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In Search of a Perfect Song, Part 8

04-01-2020 | By Carol Clark | Issue 108

This edition of my Perfect Song series is sub-titled: The Coronavirus Edition. Many of us find ourselves self-isolating, or social distancing. We have been told the only way to flatten the curve is to stay at home, because we're "safer at home." For someone like me, a cancer survivor and lung surgery survivor, it makes sense to stay home and wash my hands. As of this writing, April 1, 2020, it has only been twenty-two days, but it feels much longer.

One thing that is still freely available in our home is music. We have endless supplies of it, and it is definitely a good means to distract yourself in troubling times. Dave and I have spent full evenings eschewing the 24-hour news cycle, listening to music instead. It is likely that I will come up with more of these isolation lists, but here is a start.

Joy Division "Isolation" Closer

An obvious choice, perhaps, but any list of songs to entertain during isolation must include a song like this. Last year I spent several months reading biographies of the members of Joy Division, and it brought great interest, and much sadness. I tend to experience apophenia frequently. This is: the tendency to mistakenly perceive connections and meaning between unrelated things. For example, while reading the chapter of Stephen Morris's book, Record Play Pause, just as I reached the chapter where he learned Ian Curtis had taken his own life, Dave played "Calling Sister Midnight" by Iggy Pop. Sadly, this was the record on the turntable when Curtis's body was discovered. Hence, all these songs produce a feeling of melancholy, and this song is no exception.

Another task I find myself accomplishing during these isolating times is cleaning. Yesterday, while cleaning the back closet, I found the box set Heart and Soul by Joy Division. It includes at least one version of "Isolation" from the early days. It's rawer, and cuts deep.

UNKLE "The Other Side" The Road: Part II (Lost Highway)

UNKLE is a band that can evoke many different emotions. From 2003's Never, Never, Land all the way through to this current release, I've been fascinated with them. I can still remember playing "Burn My Shadow" from 2007's War Stories at top volumes in rooms at CES. Dave and I really liked The Road: Part I, and we played the track "Farewell" at AXPONA, causing us both to have tears in our eyes.

I included this song on the list because of the ethereal quality of it. It came up on one of our long listening sessions last week, and it just seemed to really fit the mood. With lyrics like, "This patient don't function but I'll never let you down again," it seemed ideal for the times.

The Cure "At Night" Seventeen Seconds

Yes, I like The Cure, a lot. I have devoted an entire installment of Perfect Songs to a song that has appeared on the list twice ("Play for Today.") Maybe I find comfort in listening to the relentless melancholy they sometimes produce. I'm not sure. But I do know why I included this song.

In Long Beach where we live, our social distancing edict is called "Safer at Home." I'm sure many people are experiencing insomnia in these troubled times. While I'm lying awake at night I worry, which is why it is hard to fall back to sleep. Randomly, this song will start playing in my head. I think about my dad, quarantined in his assisted living facility, and then I think, "Well, at least he's safe." Then I reflect, and I'm safe. We're all safe.

You sleep, sleep in a safe bed
Curled and protected, protected from sight
Under a safe roof, deep in your house
Unaware of the changes at night

Ultravox "Dislocation" Systems of Romance

Believe it or not, Ultravox is a band I discovered in a cut-out bin back in the late '70s. If you're not old enough to remember cut-out bins, they were where a record store put all the deeply discounted LPs. It's hard to believe some of these were placed because they didn't sell well. For example, I bought Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols in a cut out bin too. After I listened to Ultravox's self-titled debut, I was hooked. I was so disappointed when I couldn't convince any of my friends to go with me to see them at a dive club in Redondo Beach in 1980.

During one of our listening sessions Dave asked me to pick a letter, and I said, "U for Ultravox." Much like the first song on the list, "Isolation," this song has that dark, ethereal feel to it. If you remember back from the early articles of Perfect Songs, I mentioned the song must have that something extra. I believe this one does, stark, and following the theme, night and lonely.

Wherever you find yourself in these troubling times, don't forget to listen to some music. Even dark and somewhat depressing songs can bring inner peace.

All of the songs listed above are available on Qobuz, and I have created a playlist that includes all the Perfect Songs Qobuz has (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