Sunday, 28 June 2009

97: Infernal - From Paris To Berlin

Ah, the first 'Marmite' song in my countdown. But whatever you think about it, there's no question that the banging 'From Paris To Berlin' was THE clubbing smash hit of the summer of 2006. Which is, in itself impressive, for a song that the Danish two-piece first released in 2004.

The song reached #2 in the UK charts in May 2006, and remained in the Top 5 for seven weeks, making it the 6th biggest selling single of the year. A re-worked version titled 'From London To Berlin', recorded for the England World Cup squad flopped however, when the England team were knocked out of the tournament by Portugal.

It's not the most complex or innovative song ever recorded, but it's undeniably fun, full of energy, a proper example of summer euro-cheese. And when a DJ plays it, the atmosphere usually seems to lift. So for that reason alone, I'm having my toast with Marmite.

PS - Fact fans may be interested to know that Infernal also recorded the theme tune for the Danish version of Big Brother

Thursday, 25 June 2009

98: Ian Brown - F.E.A.R

Timing the release of a single can be significant, if that song somehow captures the prevailing mood, and thus it was the case for former Stone Roses' frontman, Ian Brown, with the release of 'F.E.A.R'.

The first single off Brown's third solo album was released just 6 days after the attacks on the World Trade Center. The song became a major commercial and critical success for Brown, reaching #13 in the UK singles chart, whilst receiving multiple award nominations for songwriting. Lyrically, it would seem to bear little relevance, but the whole mood of the song is dark, and it struck a chord with music fans in the days that followed 9/11.

Video of Brown "performing" the song on Top Of The Pops

Brown's creative use of the acrostic to form each line of each verse works a treat, and Brown admitted in interviews at the time that he created hundreds of such acrostics during the writing of the song. On top of this, the scansion varies through the song, adding maximum impact on lines that shift the rhythm of the vocals, such as "fantastic expectations, amazing revelations" and "fallen empires are ruling". There's something about the song that just seems to click. Maybe it's the use of the sample from 'Gangsta's Paradise'?

Saturday, 20 June 2009

99: The Libertines - Time For Heroes

In the winter of 2001, Carl Barat and Pete Doherty were simply the latest in a long line of musicians trying to get a break. They'd formed The Libertines in the late 90s, but after several years without any recognition, it was the success of The Strokes in the early years of the decade which persuaded Rough Trade to take a chance on them. Debut single 'What A Waster' (produced by Suede's Bernard Butler) was released in the summer of 2002, but received a lukewarm media reception, received little airplay, and only managed to make it to #37 in the charts. The second single, 'Up The Bracket' fared slightly better that autumn, and the album of the same name made a small dent in the charts. But it was the release of 'Time For Heroes' (under the production supervision of The Clash's Mick Jones) in January 2003 which propelled The Libertines firmly into the spotlight.

The song, which continued the run of limited retail success by only charting at #20, quickly became a huge fan favourite and a live staple at the band's often chaotic gigs. The lyrics were written by Doherty, inspired by the May Day riots of 2001 - "there are few more distressing sights than that of an Englishman in a baseball cap" was an early demonstration of Doherty's undoubted lyrical witticism.

The rest of The Libertines' story is well-known; Doherty's descent into drug abuse, Barat firing his bandmate, Doherty's prison spell, the formation of Babyshambles, hooking up with Kate Moss (and the international media spotlight which that brought), rehab, Barat forming the Dirty Pretty Things, perpetual rumours of reconciliation. But The Libertines' arguably peaked right at the beginning of their fame, with this track. The vocal harmony between Barat and Doherty is exceptional, the riff is undeniably catchy and despite the lack of a recognisable chorus, there can be no argument with the statement that 'Time For Heroes' is a modern classic, whether you were/are a fan of the band or not.

100: The Streets - Blinded By The Lights

Kicking off my countdown is everyone's favourite Mike Skinner song. 'Blinded By The Lights' was the third single off The Streets' second album, 'A Grand Don't Come For Free', and reached #10 in the UK singles chart in October 2004.

'Blinded By The Lights' tells the story of a night of drug-fuelled clubbing, as Skinner, embarking on a relationship with Simone (which is the central story of this critically-acclaimed concept album) arranges to meet her at a club, but gets "off his face" (to use modern parlance) and ends up not caring that she's decided to snog his best friend, Dan, instead of him.

Whilst the drug-taking may not be familiar to all of us, other ideas in the lyrics certainly reverberate with our own experiences of nights out on the town - body searches by over-eager bouncers, poor mobile phone reception requiring frequent trips to the entrance just to get a signal, people pushing and shoving, huge queues for the toilets, and waiting what feels like an age to get served at the bar. All of this is set to an insanely catchy (and frankly, quite trippy) synth loop. The female vocal on the chorus is haunting and adds to the general sense that Skinner has tried to recreate the experience of taking ecstasy in musical form.

Try and imagine this song being released in the 90s. Or the 80s. You can't. It's not possible. This may only be my #100 song of the decade, but I doubt if there will be anything else in this list which is as much of a "Noughties song" as 'Blinded By The Lights'.