A GUEST POSTING by SWC and BADGER
I Make The Money…An Opening Tracks ICA
Of course, Badger and I argued about this very subject. Then again when it came to music, we argued about anything. Once we had an argument that lasted on and off for three days on whether the first Catatonia album was better than the second one (it is, before you start).
In actual fact, we were going to do something very similar for our (very) old blog When You Can’t Remember Anything. We had put aside a whole month to wow and amaze you all with ‘The 30 Best Opening Tracks…Ever’. We ditched the idea for two reasons.
1) We decided to a rundown of the best songs that feature colours in the title instead. An idea we later ditched, then stamped on and then soaked it with a hose pipe in order to make sure that it never ever saw the light of day again.
2) We couldn’t decide on the number one. I changed my mind about four times, whilst Badger changed his mind about six times. I distinctly remember phoning Badger at about half past ten one evening and telling him that I had finally decided on my Top Five opening tracks ever, but I didn’t know why order they were in. He told me to go to bed and put the phone down on me.
So when I saw that JC had designated Mondays to this very subject I loaded up the computer and opened for the first time in about five years the old WYCRA countdown spreadsheet. Sheet six contains the Best 30 Opening Tracks Ever and it makes me realise, as you will see and hear below, that I probably would have lost the argument.
And therefore I now present my ICA of opening tracks. Side A are my Top Five opening tracks ever and they are all from debut albums as it happens, and all five I think stamp their authority over the album that they feature on. Badgers top five are on Side B and only one of them is from a debut album.
Side A – SWC’s I Make the Money Side….
Beware – Death Grips (2012)
So this is why I think I would have lost the battle with Badger for the greatest opening moment of an album ever. Because I think its this. The opening track of ‘Exmilitary’ the debut album by Sacremento’s experimental rap duo Death Grips. It’s all about that opening sample. A short snippet of a famous Charles Manson speech, where he tells anyone who listens that he ‘has all the money in the world, man….” and then the beats, the noise and the gravel drawled rap of MC Ride kicks in. Death Grips are tremendous, but I accept that I was probably trying to bit a clever here.
The eponymous debut album from LCD Soundsystem is an astonishing record. It is a record that from the first breaths of the very first track that make its musical intentions clear. That first track is ‘Daft Punk Is Playing At My House’. The intention is that LCD Soundsystem are going to make dance music, and we, will love it.
‘Lazer Guided Melodies’ the debut album by Spiritualized is also an astonishing record that makes its intentions perfectly clear from the very first beats of the very first track. The very first track is ‘You Know Its True’ and as Jason Pierce sings in that whispery spectral voice “You know I’ve been here before and I don’t like it anymore….” in the opening seconds of it, the intention is clear. Spiritualized will take you places that no other band will ever dare to.
Oh My Lover – PJ Harvey (1992)
You know the story by now. Boy meets girl in a record shop. Boy and girl share musical tastes, a love of Galaxy chocolate, Rob Newman and the books of Iris Murdoch. Boy and girl start dating, cautiously holding hands on the way back from the bus stop. Things progress. Then after a three mile walk on a soaking June evening, the debut album from PJ Harvey gets put on the stereo…
Seagull – Ride (1990)
If you ask me, the first track on an album has to make a statement and I think each of the tracks on this side do that, but none of them do it as well as ‘Seagull’ does. ‘Nowhere’ wouldn’t be ‘Nowhere’ if ‘Seagull’ was tucked away as track four or something. I could cope if ‘Oh My Lover’ was track two or three. Does that make sense…? Let me put it this way, the first time I ever listened to ‘Seagull’, I had already decided that it was time to grow out my fringe, invest in a few effects pedals and buy a stripey jumper, before it had reached the end. That’s what an opening track should do.
Side B – Badgers I’m Leaving Here Side……
Whilst I was trying to be clever with Death Grips, Badger actually was very clever here. Only Badger could argue successfully that one of the greatest opening tracks to an album isn’t actually a listed track on the album. You see when you listen to ‘Open Season’ the tremendous second album from British Sea Power, the opening track is ‘It Ended on an Oily Stage’, only it isn’t. Rewind your CD, yes, your CD, rewind it, to about -02:31 – that’s where the album really starts – and it starts with this, an organ solo version of track three of the album ‘How Will I Ever Find My Way Home’ and its marvellously unexpected.
Reverence – JAMC (1993)
Of course most people will argue that the opening tracks of ‘Darklands’ (‘Darklands’) and ‘Psychocandy’ (‘Just Like Honey’) are better than the opening track of ‘Honey’s Dead’ and you may have a point. But….‘Reverence’ makes ‘Honey’s Dead’. It must be the opening track.
I’d argue all day long that ‘Just Like Honey’ and ‘Darklands’ could sit anywhere on their respective albums and they’d still be incredible, but ‘Reverence’ must open ‘Honey’s Dead’. It’s an album about anger, frustration and its deliberately controversial and you need to know that right at the beginning, you need to know about the ‘bed of spikes, Jesus and JFK’ stuff. Simple really.
Fake Empire – The National (2008)
It was Matt Bellamy of Muse who got Badger into The National. He claims that back in 2009, Matt told him to listen to them. When Muse played a huge show in their home town of Teignmouth, Tim chatted to Matt and Dom of the band at the aftershow party (and we were both there, Tim for work reasons, me because my wife went to school with Dom’s wife and knows them very well). At the party Tim asked Matt what music he was currently listening to, and Matt said that his favourite album of the last year was by The National and he spoke at length about the opening track ‘Fake Empire’ and its ‘shimmering dreamlike crescendo’.
Xtal – Aphex Twin (1992)
I mentioned the WYCRA spreadsheet back up the page somewhere. On that spreadsheet, page eight was our ‘Top 30 Shoegaze albums’. This was another list that nearly lead to a fistfight and didn’t ever see the light of day. I (rightly) said that ‘Nowhere’ by Ride should be number one in any Shoegaze Album Countdown. Tim disagreed and claimed that ‘Selected Ambient Work Vol 1’ by Aphex Twin was the greatest shoegaze record ever made. ‘Xtal’ the opening track kind of adds weight to his point, there is something very My Bloody Valentine about it especially those blurry female vocals – either way this is just a sublime way to start any record.
Mysterons – Portishead (1994)
And so it ends with the track that Badger claimed on more than one occasion to be the Greatest Opening Track ever. In fact here is a direct quote from him.
“I’m going to go straight in at the deep end. ‘Dummy’ by Portishead has the single greatest and spookiest start to an album ever. A sinister sounding drone giving way to out of this world scratches and beats that sounds like you are going to get a hip hop track but in reality you get something unholy and downright incredible. ‘Mysterons’ is exquisite, uncomfortable and unquestionably brilliant”.
And, he’s right. Probably.
Thanks for reading