The National Anthem (Radiohead)

The National Anthem (Radiohead)

There are times when you need an uplifting song to raise your mood, at other times a sad song can emotionally connect with particular feelings and be more meaningful. Indeed, many people consider sad songs better and deeper than happy songs, as they speak profoundly to the human condition.

Just sometimes though, we need to rage and let our feelings out, as this can be very cathartic. Here’s a Radiohead song does just that, it’s a song of rage from their album Kid A released in 2000.

Everyone
Everyone around here
Everyone is so near
It’s holding on
It’s holding on

Everyone
Everyone is so near
Everyone has got the fear
It’s holding on
It’s holding on

It’s holding on
It’s holding on
It’s holding on

Thom Yorke sings short, ambiguous lyrics, using voice distortion and a feedback echo that creates a sense of isolation and fear. The looping heavy bass line that leads the song was composed by Yorke when he was 16 years old. The early electronic instrument called ondes Martenot, played by Jonny Greenwood, was inspired by Olivier Messiaen. The free jazz-style brass section was inspired by the work of Charles Mingus. Added to that are some interlaced sound effects and mysterious samples creating quite a unique track.

Tarkus (Emerson, Lake & Palmer)

This classic album by Emerson, Lake & Palmer was released on 14 June 1971, and I still don’t fully understand what it’s all about. But Tarkus is prog rock, and so it doesn’t really matter. Overblown, pretentious, and glorious. I probably drove my parents mad playing this vinyl LP.

The first side (yes, this is before CDs) comprises a long, seven part piece that is open to interpretation. Towards the end there’s a contrapuntal section, when the two parts are separated by the left and right channels so you can switch between the two using the balance control.

There’s a variety of tracks on the second side, including an obligatory church organ, de rigueur for any self-respecting prog rock keyboard player of the 70s.

The album ends with a wonderfully exuberant rock and roll tribute to engineer Eddy Offord, Are You Ready Eddy?

Are you ready, Eddy, to turn out rock-and-roll?
Are you ready, Eddy, ready to rock-and-roll?
Are you ready, Eddy, to give me some of your soul?

Are you ready, Eddy, to pull those faders down?
Are you ready, Eddy, to pull those faders down?
Are you ready, Eddy, to turn your scully round?

Not the greatest prog rock album ever, but worth a revisit nevertheless.

“Listen to the silence…”

Radio, live transmission
Radio, live transmission.

Listen to the silence, let it ring on
Eyes, dark grey lenses frightened of the sun
We would have a fine time living in the night
Left to blind destruction
Waiting for our sight

And we would go on as though nothing was wrong
And hide from these days we remained all alone
Staying in the same place, just staying out the time
Touching from a distance
Further all the time

Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio

Well I could call out when the going gets tough
The things that we’ve learnt are no longer enough
No language, just sound, that’s all we need know, to synchronise
love to the beat of the show

And we could dance

Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio
Dance, dance, dance, dance, dance, to the radio.

Disorder (Ian Curtis)

Disorder is the opening track of the debut album Unknown Pleasures (1979) by Joy Division. The song sets the tone for this post-punk masterpiece, with perceptive and raw lyrics by singer Ian Curtis.

I’ve started reading the book So This is Permanence, an anthology of the intensely personal writings of one of the most enigmatic and influential songwriters and performers of the second half of the twentieth century.

The image is of his original notes for the opening song, with the lyrics below.

I’ve been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand
Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?
These sensations barely interest me for another day
I’ve got the spirit, lose the feeling, take the shock away

It’s getting faster, moving faster now, it’s getting out of hand
On the tenth floor, down the back stairs, it’s a no man’s land
Lights are flashing, cars are crashing, getting frequent now
I’ve got the spirit, lose the feeling, let it out somehow

What means to you, what means to me, and we will meet again
I’m watching you, I’m watching her, I’ll take no pity from your friends
Who is right, who can tell, and who gives a damn right now
Until the spirit new sensation takes hold, then you know
Until the spirit new sensation takes hold, then you know
Until the spirit new sensation takes hold, then you know
I’ve got the spirit, but lose the feeling
I’ve got the spirit, but lose the feeling
Feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling, feeling.

Unknown Pleasures (Joy Division)

Joy Division‘s classic and influential album Unknown Pleasures (released in 1979) revealed a profoundly dark poet and a starkly grim realist in Ian Curtis, a very different voice in music at the time, one who added deep insight and intelligence to the post-punk movement. It’s one of my influential albums.

It’s a timeless debut album that was released to widespread acclaim, and its reputation has continued to grow over the years. Owing much to Martin Hannett’s landmark production, it’s a work of dark beauty and creative energy. Bass and drums feature prominently, with piercing guitar lines and a haunting delivery of lyrics that resonate with alienation and despair.

This is a very raw and visceral album, nothing like it had ever been heard before and it remains hugely influential.

See also: Remembering Ian Curtis

Holy Saturday 2021

Wait for it…it’s not Easter yet!

Today is Holy Saturday, not Easter Saturday. Easter starts with the resurrection of Jesus when darkness is turned to light. In stillness, earth awaits the resurrection.

For Holy Saturday this year, I simply share some of the German libretto with an English translation (as I did yesterday for Good Friday).

67 Recitative [Bass, Tenor, Alto, Soprano] and Chorus

Bass:
Nun ist der Herr zur Ruh gebracht.
Now is the Lord brought to peace.
Mein Jesu, gute Nacht!
My Jesus, goodnight!

Evangelist:
Die Müh ist aus, die unsre Sünden ihm gemacht.
The trouble is over, which our sins caused for him.
Mein Jesu, gute Nacht!
My Jesus, goodnight!

Alto:
O selige Gebeine,
O sacred bones,
Seht, wie ich euch mit Buß und Reu beweine,
See how I weep for you with penance and remorse,
Dass euch mein Fall in solche Not gebracht!
That my fall has brought you into such distress!
Mein Jesu, gute Nacht!
My Jesus, goodnight!

Soprano:
Habt lebenslang,
As long as life lasts,
Vor euer Leiden tausend Dank,
Have a thousand thanks for your sufferings,
Dass ihr mein Seelenheil so wert geacht’.
For having valued so highly the salvation of my soul
Mein Jesu, gute Nacht!
My Jesus, goodnight!

68 Chorus

Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder
We sit down with tears
Und rufen dir im Grabe zu:
And call to you in your tomb:
Ruhe sanfte, sanfte ruh!
Rest gently, gently rest!
Ruht, ihr ausgesognen Glieder!
Rest, you exhausted limbs!
Euer Grab und Leichenstein
Your grave and tombstone
Soll dem ängstlichen Gewissen
For our anguished conscience shall be
Ein bequemes Ruhekissen
A pillow that gives peace and comfort
Und der Seelen Ruhstatt sein.
And the place where our souls find rest.
Höchst vergnügt schlummern da die Augen ein.
With the greatest content there our eyes will close in sleep.

Good Friday 2021

I mentioned in my Maundy Thursday 2021 post that my music of choice on Good Friday is Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. It selects itself, and still has the power to shock and move the human spirit. 

For Good Friday this year, I simply share some of the German libretto with an English translation. See also here.

40 Chorale

Bin ich gleich von dir gewichen,
Although I have strayed from you,
Stell ich mich doch wieder ein;
Yet I turn back once again;
Hat uns doch dein Sohn verglichen
Your son has settled the account for us
Durch sein’ Angst und Todespein.
Through his anguish and death agony.
Ich verleugne nicht die Schuld;
I do not deny my guilt;
Aber deine Gnad und Huld
But your grace and favour
Ist viel größer als die Sünde,
is much greater than the sins
Die ich stets in mir befinde.
I find constantly in myself.

51 Recitative [Alto]

Erbarm es Gott!
Have mercy, God!
Hier steht der Heiland angebunden.
Here stands the saviour, bound,
O Geißelung, o Schläg, o Wunden!
O scourging,o blows, o wounds!
Ihr Henker, haltet ein!
You executioners, stop!
Erweichet euch
Are you not softened by
Der Seelen Schmerz,
The soul’s agony,
Der Anblick solches Jammers nicht?
The sight of such misery?
Ach ja! ihr habt ein Herz,
Ah yes! You have a heart
Das muss der Martersäule gleich
That must be like the post used for torture
Und noch viel härter sein.
And even far harder still.
Erbarmt euch, haltet ein!
Have mercy, stop!

65 Aria [Bass]

Mache dich, mein Herze, rein,
Make yourself pure, my heart
Ich will Jesum selbst begraben,
I want to bury Jesus himself within me,
Denn er soll nunmehr in mir
For he now within me
Für und für
Forever
Seine süße Ruhe haben.
Shall have his sweet rest.
Welt, geh aus, lass Jesum ein!
World, depart from my heart, let Jesus enter!

Aqualung (Jethro Tull)

The classic and influential Aqualung album by Jethro Tull is 50 years old today (19 March 2021). I bought it on vinyl soon after its release in 1971 and have listened to it countless times since. It impressed me then, and continues to inspire me today. It’s a very thought provoking and challenging album using language in ways that may offend, but to powerful effect.

With its iconic cover and distinctive opening, it’s a concept album focusing on the differences between organised religion and God. It’s been described as musical musings on faith and religion.

The album also links in the themes of homelessness and poverty, with the title track perfectly describing the life of a homeless man, ‘you snatch your rattling last breaths, with deep-sea-diver sounds’. The Salvation Army even gets a mention, ‘Feeling alone, the Army’s up the road, Salvation a la mode and a cup of tea’.

The album covers many genres, with some great guitar work, and the distinctive flute sound of Ian Anderson (an instrument not common on rock albums, but central to the sound of Jethro Tull). This is an album unlike any other, and the best way to appreciate it is to simply give it a listen.


Here are some lyric tasters:


People, what have you done?
Locked him in his golden cage, golden cage,
Made him bend to your religion,
Him resurrected from the grave, from the grave.

He is the God of nothing,
If that’s all that you can see.
You are the God of everything,
He’s inside you and me.

And the bloody church of England,
In chains of history,
Requests your earthly presence,
At the vicarage for tea.


Well, the lush separation enfolds you,
And the products of wealth,
Push you along on the bow wave,
Of their spiritless undying selves.
And you press on God’s waiter your last dime,
As he hands you the bill,
And you spin in the slipstream,
Timeless, unreasoning,
Paddle right out of the mess,
And you paddle right out of the mess.


And I asked this God a question,
And by way of firm reply,
He said: “I’m not the kind you have to wind up on Sundays”.

Well, you can excommunicate me on my way to Sunday school,
And have all the bishops harmonise these lines.


20 Minutes

20 Minutes is a 2021 EP by Carbon Based Lifeforms with the main track lasting…(wait for it)…20 minutes, it’s one of my favourite EPs of 2021.

A long time thought is finally a reality. A twenty minutes long story that takes you on a soothing journey through the ambient soundscapes of Carbon Based Lifeforms. The other track is an extended version of Leaves which further soothes your mind, it’s melancholic winter landscape. Source

You can find this EP (with other EPs and albums) in my Bandcamp collection here.

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