Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A contest of sorts

So I was considering spreading this out over a week, but thought it's best to get it over with. Here are my five contenders for the most miserable song ever. Not miserable in the sense of bad, quite the opposite, these are really some of my most favorite songs ever, but miserable in the sense of evoking a misanthropic--yet quite aesthetically pleasing--sense of despair. Are you with me?

The Smiths traveled a wide terrain from misery to melancholy, nowhere more effectively than on their last record: Strangeways Here We Come (Strangeways being a famously grim prison in Manchester.) Morrissey is certainly one of the few to challenge for that title of cleverest songwriter--one song I thought about putting up goes: "Hector was the first of the gang with a gun in his hand/ The first to do time/ The first of the gang to die/ Oh my..." essentially twee gangsta rap. So anyway here we have a supremely epic and lushly self-pitying example of what Morrissey continues to do so well.

Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me

Morrissey's website and MySpace

Buy The Smiths at Amazon

People forget that, despite being a trainwreck as a person and personality, Courtney Love is a ferociously talented musician, especially as a live performer. Live Through This was a great record, and "Miss World" a great, and miserable song (though with perhaps too much spunk and Gloria Gaynor-ish keep on keeping on sentiment to win this thing.)

Miss World

Courtney Love's website

Buy Hole at Amazon

If you've ever heard it, you had to know that "Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)" by Tom Waits was going to be on this list. Astoundingly raw and despairing, it turns out to have surprisingly literal roots. Tom Waits was apparently in Denmark in 1976 and fell for Mathilde Bondo, the (married) violinist of the duo Lasse & Bondo. They apparently spent a night out carousing and waltzing and Waits wrote this tormented paean to unattainable love. At other times he's said the song is about drinking too much and throwing up on your shoes. I prefer the former.

Tom Traubert's Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)

Tom Waits new single at Anti Records

Buy Tom Waits at Amazon

Another tale of a love triangle, Ani DiFranco's "Untouchable Face" is eternally startling in that unique Ani way. Also take note that this is probably the only of these five songs that is bombast-free. Another fabulous live performer, here is a live version I ran across which I think is different than the one on Living in Clip.

Untouchable Face

She's playing the Beacon Theater November 18th

Ani DiFranco's MySpace
Her record company Righteous Babe Records
Streaming Ani radio station

Buy Ani Difranco at Amazon

Poised to win hands down, I think, is Micah P. Hinson's "The Day Texas Sank to the Bottom of the Sea." Maybe you might lean towards the Waits with its poetic vigor and richness of imagery, but for pure and simple morose misery (not just the regular kind) the central image of this song is unmatched. Micah P. Hinson is well worth checking out and by chance his new album comes out today!

The Day Texas Sank to the Bottom of the Sea

Micah P. Hinson's MySpace
Hear the new record at Sketchbook Records

Buy Micah P. Hinson at Amazon

Out of the blue comes a new contender that I have to admit leaves me a bit startled. Portishead does have a rep for being gloomy, but I always thought that "Glory Box" was really, well, sexy. And thus, it doesn't seem sad to me in the slightest, but apparently others differ. Though I have to ask, what in this song is remotely as gloomy as:

Here's all that I have to give
I'll admit it's not a lot,
but it's all that I've got
to hang myself with,
in hopes that you'll take notice of me
I've been waiting so long
up in these trees
trying to hang myself with
thoughts of you
thoughts of me
I've been wishing so long, why can't you see me?

Well that's what makes horseraces right? So with a new contender, does that change anyone's mind?


Portishead MySpace
Their website
Videos on YouTube

Buy Portishead at Amazon

So tell me what you think! Let me know if you have any other contenders. Comment below!


Liz said...

Untouchable Face, fo sho.

fb said...

Yay Liz! I knew you would lead the charge!

Jill said...

Glory Box, by Portishead

Try listening to it when you've broken up with someone.

fb said...

Glory Box is sad? I always thought it was kind of a passionate, "first light of love" song. I guess I should listen to it again.

Thomas E. said...

Had trouble with Ani & Micah, but tend to think Fraser's guess is right. Isn't this the point in the thread where Jill suggests a song not listed, say by Dido, and Fraser says it's sad but ironic, and then Jill points out that Dido wouldn't know ironic if it ran her over?

fb said...

I love Thom. I don't understand what he's saying, but I just love how he says it.

Also, by problems, do you mean aesthetically, or you couldn't get the song to play?

Thomas E. said...

I meant that I couldn't get the songs to play. But I've had some IT issues today, or maybe it's just a bad hair day, to the extent I have hair to go bad...

Jill said...

Oh I thought we were doing saddest song ever. I didn't realize we were limited to Fraser's songs. Anyhoo, Glory Box bitch slaps all y'all's sad songs. Nothing could be sadder than Glory Box. Really, excruciating pain.

And Dido? DIDO?????? Dido is for girls.

Thom said...

More or less my point. I'll give it to Mr. Waits, with whom I share a name, a recurrent rasp and a fondness for folly. I did like Courtney Love lots.

fb said...

So at the moment, it's a tie.

One vote each:

Rachel said...

Well, my vote is Portishead, hands down just hauntingly "miserable". Hopefully some day they will finally finish their third album...
*cricket sounds*

fb, with the exception of Love (although at one point she was an exceptional musician indeed)
I don't think I could argue against any of these wonderfully miserable selections.