Whether it's long-form storytelling or a clever turn of phrase, it's lyrics that get my heart pounding and pupils dilating in the same way a ripping guitar solo or drum n bass drop may hit others.
I've created a Spotify playlist of some of my favourite lyrics. Below are my reasons as to why I chose them. Spend time with them if you fancy it!
KAE TEMPEST - MARSHALL LAW
Kae has the ultimate knack for painting a deep picture in as few strokes as possible, through meticulously chosen words and incredible delivery. "Marshall Law" sees the protagonist being chatted up in a trendy bar full of posh media types. She sets the scene perfectly with the line, "Everybody here has a hyphenated second name. Blowing more breeze than the wind at the weather vane." From these two lines you know EXACTLY who is in that bar. I also love the imagery of the cab drive home with her girlfriends: "They pass a bottle of wine back and forth, let it clash against their teeth." Again, it paints such a detailed picture with so few words.
MICAH SCHNABEL - THE INTERVIEW
An intense first person story about a man answering generic interview questions with crushing honesty.
" Well, how exactly do you see yourself?"
" Well, in my mind I'm a singer in a hardcore band. But the truth is that I work in a bar. I take the trash out and I take the money at the door. But some nights when it’s slow I try drawing pictures of the person I always thought I would be. It seems no matter how much I scribble or erase it never looks anything like me."
As with Kae, Micha has painted such a deep image with so few words. For me, this imagery is SO visual. When I hear this part of the song it plays in my head like a movie.
DAVID BYRNE - I SHOULD WATCH TV
I heard this song for the first time last week when I watch American Utopia - a bizarre and beautiful Broadway show starring David performing his work. Throughout the whole of American Utopia David reflects on the themes of belonging and understanding, epitomised is this clunky, angular tune.
"I used to think that I should watch TV. I used to think that it was good for me. Wanted to know what folks were thinking. To understand the world I live in."
Byrne has very much, either by necessity or design, adopted the persona of the outsider looking in, deconstructing modern life to highlight how absolutely bizarre it is. It's a fun position to take.
PUP - WAITING
As well as being an absolute bop, Stefan spits a beautifully sarcastic line about his recent therapy, delivered with such venom!
"200 bucks a week to talk about my lack of direction? I've got a bit of a complex.
In case that wasn't clear from the last three sessions."
Side note - alongside Against Me!, PUP are the band we NEED to tour with!
SUPERGLU - SOIL
"Come on my darling, my sweetheart, my precious. Everything's gonna be fine. It's got to be."
Ah! The words "it's got to be" bring such desperation to the line. I see the singer, Ben, with his arm around his partner, trying to protect them but also knowing that whatever plan he has is their last and only option. Holding hands, balancing on a tightrope across a chasm. "Everything's gonna be fine. It's got to be." It genuinely hits me in the feels every time.
YARD ACT - RICH
I like Yard Act. Another act relatively new to me, dripping with Ian Dury-esque sarcasm and wit. For me, first lines are so important in music.
"Almost by accident, I have become rich. Through continued reward for skilled labour in the private sector and a genuine lack of interest in expensive things, it appears I have become rich."
In contrast to Superglu above who said absolutely everything in just four words, Yard act are incredibly wordy and expand and dive into this simple concept, highlighting the ridiculousness by picking it apart. Kind of David Byrne-esque. Very smart and funny. Great delivery too.
SLEAFORD MODS - MORK N MINDY
Sleaford Mods are one of my favourite bands and Jason one of my favourite wordsmiths. I've picked this one because it's a rare glimpse of Jason's vulnerability.
"Mork 'n' Mindy, Action Man 'n' Cindy. I don't mess about. I make 'em kiss each other when my mum 'n' dad go out."
Suddenly someone who is usually barking tales about cocaine, wankers on the scene and the smell of piss is reflecting on his childhood. The idea of him waiting until his parents leave to make his dolls kiss really highlights a different side to Jason - an innocent self-consciousness.
SELF-ESTEEM - MOODY
"Sexting you at the mental health talks seems counter-productive".
Best opening line of 2021. Next.
LITTLE SIMZ - INTROVERT
For me, the stand out song on the album. The drama in this tune would not see it out of place in the West End. It's hard to pick just one line from this tune as it is SO deep, thought-provoking and dramatic. I love the dichotomy of big and small throughout.
"Angel said, "Don't let you ego be a disturbance."
Inner demon said, "Motherfucker, you earned this!"
ART BRUT - MY LITTLE BROTHER
Art Brut are one of the biggest influences on PET NEEDS. Eddie Argos has an incredible way of creating art that can seem irreverent and comedic on first listen, but goes so much deeper.
In this tune he talks about the rock n roll songs his 22 year old sibling has discovered through throwing shapes on the indie disco dance floor ("watch him go now!")
"Every song. Every single song on that tape says exactly the same thing: Why aren't our parents worried about us?!"
THE STREETS - ON THE EDGE OF A CLIFF
The Street are probably my most listened to artist. I love the cyclical tale of this song. In the beginning, the protagonist is lying on the edge of a cliff about to jump, when he is approached by an old man who talks him down. Later in the tune, the protagonist finds another man lying on the edge of the very same cliff and talks him down with the very same story.
"For billions of years since the outset of time, every single one of your ancestors has survived. Every single person on your mum and dad's side successfully looked after and passed on to you life.
What are the chances of that, like? It comes to me once in a while. And everywhere I tell folk it gets the best smile."
I also love how Mike Skinner uses colloquialisms in his work, to make profound ideas sound like a conversation between mates in the pub. "What are the chances of that, like?"
FRANK TURNER - FAREWELL TO MY CITY
When we were recording our second album with Frank, we stopped play so he could play us this tune, and I was blown away.
There's some fantastic, almost tuneful lyricism, "Past a thousand bars I'd haunted, broken-hearted after dark", but for me the big pay off is in the refrain at the end.
Referring back to his seminal "England Keep My Bones" album, the call to arms of "London, you can keep my bones!" is SO satisfying. A call-back to previous work is something I've used often in PET NEEDS (and there are MANY Easter Eggs in Album 2!)
I love the poignant reflection in "Farewell to My City". Frank seems to absolutely know who he is in it as he looks back on his ever-growing legacy. "Alexander Palace on the next rise, arms open like an old friend!"
Cool, that was a fun thing to do on a Sunday morning. Spend time with the tunes if you fancy. I love them.
PLAYLIST HERE: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0i6oHrko00dtNydh9PgQe5?si=Up8j-hP5Tti-OK64tGWa2Q&utm_source=copy-link