Category Archives: Music

A Song That Reminds You Of A Certain Event (30 Days of Music 2014)

Map of the ProblematiqueMuse

Video on YouTube

I didn’t really care much for the London Olympics before it started. Never being very sporty myself (although I’ll happily watch a sport, given I understand the rules and so on), it just didn’t really mean much to me. The years between the bid being won, and the event starting, I really couldn’t see the fuss, and couldn’t bring myself either to be enthused or enraged by the thing. Let’s not get into the debate over whether the economics and so on of the Olympics is a good or bad thing now, though.

The night of the opening ceremony, though, something magical happened. Danny Boyle’s show has been praised to the skies, quite rightly. I was sorely disappointed when I discovered that the Closing Ceremony wasn’t going to be directed by him too. I adored the ceremony for celebrating a part of Britain’s history that most wouldn’t put front and centre, and by the hero’s welcome, at last, for Sir Tim Berners-Lee (one of only two times in my life I can remember literally punching the air in delight).

I’m not known for being overly emotional, I guess, but there’s something about a big event, and the art of a good sporting montage and soundtrack, that can just set me off. Listening to …And I Will Kiss still brings shivers down my spine, but, aside from TimBL’s appearance, the moment that hooked me was hearing the opening refrain of Map of the Problematique. It threw me completely.

Here’s the montage – the song comes in at about 2:17, but even the use of The Sex Pistols & The Clash were good omens.

Up until that moment, I’d been convinced that the Olympics wasn’t something for me – that it’d be fun to watch the Opening Ceremony, but it would be strictly a mainstream, typical postcard version of Britain. But that song changed everything. That song, being played on BBC One, when pretty much the whole nation, if not the world, was watching – that song, a single which barely registered in my consciousness around the time of its release.

We’ll come on to a song by my favourite band soon enough (it’s not Muse), but that moment was like hearing something you thought was only important to you, only had special meaning to you, being affirmed, nationally – this music, it said, represents us. This wasn’t the pale, mainstream, UK music by numbers mediocrity of the Closing Ceremony – this was a clear statement that that night was going to be different, alternative, inclusive.

The rhythm, beat and drama hooks you in on a rollercoaster very similar to the effect my imagination goes on when I hear the Doctor Who theme – insistently pulling you down the rabbit hole, tumbling unavoidably towards adventure, risk and danger. The repeated chorus line has an emotional resonance for me, too, alas.

That moment, hearing those notes, being shocked and delighted, getting completely onboard the drama of the evening – made me well up, made me feel proud. The scene was set – and for that one night, at least, the nation was defined by adventure, in my book at least.

A Song That Reminds You of Somewhere (30 Days of Music)

SuzieBoy Kill Boy

Video on YouTube

I was a DJ in a past life.

Summer of 2006. On the home straight for my MSc at Brighton University. I’d missed out on the opportunity at taking a slot on the student radio station whilst doing my degree at UCL, so I was eager to grab the chance during my one year on the South Coast. Turns out, Brighton University didn’t have a radio station.

But the University of Sussex did, and somehow, I got a slot there – Sunday afternoons, between three and four in the afternoon. I’m not sure if anyone was listening, apart from my family – especially after the bloke before me used to end his show with long, long songs from Jesus Christ Superstar – but it was great fun. If I was lucky, the person due on after me wouldn’t turn up, and I’d get to do two hours.

This song was on a promotional CD which was left lying by the faders, and it’ll always remind me of that tiny studio. It’s throwaway indie-guitar-pop, but the melody, and the backdrop of electronica made it a hit for me, particularly as I’d never heard of the band before. It was this, or Seaside by The Ordinary Boys, and, well, maybe not (though that is a great summer record).

My other stint as a DJ at the much-missed Play/Pause indie-disco, at the Albany on Great Portland Street, a few years later, may have been more cherished, but this was a chance to do something a little different – (sort of) proper broadcasting.

A Song That Reminds You of Someone (30 Days of Music)

Robin The Hooded ManClannad

Even the album cover, seen in this video, takes me back.

There’s a part of me which is quite dissatisfied with some of these topics – since I was a child, I’ve been surrounded by some form of music, be it on the radio, or on vinyl, CD, tape, minidisc and so on. So plenty of songs remind me of someone, somewhere, some event, and so on. It’s going to be hard to pick one.

But I’ll go with the first one that springs to mind, tonight. This reminds me of several things – sitting in the back of the car – a very 80s family car Honda, I can even remember the colour of the sticker on the passenger window warning would be intruders that the car was fitted with an alarm – orangey-red, like a sunset, whilst a shadowy figure runs away – whilst going to primary school; playing around with cassette tape boxes.

Watching the entire series on VHS growing up. Listening to the album on almost every car journey.

A hot early summer more recently, where we re-watched most of the series.

Me making up rather more childish lyrics for the chorus.

But most of all, it reminds me, as does the whole album, as do most songs by Kate Bush, or by The Police, of the first person who shaped my musical tastes – my mother. So this one’s for her.

Not very cool, I know, but hey, honesty.

A Song That Makes You Feel Sad (30 Days of Music 2014)

Exile VilifyThe National

An excellent, fan-made video which really hits the emotional core. All the feels.

Tricky one this, as I don’t make a habit of listening to many songs that make me feel sad, especially in terms of ‘upset’ sadness. So this will do. It’s how I discovered The National.

“You’ve got sucker’s luck. Have you given up?”

Written for the game Portal 2, it’s melancholic and emotional. Discovering it within the game was one of those moments where it just hits you – instantly bringing a depth to the story, situation and characters, making you wonder what you’ve not been told yet. But you only really hear snatches on a broken radio. Listening to it on full volume, outside the game, it really hits you.

“Does it feel like a trial? Does it trouble your mind like you trouble mine?”

It feels like a plea to a lost cause – an acknowledgement of such – indeed, it feels like it’s a statement of familiarity, of surrender. Comforting and yet wallowing in the sadness.

“Vilify – don’t even try….did you fall for the same empty answers again?”

Underneath it all, though, there’s a steely resolve to carry on – the repetition of lines gives it that. It gives it a feel of a hint of anger in there too.

The strings and piano give the song a cinematic scope, as it gently tosses the listener from side to side, rolling from peak to trough but never advancing – stuck in a rut. And that single, lasting piano note at the end – not a crescendo, but a stasis.


A Song That Makes You Happy (30 Days of Music 2014)

Don’t Falter – Mint Royale (featuring Lauren Laverne)

The 90s is where it all made sense, for me – sure, there were bad days, but those endless summers, the imagination and freedom and so on. There’s plenty of 80’s music I like, but if you really want to trigger my happy gland, play me some indie/disco/pop from the mid-90s. Although I don’t especially remember it from the time, rediscovering this song in the last few years has been revelatory.

Like Day 1’s song, it speaks of summer, of hope. It has that vague memory of the early internet, Mel and Sue’s Light Lunch, rare and special trips up to Oxford Street to spend an hour or so in the massive Virgin Megastore, HMV and Electronics Boutique. It’s unashamedly romantic – “and as long as we’ve got each other, it’s gonna be officially Summer”, and has valuable advice, too – “you must decide to risk your heart for love to find you..”. Perfect.

The video’s completely out of sync with my thoughts on the song, though.