I’m very particular in my music tastes, but not in a traditional sense. I like it when the artists actually give a damn about what they’re doing and aren’t in it purely for the money. I like it when established artists try something completely left-of-field. I like it when there’s passion, drive and motivation beyond groupies, an ice dependency and an Ibanez endorsement. In light of that, let’s look at what’s been clogging up my ears for the last few days.
1. “Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes” – Norma Jean
New Norma Jean material is always a good thing, and “Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes” is my favorite song on their new LP Wrongdoers. Opening with 45 seconds of distorted guitar rumbling, it eventually shows itself for what it really is: a slow, groove-laden sing-along classic. I think this is what they were trying to do on Meridional with songs like “Deathbed Atheist” and “A Media Friendly Turn For The Worse”, except “Sword In Mouth, Fire Eyes” is eons better than those. This is going to be a massive song in a live environment. They’ve always had little elements of this, but never to this extent. Seriously, it’s almost a pop-rock song yet it doesn’t feel the slightest bit wrong. It stands head and shoulders above the best collection of songs The Jean have ever released, and you need it in your life.
2. “As Dust Dances” – Biffy Clyro
One of the most heart-wrenching songs ever written, “As Dust Dances” seems entirely nonsensical at first glance. What man stands on the corner selling bones, and why does Simon Neil want one particular bone? What the hell is a lonely ride? What’s bigger than all of us? Well, the song is from Biffy Clyro’s breakthrough album Puzzle, which is primarily written about the death of Neil’s mother. When you learn that it had something to do with a bone disease, the song suddenly stops being ridiculous and becomes horrifically easy to interpret. The man on the corner is death, and he’s taunting Neil with “every type of bone/except the one that I want”. “As Dust Dances” is essentially about Neil’s sense of helplessness and the apoplectic frustration that anyone who has ever watched a loved one slowly deteriorate (“it’s such a lonely ride”) and been unable to help them knows all too well. Death is an inevitable part of life (“it’s bigger than us/it’s bigger than everything it decides to touch”), but that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with. Take it from someone who knows: if one of your friends is dealing with a tragedy, don’t try to give them advice or perk them up. Just be there and listen to them. That’s what they need. ‘It’s not your fault’ or ‘She’s in a better place now’ is not helpful.
3. “After Midnight” – Blink-182
Neighborhoods is a very different album to Blink-182’s older material. While songs like “Obvious” and “Adam’s Song” touched on darker themes, the fact is that for every “I Miss You”, there were five more songs about getting distracted by cartoons while receiving a blow job and then prank calling the girl’s mum with jokes about her husband being closeted. Neighborhoods took the darker themes that Tom Delonge was exploring with Angels & Airwaves and honed them into 14 songs that make up what is, in my opinion, Blink’s best album. It’s very clever composition that hides these themes, though. Initial impressions of “After Midnight” (and, in fact, the whole record) are that it sounds just as upbeat as their happiest summer anthems. This is a false impression, however. There’s no way a song is going to be happy if the first line is “I can’t keep my feet off of the edge/I kinda like the little rush you get/when you’re standing close to death”. It’s a much-needed maturation from the band that brought us the timeless classics of “Blow Job” and “Family Reunion”.