This last few weeks has had a lot of thinking about time and the past. Be that looking at events in the past, anniversaries (of relationships, also of albums, of movements), or celebrating past lives. Needless to say there are a lot of songs touching on the subject, some perhaps more oblique than others.
So here I’m looking at both sides. Those specific mentions of time durations, or more general musings on time. But the clock is ticking, so we’d best get on with it. Otherwise we’ll be late.
What You Waiting For?
Love. Angel. Music. Baby.
Tick tock tick tock tick tock. That’s the sound of life passing you by. So Gwen Stefani, freed from the shackles of No Doubt, burst into her solo career proper with this bizarrely catchy, hyperactive pop blast that tossed all kind of influences into a blender, and the result was a huge hit that she never came close to subsequently. This is a song about taking those moments, taking those chances, taking everything you can before it all vanishes and you are left with what-might-have-beens rather than amazing memories. In other words, don’t waste the limited time you have on earth.
This World and Body
Talking of regret, this song absolutely drips with it, Jamie Harding’s mournful vocals looking at what happens when a relationship falls apart, asking whether there is time to make things right, from either side, or whether they are both doomed to failure. But after that first initial flush of optimism, the friendly words turn to sneering and insults, and to regret, as it finally becomes clear that there was no hope after all. That final “Are you missing her…are you…?” is always heartbreaking.
Tool have never been the most direct band – and particularly when it comes to Maynard James Keenan’s lyrics, so it was perhaps a bit of a surprise when a song appeared on their last album (now eight years old, although we are apparently promised a new one this year…) that was so direct. The titular 10,000 days refers to the amount of time Keenan’s mother was alive following a stroke – just over twenty-seven years – and this is one of a few songs, fans have since realised, to refer to the apparent “waste” of a life that the stroke caused (see also Judith by associated band A Perfect Circle).
Counting the days (and nights) is something also done by Blixa Bargeld on the other side of the world to Maynard James Keenan, and indeed a few years before, musing on his own past as he reaches his 12,305th night on earth, and wondering what legacy he has left so far. “Nicotine and yellow fingers“, and “alcohol and numbed dreams” and little else, apparently – those of us who’ve appreciated his band’s music over the years would suggest thus far that he has left a whole lot more to enjoy.
Monday Morning 5.19
The navel-gazing about time doesn’t stop there, with Britpop also-rans Rialto and their tale of jealousy and sleepless nights. Looking at the clock, wondering why their partner won’t pick up the phone. Have they gone forever from their life, or is it just paranoia? Personally, this song barely roused me to care back around release or since, but Daisy loves it…
Andy Warhol, of course, noted “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. Gravity Kills picked up this theme for one of the few truly stirring moments on their tepid third album, a snarling, vicious put-down aimed at someone so desperate for fame that they’ll do anything to get it. Jeff Scheel eventually reminds that for many, it’s fifteen minutes of shame and little else, as “reality” TV since has so often proven.
Others, however, are less interested in fame, and more interested in doing as little as possible. (hed)PE always struck me as one of those bands who kinda hit fame by accident. Their first album – a chaotic collision of punk, hip-hop and electronics – was a fairly difficult listen for many, although it had some brilliantly catchy moments, while their second album hit at just the right time and had blinding tracks like this – rather than making the most of the time they have, this one kicks back and does nothing – or as little as possible – to have an easy life. But with a shit-kicking, rabble-rousing sound, and a gloriously anthemic chorus. It was fucking amazing live, too. They faded back into the background into this, content with making music and getting stoned off their nut.
Twenty Twenty Sound
Talking of doing nothing, but in a different way, here, the subject is an alcoholic, and so far it has been ninety-six days of remaining sober, trying to kick the booze. As with pretty much everything Dark Star did in their short career, it is a song laden with regret, dismay and failure, where time has been unkind with little hope of redemption. It sounded fucking fantastic, mind.
They Don’t Know
One of the more influential British dance acts of recent times, perhaps the enormous collective that So Solid Crew became had a huge hit in summer 2001 with this track, which contains the intriguing idea of giving each member 21 seconds on the mic. To be fair, though, any longer and the track would have been an awful lot longer than the five minutes that it already stretched too. I was exposed to a lot of UK Garage thanks to various workmates into it during my jobs at Uni, and it never did a great deal for me – but this track was in hindsight cleverer than most. Also, a fun fact: the video also features one of my workmates in the crowd…
I did consider a finish of 666 seconds of silence, thanks to In Strict Confidence, but instead I’m bringing things full circle, with one of my favourite songs period. Like Gwen Stefani, Rico is fixed on the future. But not that far ahead, just the next hour, the next day, a plea to himself to stay focused and get through everything. ‘These are the things you wanted to do’, intones Rico in the finest sing he ever wrote. Tick tock, tick tock. Time is passing us by.