Last week I was looking at weakness, and songs thereof, and this week, it’s the flipside.
Strength comes in many forms, and it isn’t just in the physical sense. It also comes in the mental form, in a number of ways, and after the suggestions provided in my request for submissions, I had many more songs – and ways of showing strength – than I could ever fit into ten songs.
But fit they must, and so these ten are the ones that I liked the best – either their concepts or their songs. Thanks again to everyone who provided suggestions.
So steel yourself. It’s going to get ballsy.
The Dresden Dolls
Amanda Palmer has often written songs showing both strength and weakness, as it happens (sometimes in the same song!), and while I’m not a great fan of her most recent work, her earlier work, particularly in the Dresden Dolls, is still a rather wonderful thing. Here, on the opener to their breakthrough album, Palmer is tiptoeing through the wreckage of a previous relationship, but rather than focusing on what went wrong, she is holding her head up, being strong and showing two fingers to the one who has gone. A Good Day indeed.
A Grown Man
Speak In Storms
One of the most upbeat songs Frank Spinath has written – and one of the highlights of recent album Speak In Storms – is this, a song that shows a steely resolve. It is a song about dealing with adversity, about standing up for yourself – even if fucking up, and just dealing with it. A show of personal strength, even for a small victory. That, and it is also catchy as hell, as Spinath repeats the chorus to fade like a mantra.
One of those unexpected, out-of-the-blue hits for a band who never intended to have any hits. No, really. An anarcho-punk band who shifted musical styles almost by the song, the one thing they kept throughout their lengthy career was their political ire, and despite many, many knocks, this band kept fighting – and this monstrous hit was the result. The hook, verse, chorus and bridge were all catchier-than-many-diseases, and somehow these old punks were being sung by everyone, anywhere, anytime. The lyrics can and have been interpreted many ways, but at face value, this is a song of defiance, of showing strength when you need to continue, rather than giving up. “We’ll be singing, when we’re winning…”
The Looks or the Lifestyle
On an album that was taking a rather darker turn (something that took over fully on Dos Dedos Mis Amigos), the closing track was something of an outlier. This is a three minute celebration, a bouncing, happy song where the gang that the band was kinda close out (it was obvious that the band was splintering by the time of the follow-up). There aren’t many lyrics – and those that there are often crib from other sources – but this song gives off the feeling of a gang of friends on a night out, drunk/high on life and with the feeling that they are indestructible, so strong that nothing can stop them. “Is Everybody Happy?”
One of the more infamously blunt bands when it comes to lyrical style – something they perfected early on and broadly stuck with all the way – it is perhaps unsurprising to find them giving a pep talk in a way that others may find difficult to deal with. Musically this is Clawfinger by numbers – chugging verses, rampaging chorus – but the lyrics are where things get good. Zak Tell saying fuck the haters, fuck those dragging you down, hold your head up and fight through as a means of being strong.
PJ Harvey’s first album was something of a shock to many. She appeared pretty much out of nowhere, a raging, punkish voice from the West Country who was instantly a budding star – and whose first album at the time at least rather divided opinion. The whole album is one mostly of feminine strength (with a few exceptions), even taking in the tale of Samson and Delilah as a metaphor for the power dynamics in a relationship – where here, Harvey as Delilah cuts off her conceited partner’s hair to “keep it safe”, and only too late does the Samson realise he’s been had, and she now calls the shots…
Of course there was going to be hardcore in here somewhere, right? Is there any other genre that has so many songs about being strong, about being positive, about bettering yourself? Hatebreed are perhaps the ultimate example of this, their grinding, chugging metallic-hardcore hybrid belying the positivity of Jamey Jasta’s words. The title track of their best album shows this most effectively – offering advice to get past life’s obstacles, “remain[ing] steadfast” with “discipline and determination”, and finally “never succumb to the war that you fight”. Good advice, Jamey.
“kill. eat. exploit the weak.”
Pitchshifter – never a band to use too many words to get their point across, keep things brief here too, on one of their best earlier period songs, in that time when they were opening up their sound and moving away from the grinding Godflesh worship of the early stuff. This is comparing (I think!) capitalist society to a virus, as it subsumes and eliminates the weak and, of course, the strong only survive, something we have found time and again with certain Government policies…
There is literal strength that can be had in song, too, and here that comes from the Kings of fighting Austroploitation, the goddamned ballsiest band around. Here the six-piece take on an early tale, with the growth of a hero by relentlessly pumping iron, training his body to be ever stronger, ever more powerful.
“Come on, get serious! Two more! Two more!”
In addition, they remain the only band I can think of who created their own training app (Wheel of Pain, sadly only on iOS).
Move Any Mountain
Not the first appearance for this band, but it is over eight years since they last did (perhaps unsurprisingly they appeared on 053: Drugs). And so to close off this week, The Shamen give us another song of mental strength, where their positivity is rather infectious as they barrel through a belting techno-house-pop tune where they suggest that their mental strength is such they can do pretty much anything (or in other words, “move any mountain”).