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Desert Island Disc Day 3F: Guns at Brixton

Day 3F: Guns at Brixton, Round Three

Day 3F Start

How we got here:
Day 2E, East/Midwest Subdivisions
Day 2E, West/South Subdivisions

And we reach the halfway point in the Final 192 with Day 3F. We begin with the East subdivision:

#8 The Evolution Control Committee, “Rocked by Rape”
vs.
#5 On Wings of Wax, “Where There’s Smoke”

[at least one song is an instrumental, so no lyric-to-lyric matchup possible.]

photo credit: bandmix.com

On Wings of Wax, looking nothing like hipsters. Honest. Really.

I read an article about “Rocked by Rape” the other day that mentioned that the conceit here is basically “every negative thing Dan Rather has ever said.” I don’t agree with that at all. Not only is that argument undercut by the way Gunderson juxtaposes some of the samples involved, but some of them are simply not negative at all (just damn funny). To me, this track is about sensationalism—every sample here is either hyperbole meant to garner ratings or the kind of weasel-speak that doesn’t actually mean anything, but is aimed at tugging the viewer’s heartstrings. On Wings of Wax is up against it with a very nice slab of instrumental rock (I tested that hypothesis I think I mentioned earlier in the series, and yes, that particular distinctive phrase is presented a tad differently—the tempo and key are different—but it’s otherwise identical to the phrase in the chorus of No Knife’s “Charming”. I also found a Youtube video with a side-by-side comparison of that phrase in “Charming” to an earlier Queens of the Stone Age track; it’s getting pretty hairy by this point, but I still adore it). Very nice being the key term here; I enjoy listening to it, but it doesn’t make my head reach into the same inquisitive spaces as does “Rocked by Rape”, which thus goes into the hopper.


Here’s one for the guitarists.

#11 Racermason, “Liar’s Life”
vs.
#7 The Tribe, “The Dream Must Stay Alive”

[fuzzy dreampop-shoegaze vocals you can almost but not quite make out]

vs…

“Look into the future, what do you see?
I really need to know now if there’s a place for me
Tell me, where do we go from here?
Take me as you find me, for what I am
And when I make mistakes, please understand
For as long as I know you’re near
There is nothing for me to fear”

Wow, that one was a lot simpler than I thought it was going to be…cliches vs. no cliches, and Racermason take it in a walk.

In the Midwest subdivision, the following matchups, for your listening endurement:

#1 Oysterband, “Our Lady of the Bottles”
vs.
#13 hilt, “Baby Fly Away”

“We poor sheep, we have gone astray
We piss our lives away
We are in disrepair
Angels sleep while the tigers play
So the good book say
We piss our lives away
We do it day by day
And we don’t care”

vs….

“Still wanna walk right by you
I still wanna forgive you
But I can’t think of the reason why
I alone rise up above him
High noon rising in the sun
I wanna feel your soul
I wanna take you with me
I wanna pray for forgiveness
I wanna feel I wanna feel
I wanna split this scene
I wanna take you with me”

Tough one indeed here. Al Nelson, as he so often and so successfully did, meditates on the rapidly-shifting emotions inherent in romantic relationships, while the Oysterband throw up, if you’ll pardon the pun, the kind of drinking song that makes me wonder why it doesn’t inhabit every single barroom jukebox in the Western world. Two songs that should have been eighties standards, neither of which got anything resembling the attention they should have. While hilt have always been my favorite Skinny Puppy side project, and all of the criticisms one can reasonably lodge against them were all conscious decisions on the part of the band (yeah, they were supposed to sound like that), I kind of have to give this one to the Brits; the musicianship is better, the lyrics more coherent. Hilt suffer a shocking, and untimely, defeat, and Oysterband head into the hopper.

#3 Gruntsplatter, “Fracturing the Phantom Limb”
vs.
#10 Jaded Era, “Invisible”

[at least one song is an instrumental, so no lyric-to-lyric matchup possible.]

The first time I looked at this matchup, I said to myself “it’s going to be Gruntsplatter in a walkover.” The second time I looked at it, I said, “it’s going to be Jaded Era in a walkover.” And I’ve been going back and forth like that ever since. Listening to the tracks again (and again and again) hasn’t helped any. I’m trying to decide whether having Ashlee Simpson cover one of the tunes is a strength or a weakness. It’s been a week since I wrote those sentences and I am no closer to an answer, but I’ve been leaning pretty consistently ever since towards Jaded Era for no real reason I can put my finger on. And thus it is that Jaded Era head for the hopper, and Gruntsplatter head for the dugout.

The West subdivision hands us…

#8 No Knife, “Charming”
vs.
#4 The Legendary Pink Dots, “Ghost”

photo credit: sceneroller.com

No Knife, looking…no, I’m not even going to try this time.

“Pack your bags, we’ll leave then the snow falls
I’ve seen one come down before me
Placed on top, the odds destroy me
They don’t need this, nor do I
Trade your secrets for a lie
They don’t need something”

vs….

“Turn around and white light guides
Twist and fall and keel beside
Nothing is sure, visions impair
Sick to the core and walking on air
Nothing is real, no one to hold
Nothing to feel except for the cold”

A simple lyric matchup doesn’t give you the method of delivery, which is unfortunate; it makes these two songs, both of which play with impressionism and erasure to create a mood, seem much closer than they actually are. No Knife has had an incredible run here, and they went way deeper than I ever expected them to, but they came up against the immovable post that is The Legendary Pink Dots—and more, they came up against the song in thirty years of prolific output that features Edward Ka-Spel’s finest vocal delivery. Against almost any other of the fifteen tracks in this bracket, No Knife might well have made it into the hopper…but against the Legendary Pink Dots, they head for the dugout.


Live in 2009, from No Knife’s final show.

#14 Diamanda Galás, “Confessional”
vs.
#15 Waterglass, “Sleep (Song of Oberon)”

“GIVE ME SODOMY OR GIVE ME DEATH.”

vs….

“I wonder where you’ve gone
Will your dreams be filled with song?
Will the wind be soft as grace
As it whispers on your face?”

Surprisingly, the number of Round Three battles where I look at each and I would have given both songs about a 99% chance to make it to the final disc is not all that much higher, by ratio, than it was in Round One. Not surprisingly, they’re just as painful now as they were then. I have always loved “Confessional”, since the first time I heard it some twenty-two years ago now, but I had a suspicion that its jaggedness would run up against something eventually that would effectively counteract it with smoothness. That hasn’t happened until now; Galás went up against Slayer in Round One and The Flesh Eaters in Round Two. But Waterglass is just the thing for it, and has the added attraction of being a goth act; I’ve never considered Galás goth (if you’ve got to stick a genre on it, call it “extreme opera”), but I know a lot of folks do, so there’s a built-in basis for comparison. As well, both of these tracks have been in my collection for a very long time (“Confessional” predates “Sleep” by six years, but both have still been mainstays on mixtapes/the mp3 player for over fifteen years). My immediate thought was that Waterglass were going to take this easily, but such has not proved to be the case; I’ve been mulling this matchup for two weeks, and it goes either way depending on the day. Both are exemplars, “Confessional” of searing, sociopolitically-conscious, confrontational music, “Sleep” of dark, brooding goth rock. A person’s music collection would be a worse place for not having either, which is sort of ironic considering neither of these songs is at all well-known (though Galás’ has gotten at least one hundred times the exposure of Waterglass’, if number of plays on last.fm is anything to go by). Lyrically I would probably give this one to Galás easily were it not for the tongues section, which trips (though not nearly as much as usual) my nonsense-syllable filter. And thus I keep going back and forth, and it depends on the day. Today, Waterglass gets the nod.

Finally, in the South subdivision:

#9 Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Pale Blue”
vs.
#13 David Bean, “Keep Breathing”

“Azul palido
As death it comforts me
After storms and after pouring rain
Crashing thunder, pale blue remains”

vs….

[you can get it all except a word here and there…]

I have always, since the very first time I heard it back in the late eighties, considered “Pale Blue” to be a song about suicide. I have no idea if it was intended that way. Because of this, it is inextricably linked in my mind with Derek Humphry’s self-help book Final Exit, which was released a couple of years later, while I was in the bookstore biz, and which was a phenomenal bestseller. Which obviously gives us a point of comparison with “Keep Breathing”. Which one you take depends on your outlook on the day…the song with the “good” ending (if you can consider either of these good) or the song with the bad one? Today, negative outlook, and thus today, Toad the Wet Sprocket edges Bean and heads for the hopper.

#11 Paul Giovanni and Magnet, “Willow’s Song”
vs.
#7 Julianna Barwick, “Bob in Your Gait”

[at least one song is an instrumental, so no lyric-to-lyric matchup possible.]

Actually, “Bob in Your Gait” does have lyrics—at least, the live clip from the Fox Theater on Youtube convinces me of this—but I cannot for the life of me make them out. I am certain this is intentional. The voice here is a wash, an atmosphere. It is a sublime piece of music that is deserving of a place in history. But it comes up against Paul Giovanni and Magnet, and very few things can withstand that kind of pressure without wilting; the soundtrack to The Wicker Man inspires such passion that Magnet fans agitated for its release for almost forty years while it was held up in copyright hell, and they finally got their way towards the end of the last decade. Before that, bootlegs of what was rumored to be the actual soundtrack (it ended up not being so, though it was a reasonable facsimile; it contained more dialogue from the film than the official release does) circulated on the Internet and through tape traders almost as commonly as Grateful Dead concert recordings. All that love is very well justified by the quality of the music. “Willow’s Song” heads for the hopper, and Barwick, unfortunately, heads for the showers.


Live in London, 2013.

The halfway point gives us the next eight songs going into the hopper:

The Evolution Control Committee, “Rocked by Rape”
Paul Giovanni and Magnet, “Willow’s Song”
Jaded Era, “Invisible”
The Legendary Pink Dots, “Ghost”
Oysterband, “Our Lady of the Bottles”
Racermason, “Liar’s Life”
Toad the Wet Sprocket, “Pale Blue”
Waterglass, “Sleep (Song of Oberon)”

Previous: Day 3E
Next: Day 3G

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Desert Island Disc Day 3G: Rusted Cleveland | Popcorn for Breakfast

  2. Pingback: Desert Island Disc Day 3E: Nasty West Virginia | Popcorn for Breakfast

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