This week, I’m looking at being betrayed. It’s all thanks to one of these songs coming up on my iPod the other day and getting my mind thinking. It wasn’t hard to find ten songs, either.
Christopher Hall’s industrial rock band were hardly a bundle of laughs at the best of times, but debut Ungod was so dark it was frequently quiet enough to be mumbling to itself in the corner, before unleashing the hounds of hell at opportune moments. They were hardly short of songs about betrayal, either – frankly most of the lyrical content revolved around this conceit – but this, one of the better-known tracks from Ungod is the most obvious. Dealing with the post-breakup obsession, and how he can’t get beyond “her” lies. The lyrics may well be a little cliched – and very much of their time – but it’s easily one of the band’s most powerful and affecting tracks, too.
An album I know too well (as I’ve mentioned before), this spacey, twilit album dealt with darker matters of the heart, with a deep distrust and weariness showing through the whole thing. Lies may have been more obvious, but the twin betrayals of this track seemed more apt – both parties know it’s over, but refuse to admit to the other, so string each other along with false hope. Like much of this album, it’s desperately sad.
It took me a while to get into Glasvegas, but once I heard this striking single I was sold. An unusual subject for a song – an absent father – it’s made all the more affecting for the bitterness of James Allan’s lyrics. One where he’s adjusted after years of hurt to life without the father, and instead mulls over whether his father is wondering what he never had (and clearly hoping that this is the way things have worked out). For a kid, at least, an absent parent is perhaps the ultimate betrayal.
Who Was I Kidding?
The marvellous Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole was far too obvious, frankly, so I looked elsewhere, to this track from the same album. The betrayal is only implied, the protagonist metaphorically kicking herself for being strung along and dumped, betrayed by her lover. The thing is, it appears she might have been expecting, or dreading, this all the long.
Aidan Moffat’s songs – in particular those on Philophobia – absolutely drip with jealousy and betrayal, meaning that I was hardly short of suggestions from this album. As a general rule, the songs are not particularly complex in a musical sense, but as always with Aidan Moffat, it’s his lyrics that are worth noting. And this track – about him discovering his girlfriend’s infidelity with her friend – has an absolute peach of a description for the third party:
And he looks like he was made on a fucking table. / Although, to be fair, I think he hides the bolts quite well, but as soon as he opens his mouth you can just tell.
Insults just don’t get better than that.
I Heard Love Is Blind
Another artist who is no stranger to infidelity is Amy Winehouse, who if you can’t remember beyond her luridly described tabloid life, actually made two brilliant albums a few years ago. Her debut album was an intriguing, jazzy release, with various beautifully described set-pieces, including this one where she justifies her infidelity in a slightly unusual way:
I couldn’t resist him / His eyes were like yours / His hair was exactly the shade of brown / He’s just not as tall, but I couldn’t tell / It was dark and I was lying down
Orchestra of Wolves
Orchestra of Wolves
Finally in matters of the heart, Frank Carter admits in the title track to Gallows’ striking debut album that he’s ready to deal with a broken heart – by preying on them and, er, having his way with them for just one night. A betrayal of trust, perhaps? Carter is well aware of this, but in terms of this character portrayal, he’s unrepentant.
Levelling The Land
It’s not all romantic betrayal, though, and the Levellers were one of many, many bands to cover the close of the Thatcher years with angry political songs that detailed the many failings of the time and saw it as a betrayal. Not only allowing the rich to get richer (while the poor stayed where they were – sound familiar?), but also hinting at the various appeasements of so-called friendly regimes elsewhere that were anything but to their own people.
Rio Grande Blood
Later-period Ministry – when Al Jourgensen had rehabilitated himself somewhat – was preoccupied with politics, and in particular the Presidency of George W. Bush. And despite Bush’s “Patriotism” in many ways, many – including Jourgensen – saw his Presidency as a gross betrayal. And of the three albums on this subject, this track is by far the most vicious and probably most accurate. Well, apart from the 9/11 conspiracy theories…
Finally, it’s more betrayal by authority. I’ve been reading the quite extraordinary Our Band Could Be Your Life, and the first chapter is about the hardcore legends Black Flag. And in particular, one of the things alluded to a lot about Black Flag’s time in the early eighties is the hardcore scene’s issue with the cops. Hugely distrusted and seen as a big threat, the police went for the hardcore kids, breaking up gigs and beating people up. Needless to say, this caused mutual distrust, to say the least! But back to the point, the police threatening the kids? Something of a betrayal of their duty, maybe?