You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

Friday, 17 February 2012

What were they thinking?

I love Dark Side of the Moon. Not an inflammatory or unusual statement in the slightest I know. But, depending on my mood, I generally have two different experiences when I listen to it, due to certain aspects of the record.

What is it that makes this album so polarising for me? The sound effects. The clinking coins, cash registers, clicking adding machines and quotes that pepper some of the albums best songs.

Random is an overused word these days, but some of these are pretty damn random. Sometimes I love the album because of them, thinking they are meaningful and innovative, and sometimes I love it in spite of them, and I’m left asking, what is the point? Obviously it make sense to a certain point to have money sounds on a song called Money, but what is the need? We all know what money is.

And this led me to think about other songs that feature unusual, abstract or just random bits in them. Some that work, and some that don’t. Early disclaimer, I love all these bands and understand I have no right to question their genius, try to relax.

Anyway, one of the first songs that came into my head with this train of thought was Everlong by Foo Fighters, a great song no doubt, that features some inaudible whispering during the instrument break.

Apparently, the whispering heard is three different things being read on top of one another, a love letter, a technical manual and a short story.

It’s a great song, one of my favourites, and I’m loathe to criticise it, but I’m not sure what the whispering adds to it, or why they included it. Sorry Dave, it’s pointless, thanks for Nirvana though.

Which leads me on to my next revelation, that I spent my teen years painted black, listening to only rock, metal and emo, caught up in the first wave of emo before it soon lost what little credibility it had and the audience grew up. My favourite band of said era was Funeral for a Friend.

I remember being as excited for the release of their second album Hours in 2005 as I have been for any album, based on the pre-album single Streetcar, which I loved.

The song begins with the sound of someone dialling a phone, the dialling tone beeps along in the background as the guitar intro comes in and then a female voice answers Hello just before the vocal starts.

I thought it was awesome the first time I heard it and still think it gives the song a great burst to begin with. But it is utterly meaningless really, and I even read somewhere that fans used the dial tones to work out the number, which was lead singer Matt Davies’ phone, and bombarded it with calls, forcing him to change it. Meaningless and a hassle to boot.

Radiohead. They are beyond questioning in my eyes. I go all gooey-eyed fanboy at the very mention of them, and criticise them around me at your peril, apart from these two words, Fitter Happier.

The two-minute recital of slogans by an electronic voice has been described as ‘everything the album Ok Computer stands for in one song’. Personally, it’s never done it for me, and another song as perfect as the rest of the album would have been more appreciated.

Another of my favourite bands is The Kills, whose debut album Keep On Your Mean Side is a lo-fi, garage-blues classic.

They’ve (quite correctly) been held up as a throwback, a band where attitude and appearance is as important as the music and, in Alison Mosshart, have one of the coolest women alive today.

However, they may have believed their own press a little too much when including a couple of rambling monologues from Alison on this album. At the end of first song Superstition, she says a few unintelligible lines before coughing and saying Oh fuck. Rock on!

Later, as an interval, they include her telling a story about how weathermen used to draw the weather on a board and needed makeup on their hands. Hmm, ok. Still an amazing album, and I could listen to her ramble all day.

Like I said I love these bands, but feel free to defend them against my sarcasm, or to suggest any other songs that include weird effects, quotes, samples or anything really. There are plenty more out there.


  1. A fine subject matter Tim. But what about Macca chewing celery on the Super Furries' 'Receptacle for the Respectable'!?

  2. Thanks Olly. How bizarre. I will check it out, should be intriguing to see how Macca's chewing compares with the rest of his output.

  3. Interesting, as always, but no positive examples? Personally the found sounds peppering Dark Side always work for me, it's that infernal screeching on Great Gig that winds me up sometimes. How do you feel about hip-hops use of sound effects/samples? Do you think these things only work in certain genres?

  4. Thanks Dom. Maybe I'm just not one for these noises as I couldn't think of any I really liked. None of these are enough for me to not like the songs they feature in though, so I guess it's not a big deal. As for hip-hop, I'm fairly uneducated, but one that does come to mind is MIA's Paper Planes. The sound effects used in that created a memorable and powerful chorus. Any examples you particularly enjoy?