Archive for good strings

54. ‘Hard Times’ by Patrick Wolf (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on July 15, 2010 by G.K. Reid

Another fortuitous ranking, seeing as Patrick – like Sleater-Kinney before him – here lambasts the media and the mediocre in no uncertain terms.  Whereas Sleater-Kinney go for the full-scale, caustic takedown, though, Patrick errs on the side of positivity.  Still young enough to not have his idealism soured completely, he fashions his frustrations into an invigorating call to arms, adamantly intoning about ‘resolution/revolution’ like they’re real, reachable dreams to dream.  Any accusations of hippy-shit naivete are offset, however, by the ardent emphasis he places upon the need to ‘work’ for it (as opposed to, say, just imagining it, like some overly lionised, self-satisfied Scousers would have it).

It helps that Patrick is a performer who can really sell this shit and whip a crowd into a life-affirming frenzy. What doesn’t help so much is when he’s allowed anywhere near the internet, and his clearly sincere ambitions ‘to give people Disneyland’ become somewhat undermined when he gets all petulant and throws his toys out the pram because it’s turned out that not many people are interested. Which, I admit, is kind of a shame, because the boy knows how to write a song, work a stage and – perhaps most crucially – wear ridiculous clothes; I too would be a little baffled as to what the hell else it is that people want.

Bonus points: Aside from Toxic, possibly the best strings in the countdown.

**The video to Hard Times is kind of awful, even moreso in a post-Jedward world, so below instead is the joyful video to The Magic Position (a song that was once in this list but eventually dropped out for entirely arbitrary reasons).**

59. ‘Don’t Tell Me’ by Madonna (2000)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 13, 2010 by G.K. Reid

Madonna: Version 12.3

That enigmatic expression in the above photo, as the reigning Pop Icon of the 20th Century stares down the Millenium and her advancing years with a kind of sad, shaky contempt, found its sonic counterpart in this single, which could handily act as Madonna’s entire manifesto: she needs to be here, and be seen, and you could change the laws of nature before you could ever dream of stopping her.

The collaboration with Swedish knob-twiddler Mirwais yielded some or the most truly radical pop music in Madonna’s career. Coming off the back of the lush but self-consciously ‘mature’ work she did with William Orbit on Ray of Light, the Music album saw Madonna reclaim a sense of delirious investment in what she’s doing that had been shelved in favour of critic-wooing. Rather than pontificating vaguely (nigh on sanctimoniously) about love, or her dead mother, or the evils of mankind, the focus is upon Madonna’s own insecurities, and thus she delivers a minor masterpiece like ‘Don’t Tell Me’.  

Mirwais’ jerky, stop-start stylings may infuriate some in their foregrounding of artificiality, but they’re completely in service to a strained/pained vocal that expresses that quality that Madonna so often finds somewhat elusive: i.e. tangible humanity. Madonna’s traded on her brashness and impudence to get where she is, but at a cost; ‘Don’t Tell Me’ exposes the self-doubt that fuels her defiance.


Bonus points:  Undaunted by the heinous legacy of Billy Ray Cyrus, Shania Twain and Steps, Madonna dabbles in some linedancing. Let the size of her balls never be questioned.