Going For A Song: ‘Didn’t We Almost Have It All’

Whitney Houston – Didn’t We Almost Have It All

This week’s blog post concerns Adele’s song ‘Hello’ as much as it does Whitney Houston’s ‘Didn’t We Almost Have It All’.

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Going For A Song: ‘Lonesome Valley’

Richard Dyer-Bennet – Lonesome Valley

You may be preparing for Christmas. You may be stuck for a present to get that music loving relative. So, instead of choosing a Christmas song, I’m using this week to write up a few music books I’ve enjoyed this year (though most have not been necessarily published this year).

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Going For A Song: ‘Blooms’

Chris Mills And The Distant Stars – Blooms

There are those bands and songwriters you love but inexplicably to you no one gets it. I began listening to Chris Mills around 2000 when he released Kiss It Goodbye. I followed his progress, bought the new albums and searched out the old album and EPs, saw the odd show when it made financial sense for him to tour the UK, all the while coming to terms with, and baffled by, that he might never get the recognition I at least thought he deserved. But then in the time after 2005’s wonderfully conceived and executed The Wall to Wall Sessions album, I too lost contact with what he was doing.

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Going For A Song: ‘With Tomorrow / I’m On Fire’

Ólöf Arnalds – With Tomorrow / I’m On Fire

There is the option when choosing a song to cover, to choose a song that’s written in the opposite gender. This can be extremely effective, or it can be used by scoundrels to give the song an instant novelty to hide the dearth of originality in the cover.* After a few listens to ‘With Tomorrow / I’m On Fire’, Ólöf Arnalds can be filed into the former. The segue from her own ‘With Tomorrow’ into Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’ feels like it has been done with some thought and consideration, and not just because she found it happened to be in the same key.

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Going For A Song: ‘The River’

Bruce Springsteen – The River

I read something a few weeks ago, that if it hadn’t been for his manager Jon Landau, Bruce Springsteen would have given the song ‘Hungry Heart’ to The Ramones to record. Aside from being a nice piece of rock trivia this has got to be one of the great missed opportunities in music, hasn’t it?

I like Springsteen, have a few albums, but haven’t heard The River, the album ‘Hungry Heart’ is off. But one of my favourite Springsteen songs is ‘The River’, which is on the album as well. It’s a song that shows just how adept Springsteen became at writing those first-person narrative songs*. He was so good, that the craft necessary to do it could be taken for granted, resulting in some maybe assuming these type of songs are easy to write. I don’t think they are.

It’s important that here Springsteen was – as the article says – drawing on family he knew for the source material. The tact necessary to do this is maybe a clue to the sensitivity in the writing, that is as much part of Springsteen as is the type of masculinity which may be seen best to manifest itself in his album artwork. In any case it is this sensitivity that feeds into the ‘The River’, and is that which doesn’t allow it – or any of his other songs which have this perspective – to fall into machismo.

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* I don’t want to suggest he is no longer adept, but I’ve not listened to enough Springsteen to not use the past tense here.

Going For A Song: ‘Caught In A Dream’

Napalm Death – Caught In A Dream

My friend, Sarah, asked me this week what is death metal. “I don’t know anything about it,” she said. “Neither do I,” I replied. This hadn’t stopped me dredging up, from half remembered issues of Kerrang!, and columns by Neil Kulkarni, references to the Norwegian metalers Mayhem and Burzum (“They killed each other,” I said. “Onstage?” “No, in real life.”) and alighting somehow on Napalm Death as an example.* I have always know something about Napalm Death. I could always reel off a few vague facts about them (very short songs, vocalist Barney Greenway, from Birmingham.^) but I have never actually listened to them properly. So, what’s death metal? Really I don’t know. This though is Napalm Death.

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* As I’ve tried to make implicit, I understand I was on shaky ground with all my examples.

^ Yes, after checking, I realised I’ve been labouring under a misapprehension.

Going For A Song: ‘When I Go Deaf’

Low – When I Go Deaf

I was discussing with my friend Eddie, what song would we play to someone who had never heard Low. In turned out both of us had ‘When I Go Deaf’ in mind. Eddie was nicely matter of fact about why: it has “some quite bits, some really loud bits, easily accessible lyrics, just a decent song all round”. I can’t disagree with any of that. (Though I think easily accessible here doesn’t necessarily mean simple). I’d asked him because, after hearing Low’s new album, I’d been listening to a bit more of them than I had done for a while. Their last couple of records hadn’t really captured my attention, but I thought this new one, on the strength of a couple of listens, seemed as good as anything they had done before.

This has happened to me a couple of times. A band I’ve followed for a long time release a couple of albums I like, but don’t really do anything more for me than that. Then they go and release an album that makes me get into them all over again. Without a doubt, since my discussion with Eddie, ‘When I go Deaf’ has been the song I’ve listened to most this week, including a couple of plays of it yesterday. I guess in part it’s because of those “really loud bits” at the end. The guitars make a noise that allows you, despite whatever might be going on to make you feel to the contrary (in and outside of the song), to experience a sense of calm for a bit.