Sunday, 29 November 2015

Songs About Cities

I've done previous charts about London and songs about each of the US states  so I thought it was about time the rest of the world got a look in. So here's a music chart compiled from songs about some of the great cities of the world other than those of the UK and the US. The only other stipulation for this chart is that there are no songs by Mountain Goats, since they seem to have sung about every major city in the world in their prodigious discography.

1) Scritti Politti - "Asylums In Jerusalem"
A band supposedly chockfull of both political and philosophical references (They cited french philosopher Jacques Derrida as an inspiration) but I never quite got all that. They just seemed to write rather catchy and sweet pop songs about romance like this one.

2) They Might Be Giants - "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)"
Barking mad and yet catchy. so catchy it's the only song of theirs I know.

3) Dub Syndicate - "Kingston 14"
Wonderful dub paean to Kingston Jamaica, in calling for an end to the drug and crime related violence.

4) Ultravox - "Vienna"
Overwrought, overblown like bad opera, but then that's what I thought of most of the New Romantic output. Just my opinion mind. This is also why Freddie Mercury's "Barcelona" won't make this chart. I forgot they were so big at the time of Live Aid. Let's conquer world famine by wearing our foppish dandy clothes and playing music that echoes royal pageantry to raise money.

5) Pere Ubu - "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo"
Ah that's better, something a bit more edgy and under-produced. You can sing about pizzicato strings as above, or you can sing about a pilot about to drop an atomic bomb over Japan...

6) Rush - "A Passage To Bangkok"
Rush, there's a band you didn't imagine would appear on this blog, but there you go. Drummers who wear headbands to keep the sweat out of their eyes, you know you're talking heavy rock, even when the drummer's hair has all fallen out. You'll have to take my word that this song is about Bangkok, because Geddy lee's vocals are unintelligible to my ear.

7) Test Dept - "Gdansk"
Named after a city that symbolises Europe's history of empire and conflict as it's been known as Danzig when owned by the Germans and Gdansk when Polish and of course the wellspring of the Polish Trade Union Solidarity that began the slow journey to democracy and liberation from the Soviet yoke. Sorry about the lousy low in the mix sound quality of this, but the studio version seems to have gone from YouTube.

8) Durutti Column - "Bordeaux"
So Marc, why isn't this treated the same as that Ultravox song you gave such a panning to?
Well fair blog visitor, because it's not pompous and it's musical is considerably more fragile and delicate methinks.

9) Scott Walker - "Amsterdam"
Okay something considerably less controversial, Scott Walker's voice. Nuff said

10) The Fall - "Bremen Nacht"
From the sublime to the ridiculous. Scott Walker to Mark E Smith. You always know a band is reaching the end of its useful life when they are so busy touring they experience nothing else in life and so pen songs about stays in hotel rooms and apparently amusing incidents backstage. not the Fall though, Smith's still going strong with his social observations on life.

11) Lou Reed "Berlin"
Lou reed RIP

12) Martha And The Muffins - "Saigon"
It's funny, after the interesting instrumental opening (including a keyboard lick I just realised was ripped off in one of my favourite hip hop songs), the music basically reverts to "Echo Beach" their most well known hit.

13) New Fast Automatic Daffodils - "Stockholm"
There were so many bands of this ilk in the 80s, but their guitar based indie rock was rather eclipsed by the preference for the synthesiser. I must admit they sort of passed me by too.

14) The Stranglers - "Goodbye Toulouse"
Not the run of the mill lament for leaving some favoured city, but an apocalyptic evaporation of the city through nuclear destruction. Wonder why they picked Toulouse of all places?

15) Joy Division - "Warsaw"
The earliest Joy Division release, coming after a brief flirtation with Warsaw as a band name in homage to David Bowie's song "Warszawa". The elements of what they would later become were all present here, if a little raw, but the references and the cover art also display a disconcerting Nazi fixation.

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