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Wednesday, June 14, 2006


What is it about us, at least some of us, that we find nothing more beautiful or comforting than the sound of another soul crying out in pain - in song? It dawned on me that some of my favorite records are complete downers.

The following is a short list of albums that are thematically dark, but artistically excellent.

Lou Reed - Berlin

AYL1 3488

Easily the most depressing record you'd ever actually want to listen to. Arguably his finest artistic moment, this 'concept' record produced by Bob 'king of concept records' Ezrin contains heart wrenching moments so evocative that it should have been issued with a warning label, or a box of tissues.

"Caroline says, as she gets up from the floor
You can hit me all you want to
But I don't love you anymore..."

'The Bed' takes it even further.

Neil Young - Tonight's The Night/On The Beach

Tonight's the Night

On the Beach

Neil was so depressed after Danny Whitten died that it took two records to cover the depth of his turmoil. 'Tonight's The Night' is actually a bit more angry than sad, whereas 'On The Beach' is a melancholic romp
Tonight's The Night' deals with the darkness of the seventies drug scene in 'Tired Eyes', and the death by overdose of guitarist Danny Whitten in the song 'Tonight's The Night'. Though the song names Bruce Berry (a roadie who also checked out by way of the needle) as it's subject, it's apparent that the anguish Neil felt about Danny was easier for him to express within the context of Bruce's death.

Neil would end up dicking around with the mix of 'Tonight's The Night' for almost two years, during which time he would record and release 'On The Beach'.

'See The Sky About To Rain' fairly sums up Neil's emotional state at the time, his anger subsiding, leaving only sadness. While 'Walk On' gives us the feeling that Neil is coming to terms with his self, and the expectations of those around him, though in 'Ambulance Blues' he's more than willing to place blame elsewhere. 'For The Turnstiles', however, gives one the impression that Neil can't quite figure it all out anyway, and for that matter, who would want to? His life seems to be a futile gesture.

Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures

Q: How much more depressing?
A: None, None more depressing.

Regardless of the bleakness of the lyrics, disregarding the subsequent suicide of vocalist Ian Curtis, this album just sounds like depression. The song titles alone give me the chills: She's Lost Control, New Dawn Fades, Shadowplay, I Remember Nothing, Disorder....

I have to be in a very special mood for this record, but when I'm in that mood, this, and only this record will satisfy.

The Cure - Pornography

Personally I have no idea why Robert Smith is so down, I guess it just works for him. Most Cure records have a good deal of melancholy about them, but this one just never lets up. Thusly it also happens to be my favorite Cure record. Much like Joy Division, the Cure (read Robert Smith) excel at making sad sounding records - lot's of minor keys, buried drums, tons of reverb, and of course, morose vocal delivery. Again, I'm not sure what Mr. Smith is on about in 'Pornography', I just know it's dark where he is, very, very dark.

"pornography, the last song, and in fact the last song I wrote for a while, is fuelled by the same self-mockery, self-hate, that burned in 100 years, but it is, if only very slightly, a little more hopeful than the others ... I am escaping (I escaped) by blaming someone else. a murder or suicide? "I must fight this sickness ..." - R. Smith, from cure news Number 9, 1990

Bob Mould - Black Sheets Of Rain

B S O R Cover Image

Bob Mould let's us in a bit more than Ian Curtis or Robert Smith do. Listening to Black Sheets, there's no mystery behind Bob's depression. He's simply heartbroken. Sure, he's bummed about the state of our natural environment ('Black Sheets Of Rain, 'It's Too Late'), but mostly some jerk has obviously jilted Bob, and he's sad, and mad, about it.

Bob got better, got some Sugar, got involved with pro wrestling and body building, and you can check in with his daily activities by clicking his link on my blogroll.

I'm sure there are many other notable entries for this post, and I hope to see some in the comments. I have not, however, found a metal record that fits the bill. Sure I was depressed by the fall of Def Leppard into banal pop, but that doesn't count.

Ah, thanks. I started reading the post, and before I got down past Berlin, I thought, "Black Sheets of Rain has to be there too".

I have a copy of the Soft Boys doing Caroline Says live. Really good. But I guess the only legal way for you to hear it is to go find a copy of the album it's on and buy it, without even knowing if you'll like it. ;-)
The BEST cover of Caroline Says is the one Chris did. My wife and I listen to it all the time. I'll put some thought to this and have some additions...
Oooh, what's this?
That is a AAC file of the Soft Boys playing 'Caroline Says', which is good, but not as good as Chrispy's, but maybe more Lou-like.
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