My Essential Playlist – by Failure's Greg Edwards
The Failure multi-instrumentalist picks his favourite tracks by British bands...
As Failure work on their fourth studio album – their first since 1996's 'Fantastic Planet' – Greg Edwards took time out to curate a 10-track playlist featuring songs by his favourite British artists.
THE KINKS – Lazy Old Sun
“When I was young, my world was three feet seven inch tall, when you were young there was no world at all…"
This song just goes to show what can be done with an utterly chromatic progression, a languid beautiful melody, and the inimitably ironic yet sincere vocal delivery of Ray Davies. How else could you ever get away with singing to an enormous ball of fire 93,000,000 miles away?
From: Something Else by The Kinks (1967)
**JOY DIVISION – Atrocity Exhibition
"For entertainment they watch his body twist, behind his eyes he says, 'I still exist.’…”
This song was on their 1980 album Closer, a work that like Sylvia Plath’s Crossing The Water or Nirvana’s In Utero gave an ominous clue in its title to the course of each artist’s dark journey. All three committed suicide soon after finishing these albums and book. Atrocity Exhibition contains the coolest and most haunting invitation in all of rock and roll: ‘This is the way, step inside. This is the way, step inside.’
From: Closer (1980)
THE BEATLES – Blue Jay Way
One of a handful of Harrison songs where he shows how unnecessary a chord change is. Even within the release of the chorus there is no chordal movement, yet still there is a visceral resolve and graceful swing amid all the tension. On the surface, it seems to be a song about Harrison waiting for his friends to find their way to his house through the twisting roads of the Hollywood Hills on a foggy night in Los Angeles, but it’s impossible to not hear the lyric as, ‘Please don’t be long, please don’t belong.’ And with all the repetition throughout, George seems determined that you get the double sense of this line.
From: Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
JOHN LENNON – I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama I Don't Wanna Die
"Well, I don't wanna be a lawyer, mama, I don't wanna lie. Well, I don't wanna be a soldier, mama, I don't wanna die..."
This is just a cool weird future-proof rock ’n’ roll song. It's a complex arrangement of sophisticated playing and a groovy-as-fuck feel that still comes off as primitive. It’s no surprise to me that it came out of a studio jam session, as this kind of vibe is impossible to write or contrive. It’s also impossible to get this level of complexity and groove in one drum beat, unless Jim Keltner is playing. This track was recorded at Ascot studios the same night as a very 'written' Lennon song: Jealous Guy.
From: Imagine (1971)
JAPAN – Swing
"But relax my love, relax and swing..."
This band effortlessly moved through arrangements with shockingly unique approaches to their instruments and voice. Just listen to the role the bass plays in this song and how it intertwines with the vocal. It’s easy to reduce this Japan to occupying the same atmosphere as a band like Duran Duran — who they influenced. Yet Japan were leagues above their contemporaries in musical vision and the synthesis of their own influences (Roxy Music, David Bowie, Scott Walker.) The pairing of David Sylvian and Mick Karn was one of the great sonic lottery winnings of the early 80’s.
From: Oil on Canvas (1983)
LED ZEPPELIN – Custard Pie
Custardy. What more can I say?
From: Physical Graffiti (1975)
TALK TALK – Desire
The arc of Talk Talk’s career always astounds me. After discovering their last two records (1988's Spirit Of Eden and its 1991 follow-up Laughing Stock), I gained a new appreciation for the earlier 80’s stuff, which is so easy to undervalue because of the distraction of the surface sound of that time. They were always fighting the good fight artistically with every decision, whether they were working within the sonic pop confines of a certain trend or moving into pure mood and substance, as they did with the last two records. For me, these records represent the most organic successful synthesis of early blues, moody jazz, and pop ever recorded. Mark Hollis’s voice finds it’s true home in this sonic landscape, his voice occupying the same place in the music as Miles Davis’s trumpet does in his band. The lyrics almost don’t matter, but if you need meaning it’s there. On the song Desire, I always marvel at how patient he is with his vocal entrances and how the changes in music seem to unfold as if they couldn’t possibly have been intended, yet they still have a strong 'pop' song resonance when they hit. This song also features the best sounding, least objectionable cowbell in all recorded history.
From: Spirit Of Eden (1988)
**RADIOHEAD – In Limbo
‘Lundy, Fastnet, Irish Sea, I got a message I can't read, I got a message I can't read…’
This song unravels beautifully with each progression like fishing line spooling out from a reel as it’s pulled by some force under the water. The music’s ability to narrate the lyric is remarkable. And the lyric is simple repetitive and follows a fool proof but not-easy formula of placing you in a specific geographical, spatial point and then suspending you there in a solution of generalised dream poetry. The guitar tumbles again and again down its spiral, pulling you more deeply into the mood each time. This song is as good as aesthetic arrest gets in rock 'n' roll.
From: Kid A (2000)
THE CURE – Piggy In The Mirror
‘I’m the twisted nerve, as I dance back to the body in my bed…’
Many of the vocal performances on The Top are marked by a dark humorous drunkenness and freedom. You can really hear how spontaneously melodies fall out of Robert Smith’s mouth. This was a transitional record where he really began to figure out how to capture all the gothic pathos in a quirky almost uplifting pop vehicle, and a song like Piggy In The Mirror seems to me to be an exercise in this process that ultimately brought us songs like Love Song and Just Like Heaven. My favourite thing about this song is the lyric above. A great visual of coming back to your body after the strange dream state the lyrics narrate throughout the song – it seems Robert has done some serious lucid dreaming in his time.
From: The Top (1984)
**PINK FLOYD – Dogs
‘Just another sad old man, all alone and dying of cancer…’
Pink Floyd did epic and conceptual better than anyone ever has. Roger Waters seemed determined to bring the everyday darkness of life right to the surface of rock 'n' roll and make it entertaining while it disturbed you. Case in point: Dogs. Never before has such a depressing lyric given way to a big guitar solo. I love it. It makes me laugh every time. I don’t know why and I don’t care. When you’re listening to the entire album of Animals, moments like this bring the theme of the record to a searing singularity that sucks you in and spits you out on the other side — in this case, the other side being David Gilmour’s guitar.
From:** Animals (1977)
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