Maybe I just listen to a lot of angry music, maybe it’s a side of me I prefer to let out in the music I listen to, either way I’ve written a lot in the Tuesday Ten series about the darker side of human nature (related, previous posts are in the sidebar). So I was a little surprised to find that I’ve never directly covered the concept of revenge.
Revenge takes a number of forms, of course, both actual and imagined, and I’ve tried to cover as wide a base as possible in this selection, particularly as I had an awful lot of songs to choose from here. Some of the ones that didn’t make it are additional tracks on the Spotify playlist.
In this age where the rich, ruling class appear to be stamping down on those less fortunate than them with ever increasing force, this seems like a nice idea: where those in history who have wronged receive their comeuppance, in a rampaging, furious imagining. But this isn’t just Nazis. This is corrupt industry, politicians, business. This was released in 1984. Sound familiar?
Up Against The Wall Motherfuckers
The Icarus Line are one of those bands that should have been household names. But a legendary capability for destroying themselves as much as the stages they played upon, not to mention something of a revolving door personnel-wise (one being Aaron North, who left the band to be part of Nine Inch Nails for a while), meant it never quite worked out. Shame, really – they really did have some genuinely fucking amazing moments, and this four-minute bolt of searing, controlled rage is one of them. I reckon this is about revenge – the kiss-off (“I can’t stop thinking about what I’m gonna do to you“) says it precisely, but equally the protagonist could be torn between revenge on their ex and wanting to, er, get back with them, in the primal capacity at least.
Mouth For War
Vulgar Display of Power
Phil Anselmo was always an angry man, but perhaps unusually his lyrics were frequently almost positive, channelling his (seemingly never-ending-well) of fury into ways of self-improvement. But there were moments where this wasn’t always the case – such as here, where he bulldozes through a manifesto for fighting back and getting total and utter revenge. And who would stand in his way? No politics here, this is a very angry man standing up for what he feels is right, and he’s willing to fight back and get his enemies to repeat what they’ve said…to his face. Good luck with that…
Everything About You
America’s Least Wanted
Yep, he’s been dumped, he was sad…once. But now, he just wants his dislike of his ex writ large, in every way possible. Which means hating everything she liked, kissing her sister, and generally just enjoying life again. I can relate to some of this, at least, in a general sense, in my past, even if this song more than ever sounds like a teenage tantrum, that was enormous fun once upon a time.
The Bones of What You Believe
I’m struggling to think of any other song infused with such malice and fury in the lyrics…that are disguised behind monstrous, sunny pop hooks. Lauren Mayberry’s sweet vocals and melodies disguise all kinds of threats and kiss-offs, every single line being stuffed full of such potential violence that I could, bizarrely, just much imagine a death metal taking on these lyrics and still not coming up with a devastating track as this. Revenge never sounded so sweet.
Talking of vengeance, Garbage’s debut single was one of white-hot fury, of the wronged woman dead-set on revenge in whatever way possible, and what a calling card. One heck of an intro to the band (and it could be argued that they were never as good as this again), it also made it fairly clear that Shirley Manson was not someone to be trifled with. What’s interesting, though, is that this was a song where the protagonist (be it Manson or not) was self-aware enough to know exactly what she was letting herself in for in going back to the relationship, apparently ready to rip it up from the inside…
The Best Revenge
Trust Rabbit Junk to skew things a bit – and muse on whether to wait for the good things to come to you, or whether to grab life by the neck – ‘cos, as JP Anderson wryly notes, the best revenge we’ll ever experience is that we all die regardless of what we choose. Gee, thanks for that happy reminder, amid the blistering industrial-punk maelstrom that whirls around his vocals… (Also worth reminding that a new RJ album is in the works. Bring. It. On.)
Otep’s debut album was a visceral metal album, lumped into the arse-end of the nu-metal boom when in reality it wasn’t anything to do with it at all, being more in-tune with brutal metal like Tura Satana. Both bands had a heavy-duty backing to a confrontational and very angry female singer. While I didn’t stick with Otep’s later releases, this debut certainly sticks in the memory, and amid the myriad lyrics detailing unspeakable acts in the past, acts of violence and threats of violence, there was this (at least in part) more restrained number, where Otep Shamaya tries to deal with her demons, before it becomes clear that there is to be no physical revenge here, instead a concentrated reinvention and moving on which in her eyes will be better, and shows far more strength than any direct, obvious revenge.
My Revenge On The World
Jennifer Parkin’s project Ayria has always had a brighter, almost bubblegum-pop feel at times than her peers in the industrial scene, but scratch the surface that little bit and the darkness and anger bursts through, that’s for sure. As it does here, with every element of the sound gaining an edge and baring it’s teeth. The beats kick hard, the synths stab your ears incessantly, and Jennifer’s vocals are alternately hissed with anger and snarled through gritted teeth. This is another song of fighting back, of being so fucking angry you’re going to take down your targets and probably also various bystanders along the way too. The result was Ayria’s best track by miles.
The Failure Epiphany
There has been rather less in the way of sunshine in Erica Dunham’s music – either as Unter Null or Stray, frankly – but it was with her debut album and earlier shows that she made the most splash (literally, with the live shows, with her and the stage splattered in fake blood). With the apparently homicidal revenge fantasies of this song, the blood made a whole lot of sense – as whomever was on the end of this rage was likely to be spilling some, that’s for sure. Erica’s work took different directions after the initial burst, and to be honest I’m not convinced that it ever quite had this brilliance again, either. But rage, perhaps, never burns with that intensity for too long. You need to move on, perhaps become less destructive – and it is perhaps instructive that few of the bands mentioned here managed to keep up their fury long term.