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In Search of a Perfect Song, Part 4

01-16-2019 | By Carol Clark | Issue 101

Surprise! I'm back with another installment of my "Perfect Song" series! As I started thinking about writing this article, I reminded myself that perfect isn't the same as favorite. A Google search for the word favorite netted this definition: preferred before all others of the same kind. A search for the word perfect provided this definition: having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics. With that in mind, one can have many perfect songs, but probably only one favorite song. Let's revisit the criteria I laid out in my first article: "In my opinion, a perfect song touches you on many different levels. It goes beyond simply how it sounds into the more ethereal boundaries of how it makes you feel. It is a melding of music, lyrics, vocals, and that something extra. A perfect song does not have to sound golden on my system, but in many cases it does. As long as it evokes the emotion every single time, it is perfect in my book."

In 2006 my list of perfect songs included The Cure, Godsmack, and Fozzy (HERE). In 2015 my second list of perfect songs were from artists that had touched me during my bout with cancer. This list included Mike Martin, Gravity Kills, and Fozzy (HERE). Then in 2016 I revisited a song by The Cure from the first list and mentioned how it sounded at RMAF in the Daedalus/Modwright/WyWires room (HERE). Now in 2019 I have yet a different angle on this concept.

This list of perfect songs focuses on the first time you heard an artist you really liked, and how even years later the song that was your introduction to the band still sends shivers down your spine. Usually for me, this happens when I'm in my car with my iPod on shuffle, and one of those songs pops up. I realize I tend to repeat artists in these lists, and there's one repeat here, but that's primarily because I tend to really hold on to artists I like. The first two songs on the list art by artists I discovered listening to KROQ back in the 90s. The afternoon DJ, Jed the Fish, played his "Catch of the Day" between 4:30 and 5:00 while I was on the drive home from work. They gave me shivers then, and still give me shivers now.

The Notwist "Torture Day" 12

The Notwist is a German band formed in 1989. Their third studio album, 12, was released in 1995, and that's around the time I first heard "Torture Day."  The band has moved through different styles, beginning with a hardcore/metal sound, then heading into more of an alternative sound with 12. The songs here are stripped down and focus on Markus Acher's vocals. "Torture Day" is sparse, just the vocals, drums, bass, and guitar. It was different, and that's what made me like it enough to search out the CD. There's almost a drone or trance like vibe with all the songs on this album. Looking at my criteria above, definitely the vocals make this song perfect, and the something extra is the background that sounds almost machine-like.

A few months ago, this song came up on the iPod in my car, and in some respects, it was like enjoying it for the first time all over again. I realized that this song will always give me that shivery reaction. It's not my favorite Notwist song, but it will always hold a special place because it was the first Notwist song.

Gravity Kills "Guilty" Gravity Kills

Gravity Kills was formed in 1994, and released their self-titled debut in 1996. They have been described as a mixture of Industrial and pop, and while labels like that don't always make sense to me, this one seems appropriate. The first time I heard it I immediately cranked up the volume. As with most of my perfect songs, it's the vocals that captured me. Jeff Scheel really runs the gamut from shouty, hardcore-ish vocals all the way down to the whispers that start the shivers. "Guilty" is a prime example of that, and as I said above, this is not my favorite GK song, but it delivers the same reaction every time I hear it, and I can still sing along and get most of the words right. Sadly, GK doesn't exist as a group any longer, but I never get tired of listening to their albums.

New Order "Blue Monday" Power, Corruption & Lies

Here's a twist to the list. When I was thinking about writing this article, "Blue Monday" was on heavy rotation in my brain. This is not the first New Order song I ever heard, but this will always be the New Order song that sends shivers down my spine. Just like lots of twenty-somethings in in the late 70s, I loved "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division. It was haunting, all Joy Division songs had that effect on me. New Order was the same, but different. Movement was a fantastic album, and I enjoyed listening to it, but none of the songs stood out on their own. Listening to it was more of an ensemble thing, I wanted to hear all the songs one after the next. There was so much great music at that time it was hard to pick out favorites. Power, Corruption & Lies is pictured here because later versions of it contained "Blue Monday."

So, why have I singled out "Blue Monday" as a perfect song? I never got to see New Order in concert back in the 80s. While Dave and I saw many of our favorite bands, New Order was one we missed. Last summer at the Music Tastes Good festival here in Long Beach, New Order headlined the first night. We aren't really fans of music festivals, too much standing, too much time out in the hot sun, but this was something we didn't want to miss. We are so glad we went!

After being outside, in the sun, and on our feet for close to eight hours, finally New Order took the stage. There was a fantastic light show, and we were able to get close to the stage.


Toward the end of their hour-plus set they finally played "Blue Monday." Dave and I edged closer together, held hands, and for the length of the song we were near tears. It somehow epitomized our whole life together, seeing this band that has long been a favorite, playing this song that had previously been just a part of the background. Even now, typing this up, I feel those shivers that are hard to describe. Truly magical, and truly a perfect moment in time that continues now whenever I hear "Blue Monday."

This is not the end of the line for Perfect Songs. I have yet another installment in the works!

Images by Dave and Carol Clark