Songs In The Key Of Anger by Allen Miles

I wrote a blog some months ago when I was drunk about the sense of apathy in this country, particularly amongst our young people. It saddens me deeply that I am now too old to be part of any revolution, because as my fellow writers Mr Featherstone and Mr Ware will identify, my 32 year-old brain simply refuses to accept the world as it is. The idea of doing a Back To Mine-type article in which one would choose to write about ten songs on a certain topic is one I’ve had for a while, yet I could never think of an appropriate theme. I wrote a brief facebook blog about miserable songs a few years ago, but I realise that I am in danger of becoming a bit of a self-pitying caricature in some-people’s eyes, and given a recent spate of less than flattering reviews for my ultra-miserable book I’ve decided I’ll leave the navel-gazing for a bit. So as I read about the latest slaughters our repulsive Prime Minister intends to inflict on the country along with being in a generally bad mood with my ailing physical condition and the fact that Lily Allen is making a comeback, I give you a new series of articles entitled Songs In The Key Of…

Anyone is welcome to have a go, but I’m going first. Here are the ten ANGRIEST songs ever written.

10. Killing In The Name Of – Rage Against The Machine

The lyric to this song, despite sounding like a repetitive screamed dirge, is actually an eloquent diatribe regarding the republican party’s amazingly convenient policy of choosing members of the ethnic minorities to fight on the frontline in all the good ol’ US of A’s silly wars. The reason it sounds so incendiary is due to the hard funk soundtrack and the avalanche of “f” words, tailor made for twenty year-olds wearing baggy jeans to shove each other around on a dancefloor. Rage frontman Zach de la Rocha is an actual political activist, and allegedly one of only three musicians the FBI have ever kept a file on.

Angriest bit: Probably the bit where he shouts “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” sixteen times.

9. Where Did It All Go Wrong –  Oasis

Oasis weren’t an angry band. There were about love and happiness and good times. Until one day in 1998 when Noel Gallagher woke up from a four-year cocaine bender and realised he utterly loathed everyone who had managed to blag their way onto the way onto the Oasis funbus and he had come to the very brink of pissing away his status of best British rock and roll songwriter of all time. The anger here is not in the song itself but the performance. Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants is his comedown album and this Wall-era Pink Floyd-sounding howl is the sound of a man looking in the mirror and saying to himself “What the fucking hell have you become?”

Angriest bit: All the choruses. A man whose trademark is lighters-aloft optimism, screaming utter self-loathing.

8. She Watch Channel Zero – Public Enemy

Remarkably prescient for a song written in 1988, one of Chuck D’s finest raps about finding nothing but shite on TV. This is what hip-hop could have been. It’s so fast, so precise, so violent. The main riff is a Slayer sample, and Chuck booms away with the utmost authority while Flav cackles around him like the weirdo who hangs on to the school bully. The percussion is relentless. They were essentially a black punk band. If they hated television this much in ’88, what the hell would they make of it today?

Angriest bit: The utter genius of this passage from the third verse. If I may quote:

“Her brains retrained
By a 24 inch remote
Revolution a solution
For all our children
But all her children
Don’t mean as much as the show”

7. Gimme Some Truth – John Lennon

Classic, Vietnam-era anti-government tirade from a man who was an absolute expert, in the same way that Bob Dylan and Lou Reed were, at using words and music to hurt people. I don’t just mean shock or offend, anyone can do that with a few swear words, but Lennon had that unique gift that so very few writers have of being able to personally insult people that he’d never met. His voice on this track is amazing, only Noddy Holder and Liam Gallagher have swallowed as much sandpaper as Lennon did. He really hated everything.

Angriest bit: 2:07, where he actually loses his breath.

6. Of Walking Abortion – Manic Street Preachers

The evacuating of the bile duct of an alcoholic intellectual at the end of his tether. This is the only song on this list that isn’t sung by the person who wrote it, which makes the performance of James Dean Bradfield here a mission of the most extreme voyeurism. The ugliest song on one of the ugliest albums of all time, a four minute vomiting-session during which Richey Edwards props himself up on his elbows and declares that he’s disgusted with every single thing he can see. The outro is so intense that it could make your grandmother’s neck veins bulge.

Angriest bit: “WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? YOU FUCKIN ARE!!!”

5. Free Satpal Ram – Asian Dub Foundation

Asian Dub Foundation should have been massive. They were the first proper ethnic punk band in the UK, their songs were as good as anything The Specials ever did, and when I saw them in 2003 supporting Radiohead, the biggest band in the world, they blew them offstage. Satpal Ram was an Englishman of Asian descent who was attacked by six skinheads in a Birmingham restaurant in 1986 over an argument about music. He stabbed one of his assailants with a table knife in self defence after being  stabbed himself and glassed in his face. He served 16 years in prison for murder. The defense lawyer he was assigned didn’t meet him until half an hour before his case was up in court.

Angriest bit: The row of the guitar solo at 1:57

4. Common People – Pulp

Class war is a very English phenomenon. And other than Billy Bragg and a band you’ve never heard of called McCarthy, Pulp are England’s best musical exponents of it. This song will either hit you in the exact centre of your heart, or you will just think of it as a cool song to dance to. I remember my disastrous attempt at going to university; my schedule consisted of getting up at six to go to work, then getting on the bus from work at eleven to go for my lecture, then running for the bus back to work which pulled up six minutes after my lecture finished, then working till eight. Repeat to fade. Repeat to exhaustion.  Coupled with the fact that I had to pay £500 a term and received no sort of bursary or grant, I was living on the very edges of my nerves. One rainy Thursday morning I slumped down in my chair for my eleven o’clock lecture, having had about two hours sleep, full of red bull and my eyes rolling back in my head. Some kid from my group called Lee sat next to me and said, “I really don’t get on with these early lectures, brother.” It took me every calorie of strength I had to stop myself from biting his eyeballs out. And that is why I love this song. And it’s finest achievement is that it gets the very kids he’s slagging off dancing to it.

Angriest bit: “They will NEVER UNDERSTAND how it feels to live your life….” it’s not on the single version…

3. Streets Of Sorrow/Birmingham Six – The Pogues

Before Shane MacGowan became the shambling drunken mess we know him as today, he was one of the finest songwriters in the world, a master of the love song, and for this writer, one of the top five lyricists of all time. This song, about the sixteen year imprisonment of six innocent men on a charge of being IRA bombers, starts with Terry Woods’s fragile acoustic lament about the unbearable sadness of the Troubles, then MacGowan elbows his way in and starts snarling through his splintering, gritted teeth about the dangers of “Being Irish in the wrong place and at the wrong time.” Tory party lizard Douglas Hurd actually amended the Anti-Terrorism Act and had the song banned from the BBC in order that  “the British public should be prevented from hearing terrorist organisations and their supporters.” Hugh Callaghan, a member of the Birmingham Six, having been released in 1991 saw it differently: “The last thing the government wanted was people like MacGowan educating the public about the Birmingham Six.”

Angriest bit: “May the whores of the empire lie awake in their beds/And sweat as they count out the sins on their heads.” Political protest was never so poetic.

2. Mosh – Eminem

Eminem is at his best when he’s at his angriest, and I nearly picked The Way I Am, but while it’s a brilliant song, we can’t really relate to his anger about being rich and famous. This however, a call-to-arms in protest against a moronic war-mongerer who somehow came to be in charge of the most powerful country in the world, is an poundingly aggressive statement of disgust. It is a genuinely frightening piece of music. Every moving part functions; the military beat stamping all the way through, the thunderclaps and twisted synths, the parrot fashion Pledge of Allegiance from whiny school-kids at the start. The video is absolutely superb, and then of course there are the words and the voice; never has such unbridled rage been so articulate. And the best thing about this song, is that where the likes of NWA and Ice-T would be banging on about shooting cops and taking sawn-offs to the white house, Mr Mathers is simply trying to get people to vote. Eloquence in screaming, indeed.

“Maybe this is god just saying we’re responsible/For this monster/This coward/That we have empowered…. How could we allow something like this/Without pumping our fists.”  Whether you like him or not, he’s brilliant with words.

1. Tramp The Dirt Down – Elvis Costello

After the blazing torrents of bhangra, punk, hip-hop and rock on this list, it might seem somewhat odd to see a simple folk song featuring nothing more than a couple of acoustic guitars, a snare and a tin whistle sitting on the top of this unholiest of trees. But listen to it. Here is a song that was written at the arse-end of Margaret Thatcher’s despicable time in office by England’s greatest ever lyricist (yes Dunham, he’s better than Morrissey) at the age of thirty-four; old and wise enough to not have to try hard to rebel or shock. It is a song that states in the most languid and poetic manner that the writer wishes to see another human being dead. Now listen to it again, hear how he rasps and growls in such hushed tones, and how you can feel the spit hit the microphone as he lists the atrocities that she committed unto the people she was supposed to be representing. Listen to the bit at 3:24, where he gets choked up and sounds like he’s going to burst into tears of rage. Famously driven by “revenge and guilt” to write songs, Costello here bleeds over his guitar as he watches his own country get battered into submission by a group of back-slapping school-tie wearing bacteria who simply do not give a toss. He knows he’s defeated, and he can only take pleasure from the vision of standing by her grave laughing. This song was written in 1989. It could have been written yesterday.

Angriest bit: All of it. Every last snarled word.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 32 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 2 year-old daughter who is into Queens Of The Stone Age. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014

Ten (ish) Songs by Allen Miles

A disclaimer: I’ve decided to compile this list without wittering on about The Smiths, The Manics, Joy Division, Tom Waits or Bob Dylan, because no-one needs to hear me bang on about them anymore than I do any night in the pub when I’ve had five or six pints. And I’m well aware that there are more than ten songs on this list, but it’s my site and I’ll do as I bloody well like. Yeah.

1. Oasis – Live Forever
I had no interest in music until I heard this song. I think I was about thirteen and it was used as the backdrop to a Sky Sports review of the 1994-95 Premiership season. My mate Astroman lent me his copy of Roll With It which had a live version of this on the B-Side and I must have listened to it fifteen times a day. Within weeks I’d bought Morning Glory, Definitely Maybe and all the singles for the B-Sides, and I count myself fortunate to have witnessed one of England’s greatest ever bands at their absolute peak. Like all of Noel Gallagher’s best songs, it makes you feel glad to be alive.

2. Placebo – Without You I’m Nothing

Placebo were a very important band for me for it was they, along with the Manics, who broke me free from the tracksuit bottoms and Adidas sweatshirt shackles of my high school years, and into the world of androgny and make-up. I loved this song, I originally heard it on a Q Magazine best of 1998 CD when I was at sixth form, and while everyone else was listening to shite like Embrace and Gomez, me and my mate Jamie were listening to this weird man/woman who looked like an eye-linered parakeet sneering this spidery song about drug addiciton. To this day, I get a nostalgic shiver down my vertebrae whenever it pops up on my i-pod.

3. Smashing Pumpkins – Tonight, Tonight
The summer of ’99. Ah, yes. This was the era of record-shopping. Myself and Mr Ware used to work split shifts on a Saturday; 10:30-1:30, then 4-6. This two hour thirty minute gap gave us time to get the bus into town and spend all our wages on CDs almost every weekend. During the weekday evenings I would sit in my bedroom compiling a database on my laughably outdated PC of the records I’d bought and I’d listen to them in full repeatedly as I typed. This song is as epic as four minutes of music can possibly get and will forever remind me of the romance and introspection of those balmy evenings down Bricknell Ave.

4. Mellow My Mind – Neil Young
Neil Young’s Tonight’s The Night album is the soundtrack to my realization that young romance is always doomed. I was living in a flat that was little more than a squat when I was eighteen, with my first girlfriend. I lost my job in late October and had nothing to do with my days except drink cheap plonk and watch the rain from the rotting window. One Sunday morning I woke up to the sound of her leaving to have Sunday lunch at her Mam’s, and I had a hangover so bad I could barely open my eyes. I propped myself up on my elbows in bed just in time to see a mouse casually stroll across the ledge that the stereo was on, while this song was being played by a band who were so pissed they were on the verge of passing out.

5. Plastic Palace People – Scott Walker
I first heard this song on an NME sampler CD sometime in late 2001, when I was living by myself in a flat down Hartoft Road. It is the closest I’ve ever been to hallucinating through music. To love the work of Scott Walker is to be given the key to a world of rooftops and bedsits and salty seadogs and European cinema and smiles through the smoke of cigarettes, all sung by an impossibly handsome man with one of the most spell-binding voices of all time. No other musician has ever embraced the idea of being an outsider like Scott Walker has, not Morrissey, not REM. He is the musical equivalent of Roald Dahl.

6. Atlantic City – Bruce Springsteen

In the summer of 2002, myself and Andrew were both reading On The Road, and listening to Nebraska. We had decided that we would conquer the world with our rock and roll band and every night we would walk in enormous circles around Hull each dangling a bottle of wine from our swinging arms as we plotted. One night we went to County Road park with a Discman and a couple of shitty Argos speakers and laid on a hill, as an electrical storm cloud loomed in the distance, and this song, the stand out track on The Boss’s stripped back collection of acoustic noir, was playing. So evocative.

7. Black – Pearl Jam
I’m a very stoic person by nature, and I don’t allow myself to get effected by other people foisting their feelings on me, but I find it very hard to hear this song without feeling a bit of tension in my jaw. It starts off as a pleasant enough mid-paced wistful ballad, before descending into a howling litany of bitterness, regret and anger, and those are my three favourite emotions, which is probably why I love this song so much. The final three lines are one of the saddest pay-offs in any song ever.

8. Concierto De Aranjuez – Miles Davis
I can’t imagine that many of our dear readers will have heard this song. It is as close as the Jazz genre ever got to classical music. It is fifteen minutes of astonishing musicianship, played by one of the greatest collectives of musicians ever assembled. It should be listened to in the summer, whilst sat in a garden with a big drink. I don’t like a huge amount of Jazz, but I’m a big Miles Davis fan, and for me Sketches Of Spain, the album that this is taken from, is actually better than Kind Of Blue, which is recognised by the critics as his best. It is a piece of music that you just have to sit and absorb, and each time you hear it you discover something new.

9. Blinded By The Lights – The Streets
This is a song that taught me that there were different ways to make music, at the time The Streets sounded like no other band on Earth, brilliant story-telling and completely relatable. On a personal level, it reminds of an occasion in eight or nine years ago when I was absolutely pissed out of my brains on a night out and somehow I’d managed to lose all my mates and there were no taxis to be had so I ended up walking all the way home by myself. It took me about two and a half hours, even though it was only three miles. This song perfectly captures the experience of rooms spinning, sounds all merging into one big din and simply not knowing what planet you’re on.

10. Hope There’s Someone – Antony and The Johnsons
I first heard of Antony Hegarty whilst reading a gushing article in Mojo magazine during a train journey to Blackpool. I listened to a sample on Amazon when I got home and went to buy the album straight away. He is one of the most original singers I’ve ever heard, haunted and keening. Again they made me realise that there is always music out there that you’ve never heard anything like before. This song is delicate and impossibly sad and at the end it all starts swirling and wailing and one man with his piano conjures up a raging snow storm. Bleakly beautiful.

11. Lorca’s Novena – The Pogues
For Christmas 2007, my missus bought me an iPod. I’d always been quite proud that I never had one, preferring to toddle around with an Aigo mp3 player that I bought from Argos, but as soon as I opened the box it became an absolute staple of my life. The first album I put on it was Hell’s Ditch by The Pogues, just because it was sat on the coffee table at the time. The standard Christmas Day routine for as long as I could remember was after having a drink with my dad in the pub we’d nip to see my Grandad and then go to my mam’s. Sadly my Grandad had died a few months previously so I decided to walk to my mam’s by myself with this menacing sea shanty about “Lorca the faggot poet,” on the iPod and it seemed like there was not a single other soul on the streets of HU5.

12. Afterglow – The Small Faces
This song reminds me of the day Gabbers was born. I’d been awake for about fifty hours and after she’d finally arrived and I had been told to go home I stood in my garden feeling at a bit of a loss cos I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do and this song came on the Pod at random. It’s a very uplifting song and it has the 2nd best chorus of all time, containing the line “I’m happy just to be with you.” and I thought, maybe that’s what being a dad will be like. According to my play count, I’ve listened to it 84 times since that day.

13. Dwr Budr – Orbital
I find it difficult to deal with the dance genre as a whole, but I’ve always loved Orbital, and particularly their In Sides album. I was listening to this song on repeat when I was writing my first book; I wrote it in five days and practically didn’t sleep at all during that period, whilst doing ten hours a day at work and pumping myself full of caffeine every day. Dwr Budr has a swirling, incoherent feel to it, as well as wordless vocals from Alison Goldfrapp, and that pretty much encapsulated how it felt to be almost totally sleepless and spending six hours a night frantically typing out a really disturbing piece of work. I don’t actually think I’ve listened to it since.

profile b and wAllen Miles is 33 years old and lives in Hull. He is married and has a 3 year-old daughter who thinks she’s Elsa from Disney’s Frozen. He is a staunch supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC and drinks far too much wine. He spends most of his spare time watching old football videos on youtube and watching 1940s film noir. He is the author of This Is How You Disappear, which is widely recognized to be the best book ever written. It is available here. http://tinyurl.com/disappear2014