Friday, May 16, 2014

10 Songs That Must Be Played LOUD

Some songs work no matter how you listen to them: soft, loud, through a broken speaker system, or even being butchered by a bad karaoke singer.  Some, however, only work in one context, either through the rawness of a live performance, the careful arrangement of a studio recording, or as we will explore today, through maximum ear splitting volume.
This is by no means a top 10, but rather ten anthems to the joys of obliterating our eardrums.

10.  Boredoms - Acid Police

Let us be realistic for a moment.   This song is the same riff and same vocals for about four minutes straight.  There is nothing complicated, sophisticated, and in the wrong context interesting about this song.  Played hushed over a cell-phone speaker  this sounds like a punk anthem some 6th graders would write in order to sound tough.  Played at conscious-challenging volumes, however, and the wailing of Yamatsuka EYE and his parade of who knows how many drummers transforms into an ode to caveman simplicity and crudeness.  As the words "Acid Police" are screamed in broken English they are accompanied by microphone killing drums and distorted guitars.  The perfect way to piss off your neighbors at 2 in the morning, and I still can't figure out why this isn't a party anthem; perfect for downing every elicit substance in arms reach while holding the person closest to you to ensure you don't collapse under your own inebriated state. 

9. Death Grips - Guillotine

While all of Death Grips requires speaker blowing volume to truly appreciate, Guillotine takes the cake.  The song, barely consisting of anything more than a bass drop and a few awkward clicks for the most of the song has a brooding visceral tone to it that is lost at low decibels.  It is that bass drop, played at the most ill-advised of volumes that creates the tension and power which allows MC Ride to holler out all of his darkest fears and paranoia.  As a journey into a tortured man's sub-conscious it only works at full volume as the raw emotion does not connect well in a restrained manner.  This all comes to a climax when the song enters its final stage of ear splitting sirens and synth screeches accompanied by Ride's howling.  At lower volumes it just sounds like a bunch of noise, but when played loud it truly captures the madness that is brooding within.

8. The Mars Volta - Cotopaxi

One of the few The Mars Volta songs to not break the 20 minute mark and the only song to break the 50 BPM mark on their fifth album Octahedron, Cotopaxi is a refreshing break from the subdued nature of the album.  Rushing along at a hurried and heavy pace the then truncated line-up does a good job of filling the sound spectrum with catchy riffs sprinkled with clever sonic tricks hiding underneath.  All of this is lost when played at low volumes.  The rest of the album almost begs you to listen to it in a quiet manner, appreciating the subtleties and soft nature of this album which are rarities for The Mars Volta.  So when you get to the album's half-way point it begs you to crank the dial to tinnitus inducing levels in order to appreciate the explosive nature of Cotopaxi and its stark departure from the rest of the album.  This is all made more apparent when the next song, Desperate Graves, returns to the softer soothing tone the majority of the album holds.  A musical representation of free-falling, Cotopaxi values your tolerance for the loud.

7. Jay-Z - 99 Problems

When we complain our lives do we do it in a sophisticated well-mannered way  or do we instead go off in a capillary bursting fervor about how the universe is screwing us over?  If you ask me, and you always should, it is the latter.  Jay-Z knew this and accompanied his song about life's woes  with a nasty and grungy bass line.  The instrumentals hear accompany the theme of the song so well as when we rage about our own lives we tend to express them in a similar manner, with little common sense or subtlety to our grievances.  That is why, when listened quietly, the song is rather silly sounding, as if we should all wear top hats and monocles while we groan on about our first class problems.  While I will never be racially profiled by the police I can empathize with Jay-Z's "fuck the system" attitude he projects and at a volume mimicking a jet engine taking off you want to get your fist pumping too.

6. Rage Against The Machine - Killing in The Name Of

If you didn't see this one coming you may have missed the whole intention of this list.  Little needs to be said hear.  From the moment those savage opening notes hit you know you need to be turning the dial on your stereo to "disturbing the peace" in order to truly capture the rage (haha) of this song.  All of this is made so obviously clear at the songs climax where Zack screams "Fuck you I won't do what you tell me" for about a good minute and a half.  How does that NOT demand your song to be played at outrageous volumes?  Really, what else could be said about this early nineties ode to telling the man to go fuck himself.  Nothing....the end.

5. Weezer - El Scorcho

While likely the song on this list with the most subdued moments it does not mean it does not benefit from eviscerating your ear drums in the process.  While nearly any song from Weezer's Pinkerton could fit this list I find El Scorcho's drunken barroom like chorus to be the most fitting for the list.  A drunken rambling of "I'm a lot like you" needs to be drowned out by the sound of the song itself.  Other little gems, including Rivers finding out someone didn't know about Green Day to the exclamation of "How Cool is That?" and the break neck speed bridge that comes in out of nowhere, give you an excuse to thrash like the inebriated fool you are in that moment.  Even it's off pitch "doodoos" near the end demand that intensity.  None of these jerky and sloshed antics work at controlled decibels where it would come off more as a cheap version of Piano Man rather the Generation-X successor it truly is.  It is a song full of emotions that barely exist while sober and those are the emotions that need to be played the loudest.

4. Brand New - Vices

I'm trying to avoid the trap of just picking a bunch of angry songs, but as I scroll through my list of options it is hard to ignore Brand New's opener from the last album they put out.  Opening with a soft melodic opening that lulls the listener into a false sense of security the song then violently shakes you awake from the pleasant dream it was providing you.  Jesse Lacey explodes into a screaming tirade of pain and anguish that I can barely comprehend, but it is impossible to ignore the emotions projected through his veracity.  All of this, the explosive introduction, the swells of amp feedback, and Jesse's outbursts sound almost parody-like when played softly.  The terror inducing strums of those opening chords hold no weight when they don't startle you with a volume borderlining offensive.  Part of this works because your natural tendency is to turn the volume up to hear the soft and subdued introduction only to permanently damage your ear drums for doing so.  Skip that, and you get something that sounds like cheap teen anguish.

3. Joe 'Bean' Esposito - You're The Best

Laugh all you want, but there is a charm to the schlocky anthems of the 80s.  Their "you can do it" attitude may sound outrageously corny to the youth of today, but back in an era of cocaine, Ronald Reagan, and more cocaine you could get people excited for some feel-goodery and no song I know of did this better than the iconic rallying cry of this song from The Karate KidEven today you can get people to ironically play along, but only if you have this anthem of positivity blasting at maximum.  Try as they might, even the most cynical of individuals would be hard pressed to be not be subdued by this emotional pick-me-up.  That constant reminder of that "You're the best...around" motivates people to be a better, and do great things for those three brief minutes, but it only works if the message is loud enough to shatter all the glass around you.  Who wants a motivating speech to be quiet and cordial?  No one, we want it to be obnoxious and ridiculously over the top, something that can only be done at full volume.

2. Fang Island - Daisy

You might remember this pick me up song from our summer playlist last year, but Daisy by Fang Island's charm is completely lost if it isn't cranked up.  Thunderous drumming accompanied by the upbeat melody are all lost in controlled and contained listening sessions.  Just like with You're The Best, its radiating positivity is completely neutralized when the song isn't screaming it in your face.  It's short length begs you for those brief moments to risk some permanent hearing loss in order to appreciate the glowing positivity it wishes to provide you.  Fang Island will never ask for much aside from blowing out your speakers in order to appreciate its smile inducing rallying cry for a brief period.  Really now, that isn't a big demand is it?

1. Shellac - Prayer to God

The songs on this list I feel that stand out the most are the simplest.  Those barely developed thoughts are only properly conveyed when shouted at you, much like a commentator on cable news, if you haven't really thought out your argument you might as well say it louder.  I heard this song for the first time at a record store in Normal Illinois and thought it was incredibly stupid.  A few years later after being given the album to enjoy I finally figured out why I hated it so much the first time and that is because I wasn't knocked off my feet due to bone shattering levels of intensity.  The song is begging for someone to be violently murdered, stating over and over "fucking kill him", something that would sound just flat out stupid on NPR, but when broadcasted over a million PAs at once its disgusting message of hoping that a benevolent God will gruesomely kill somebody begins to make sense.  The song consists of one chord, chugging drums, a whole lot of screaming, and ill will, for that to be played at any single digit volume level should be criminal.  The songs structure is juvenile, and lyrics offensive, which makes it the perfect song to crank at truly offensive volumes.