You’ll probably have noticed the increasing number of adverts for dating websites and perfume on your TV in recent weeks. That – plus the aching sense of loneliness you feel watching public displays of affection from lovesick couples when all you have is your microwave meal for one and the 10-minute freeview on channel 996 to look forward to – means that Valentine’s Day must be approaching.
With that in mind, Ear Worm #6 takes a listen to the love and anti-love songs burrowing through our minds this week.
Tujiko Noriko – ‘I Love You’
This writer is known to obsess about certain artists, with their albums on constant rotation with and occasional outright binges. Tujiko Noriko is one of those artists, but this song proves it an appropriate time of year for for it. It is the gentle simplicity of this song that makes it and defies all accusations of sickly saccharinity.
A simple repeated figure, a drastically gritty production and barely-there instrumentation make it halfway lullaby and halfway honest declaration of affection. A good Valentine’s Day track for those who hate schmaltz.
(This is not the official video)
Elaine Kirwan (The Anti-Valentine)
Ryan Gosling – ‘You Always Hurt the One You Love’
Well what do you know- Valentine’s Day is about to rear its ugly head again. Hurrah! That special time of year when card companies and chocolate makers encourage us all to express the extent of our love for someone in money. Cue the soppy love songs, the inflated menu prices and the shop displays, like the colour red just vomitted all over the place. Before I go any further, can I just say that I am not an unloving or unromantic person; with the right person I can be very romantic and thoughtful. But I like to be like that on an everyday basis rather than just on the on day where I am forced to be.
In honour of Valentine’s Day, for this week’s Ear Worm I draw your attention to the track ‘You Always Hurt the One You Love’, which I was reminded of recently. In the utterly fantastic film Blue Valentine, the character Ryan Gosling performs a version of this song to woo a girl he has fallen for, played by Michelle Williams. Blue Valentine is like an intimate scrapbook of a young marriage that is grasping onto its final threads; it is confrontational, brutally honest and completely heartbreaking, and one of the most powerful films I have seen in years. Do something different this year. Go on- make your Valentine’s Day an unusual one and go see it. I dare you.
Here’s the brilliant trailer for the film, with Gosling performing my song choice for this week:
Roy Orbison – ‘I Drove All Night’
Love is one of those concepts that we, Human Beings 2.0, place great emphasis on. Your friends, television and especially advertising and the arts are the worst offenders. They all try to make out that love is this REALLY IMPORTANT THING and if you’re not in love or being loved then there’s clearly SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU.
That’s bollox of course. Love is just a word we use to replace mutual dependence and reliance. Think about it like this. Your dog is really affectionate isn’t he? The way he sunggles up to you, is constantly by your side. You gain from it too, feeling safer in the house when he’s around. Well, drop dead in an enclosed space with him and see how long it is before he starts chewing on your rapidly decaying face.
As humans, we’re exactly the same. We love our family because they feed and protect us, we love our friends because they offer us companionship and we love our partners because they give us an opportunity to act on some of our more base instincts. There are more complex interactions that that, obviously, but when you strip it down to the bare bones, that’s what you get. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, because everyone does it. You sign up to it from the second you’re born. But let’s not let the fact that be label it ‘love’ fool us into thinking that we’re any more special than any of the creatures we evolved alongside.
Listen to almost every love song you’ve ever heard and what are the most used words? “I” and “me”. The song I’ve chosen this week – while a brilliant song in itself – is the epitome of this. Essentially, Orbison is singing “There’s very little I won’t do to get a ride”.
The next time you tell someone you love them, just remember what you’re really saying is “I’m a selfish bastard”.
So, without further ado, I’d like to dedicate this to my beautiful wife whom I love very much.
The Divine Comedy – ‘Everybody Knows (Except You)’
Last weekend I revisited The Divine Comedy albums ‘A Short Album About Love’ from 1997 and ‘Fin de Siècle’ from the following year. I adore this period of The Divine Comedy. The seven tracks from ‘A Short album …’ were beautifully arranged and introduced me to orchestral pop. Then ‘Fin de Siécle’ exploded onto the scene with the singles ‘Generation Sex’ and ‘National Express’.
However it was ‘The Certainty of Chance’ and ‘Here Comes The Flood’ which really stood out for me and are particularly easy to recall at any time or place. For Valentine’s Day we are promoting a love or ‘anti-love’ song and for me there’s nothing better than ‘Everybody Know’s (Except You)’.
The Divine Comedy – Everybody Knows (Except You)
Neutral Milk Hotel – ‘Naomi’
Most of the love songs I like are a bit diseased and wrong, criminal even. Like Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘Naomi’ which is a cheerless acoustic tale of an unrequited love for a girl whose prettiness seeps (seeps, mind you!) through her dress – a dress which incidentally was stolen from her by the protagonist. Said protagonist also has a wee drink of Naoimi’s perfume and informs us that it tastes of shit, before creepily watching her for the rest of the dirge-like song.
And that’s about it folks. Happy Valentine’s day y’all.
Nomeansno – ‘Self Pity’
So this is one of my favourite songs, one I couldn’t listen to for most of college because it too closely mirrored the exact kind of nothing existence I was indulging in. “I’m sleeping late, I”m cutting classes”. On top of being a perfect bitter hymn to the kind of expert narcissism couch-men in their early 20s like me often practice, it’s a fucking thumping song.
Nomeansno are highly skilled at this, managing to make chillingly accurate sonic reflections of the kind of wrenching tedium sadness can create in people while also making brutal and propulsive post-punk music’s that great to listen to. This song gave Andy Kerr, the first guitarist in nomeansno, a chance to show off his own brand of snarling, guitar mastery and prove he really does have the most sarcastic voice in punk music (Sorry Jello).
It relates to Valentine’s Day because, of course, the title and the uncomfortably honest admission of “I’m touching myself…and it disgusts me”. Nomeansno chronicled body-disgust, nihilism and isolation in equal and great measure in their early days, completely unafraid to tackle crushing,monolithic existential angst with humour and violence. Doing this well is an impressive feat at the best of times but doing it when a lot of people around you are about the level of “My mam won’t let me get a mohawk” is even more startling.
Plus it’s just a great live video of the best live band burning it the fuck down as usual.
Boy George – ‘To Be Reborn’
This Ear Worm thing is dangerous, pick a love song or an anti love song. The thing is, I’m not really that soppy. Don’t ask me to listen to Bette Midler’s ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’, to me it’s a form of torture. Most ‘lurve’ songs that I like reference the buzz and excitement before entering a relationship, the ‘How You Doin?’ or are the ‘We’re falling apart, what are we going to do’.
I’ve always thought that music is better when the writer is pissed off, broken hearted or yearning for something. So do I pick as my choice? Of course it has to be the twisted, ‘I love you but you don’t love me back anymore, oh what am I going to do’ song.
I’ve always liked this song, and poor old George, his voice sounds so fragile. But a stint in rehab sorted the voice out. Between you and me, I guess this could be my dirty little secret.