Day 2C: Way, Way West, Round 2
Spoiler alert: here is where things start getting really tough. You can see it beginning in the east subdivision…
#16 Horse, “Red Haired Girl”
#9 Fabio Frizzi, “Zombi 2 Main Title”
I didn’t think anything was going to take down the mighty theme from Zombi 2; if you’d had me draw an odds line at the beginning, I would’ve picked it to make the final eighty minutes. But here we are in Round Two with it up against Horse’s “Red Haired Girl”, and it has met with much stiffer competition than I thought it would. One of the things that really makes Horse’s music interesting is that she doesn’t sing torch songs in the way one would expect; Horse’s forceful verse delivery on this song seems like it was made more for rock and roll, maybe even punk, which lends “Red Haired Girl” a vibe that one doesn’t normally find in songs like this, and it’s kind of enchanting. I’ve spent a week thinking about this one, and we come up with another big upset, as Fabio Frizzi heads to the sidelines and Horse moves on to the Sweet Sixteen.
#5 Cruachan, “Tèir Abhaile Riú”
#4 Jimmy Davis and Junction, “Why the West Was Won”
Cruachan start off here with about forty-five seconds of blackened death metal, complete with corpse-paint-style howling, then start melding in Celtic rock, then finally come up with the “Tèir Abhaile Riú” you’re expecting, if a lot harder and a lot faster. In other words, there’s a progression in this song; it doesn’t give you the same thing all the way through, the way Davis’ song does. Which ends up making this a pretty easy call, though I spent a few days thinking it could go either way; Cruachan advance.
#6 Hammemit, “A Joy So Near to Melancholy”
#3 Human Drama, “Dying in a Moment of Splendor”
I’ve been listening to both of these a lot recently. Neither is a perfect song; I’m trying to figure out whether that little piano noodling-bit at the beginning of “A Joy So Near to Melancholy” is plaintive or cheesy, and the fact that I’ve had to think about it as long as I have points to the latter. “Dying in a Moment of Splendor” gets sillier as I get older, though I can certainly still understand the attraction of overwrought goth-rock to teenaged me. And yet despite both of these songs having palpable weaknesses, at no point have I ever decided to reach over and hit the skip button; both of them are still getting heavy airplay in the car, and both are enjoyable on many levels. Every time I’m sure I know which way I’m going with it, I come up with a reason to go the other way; the warmth of the ambiance in the final two minutes of the Hammemit track, or the desperate need of Johnny Indovina and co.? When I started typing this paragraph, I was pretty sure Human Drama were heading into the Sweet Sixteen, but Hammemit are right there in a photo-finish; this one is impossible to call without my old enemy George. Heads it is, and Hammemit head on to Round Three after a scorcher.
Now that’s my kind of video…
#7 King Diamond, “Abigail”
#2 The Dresden Dolls, “Sing”
This is one I didn’t even want to think about, so I took a wimpy shortcut: “Abigail”, while it is perfectly capable of standing alone, is a part of something larger—a concept album—while “Sing” was conceived as a stand-alone song, making it more appropriate for matchups like this. With endless regret, we send the immortal King Diamond to the sidelines, and The Dresden Dolls sing their way to the Sweet Sixteen.
Live, 1996, Brazil.
In the midwest subdivion, the blood will fly in the following bouts…
#1 Dink, “Green Mind”
#8 Short Dark Strangers, “Flowers of April”
This is an interesting one in that one of the real trademarks of each band was the rapidfire, somewhat surreal vocal delivery from Dink’s Sean Carlin and Short Dark Strangers’ Bobby Porter. Carlin was working in that grey area between industrial and metal (a number of songs on the band’s eponymous 1994 debut were produced by longtime Skinny Puppy producer Rave Ogilvie), while Porter always trod a different grey area, the one George Clinton termed “p-funk” (a blend of funk and punk); Porter was always a lot farther on the punk end of that particular number line than anyone else who worked it. Both have a thing for ripping off huge, ungainly, extemporaneous (or sounding so) verses that put rappers to shame; both of these guys were very into the musicality of what they were doing as much as, or probably more than, the lyrical cleverness; that came second nature. As a result, neither of these tracks has that lyrical cleverness as its centerpiece; it is there, but it is well-integrated with the rest of the song, and that is a wonderful thing. None of which makes this decision any easier; I ended up going with the Short Darks mostly because Porter’s use of repetition in “Flowers of April” seems lot more studied, more of an attempt to bring the song full circle instead of “I need another line here, let’s just repeat the last one,” which Carlin does with the “cover your head or end up dead” line in “Green Mind”.
#5 Ghost (B.C.), “Ritual”
#4 Lockweld, “With Best Regards, As Always”
This is about as arbitrary as they come… Ghost (B.C.) announced a concert in Cleveland on the day this came up. Of course, that’s not the only reason they’re going on here, despite my long-time fanboyishness where Lockweld are concerned (interesting note: I’ve done write-ups on three different Steve Makita projects today, and only his solo project went on to Round Three); I probably could have picked a (slightly) better track from Metal Pieces, which the more I listen to in the context of this competition, the more I realize there are some tracks that are better than others, while “Ritual” is just perfect, as solid a slab of retro-hard-rock as you are liable to come across in the 2010s. Ghost advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
#6 The High Confessions, “Mistaken for Cops”
#3 Death in June, “Come Before Christ and Murder Love”
Walkover. The High Confessions are doing what they do and doing it very well, though perhaps not quite as well as The Damage Manual or Murder Inc. did. Death in June also do what they do very well, but in this case you can read “very well” as “peerless”, and in a career that now spans over thirty years and is littered with classic tracks, “Come Before Christ and Murder Love” is simply the best of what may be hundreds of great feats of songwriting by Douglas Pearce and whatever band happened to be backing him up at the time; no contest here, Death in June soldier on.
#7 Chris Connelly, “What’s Left but Solid Gold?”
#2 Iggy Pop, “Candy”
Here’s something I alluded to a few times in Round One, and it’ll probably pop up again before we’re done a few more times… “Candy” feels like there’s more to it—another couple of verses that fleshed out the story here would not have been amiss at all. What we got is good, but what we didn’t get could have made it great. Connelly’s track is more fully realized, so it goes on.