Following on from last week, can bad songs come from great albums? This is a much trickier question to answer. On any album, good or bad, there will always be weaker songs and stronger songs. The weaker ones may not be “bad” per se, and may only be weaker in comparison with other songs on the album in that they might be regarded as good songs if they were on another album. In this instance, “weaker” is a subjective term whereas “bad” is an objective one. In some cases, ‘weaker’ may also be seen as another term for filler and if a band has to put filler in album to make it long enough, then that suggests there is not enough decent material, so how could it be a great album? Looking through the list of albums that I regard as five star albums, I cannot identify a “bad” song on any of them and certainly no filler.
Entering that final bend and onto the home strait.
Charles Martel’s 140-121
140. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles – “Tears of a Clown” (Make It Happen)
Another great Motown hit, and one covered by probably thousands of bands including the Beat and Big Country. Smokey sings this one with a real passion and it is probably one of the greatest lyrics of any Motown single.
139. The Police – “So Lonely” (Outlandos d’Amour)
Of the many hit singles which came off the Police’s ground-breaking debut album, “So Lonely” is undoubtedly the best of the bunch. A sparse reggae format moves effortlessly into a singalong chorus.
138. The La’s – “There She Goes” (The La’s)
Marking the bridge between jangle pop and Britpop, the La’s signature tune was the best song they ever did. It is still a staple of any half-decent radio station in the UK (and there are precious few of those).
137. The Go-Go’s – “We Got the Beat” (Beauty and the Beat)
The Go-Go’s represented all-girl powerpop at its finest. Thundering drums and a memorable guitar riff dominate with a catchy lyric delivered by Belinda Carlisle. The whole thing just makes you want to get up and dance sixties-style.
136. Smetana, Bedrich – “The Moldau” (Ma Vlast)
Smetana’s evocative piece makes me want to go to visit the river Moldau in Bohemia, now known as the Vltava, which runs through Prague, Plzen and Cesky Krumlov. Recognise that tune? In modified form it was the theme music to the Harry Potter movies.
135. Diana Ross and the Supremes – “Where Did Our Love Go?” (Where Did Our Love Go?)
This song is the acme of the Supremes’ work and is one of the best of the Motown singles of the sixties. The song is a mature reflection on lost love and a plea for a return to kinder times between the parties.
134. Gravenhurst – “Trust” (The Western Lands)
A shuddering guitar sound and a bell-like chiming one dominate this track. And the refrain, despite the fact that you can hear it coming, is still wonderful. It is a pity there are not more bands like Gravenhurst around.
133. Zevon, Warren – “Werewolves of London” (Excitable Boy)
I do not support the death penalty but will make an exception for Kid Rock after he ripped this off. Warren Zevon takes a simple piano line, builds around it some offbeat lyrics and creates a masterpiece.
132. Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – “Hey Rusty” (Mainstream)
Lloyd Cole makes a plea to return to the days of youth when he and Rusty shared some good times together. Cole’s vocal performance on this is unmatched in terms of the way he expresses himself and his emotions.
131. Bach, Johann Sebastian – “Air on a G String” (Orchestral Suite No. 3)
One of Bach’s most distinctive works, this has formed the basis for so many songs by modern artists it is hard to calculate. Most notably, this resurfaces, in modified form, in Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”
130. Our Lady Peace – “Life” (Spiritual Machines)
Our Lady Peace bring to life (pun intended) this song with some wonderful vocals and guitar work. The whole album is packed with some great songs. This is what the Foo Fighters would sound like if they were any good.
129. New Order – “Ceremony” (7” Single)
The distinctive bass line is the most memorable feature of this song. One of the highlights of New Order’s early, Joy Division inspired career, there are rare live recordings of this by Joy Division. And yet, as we shall see, the B-Side was even better.
128. Sigur Ros – “Svefn g-Englar” (Agaetis Byrjun)
Sigur Ros’s greatest song is dominated by powerful guitars played with a bow and a falsetto refrain which, even though I have no idea what is said, let alone what it means, has me repeating it as far as my limited vocal abilities will allow.
127. The Rods – “Do Anything You Wanna Do” (Life on the Line)
The Rods thumping punk anthem was also their biggest hit and encapsulates the attitude of the youth of the day. It features twin guitars which power the song along a track laid down by some solid bass and drums.
126. The Housemartins – “The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death” (The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death)
The Housemartins take a swipe not so much at the monarchy but at people who just blindly follow monarchical goings on without question. As was so often the case, a gritty political message was wrapped up in a jangle pop coating.
125. Our Lady Peace – “In Repair” (Spiritual Machines)
Our Lady Peace make a second appearance from the same album within five tracks of another on this list. And not surprisingly, this song is dominated by the incredible vocal gymnastics of Raine Maida.
124. Jackson, Joe – “Is She Really Going out with Him?” (Look Sharp)
How many of us guys have looked at some guy and wondered “what does she see in him?” Joe Jackson’s masterful description of this situation is as true today as it ever was. Graham Maby’s bass is one of the highlights.
123. Black Sabbath – “Paranoid” (Paranoid)
If there was one song which defined the early metal of the early seventies, this was it. The whole album was renamed after the success of this as a single. And few songs have begun with such memorable opening lines –
“Finished with my woman
‘Cause she couldn’t help me with my mind”
122. The Specials – “Too Much Too Young” (The Specials)
The Specials’ diatribe against young girls who get pregnant as teenagers and then lose the benefit of youth as a result. Even back in the eighties this was an issue but politicians never took any notice until it became combustible. Typical
121. Doves – “The Cedar Room” (Lost Souls)
Dream pop at its best. The Doves’ signature song from their debut album has an intense feel about it with a thick rhythm section and a chiming guitar. Among the many highlights is a wonderful, soaring refrain.