Those of you that know me, know that I am a closet rock star. Not in the “I’m oh so cool” kinda way, but in the “I think I can sing, but won’t ever let anyone really listen because they might prove me otherwise” kinda way. So, like most of us closet rock stars, I sing when no one is listening – in the car, in the shower, in front of hundreds or thousands of hysterical fans…in my head, or when I am just so suckered into a moment I can’t help but sing out loud. I’m sure my wife would attest that I do this far more than I even realize.
Most of the time the songs that I grace the silence with are hits, old Stones songs, U2, The Verve, Oasis or a handful of other artists, especially those from the early 90s, when my mind was ripe for the molding. However, in my true rockstar state of mind, it is the lesser known songs and bands that really inspire me to feel like I am the writer, and lead singer, since I can essentially steal their gems and claim them as my own (or so I tell myself).
Browsing through my catalog of songs, I came across one such song, and it made me think I should toss together a list. Mostly just to pay homage to songs that don’t get the love that I feel they should. So here they are, and a little something about what I love about them. They aren’t in any kind of order, other than where my mind jumps. I apologize in advance if my list is lame, contrived, outdated or if it seems as though I’m trying too hard (which I may actually be).
1. Blood for Wild Blood, Razorlight. I’ve always felt that Razorlight is the poor man’s version of a modern day Rolling Stones. If you want the same kind of rock and roll, bluesy, soul angst of early Stones songs without the annoyance of them being classics and having run through your head a bazillion times, then search out a few Razorlight tunes. Blood for Wild Blood is off of Razorlight’s Slipway Fires, an album that was panned in the UK, which is where the band called home and where they were headed for an enduring fame before the band imploded, as most great bands do. I tend to disagree with the critics of the Fires album. It has a simple, raw energy to it, real emotion. It doesn’t feel over-produced as most albums these days do, and Blood for Wild Blood is a song that is 90% Johnny Borrell vocals, but damn if it doesn’t suck you in. With lines like, “…there is a calm in the rush of your stare,” and “…but the darkness has a hunger, it offers you blood for wild blood,” it’s lyrically captivating and builds from a breath to a roar. It makes me want to conquer the world, which, in turn, means I often find myself wanting to sing along.
2. Crystal Village, Pete Yorn. Mr.Yorn is one of my favorite artists. You know those artists that you’ll forget about for months on end, and then when you are reminded of them for some reason, and they instantly find their way back into heavy rotation? That’s my boy Pete. He isn’t an overly complicated artist, and some might say that most of his songs sound the same. However, I think he rocks. So there. Crystal Village is off one of his lesser albums, in my opinion (Day I Forgot), which is almost like calling The Unforgettable Fire a subpar album to The Joshua Tree. It’s really just the beginning of the greatness to come, with a few teasers tucked inside. Crystal Village is one of those teasers. It is a lot of guitars, Pete’s raspy voice and has itself one catchy hook, “Take my hand, it was good in the beginning.” Do I really know what he’s singing about? I don’t know, but I also don’t care. It sounds cool and it winds me up and makes me turn on my voice.
3. Pressure Suit, Aqualung. Are you a fan of Coldplay (even if you won’t admit it anymore, because for some odd reason they are no longer “cool”)? Well, if you were into Rush of Blood to the Head, then Pressure Suit is a great song to add to your repertoire if you’re ashamed to listen to new songs by Mr.Martin and company. Aqualung is great in his own right, and has had a minor hit or two, but he is highly underrated, if I do say so myself. The album, Memory Man, is chalk full of sing-alongs that get that thing in the center of your chest thumping, and Pressure Suit is the apex. “I’ll be your respirator, I’ll be your parachute…I’ll be your respirator, I’ll be your pressure suit.” Lyrics alone don’t give it justice, trust me.
4. Harbour Lights, A Silent Film. I preached about this song’s acoustic version a couple weeks back via Facebook, and I meant it. Did you give it a listen? Well, do it! A Silent Film is another brilliant English band. We (my wife, then girlfriend) saw them a few years back in Sacramento to a half filled Boardwalk, which equates to about 150 people, but don’t tell them. They performed like it was a packed house, and the lead singer/keyboardist can flat out belt and play. They had a hit around that time, You Will Leave A Mark, also a great song, and have had moderate success in the US, but not enough. Harbour Lights is off of their sophomore album, Sand & Snow, but admittedly, it was the acoustic version of the song off their recently released (for free, I might add, on http://www.noisetrade.com) The Sycamore Tapes that has me hitting repeat, over and freaking over again. How can you not sing along to “You were my rock, never my stepping stone. Never a stepping stone.” It just resonates, and the rest of the song doesn’t let up. Bust out your best air keyboard and high-pitched emo voice, you won’t regret it.
5. Don’t Let the Same Bee Sting You Twice, The Veils. The Veils are a serious band. Well, mostly serious. Their LPs feel like early U2, steeped in marching drum beats, achy vocals and lyrics that seem to mean something more than us mortals can simply understand. Naturally, I love ’em. They will lay dormant in my library for long periods of time, but they are never far from reach. I can’t lie, I can’t remember most of all the words to their songs, but why should I let that stop me? Exactly, I don’t. Ironically, of all The Veils songs I could (and do) sing, the one that is most fun is Don’t Let the Same Bee Sting You Twice, a little treasure off an EP released in 2011. It almost doesn’t feel like the same Veils, like they took some happy pills and stole some Ben Lee songs or something. But they work. They’re catchy, perky and have a more upbeat life, which somehow just makes all their other songs feel more important. “I left a message to myself, that girl ain’t no good to your health,” “your love wasn’t nothing but trouble…don’t let the same bee sting you twice.” It’s just hard not to wanna sing to.
So, there they are. Of course, I’m sure this list would change if I wrote it up tomorrow, or maybe it wouldn’t. But that makes it no less true, right?