Day 2J: Somewhere in Europe, Round Two
The final day of the three-to-five Round Two division opens with the East subdivision…
#16 Luna, “Tiger Lily”
#8 Scratch Acid, “Big Bone Lick”
Luna pulled a pretty major upset in Round One, which makes it sort of sporting that they end up getting a pretty easy assignment in Round Two. The jangly dissonance of Scratch Acid always sounded better to me when being worked by Jesus Lizard, whereas Luna were always entirely comfortable in their own skin; this was an easy one indeed, as Luna head on to the Sweet Sixteen.
Live in Chicago, 2011.
#5 The Mission, “Into the Blue”
#13 Celtic Frost, “(Beyond the) North Winds”
This one ended up being a straight comparison of the vocal lines, and come on, I don’t care how big a metal fan you are, you put Tom Warrior’s voice up against Wayne Hussey’s any day of the week and empirically, Wayne Hussey simply has a better voice. I will always love Celtic Frost, but really, given that basis of comparison, this one’s a no-brainer, and The Mission move on to the Sweet Sixteen.
#6 Raven’s Bane, “Metamorphosis”
#3 Antaeus, “Those with No Eyes”
I had no idea where I was going with this one until I heard Raven’s Bane’s track on the way into work this morning and realized it’s another of those tracks that qualifies as bad car listening…very, very deep ambient, excellent stuff for meditation or active listening in a dark, quiet room, but as I’ve said before about tracks like that, if you’re trying to narrow down your entire music collection to eighty minutes of music, you don’t want to limit tracks to certain environments. And thus Antaeus get themselves a pass to Round Three.
#7 Marillion, “Kayleigh”
#2 Bruce Cockburn, “Sahara Gold”
Two of the three songs I consider the definitive love songs of the eighties have already made it to the Sweet Sixteen—The Judy’s’ “Her Wave” pulled a mild upset on Day 2A, while Death in June’s “Come Before Christ and Murder Love” easily advanced on Day 2C. The third is Bruce Cockburn’s “Sahara Gold”, and it goes up against one of the eighties’ definitive anti-love songs, Marillion’s great “Kayleigh”. And I could sit here and come up with eight thousand reasons to defend sending Fish and co. to the bleachers in this round, but the simple truth of the matter (aside form the fact that I’m really looking forward to locking those three songs in a round robin competition later on) is that like a few other tracks in this competition, “Kayleigh” has never seemed complete to me as a standalone song—like Possessed’s “The Heretic” should never be played without “Intro” and Integrity’s “Vocal Test” must always go with “Hollow”, for example, “Kayleigh” only seems to me a fully realized track when it is paired with “Lavender”, which follows it on Misplaced Childhood. And in a battle with two songs of this quality, that’s enough. Cockburn advances to Round Three.
Live 1987. With “Lavender”, of course.
In the Midwest subdivison, we have…
#1 Wire, “Reuters”
#8 The Melvins, “Night Goat”
Two seminal, massively influential bands go head to head here, and as many times as I have listened to these two tracks back to back over the past week, not one of those times has it occurred to me that The Melvins were going to make it past the mighty Wire to get to the Sweet Sixteen. The Melvins are important, but Wire are important and a lot more listenable at the same time—Pink Flag may have been the single greatest art-punk album of the seventies because it’s so damn catchy. Wire advance easily to the Sweet Sixteen.
#5 Brian Straw, “Veins”
#13 Failure, “Submission”
Two simple ones in a row, as Brian Straw’s fractured-Leonard-Cohen delivery, with its slow, plains-influenced guitar and mournful lyrics, simply rolls over Failure’s catchy, but not quite catchy enough, debut single. “Veins”, which was a distant second choice behind the (over-seven-minute) “Absent” for placement here, has ended up through repeated listening becoming one of the competition’s gorillas; there’s a very good chance it’s going the distance.
#11 Savatage, “Stuck on You”
#14 Black Bloc, “By Any Means”
Savatage are a thousand times better than Trans-Siberian Orchestra will ever be. (I read an interview the other day with Jon Oliva about the possibility of a Savatage reunion. Among the valid points he made about it not being Savatage without Criss, he said, “I have five gold records on my wall. None of them say Savatage.” That’s the most depressing thing I’ve read this month.) But many of the little quirks about Savatage that make them so much fun to listen to turn into weaknesses when you put them up against another band head to head, most notably (at least in this case) the eighties-hair-metal Aerosmith-wannabe lyrics that attempt dissolute and actually manage, well, mild amusement. Black Bloc, on the other hand, are never less than serious as a heart attack, passionate and more deeply-felt than any half-dozen other random powerelectronics artists you could pile on top of one another. Black Bloc advance easily.
#7 Rainbow, “Kill the King”
#15 Del tha Funkee Homosapien, “Mistadobalina”
“Mistadobalina”: good. “Kill the King”: freaking great. Rainbow, despite enough lineup changes that no two studio albums in the band’s career were released with the same lineup, managed a remarkable consistency in the quality of their music over the first nine years of the band’s existence (they would first dissolve in 1984 when Blackmore would join the reformed Deep Purple); “Kill the King” still manages to stand head and shoulders over the rest of the band’s output. So does “Mistadobalina”, but Del’s output, while quite good, is not up to the same standard; Rainbow gets something of a gimme on its way to Round Three here.