Coldplay – A Rush Of Blood To The Head

art_arushofbloodtotheheadAttack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

In late 2000 I found myself in New Zealand for a month, spending time with the Kiwi side of my family. Somehow in those days I equated going on vacation with buying a lot of music – what can I say, I’m a music junkie. I had read quite a bit in the British press about Coldplay and picked up their recently released album, Parachutes. I loved it then and even now – despite becoming one of the biggest bands in the world – I still love it. I caught Coldplay (w/ Grandaddy) on tour in Philadelphia in June of 2001 at a smallish venue – they’d never return to venues of that size again. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Of particular note were the new songs that Coldplay played that night. A Rush Of Blood To The Head was played that night, and of course it would become the title track to Coldplay’s world dominating 2nd album. It is, and always will be my favorite Coldplay song. It is a rumination on relationships, war, and heat of the moment anger. I believe it to be a perfect song. Notably, it was written in the pre 9/11 world although who can blame anti-war advocates for honing in on the resigned lyric “He said, I’m gonna buy a gun and start a war / If you can tell me something worth fighting for”. They may have gone on to have an increased profile in the years since (along with increased amounts of praise and criticism), but for me this is the quintessential Coldplay song. Sadness and hope reside here. Radiohead have their Street Spirit (Fade Out). Coldplay have their A Rush Of Blood To The Head.

Ride – I Don’t Know Where It Comes From


Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

The mid 90’s saw former shoegaze critical darlings Ride move from their noisier past towards a more melodic future. Released in 1994, the band’s Carnival of Light was a critical and commercial failure, which has baffled me for years. The band didn’t sell out to play Oasis styled Britpop – in fact, Carnival of Light came out 2 months before the debut Oasis album, Definitely Maybe. So why was the album such a dividing point for fans and critics? I guess if a band releases one of the definitive albums of a different musical movement (1990’s Nowhere) it is tough to see the band in a different light. I’d say early Ride with its shoegaze centric aesthetic sounds like a completely different band from the mid 90’s Britpop centric version. I Don’t Know Where It Comes From was the 3rd single lifted from Carnival of Light and is my favorite track from the album. A dreamy, 60’s vibe courses through the song – the meeting of nostalgia & wistfulness. It’s a perfect introduction to this period of Ride – a period that would only last 1 album and still hasn’t found popular or critical acceptance 20+ years later. That’s a damn shame, but it doesn’t dilute the impact of these memorable tunes. Start with this song and work your way into the full album.

George Strait – I Hate Everything


Mainstream country music isn’t a genre that I know in-depth – the only exception being Johnny Cash. And I really didn’t come on board with The Man in Black until his Rick Rubin years, which appealed to geeky hipsters everywhere. Anyway, years ago I was driving home from Snoqualmie Falls (you know them from the intro of Twin Peaks) and happened to be scanning the radio stations for something to listen to. The scanning landed on the country music station which just so happened to be playing I Hate Everything by George Strait. Now, I’ll be honest – I hadn’t heard anything from George Strait at that point and to this day I am fairly unfamiliar with his body of work. At any rate, I Hate Everything is a perfect country song written by Gary Harrison and Keith Stegall. It was released as a single in July of 2004 as the lead single from Strait’s 50 Number Ones compilation. The song features Strait’s emotive vocals, mournful fiddle accompaniment, and perfect lyrics. The lyrics embody a story of a man drinking at a bar who can’t get over his wife leaving him for another man. The song has a twist ending in a way as the narrator relating the story decides to go home to work out everything with his spouse. It’s just about a perfect song, and you’ll be singing along (and maybe smirking at the repetition of the song’s title). “I hate my job, I hate my life and if it weren’t for my two kids I’d hate my ex-wife / I know I should move on and try to start again / But I just can’t get over her leaving me for him / Then he shook his head and looked down at his ring and said I hate everything”. The song hit #1 on the country charts and #35 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Jewel – Picking Up The Pieces


In the mid 90’s I’d often buy a CD based on a gut feeling or based on the cover art. It wasn’t an exact science, but in early 1995 I picked up the debut album by Jewel called Pieces Of You. Hipster alert – that was a full 18 months before the album started to become a huge hit. Anyway, at the time Jewel seemed to be marketed to the Lilith Fair alternative crowd which was (and still is) something I quite like. In all honesty, I don’t think the record company had any idea what to do with her. An album full of acoustic songs that hinted at pop but bathed in ultra personal lyrics. I didn’t (and still don’t) think it was a masterpiece, but there are 7 or 8 songs from that record that I’ve played over and over throughout the last 20 years. The tracks played live or cut as b-sides during that era were also very strong, leaving open the possibility of an entire alternate album made up of non album tracks. Sad to say, but I have had a hard time relating to anything else Jewel has released in the same way as that debut album. When I happened to see something promoting her latest record as a sequel of sorts to her debut, I couldn’t help but get a tad excited to give it a spin (or shuffle, as it were). Picking Up The Pieces more than meets the high points of her debut – it just may be the finest record Jewel has released to date.

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Lana Del Rey – Honeymoon


I recently finished Kim Gordon’s memoir detailing her time in Sonic Youth along with the intimate details of her breakup with husband (and fellow Sonic Youth member), Thurston Moore. I mostly enjoyed the book, but I had to laugh – she spent a few sentences bashing Lana Del Rey. It was puzzling to me, as Sonic Youth have championed the music of The Carpenters for over 30 years now. Take away the tragedy of Karen Carpenter, and you are left with brilliant pop music. The time spent bashing Lana Del Rey reeked of indie elitism which both amused and got under my skin a bit. Hell, Sonic Youth covered Madonna! In this day and age, who cares? Anyone can listen to anything at anytime. Music should be an all-inclusive family – no cool kid games. At least, that’s my outlook. As far as Lana Del Rey? I think she is brilliant, and her latest record is her strongest yet.

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Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz


I honestly never thought I’d ever review – much less listen to – a record by Miley Cyrus of Hannah Montana fame. In fact, the fake hipster and indie elitist inside of me still can’t quite come to terms with this turn of events. At any rate – long story short: TV / pop star erases her goody two shoes image a few years ago by revealing more and more of herself, makes friends with the lead singer of The Flaming Lips, collaborates on a few songs and eventually this leads to the free release of the double album Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz.

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Mercury Rev – Goddess On A Hiway


Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

The September 1998 release of Mercury Rev’s 4th album Deserter’s Songs represented a creative rebirth. Gone were the shambolic noise freakouts. In its stead were songs of beauty and despair fleshed out by classical music elements. The songs were also mastered to 35mm magnetic film to lend the album a cinematic vibe. Lead off single Goddess On A Hiway was written by singer / guitarist Jonathan Donahue in the late 80’s while he was a member of The Flaming Lips – the song was found on an old cassette and rescued for the album sessions. The song serves as introduction to the sound of the entire album – ghostly, emotional vocals from Donahue, while strings rise up in emotion at key junctures. It also helps that the tune is a natural sing-a-long song, taking of advantage of a clever homonym. The 1st verses words “I got us on a highway / I got us in a car” change to “She’s a goddess on a highway / a goddess in a car” as the song progresses. The single was initially released in November, 1998 and reissued in August, 1999. One thing you will notice is that the sound of the song (and album) is very similar to the career redefining album The Soft Bulletin by The Flaming Lips. In fact, the albums shared producer (and Mercury Rev member) Dave Fridmann. The success of Deserter’s Songs helped ensure the success of The Soft Bulletin, and raised the profile of the ‘Lips considerably. The video for ‘Goddess was a point of contention, with two different videos eventually released. I like the strangeness of the one embedded below – it seems to flow well within the haunting vibe of the song. Just try and get the refrain “And I know / it ain’t gonna last” out of your head after listening to this song. Perfection.

Motörhead – Bad Magic


There’s really only one band in my mind that has successfully bridged the gap between punk and heavy metal. Of course I’m talking about Justin Timberlake’s favorite band, Motörhead. Formed in the wake of Lemmy Kilmister’s ouster from space rockers Hawkwind, the band has churned out album after album of solid hard rock, punk, and metal anthems. Always changing, always the same – I believe John Peel said that in reference to The Fall, but he could have easily been talking about Motörhead. Members have come and gone over the last 40 years, and yet Lemmy is still standing (though drinking vodka instead of whiskey for health reasons). The current lineup of Lemmy on vocals & bass, Phil “Wizzo” Campbell on guitar, and Mikkey Dee on drums has been together since 1992, making it the longest latest incarnation of the band. Bad Magic is the band’s 22nd studio album and comes hot on the heels of 2013’s very strong Aftershock.

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