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In Search of a Perfect Song, Part 9

10-08-2020 | By Carol Clark | Issue 111

These Perfect Song articles have moved beyond my original intent:

So, what is a perfect song? 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. Usually the songs come courtesy of my favorite bands, but many times my favorite bands fail to deliver. —Carol Clark, July 2006

These days, Perfect Song articles are a chance for me to write about songs that strike my fancy. In some small way they also offer me the chance to, well, rage against the machine. I have talked before about how I consider myself an audiophile (HERE), but I admit that I don't follow the true audiophile mantra that if I don't own (insert the name of some esoteric classical or jazz recording here) I need to hang up my audiophile hat. And so, I write about this music that you would never hear on a serious audiophile's system, but you'd hear it in my house frequently. (Same for me  -Dave Clark, Editor)

I admit, not everyone will find the songs I write about to be their cup of tea. Some, probably most of them, are not well recorded. In my mind, however, the music has to move me. I have to feel that shiver down my spine when I hear it, and it doesn't matter if it's on our system, in my car, or even just in my head.

This installment is subtitled "Coronavirus Earworms," because these are the songs that have been stuck in my head at various times, for various reasons. As I mentioned in my last installment, the stay at home order in Los Angeles County is called "Safer at Home," and we have been safer at home since mid-March. Over the summer it was too hot to listen to music as much as we would have wanted. Our ninety-year-old house does not have air conditioning, so we swelter in silence. Sometimes in the evening it would cool down enough to move to the front porch, pour a glass of wine, and fire up the system. We take turns choosing the music, and for the most part we love each other's selections.

gary numan

Gary Numan "Metal" When the Sky Came Down

Although I never had the opportunity to see him in concert back in the 80s, I've always been a fan of Gary Numan. I loved the dystopian nature of his songs, sparse and yet lush at the same time. I mentioned a Numan song in a previous installment (HERE), and it is still a favorite. For my birthday recently, Dave gave me a treasure trove of Gary Numan, including When the Sky Came Down, Gary Numan and the Skaparis Orchestra, a live recording. It's phenomenal, and is a great mixture of songs both old and new, and includes a DVD. As the concert begins, they launch into "Ghost Nation," a song from Numan's last release Savage. It's ethereal, and moving, and leads me to the understanding that every song on this recording will fit into the Perfect Song category. The earworm song comes next, "Metal," originally from The Pleasure Principle, yet it wasn't a song I particularly remembered from when I used to listen to that over and over. In other words, it's not "Cars." A few days after watching the DVD, "Metal" got stuck in my head. It played over and over, and while I knew it was Gary Numan, I couldn't quite place why I kept thinking about it. Through the process of elimination, I realized it was from When the Sky Came Down. Granted, I could have launched our own music files, found the album, and figured it out that way. But, I'm lazy. I picked up my phone, launched Qobuz, and found the album there. A quick scan through the songs, et voilá! After that, of course I wanted to share the song to my friends on Facebook. In searching YouTube, and listening to both the original and the one from the new live album, I found a version where Gary Numan is playing the song with Nine Inch Nails (HERE). Wow! Bottom line, "Metal" is currently my favorite Gary Numan song, and is on pretty regular repeat in my head. (For me "Ruin" is on repeat in my head - Dave Clark, Editor)

Is it a true perfect song? Yes, it is, especially the live version with the Skaparis Orchestra. The original is sparse, almost robotic as are the other songs on The Pleasure Principle. But the orchestra addition makes it sweeping and lush. And the lyrics….

Picture this, if I could make the change
I'd love to pull the wires from the wall
Did you? And who are you
And how can I try
Here inside I like metal
Don't you

Joy Division

Joy Division/Warsaw "Leaders of Men" Substance

I mentioned Joy Division in my last installment of Perfect Songs. I liked them back in the day, but at the time I wouldn't have called them a favorite. Even when Joy Division morphed into New Order they weren't "favorites." But ever since we had the chance to see them live in 2018, they have inched to the top of artists I choose to listen to. (You can read more about that concert in Perfect Songs, Part Four (HERE).

This earworm took some time to figure out. As I mentioned, Dave and I like to pour some wine and hang out on our front porch. We strike up conversations with neighbors as they walk by, and complain about how people ignore the stop sign on the corner. One day, as we sat enjoying the fact that the weather had cooled down, I recognized the music floating out from the living room. Warsaw! Dave gave me a funny look and said, no, it's Joy Division. I was puzzled. Last year he and I spent an afternoon visiting record stores here in town. I usually don't end up buying much when we do this, but this time when we visited Fingerprints, I found something!


Every image I find online is copyrighted, so here's a photo I took of the one I bought.

Ian Curtis, Peter Hook, and Bernard Sumner originally thought to name their band Warsaw, after the David Bowie song "Warszawa." This album was the planned debut of the band, yet they were not satisfied with the post-production, and the recording was scrapped. The songs are included on Substance, a singles compilation.

On this afternoon when we were listening to music on the porch, I was sure we were listening to the ripped version of the Warsaw CD, when in fact it was Substance. Joy Division was rougher, more punk-like than New Order, and in my mind, Warsaw was even rougher than Joy Division. In any case, this song took up permanent residence in my head. Once again, I had to enlist Qobuz to help identify which song it was after the fact. Yes, this song is also perfect in many respects. The anger comes across, the sparseness, the emotion.

The leaders of men,
Born out of your frustration.
The leaders of men,
Just a strange infatuation.
The leaders of men,
Made a promise for a new life   

Nine Inch Nails 

Nine Inch Nails "We're in This Together" The Fragile

I used to listen to Nine Inch Nails, a lot. Back in the days when I actually wrote equipment reviews, I used Pretty Hate Machine quite frequently in listening sessions. I even had one person tell me they had purchased it after reading my reviews. Even though Reznor is still active, recording soundtracks with Atticus Ross, I have not been as intrigued with him lately. This earworm ties directly to the Coronavirus pandemic, because, we're all in this together. I had originally selected "Every Day Is Exactly the Same," because that's what it feels like. I get up, I wipe down all the frequently touched surfaces in the house with a disinfecting wipe, I drink coffee and read the paper, then for the rest of the day I fret around the house. Nothing is new. There's hardly anything different. I want nothing more than to go out for dinner at a restaurant, or at the very least do my own grocery shopping. But I realized I couldn't pick that song, even though all the days are the same, because it isn't an earworm. "We're in This Together" though, that one tickles the back of my brain quite often. Because, through it all, Dave and I are in it together, just like we always have been.

You and me
We're in this together now
None of them can stop us now
We will make it through somehow

You and me
If the world should break in two
Until the very end of me
Until the very end of you

More than likely there will be more Perfect Song articles in the offing. In the meantime, if you wish to check any of these songs out I have added them to my Qobuz playlist. All three of them are included. (HERE)

For reference, here are links to the rest of the articles in this series.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight