After last week, where I finally looked at Opening Songs on albums, this week, I’m heading to the other end of the album, to the Closing Song. But not secret tracks, or outros, songs that actually close albums properly, and interestingly, there are a number of more recent songs featured this week.
One thing I did find was that a number of artists rather front-load their albums, leaving the stuff that we might be less bothered about at the end (and indeed there are a number of albums that I might repeat listen to the first half, but rarely listen to the second half). But then there are other artists who’ve created a whole, where every track is exactly in the right place, and thus the closing track is something special.
Every single track this week is one of the latter. A number of songs I would have liked to have included have been featured in the Tuesday Ten series before, so I had to dig deeper this week, with some of my own thoughts and a few of the songs suggested by others in my thread a couple of weeks ago. Thanks as always to everyone who offered song suggestions.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
amodelofcontrol.com on Facebook
I Can’t Give Everything Away
I can’t think of any other artist that has ended their career in the way that David Bowie did. He died just two days after the release of the album, of liver cancer, having kept the illness from just about everyone, and thus the album became an extraordinary epitaph for a career where he had basically done everything. This last track, too, is quite something – a lone harmonica (and later a sax solo) cuts through the downbeat, bass-heavy rhythm as Bowie seemingly assesses his own standing with a plaintive vocal. As an album, ★ has an incredible power, perhaps because we know that Bowie himself knew that he was unlikely to survive beyond the completion and release of it. But also because Bowie managed to control his career to the end. His last two albums were recorded in almost total secrecy, and were released when he was ready, as if he was stage-managing the end. There are few artists in recent times, perhaps Leonard Cohen is the only other, who have earned such a way to say goodbye.
O Father, O Satan, O Sun
The Polish blackened-death metal band Behemoth have been around for a considerable time – they formed in 1991, so are now old hands at this. But they’ve taken a long while to break through to the metal mainstream, but their brilliant The Satanist bust through the ceiling so hard it has been leaving splinters since. In contrast to the Bowie album, which was released on the cusp of death, here vocalist Nergal survived leukemia in the years beforehand, and his survival burns through the album. Most notably on the awesome, epic closer that is jaw-dropping on record and frankly was one of the best set-closers I’ve ever heard live (see also Into the Pit: 185). This album doesn’t fade out – it roars to the last, Behemoth not wasting a moment of the time that they have.
1 AM A CRACK3D MACHIN3
H1551N9 PR195 1N 5TAT1C C0UTUR3
In my opinion, it is fairly unusual for an album to be back-loaded – i.e. with the best material at the end. But that is what happened on this album, the first, and last, full-length album that the band recorded on Touch & Go before lead singer Timmy Taylor’s death in 1997, as they were on the cusp of signing with a major label. Quite what the majors would have made of this singularly oddball synth-punk outfit (particularly after their final release, the heavily electronic Electro-Shock for President, which took their already weird sound into new galaxies), is one to think about.
Anyway, the final song here is the stomping, mechanised fury of 1 AM A CRACK3D MACHIN3, where Taylor addresses his own flaws and doesn’t give a flying fuck what you, the listener may think. This track is by far the best song the band ever released, fully embodying the claim of Taylor at the time that he wanted to make music so futuristic it never dated. Consider that something that worked out.
In addition, this band, that are finally now getting attention again as new generations rediscover them and realise how far ahead of their time they were – not to mention having influenced legions of indie bands that have experimented with electronics since – have a documentary about them coming soon. You can watch the trailer here.
At The Burnside
Forget The Night Ahead
The Twilight Sad have taken an interesting trajectory over the decade or so that they’ve been around, as they’ve moved on from the dense guitar-led wall-of-sound to one with an increasing interest in electronics (as recent single Videograms, from their forthcoming new album, neatly shows). Going back to their second album, though, reminds just how disturbingly intense the band could be, and it closes with the clenched fists delivery of At The Burnside, a song of just James Graham’s voice and piano to begin with, before the rest of the band crash in around him – and for a long time it was their mesmerising set-closer, that would always herald the end of their set (I don’t recall them ever doing encores) and finished out in a storm of feedback and synths coiling around your ears.
One Time For All Time
Another band to use a closing song from an album to close out their sets are 65daysofstatic, who on many of the occasions I’ve seen them live have finished their sets with this song, probably as close to an accessible pop song that this band will ever get. Actually, like The Twilight Sad, 65DoS have also moved in a more electronic direction over time, but in a very different way – their energetic post-rock (more peaks, less quiet) has morphed at points into experimental electronics, and indeed their upcoming tour is one based around algorithms and machines leading the way. Back to this song, though – a piano is the lead instrument on this dramatic, pretty song, that ebbs and flows like tides in a storm, initially sounding out a warning before the storm breaks in full force, and then gradually receding into the distance as the song winds down.
All The Way Down
This staggering, beautiful album was #1 on Countdown: Albums: 2016, and I listened to it in full for the first time in a little while at the weekend. My love for the album has certainly not dimmed, that’s for sure, as Michael Arthur Holloway takes on a deep, intense trip into thoughts around death – and how we might prepare and deal with it. Despite that dark feel – and make no mistake, the album can be a draining, terrifying listen if you’re not in the right headspace – what is genuinely remarkable is that the final track on this sprawling (ten tracks, sixty-nine minutes!) album is actually one that is a little more positive in outlook. Over synthesised horns, stately drums and twinkling synths, Holloway muses over what there might be to “look forward to” when we go – and the song closes with an extraordinary sample of presumably a doctor, discussing people actually facing up to death, and wanting it to be over, and as his monologue ends, the song closes out with an electronic heartbeat that gently comes to a calm, devastating stop.
Like oh-so-many bands at one point or another during the NME’s tenure as the music press to read – roughly mid-80s to late-90s, perhaps? – Elastica were touted as the next great thing, that would change your musical world and horizons. Ok, so Elastica weren’t quite that amazing, and the only horizon they likely expanded of their listeners was an exposure to the taut power of Wire, but they knew a thing or two about short, sharp pop songs. The very first one they released – and conversely the closing track on their debut album – was in my view their best. A scorching, rough-and-ready, sub-two minute track, Justine Frischmann sneeringly tears into a drunk lover who can’t get it up. Closing this album saw this song end the first phase of their career as well as start it, really – the band were never the same after this album, and frankly that much-delayed follow-up is best avoided.
Penetration (Fuck The Floor)
The closing song from the last new and original Haujobb material in seven years, it was also interestingly the lead single from this excellent album. Haujobb pretty much made a point of advancing and/or varying their sound on each album, and Vertical Theory had a warmer, deeper sound and feel than the cold Polarity that preceeded it. Perhaps this latter point was why this song was single – the lush production of the song and gorgeous, melodic chorus gave a pointer of the glories to come on this album. An excellent, appropriate closer, it rather felt like the end at that point, even if it was only temporary.
In the early nineties, in those short few years before Grunge ushered in an era where Alternative Rock in its myriad forms, Shoegaze and Baggy were the prominent forms of indie music (alongside Greebo). Baggy was very much informed and influenced at this point by the dance music boom, as both that and drugs opened the minds of god knows how many guitar-worshipping music fans all at once. Shoegaze, however, seemed to live in isolation from that, the studio trickery generally restricted to how many guitar FX pedals could be used. The exception, mind, was My Bloody Valentine. The sheer density of their sound on record could be at points overwhelming, but they pulled off some kind of fucking witchcraft by making music this heavy feel dreamlike. The final song on the album, though – and for a long, long time considered to be the last recorded communication from the band until m b v at long last arrived, twenty-two years later – provided awe-inspiring proof that Kevin Shields had been paying attention to what was going on elsewhere in music. The rhythms, so often gentle things on their songs, buried amid torrents of twisted, FX-laden guitars (To Here Knows When is a perfect example of what I mean), finally burst through in the unexpected form of groovy, punchy breakbeats, and the song rides the crest of this wave in a magnificent seven-minute arc that for so long felt like the perfect epitaph.
In The Backseat
I was a bit of a latecomer to Funeral, having not caught onto it’s brilliance until about a year after release, and it took me nearly a decade to finally see them live – but man, it was worth the wait. Every song on this album is near-enough perfect, as expressions of grief, love and hope – as the album encompasses all three emotions above all others (and a number of songs, most notably Wake Up, deal with all three at once with spectacular results). The album closes, though, with Régine Chassagne’s majestic In The Backseat, where she apparently pictures herself in the car, processing news of the death of her grandmother and alone in her thoughts, glad she doesn’t have to drive at that time. Or in other words, where she can keep full focus on those thoughts and memories, in her own world.
That’s the funny thing about this album – the most glorious moments are those of the small details in their minds, their hopes and dreams and memories, as they get magnified into fabulous anthems that mean something and everything to so many of us, and for me, give me swells of emotion and joy, as I realise I’m not alone – and this is exactly the right endpoint for it, and this week’s post.