In another of those instances of “how have I not written about this before”, welcome to this week’s Tuesday Ten.
293: My Weakness Is None of Your Business
I was thinking last week that all I was hearing on the news was “strong and stable” repeated ad infinitum, at least until Theresa May’s advisers finally got through that a little more substance might be required in the General Election campaign.
Which got me thinking about songs about strength – and, naturally, weakness. So this is the first of a two-part post, with the flipside following next week.
Thanks as ever to the many people who offered suggestions, and sorry that I couldn’t use everything suggested.
Falling To Pieces
The Real Thing
Long one of my favourite FNM songs – ever since I picked up The Real Thing aged about twelve, and it changed my life – and it also remains one of the few songs I wanted to hear live that they’ve not played when I’ve seen them. It’s a fantastic charge of a song, opened with a bassline that still pricks the hairs on my neck, swirling synths and then Mike Patton adds in lyrics that are surprisingly at odds with the muscular nature of the song. This is a song of self-doubt and weakness, with life, mental health and control spiralling out of reach, and the hook of the chorus says it all: “My life is falling to pieces / somebody put me together“. He’s relying on someone else to fix his problems, rather than dealing himself – very much a weakness.
Mesh are one of those bands whose entire back-catalogue is pretty much about the power dynamics of relationships, the good and bad of such examined in often exquisite detail. One of their early – and still great – singles was this song, which amid the punchy beats and snarling delivery from Mark details a relationship where the protagonist has been mentally battered into submission by various power games, and has taken so much that they can no longer fight back or care.
Over in the US, Information Society intriguingly were looking at a similar concept in a different light. Rather than being fragile, here it is the aftermath of a relationship, where the other party has walked away, and left the subject wondering what might have been, obsessing over the details. And totally avoiding getting over it, as the song notes, lacking the strength to move on. I have also confess that this band are one that I’d missed out on listening to until now, and their dense synthpop sound is one that I should be investigating further.
Bullet Proof … I Wish I Was
Perhaps one of the overlooked songs from an album that nowadays rather lives in the shadow of the follow-up OK Computer, this song is a glorious, sparse sketch. The instrumentation is little more than brushed drums, strummed guitars and the odd twinkle of effects, while Thom Yorke gently wishes he could be stronger in the face of desperate adversity. I’m not sure that Yorke ever quite sounded as beaten down on any other song as this.
Weak and Powerless
Like most of APC’s second album, this is a song about addiction, where the weakness of the addict in fighting their drug use is so, so obvious. After the lush, hard-edged sound of the debut album, the clean (pun intended) sound of this song was a bit of a shock. Chiming guitars, Maynard’s vocal crystal clear and in centre stage (something rarely the case on the first album), and it was obvious that there was still a distinct desire to distance Maynard’s performance from his work in Tool. We’re still waiting for a new album, though.
One Year From Now
This brilliant Swedish band – nominally classed as a “doom” band by many but frankly they left that description behind a long time ago, and if you like emotional, heartwrenching rock, you will not find a better band doing it than this – would, you might think, be full of songs detailing weakness of all kinds, but it really isn’t the case. Jonas Renkse’s heartfelt vocals are often telling tales of despair and failure, but there is an edge of defiant strength to so many of his songs, and only rarely does that mask drop. On their greatest album, Viva Emptiness, this happens just the once, on One Year From Now, where Renkse offers promises that he will be better, he will be stronger, he will make good. But a year from now, an almost impossible promise to keep as he likely well knows. But the promise of strength in the future helps him to deal with his desperate weakness now.
I Am Terrified
Kingdom of Welcome Addiction
I have to admit that I’ve rather fallen out of love with IAMX in recent years, but maybe that is just that my own tastes have changed. But this album was the last of the band’s that I picked up, and it saw a more introspective – and less flamboyant style – take over. It still had a few more upbeat tracks, but others, like this song, saw Chris Corner descend into deep, sweeping balladry. This is a song of identifying his own weaknesses – drinking too much, terrified of what is come – and remaining almost paralysed with fear at the level of his weakness. Not a good place to be.
Oh man, I sang along to this in rock clubs so many times when I was younger (and a few times more recently, too, with the return of this era of music to rock clubs). Come Out and Play was actually my entry route into the band, but this song quickly put it in the shade in popularity terms. Odd, as for a punk band it was practically a ballad. But, it’s another song about rolling over to the whims of someone else, of weakness being exploited by that person – and to many of us, at least something in this song will have resonated at some point or another. Back in my younger, more naive days, it absolutely does.
One More Thing
Bricks Are Heavy
L7 were often characterised as an exceptionally confrontational band, particularly with their singles and live antics (of which stories are legion). But behind their buzzing guitars and furious bluster, there were moments where they were rather less strong, and this song was one of them. Where everything is mounting up, nothing is working out, and the titular “one more thing” is what is might take to break them – and there are quite a few possible causes…
This week, we let Greg Dulli – a man who knows a thing or two about human (mental) strength and weakness – have the final word, with what is often the band’s closing song nowadays. A sweeping epic of a song (often with elements of other songs included live, I’ve seen it with Purple Rain featuring!), this is Dulli – once again – making his emotions plain, as he deals with the fallout of a misunderstanding that has blown way out of control…and he sees himself as too weak, too damaged to make it right. Hoping that the other party can make it right for him, but it transpires that no-one can help him this time. His weakness does him in, in the end.