This week, I’m turning my hand to the defence of self, or personal protection. This can manifest itself in physical or emotional forms, and can be good or bad for you – and indeed the aims can be very different indeed.
It takes in relationships, hopes, nuclear war, firearms, sport, lies and truth. All in ten songs.
This week there were a round 100 suggestions, with 92 individual tracks, nine of which I’d used before. Thanks as ever to my regular contributors who continue to astound with some fascinating suggestions, some of which I’d heard and was aware of, others I’d never even come across before, never mind heard.
And yes, Paul, I included Flash.
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Yes, Massive Attack also featured last week, but this track inspired this week’s post, so of course it was going to be included. The opening (and title) track to the second album from the group, there were subtle changes to their sound from the first album, not least the changes to the guest vocalists. This beautiful, languid opener featured Tracy Thorn from Everything But The Girl, a combination that worked so perfectly it was a wonder that there weren’t more songs with her (but then, you could say that about many other collaborations with the group, too). This song is a loving offer of protection, assistance and defence, a lover desperate to do anything to keep her partner safe.
There is, of course, another Massive Attack song that would have worked here, too – but I used a song from Blue Lines last week, so sadly the forceful power of Safe From Harm doesn’t make it here.
Mesh have long since specialised in songs dealing with heartbreak, loss and bitterness, but their latest album opened with a song of hope, of sorts. This isn’t especially new ground for them, perhaps – they had an album called Who Watches Over Me?, of course, and also have another song entitled My Defender. This song, though, is really a song of reliance – one where all concept of protection and security are laid onto someone else – so they have to do all the work (“So I don’t have to face all the things I do“). So in some respects, this is Mesh through and through. Where relationships are detailed to be one-sided, and sadly all the emotional weight falls on someone else than the protagonist. It is a pretty bleak outlook, really – but somehow Mesh have managed this for two decades now, and their songs are still powerful and, invariably, great.
Protect and Survive
Protect and Survive
London goth-electro band Manuskript have been a feature of the scene for some time, now, and have recently returned to playing again more regularly. Of their later material – this is the title track from their 2006 album – this song is an obvious highlight, a punchy song seemingly about dealing with what comes your way by any means necessary. The title, mind, comes from one of the most notorious Government information films, about how to survive a nuclear attack – something that any child of the seventies and early eighties likely saw more than once in the days when the Cold War was still raging. The Cold War of course is technically long over, but the doomsday clock recently was moved to two minutes to midnight…
Robyn is an artist we should hear more of, and she should be a massive, massive star. She writes glorious pop songs with bitter, delicate hearts, an almost constant reminder of the façade that many of us put up to hide our true feelings. This song, perhaps, is a perfect example of that, where the problems of past relationships are put to one side to allow the future to be more positive, a new love where each will protect the other – and the pair become indestructible, as the song suggests. The song is also notable for the amazing, skyscraping chorus that is a heck of an earworm…
Back before they became the futurepop titans with a seemingly effortless way with melody and hooks, Covenant were a rather darker, more forbidding prospect, and there are few songs that make this clearer than the opener to their second album Sequencer:Beta. Feedback has ghostly synths overlaying brittle beats, but it is the vocals more than anything that make this song sound so malevolent. Eskil’s vocals have a delay on them that makes more than one of him speak, but also the cold, emotionless delivery makes the lyrics promising protection actually sound like anything but. This is a “protection” where the protector will smother, and avoid harm by simply hiding them away – for better or worse.
Rhythm and Stealth
The long-delayed follow-up to Leftism didn’t quite have the same impact, but then with the benefit of hindsight they had moved their sound on, with no desire to simply replicate what had happened before. Among the punishing, bass-heavy tracks like Dusted, Phat Planet and Afrika Shox – all of which were brilliant – there were some delicate, elegant ballads, and Swords was by far the best. Little more than washes of synths and a subtle, slow-paced beat, it was all about the soulful vocals of defiance and self-preservation, as she notes, “I wear my sword at my side“, in a clear message that they will protect themselves at all costs.
Flash Gordon OST
I realised when I was collating the usual mass of suggestions for this week that over 321 previous Tuesday Tens, remarkably, I’ve never featured Queen (I was never much of a fan, I have to admit). But when it comes to protecting, how about the Saviour of the Universe? The oh-so-camp film – itself a relatively early comic strip film adaptation – sees football star Flash inadvertently end up saving the world, and protecting it from danger. Obviously, the “saving the world” plot is hardly anything new, but few films of the same ilk had a theme as catchy and as iconic as Queen’s deliciously over-the-top take.
The Duckworth Lewis Method
I once featured another song on 262: A Place Called England (what is, after all, more English than Cricket?), but some enterprising soul suggested a song about cricket defence (and protecting of a position) might work here, and by jove, it does…
In Cricket, the Nightwatchman is something of a thankless task – all about defending what a team has. There is no expectation of glory, it is simply a means to play out the rest of that day – and effectively using a lesser batsman to protect the chances of tired, higher order (or, better) batsman. When I was a player – in my much younger days – I was a bowler, and yes, I ended up a nightwatchman more than once. My highest ever score? 19.
Stabbing Westward were one of the many industrial-rock bands to emerge in the nineties, and even on later albums Christopher Hall was hardly the life of the party. Indeed, on their earlier releases his lyrics were notably insular, detailing the failings of others but always projecting them back on himself. One of their best and most popular songs, this song emerges from insularity only for a short time, as Hall howls “I cannot save you / I can’t even save myself” – in other words he is incapable of protecting someone he loves, when he can’t stop things going wrong in his own life.
Come Out And Play
I couldn’t have known that one suggestion made last week would end up being rather prescient. There was, of course, another mass shooting at a school last week, this time in Parkland, Florida, on the fringes of Miami, and it appears to have galvanised many American students into proclaiming “enough is enough”.
This is hardly a new issue, as this lengthy and sobering Wiki summary of all deadly School shootings in the US reminds us, and I suspect there are older songs, but the breakthrough song from Orange County punks The Offspring forcefully gets across the fury and despair at kids having guns at school at all, never mind the damage that can be done, and advocates some form of protection from weapons for these kids. That a quarter-century on from this song, and nearly two decades on from Columbine and countless other school shootings since, still nothing has been done to stem the tide is frankly a stain on the conscience of a country.
Surely protecting future generations comes first?