Ok, so I did Bad Romance last year, but here’s another list for Valentines Day – this time dealing with being dumped. It’s been a good many years since it happened to me, and I really rather hope it stays that way.
Anyway, heartbreak is a common subject in songs, perhaps unsurprisingly, so I wasn’t short of choice.
One Day, After School
How could I possibly not include these guys in this? Where there’s heartbreak and misery, it’s hard not to think of Arab Strap being around to soundtrack it. So much of their output dealt with the utterly shit side of relationships that it was hard to actually pick a particular song to make it into this list, but my girlfriend suggested that it had to be this. Not only is it dealing with the end of a relationship, but it appears to be dealing with the end of a first relationship. That time when you’re blissfully unaware of what can go wrong, of how shit you’ll feel. Until it happens, when it feels like the end of the world.
Song For The Dumped
Whatever and Ever Amen
While Ben Folds’ music, particularly when in the BFF, often sounded upbeat and positive, it’s certainly no exaggeration to suggest that it was not unusual for that sunny exterior to mask some pretty caustic material. And this was perhaps the most caustic of all. Was this autobiographical? Never been too sure, but it’s hammered out piano lines and vocals that are at points spat out suggests that there is definitely personal experience in this somewhere. Still the best moment? The kiss-off in the chorus. Of course the black T-shirt is more important than the money…
On And On
The Sun Is Often Out
One of the forgotten bands of the Britpop era, perhaps, despite their first album at least being at least half-inhabited by some cracking songs. And this bleak ballad was perhaps the finest of all – where Crispin Hunt clings to the desperate hope that things might be OK in the end, when they clearly won’t be. The lyrics deal with obsession, and the inability to stay away from the past. Been there…
Talking of not staying away, here’s another. Scooter Ward’s unusual vocal style – at points he sounds like he is gargling glass while singing – took perhaps a little bit of getting used to, but there’s no denying that when they got it right, Cold were an astonishing band. And this track, the first one on their debut album, remains perhaps their finest moment. A muscular, bass-heavy rumble thunders underneath Ward’s vocals, and as he bellows the title in the chorus, it’s one heck of an emotional plea.
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space
Of course, if you want emotional, it doesn’t get much more so than this. A lengthy, elegant hymn to being indescribably sad, for once on this stellar album Jason Pierce set aside the drugs and concentrated on his misery…and it was extraordinary. This is heartache, yearning, and misery, and more than anything on this album perhaps suggests just how low he got writing it. In some respects, though, it makes me wonder – if he hadn’t got this low, could this album have even possibly been this good?
Prayer To God
From the restrained to the furious. Nothing involving Steve Albini is a particularly easy listen, but something about this song really did push it beyond the realms of the just angry. This is the particularly unhinged one, where being dumped is taken extremely badly indeed. Not only wishing hurt and pain, but also death. In various unpleasant ways. The catch? He won’t do it, and instead wants God to wreak vengeance instead. Musically it’s sparse, raging rock, whose taut rhythm plays a second fiddle to Albini’s vicious delivery.
You Oughta Know
Jagged Little Pill
Keeping with the theme of vengeance, there haven’t been many hit singles with quite this much fury and bile running through it…ever, perhaps. Especially not the lead/breakthrough single from a debut album that has, in the past fifteen years, sold thirty-three million copies (and counting, no doubt). Anyway, back to the song – every single line in this song screams of utter hate and contempt for the “ex”, and it’s scarily unhinged delivery (and lyrics – best one being “And every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back…I hope you feel it“) was perhaps the reason why this song worked so well. It’s just a shame that she seemed to exhaust her fury in this album (and mostly in this song), with subsequent ones being…well, somewhat dull.
Call Me When You’re Sober
The Open Door
A little more restrained, perhaps, is this track. Amy Lee’s vocal details dealing with an ex-boyfriend who preferred the bottle to her (?!?), and how she is clearly better off without him – and otherwise, it’s this band by numbers, really – soaring, somewhat earnest gothic-ish rock.
These Boots are Made For Walkin’
No, I’m not going to include the KMFDM cover. Let’s have the classic original – and perhaps the finest kiss-off to an ex-partner ever. Endlessly sampled, covered, and featured in films and TV shows, it’s with good reason – this is bloody marvellous, still, forty-five years on since release. Short and sweet, broadly just a guitar, drums and Sinatra’s voice, it’s a heck of an earworm, too…
Slanted and Enchanted
Tellingly the last song Pavement played before they split up the first time around, this ballad showed a side to Pavement that they didn’t really reveal too much. Stephen Malkmus always seemed to prefer to hide behind clever lyrics and metaphors, so to have a song this nakedly emotional was a bit of a shock. This is it, the song says. Everything ends here. No returns, no new attempts, no regrets, no turning back. Sound advice.