am for artists like oasis, You Am I, Darren Hanlon and more (speaking of Darren Hanlon – check out ‘Yes, There Is A Slight Chance He Will Actually Fail’ – it’s like an Oz-indie re-imagining of this song). I bought the Greatest Hits after hearing The Whole Of The Moon on a compile of 80’s indie/goth.
I’ve listened to everything else on that Greatest Hits probably twice only. In fact, I actively try not to listen the other songs. The simple fact is – I don’t need to hear another Waterboys song.
This is perfect.

I try not to listen to live versions – I adore the studio perfection encased in this.
If the Waterboys, authors of my favourite song of all time, played the State Theatre next week – it’s probable I wouldn’t attend, in the aim of preserving my perception of this song as flawless.
Why gild the perfect lily?

Give yourself the time to immerse your aural receptors in the grandeur, the over-the-top production, the lofty aspirations, the epic ambition on display here to create the worlds greatest anthem. Revel in how, on the dartboard of aural perfection – this hits the bulls-eye, with every masterful note.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The 100 Club: #02 – The Undertones ‘Teenage Kicks’ (1978).

This pocket sized masterpiece defines youthful exuberance and innocent optimism. For me all other pop songs are measured against this yardstick.

When you hear the words, raucously elegant, spat out at you – you believe them. It’s impossible not to. Delivered with such conviction, desperation and effortlessness – it just has to be genuine. When the husky plea ‘I need excitement and I need it bad’ is let forth behind the wall of buzzsaw guitar you can’t help but empathise – we’ve all been there.

While the song is of course basically about being young, careless and shagging – it embodies an overall spirit that, through knockbacks and twists/turns in life, sometimes gets diluted. Sometimes we just need reminding of that naive optimism to get us back on the right track.

Even boasting double hand-claps in the chorus, for me the killer is the descending guitar line; just so contagious it needs its own biohazard warning. Listen to that – it rips me apart no matter how many times I hear it. At its heart of course – there’s no denying its a pop song.

The track is famously championed by John Peel (pretty much my hero). The story of how he came to be associated with the song is as charmingly simple as the song itself. The band from Derry, Northern Island – all at the time under 20 (mostly 17-18) wrote to John Peel – probably the most respected radio DJ in Britain and in a charmingly childlike tone asked him to play their tape. He did, playing it two times in a row and infamously, rating it twenty-eight on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. The song was played at his untimely funeral and his gravestone inscribed with ‘Teenage Dreams – so heard to beat’.

I’ve heard many cover versions of this and all ruin it completely. Most tend to slow the tempo down – taking away the very essence of the song – that youthful enthusiasm.

This is another track I loved to play along to on bass – so simple, yet so exciting.

It’s important to know where this song came from. I’ve been to Derry in Northern Ireland – it’s not the nicest place in the world. One of the few places where I ensured I locked the car. Endless tenements and conspicuous council terrace houses, escape through sport and music provided a valuable and enticing outlet.

Teenage Kicks is pretty much the perfect song. Despite its simple structure, the spirit it exudes and the conviction with which it is delivered makes this masterpiece one of the greatest 2 and a half minutes in the history of modern art; a true, raw, primal anthem for a perpetually emerging generation – and my life would be infinitely poorer for its absence.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The 100 Club: #03 – oasis ‘Slide Away’ (1994).

I’ve spoken before about the second-last song on albums acting as the peak of a crescendo for the album as a whole. With Slide Away, oasis produced the crescendo on not only ‘Definitely Maybe’ but many will argue their entire career. Such is its perfection everything else that came after it seemed to be playing in its shadow.

My obsession with oasis knew few bounds. Lining up for tickets (this is pre-web-based ticketing) in the middle of winter outside a shopping centre? No worries. $18 for a single that just basically audio of Liam and Noel having an argument? Of course. Spending $50 on the vinyl version of an album of which I already have multiple copies, just so I could get the vinyl-only extra-track? No questions asked.

They were a band that elicited that sort of commitment. In those pre-Wonderwall days – before they were really mainstream in Australia, there weren’t casual oasis fans. It was all in or all out. You loved them or hated them. Feeding this fan behaviour, they recorded B-sides that were as amazing or better than the A-Sides they supported. I was totally taken in. While they’ve not recorded a cover-to-cover decent album in 15 years, (sure, there’s been some cracking album tracks) that strong legacy of those first few years makes them the first band that fall from my lips, almost instinctively, when someone asks my my favourite band – even now.

Slide Away defines the oasis sound. It embodies their alluring and arrogant swagger. It’s understated and abstract but outclasses its Brit-Indie competition by a decent margin; even today I never get sick of hearing it. While Noel’s vocal songs are usually top of my list – here Liam’s strained vocal is superb – the lyrics perfectly exhibit his killer voice in these early songs. It’s a subtle peak but I LOVE the bit at 3.19 on the ‘now that you’re mine’. It’s hard to describe what is precisely happening, song-structure wise – but it hits me at my core. The layered guitars, the rolling drums, especially in that manic extended coda – it just washes over you, if you allow yourself to be immersed.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The 100 Club: #04 – Led Zeppelin ‘In My Time Of Dying’ (1974).

This is the thunderous groove monster that best conveys the savage, bombastic, epic, exciting behemoth Led Zeppelin were in the mid-70’s. It displays all that is possible when you just throw everything at a song. It’s a great example of incorporating the past and appropriating – referential and reverential.

Based off a traditional gospel song – this is not only is this the longest track in the countdown – but also the longest song in Led Zeppelin’s studio repertoire. Eleven minutes of heaven.

While there’s lots going on in here – probably my favourite element is the deep, pounding, resonant drums; simply apocalyptic – Bonham at his lethal best. The bass groove (and there’s lots of different grooves within differing sections of the song), is just so powerful. I also love the authenticity of the voices at the end – like a studio demo (which is slightly truncated in the below video I’m afraid – the last 50 seconds are chopped off). Bonham can then be at the end, exclaiming, ‘That’s gonna be the one, isn’t it?’, followed by a different voice saying through the talk-back microphone ‘Come have a listen, then.’ Bonham releasing the clutch of his hi-hat and says ‘Oh, yes. Thank you.’

I’d say there’s three parts to this. The opening 3.20 is all blues slide guitar and gospel; from there the drums kick up a notch and the bass grooves makes their ‘presence’ known – the riffs become lethal – indicated at 3.47 like a massive, abrasive punctuation mark.

From there comes my favourite section – the song builds into a manic southern jam that no-one could match; paste – present – future. Black Crowes made a whole career out of attempting to match this; they did a gallant job – but this is just peerless. Page is jumping all over the fret board like an incendiary cat. The drums throb and pound like the dystopian out-of-control machine from the movie ‘9’. Plant’s vocals delivered like a rambunctious southern preacher behind a pulpit. Let’s not forget JPJ – elemental to the groove. It drips excitement. That sexy groove change at 7.21 is just phenomenal before that section rounds out at 8.20.

Then we get that holy gospel blues (but funky) extended coda to ‘take us home’. Plant’s redemptive howl like a wolf at the moon.

It’s an odd use of the song – but you may know I like a bit of bushwalking. At the Golden Staircase in Katoomba – this song is the perfect duration and intensity to plug into your ears and take on the sheer ascent from the rainforest floor – up probably 750 stairs and a rapid change in elevation of, I guess, a sheer 200m. It’s gruelling, but this song is just so motivating for this purpose.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The 100 Club: #05 – The Music ‘The Walls Get Smaller’ (2001).

Written when the band were mere teenagers and had absolutely no right to be anywhere near this good – Walls Get Smaller is a cinematic masterpiece.

An instrumental – it literally feels like the soundtrack to the internal anxiety resultant of a claustrophobia attack.

The structure arc is beautiful, it simply cannot be consumed in snippets. A slow build gives way to tension and release, tension  and release, before a frantic and definitively unhinged conclusion.

Live – the song does an adept job in roof removals at any venue in which it is performed.

Beautiful crash cymbals, cascading guitars, powerfully tribal drums. There’s a few key markers in the song that shift the gears immeasurably; the biggest impact shift is at 2.50 – and then again at 3.50.

I should also mention this is a B-Side.

It’s a true monster of a song – and I can’t believe the music weren’t global worldbeaters.

I really hope they get it together one day and return to these amazing songs.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The 100 Club: #06 – Violent Femmes ‘Never Tell’ (1984).

The Violent Femmes have played a particularly important part in my musical education over the last sixteen or so years.  Like most – I was introduced to them by their novelty output; like Blister In The Sun. That song’s status as a prerequisite for drunken hens nights and youth dance parties at suburban RSL clubs is unfortunate, but for me – that song spurred an enthusiastic spate of back-collection, deeper appreciation and ultimately the amassing of around eight studio albums now, of mostly remarkable quality.  They enjoyed a really loyal following on these fair shores and could easily sell out twenty shows nationally. Bassist Brian Ritchie even lives here now and is part owner in a tea shop (of course) in Surry Hills.

That first album is an absolute classic. It deserves to be spoken about in the same sentence as ‘Nevermind’ and ‘Unknown Pleasures’ (personally is means more than the sum of both of these) – in a correspondingly hushed and reverent tone. It’s sheer, unabashed, anguished, genuine, DIY, teenage catharsis captured on record.

Add It Up, Kiss Off, Please Do Not Go, Prove My Love – utter classics and so different to anything around at the time, or since, really. Mostly penned by distinctive and curiosity-arousing crazy singer Gordon Gano when he was still at school, it confused people. With no box to put it in, no musical label to slap on it, explicitly uncommercial content and indeed no radio format to play it; it was a sleeper hit – taking nine years to hit platinum in the US. I dare say even this was propelled by the strongest marketing tool music has; word of mouth.

This track however is taken from their (even more uncommercial) second album. The opening song was a country ditty about a farmer who kills his daughter and then hangs himself in a barn. It’s followed up by a largely a capella gospel song about salvation through rainfall.

Track three is Never Tell – this sprawling seven minute masterpiece. It’s just simply overflowing with ideas, brimming with unconventional instruments, style changes, time signature experimentation and downright kooky noises. It takes the idea of a three minute pop song and annihilates it utterly. Among the Violent Femmes catalogue, particularly amid the wealth of punky pop dissertations – it’s very easy to look past this and not appreciate it’s genius.

I feel like I need some sort of chart or diagram to map out the strange and twisted musical journey this song takes us on. I think there’s five parts; first from 0.01 to 1.43 (setting up the story), then 1.44 to 2.52 (musical experimentation), 2.52 to 4.48 (perhaps the most haunting), 4.48 to 5.33 (like a death march) and 5.30 to close (the manic finale).

The sounds are so (unsurprisingly) Femmes! Gano’s characteristic nasal whine – his voice an instrument, here used as a whisper, a scream and everything in between. That deep acoustic bass that is such the trademark of Brian Ritchie. The production on the drums giving them a deep, deep pounding echo. The guitar sounds that are twisted and abrasive.

Lyrically – some really kooky, abstract lines, which with repetition, only get even more confusing:

‘It’s of utmost importance, we’re dealing with volatile substance’
‘Don’t You Know Nothing, You Never Tell On Someone’
‘Sink down, sink down, sink down – down, down to the bottom of the river, sink down sink, sink down down’.

The net meaning? Well, it’s so twisted, I’d rather not delve. It defines haunting, dark and macabre.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The 100 Club: #07 – Ride ‘Vapour Trail’ (1990).

On the ladder of dreamy jangle pop – this sits on the highest rung.

Vapour Trail is kinda the paintbrush in the box of crayons that is the parent ‘Nowhere’ album – as the clean sound of this is at odds with the wall-of-sound tracks elsewhere on the record.

There’s no fireworks, acrobatics, kitchen sinks – just effortless charm, understated grace and undeniable style.

I love the processed guitar sound – like 60’s psychedelia. While this track is now 20 years old, it could have been made in the 60’s or by someone today; timeless.

Just listen to that magic viola coda (it creeps in around 2.45) starting off buried in the mix, gradually moving to the foreground until it’s the solo instrument in the mix.

I knew over 15 years ago I wanted to somehow play that coda at my wedding. So, two years ago I sampled and looped that last 20 seconds and played it at the ceremony for the registry signing. Magic.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The 100 Club: #08 – Adorable ‘Homeboy’ (1992).

Delivered with nothing but utter conviction, manic urgency and unrestrained abandon – Homeboy is a noisy, chaotic masterpiece.

One of the more under-rated bands from the Creation roster (you just never hear anything about them), this is another song I loved playing along to, when I took up bass for a brief period in my 20’s. That moody, rumbling line (as heard solo in the intro) – so simple to play, but so haunting, dark and effective.

Lyrically, it’s emo, before it was given a label:

‘I never understood what it meant to be misunderstood, And even if I did, I don’t think I’d care less’

‘I want to drown beneath the waves, I want to dig myself a shallow grave’

…with even more macabre lyrics hence.

The whole song explodes, given by a subtle warning of feedback at 1.24 – into a vicious sonic whirlpool and with that impassioned, desperate ‘you’re so beautiful’ at 3.18 – it sucks you under – your only choice to surrender to the noise. Amid over-the-top of wall-of-sound guitars – a Morrissey-esque croon closes out the song.

Bands of the same sound and era, like My Bloody Valentine and Jesus & Mary Chain get the acclaim – but this, to me, rises above them all.

Josh McGarrity – I have you to thank for introducing me to this gem.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment