29/09/2019: “Blue Valentines” by Tom Waits

Tom Waits makes incredibly depressing music, for the most part. That doesn’t mean, however, that it isn’t astoundingly beautiful.

His own distinctive, crusty tones sound like they’ve been doused with cheap whiskey and cigar smoke for a decade or 3. The whiskey comparisons come out a lot with critics, although some content themselves with the rather less dramatic “gravelly” adjective.

His tremulous, breathless singing voice is the counterpart to a melodious and sweet guitar here, which plays a sugary little jazz part.

The lyrics are intensely poetic, tinged with a liberal splash of darkness. They speak less to forlorn heartbreak as to bitter regret. As is common with Tom Waits lyrics, the subject matter is gritty, dealing with the sort of outcast who has no romance in them. In other words, real outcasts who get trodden down and ignored by society.

The song is the title track of the brilliant Blue Valentine album, which came out in 1978.

28/09/2019: “Human Fly” by The Cramps

The Cramps were easily one of the biggest pioneers to come out the punk scene. Not only within punk itself, but for the darker, morbid direction they took it. Eventually, this culminated in the wacky and creepy psychobilly scene.

The Cramps certainly have real punk pedigree. They were one of the bands playing at the CBGB bar in the mid-70s, which is pretty much as punk as you can get.

Naturally, their fashion and music styles are somewhat unorthodox. The thing which distinguishes the Cramps from other punk bands at the time, and the thing which resulted in their attaining cult status as the leaders of psychobilly.

“Human Fly” is a slower track than many contemporaneous punk tunes, but have more than enough grit. The twanging rockabilly guitar sets a sinister tone, playing a very simple riff with a delay and some other effect.

The low end is very muddy. I think it might by a bass guitar played with a lot of distortion, and maybe another guitar on top. It sounds great to me though!

The drums are splashy in sound, but add a relentless thump to the track.

Of course, the lyrics are as weird in content as they are in delivery – there’s a horror theme to proceedings.

The tune came out first in 1978, as a single. You can also find it on the 1979 E.P. Gravest Hits, although it was probably most famous because of the Off The Bone singles compilation album, released in 1983.

27/09/2019: “Le Voie Le Soleil” by Subliminal Cuts

A track like this is truly timeless. It’s rave gold, with all the right elements to put you in a trance. The rhythm section is faultless, using drum breaks over the top of a 4 to the 4 beat to create a perfect swing.

The bass is lowkey but funky, accentuating the natural rhythm of the drums brilliantly.

The melody is provided by a stellar, euphoric piano riff. A good piano riff like this is what make old school piano house songs so special; they’re so infectious, and so joyous.

Subliminal Cuts is an alias of Dutch producer Patrick Prins, well known for an eclectic range of ravey tracks. Holland has always had a great dance music scene, and it’s producers like him we have to thank for it.

“Le Voie Le Soleil” came out in 1994, which really does seem to have been such a great year for music…