Day 3I: Africa Addio, Round Three
We’re nearing the end of the first wave, and the fourth-last East Subdivision in the entire competition yields up…
#16 Steel Hook Prostheses, “Burning Out Their Eyes”
#13 Poe, “Hey Pretty”
[at least one song is an instrumental, so no lyric-to-lyric matchup possible.]
Two of the eight tracks on this side of the bracket jumped up in Round One and announced themselves as major players when I hadn’t really thought of them that was on selection day; Steel Hook Prostheses have an easier time of it in their Round Three matchup, but not by much. Poe’s Haunted is a fearsome album indeed, and at least half of it would have been a good fit. The weakness here is that “Hey Pretty” was actually a third choice; my two favorite songs on the album, “Control” and “Haunted”, both run longer than five minutes…and that, however minor, is just enough to let Steel Hook Prostheses continue to assert their dominance over everything with which they come into contact, heading for the hopper with a relative minimum of friction.
#6 Venom, “Possessed”
#7 Clan of Xymox, “Blind Hearts”
“Look at me, Satan’s child
Born of evil thus defiled
Brought to life through Satanic birth
Raised in hell to live on Earth”
“In many ways you’ve lost your dignity
Hey girl, give up your hopeless ecstasy
Deep in our hearts we are alone
Deep in our blind hearts, skin and bone”
The lyrics I picked form the Venom track—the first four lines of the song—are the first song lyrics I ever owned on a T-shirt. And really, Xymox’s lyrics are, well, dance music lyrics; they don’t really actually say much. Which is fine when you’re dancing, really, but not much good for active listening if you sit down and concentrate on them. Venom take this one easily.
The Midwest subdivision gives us some nasty ones…
#16 Axone, “Casus Belli”
#12 Delain, “Babylon”
[at least one song is an instrumental, so no lyric-to-lyric matchup possible.]
Axone were the second of the Round One bands to really mark themselves with distinction in this bracket, and they’re going to need every iota of it going up against the mighty Delain. I knew Delain were an eight-hundred-pound gorilla going into this; Axone became one as we went along. The chink in Delain’s armor is actually kind of simple, though—I threw over the second horse they had in this race, “April Rain”, because they had another horse in this race…despite my actually liking “April Rain” a smidge better. I gambled, and I lost, because “Babylon” ended up coming up against another titan…and thus it is that, unthinkably, Delain does not have a single entry in the Final Ninety-Six. Axone go into the hopper.
Live in the Netherlands, 2013.
#11 Amaran, “As We Fly”
#10 Accept, “London Leatherboys”
“I never wanted to walk alone out in the cold light
I never learn from my mistakes
Streets full of broken hearts
A graveyard for my tears
And concrete tastes like blood”
“Swearing that he would do
He could not even say
Boy dressed in leather
Boy died in vain
They’re the easy riders
But heroes die too fast
He was more than the best of the bunch”
Amaran’s lyrics are pretty standard until you hit the final line of that excerpt, when things all the sudden get really, really good. But even if they hadn’t I mentioned earlier that it was likely Udo Dirkschneider’s amusing Engrish was probably going to get the better of him eventually. Well, eventually is now, and Amaran head into the hopper.
Live in Copenhagen, 1995 (or 1996, you tell me).
In the West subdivision…
#9 Prick, “Communiqué”
#5 The Machines of Loving Grace, “The Soft Collision”
“Ah yes, this is it, this will be the night
Let your force field drop, senses out and try to communicate
Your X-ray ears are shattering the walls in your home
Oh, disconnect the phone, it’s primitive and cold
Free the dormant you dying to unfold
“Soft now, the lips that drag me down
Soft now until I hit the ground
The night is soft, the light is soft
And I don’t want to wear this off tonight”
I’ve always liked the conceit of “Communiqué”, which involves a psychotic breaking into a family’s house and forcing them to confront the inherent shortcomings in their relationship. (This is also a common conceit in movies; I most recently saw it in 2012’s Deadfall, a thriller, but it’s often the basis for comedies.) But when you simply write the lyrics out, they don’t have the same force as they do when they’re delivered courtesy Kevin McMahon. Machines of Loving Grace’s lyrics are more impressionist, less meaningful, but quite artfully done; MLG score a minor upset and head into the hopper.
#6 The Dream Academy, “The Love Parade”
#10 Del Amitri, “Food for Songs”
“So you sold your soul for a pocket full of sweet talk
And giving out kisses at the end of a slow walk
And when it’s done you put your world back on
’cause she’s otherwise engaged, married to someone”
“There’s people beating people
To keep the system strong
People beating people
To keep the illusion going
So I’m gonna fight every day of my life ’til they’re gone
but I ain’t gonna die just to get some kind
Of food for songs”
Ah, the unending battle of the lyricist (or the poet). Everything is lyric fodder…but should everything be lyric fodder? That’s the question Del Amitri seem to be asking there. For my money, for 99.99% of lyricists, and an even greater number of poets, the answer is “no”, because you start heading into tell-don’t-show territory pretty quick…just as Del Amitri did here. And yes, that may have been a conscious decision to show why certain things shouldn’t be lyric fodder, I don’t know. On the other hand, Dream Academy’s lyrics are kind of wan when separated from Nick Laird-Clowes’ used-car-salesman rapidfire delivery; it’s really the difference between like and love with this song. And thus I keep going back and forth with these two eighties standards…but in the end it comes down to uncertainty vs. certainty, and The Dream Academy emerge, somewhat bloodied but none the worse for wear, and enter the hopper.
Warning: fanvid created in Runescape ahead.
Finally, in the South subdivision:
#1 Shora, “The Never-Ending Exhale”
#4 Fugazi, “Shut the Door”
The soul of all injection, don’t sparkle no more
Inner walls to blow, the whistle will destroy you as long as you wish
Contain yourself into this dark, breeding and heating shell
Subtle lack of deep fullness
The exile of your complex has to pass over obstructions
Sale through self-control
“I break the surface so I can breathe
I close my eyes so I can see
I tie my arm to be free
Have you ever been free?
She’s not breathing
She’s not moving
She’s not coming back”
Another possible massive upset here. One of the things I really like about this whole crazy mathcore movement is the way the lyric-writing has developed—a lot of mathcore bands write aggressively impressionist lyrics, things that don’t make sense when you give them a close listen, but a soft reading reveals the emotional core. That’s pretty much the opposite of what I normally like, but there is a very studied artistry to it; it’s by far the closest song lyrics get to poetry (don’t let those people teaching Dylan and Morrison in community colleges fool you). On the other hand is Fugazi’s very simple, very direct eulogy, a perfect piece of music for a very dark situation. I wrote those sentences over a week ago, and this is the final Round Three matchup that still needs a decision. I’m no closer to getting there. The fact that I have spent this long thinking about promoting Shora over Fugazi is in itself an upset, whether they head to the hopper or not; I didn’t expect Fugazi to meet any resistance at all the entire trip, really. And they didn’t; Shora had a much tougher path through the competition, running up against JunkQueen in round one and Pink Floyd in round two, two of my collection’s standards, and they emerged victorious both times. They’re up against another standard I’ve had in my collection for decades—I still remember the first time I heard “Shut the Door”, on a Philly college station, I was heading home from work on Christmas Eve 1991—and you know what? Shora just pulled yet another unthinkable upset. I honest to mathematics did not realize how much I love this band, but they keep showing me in no uncertain terms. Shora spring another jaw-dropping upset and head into the hopper.
Live in Berkeley, 1993.
#14 Hedningarna, “Räven”
#2 Nuclear Valdez, “Rising Sun”
“Nouse kirki kiimalle
Nouse ilman nojumata
Kihko ilman kirromata”
(“Rise now lust and rave desire
Rush on upwards, sap in birch stem
Rise without a word of witchcraft
Rush without a rune of making”)
[okay, no, I still can’t get the last line of the second verse]
Wow, okay, I had no idea. I thought “Räven” was a tune about, you know, BIRDS. Does it make me a horrible person that I now want to send it to the hopper even more than I did before I looked up the translation? (And really, let’s face it, I had no idea what they were saying in the first place.) Nuclear Valdez have put up a great fight this entire competition, and do not deserve the obscurity into which they’ve fallen over the past two decades, but their run ends here at the hands of Hedningarna.
And another eight songs are fed into the hopper…
Amaran, “As We Fly”
Axone, “Casus Belli”
The Dream Academy, “The Love Parade”
Machines of Loving Grace, “The Soft Collision”
Shora, “The Never-Ending Exhale”
Steel Hook Prostheses, “Burning Out Their Eyes”