Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I hate the music

Dtihatemusic.JPG In my 41st year I've come to a depressing realisation: I hate music. If you'd asked me 20 - even ten - years ago, I'd have said quite the opposite. But as I wander through the cafes and department stores of the 21st century, or surf past Australian Idol in my quest for something to watch, or gnash my teeth in a taxi as the radio farts from the dash, I can no longer ignore the fact that most music I hear is absolute crap. There is fine music out there, to be sure, just as there are Volkswagens and rocket science to be found in Hitler's Germany. But the short answer is that I hate the Nazis, just as I have to admit that I hate music. There's not much that can be done about this on an international level, but should I ever rise to the ranks of Prime Minister (via due democratic process, of course), I'll be making a start by outlawing the following songs, destroying their master tapes and hanging anyone caught whistling them or playing them - even accidentally - on milk bottles.

What About Me
A hymn for the generation of whinging weaklings who ride to triumph not on ability or effort, but "rights". The saccharine combination of thunderous timpani and the bleatings of a titmouse was sickly enough when Moving Pictures first recorded it in the 80s, but when Shannon Noll went for sloppy seconds in 2004 it became the creampie corpse from hell. Also features the burlesque lyric, "I've had enough now I want my share". Greedy little ferret.

You're The Voice
John Farnham's attempt to usurp our national anthem by practicing his scales over a rhythm section that sounds suspiciously like boxes of records being stacked on a truck. This song's as good a template as you'll get for music from the awful 80s, an era of punching the air and singing "who-a-oh!", and what one did with one's other hand was one's own business. Amid a melange of meaningless desk-calendar affirmations sits the immortal line: "We have the power to be powerful", which predates Austin Powers' "allow myself to introduce myself" by at least a decade. And when John sang, "We gotta' make ends meet before we get much older", he might well have been singing directly to manager Glenn Wheatley, the somewhat misleading "Last Time" tour and subsequent 'retirement' apparently confirming Farnham's "not gonna' live in silence" determination. Interested parties may be delighted to learn they can score a framed picture of John, with a button that plays You're The Voice, and get change from $1600.

Down Under
It's impossible to tell whether this song is actually any good or not. I think when I first heard it I might have thought the lyrics kinda' cute, the music that accompanied them at least not annoying. But six Olympiads and several million Aussie wankers later and I'd like to find that flute, travel back in time to when Colin Hay was writing it and permanently distract his attention with a formidable rear action he'll never forget.

Khe Sanh
The ubiquitous "last drinks" tune hollered by drunken blokes who somehow identify with the sentiments (I once had a pimple-faced dork in a pub explain that Cold Chisel "really got Khe Sanh right", the inference being he'd served in the battle itself, despite the indisputable fact that it was a barney exclusively between US Marines and the People's Army of North Vietnam, with no units comprised of Australians, especially not infant children). The confused patriotism inspired by this number was adequately illustrated when the Australian cricket team made it their unofficial anthem during a 1995 tour of...the Caribbean. This isn't really a bad song at all, but earns its place in the incinerator for drawing attention away from Cold Chisel's comparatively superb catalogue.

I Am Pegasus
A completely unhinged tune from 1973 in which Ross Ryan declares, with a peg on his nose, that he is not only known as "Pegasus", but also Genesis, Sagittarius, Demetrius, Simon, Michael, Jeffery and John. Ross's indecisiveness as to what to call himself is only matched by his dithering with regards what he plans to do, his muscular, free-spirited declaration at the outset ("I don't have to leave you, but I shall be gone") becoming less strident in the second verse ("I plan to stay here...unless you want me gone"), until finally descending into confused and pathetic pleas for reinstatement ("It's not too late...do you know who I am?"), his final howls of "I don't have to leave you, no-no-no..." an apparently desperate response to being told to rack off and take Demetrius etc with him.

Throw Your Arms Around Me
The song that will not die, which is testament to the durability of items with fewer moving parts (three chords to this masterpiece). Seems someone just can't believe TYAAM is not the ringtone of choice all over the world, and there've been so many re-recordings of it that the original now has the same ancient charm as Barry Crocker's Neighbours theme. Mark Seymour could (and probably still can) write and perform with the best of them, and with Hunters and Collectors he was responsible for some of the most truly unique and exciting rock moments to come out of this country. Not this one, but.

The Cat Empire. Aw, crap...I've got to move on to the next song before this stinker gets stuck in my head.

The Ship Song
You know you've engaged the zeitgeist when Dennis Walter covers your song on morning variety television, and it's in this way that The Ship Song finally convinced mainstream Australia that Nick Cave was something other than a little-known seaside tourist attraction. Those already aware of Cave's brilliance before the winter of 1990 saw this ode to "easy listening" for the album filler it was, but those who just can't cop a tune unless they feel they've heard it a million times before were doubtless grateful for the chance to comfortably add a Cave CD to their libraries (between Michael Bolton and Denise Drysdale). When someone claiming to be a Nick Cave "fan" cites this as the song, out of all the extraordinary stuff in Cave's catalogue, get out of there fast, and do not surrender any personal details. And I'll hear no argument about the fact he's singing: "Come sail your ships around me, and burn your britches down..."

The soundtrack of an extremely fraudulent episode in Australian history, which saw Mandawuy Yunupingu being awarded Australian of the Year in 1992, coincidentally during the International Year of Indigenous People, his major achievement having been a hit single. The song that did it had little to do with the original piece written by Yothu Yindi, pumped as it was through a DJ's blender until indiscernible from the sounds of your average British rave, but it gave white Australia a sterling opportunity to declare that "great little bunch of blokes" capable of doing what groovy white guys can, before the year ran its course and everything went back to normal. The song is wheeled out whenever an award is presented to anyone with a suntan.

Anything by Slim Dusty or John Williamson
They say that Slim Dusty sold more records than any other Australian, which is total bollocks. A good thing too, because if it were true it would reveal us as a nation of simpletons (if anyone can point me to a Slim tune that couldn't have been written by a 10 year old I'll stand corrected). As for Johnno, I'm prepared to let him off for Old Man Emu, but the best way to get on my ghost's goat would be to get John to sing True Blue and Home Among the Gum Trees at my memorial service - I swear I'd violently haunt every bastard in this country until I was three sheets to the wind.

First published in The Daily Truth January 4, 2007.


  1. When I used iTunes/iPhone I had compiled a list of about 70 "favourite" songs.

    A few months ago I moved to an Android device and lost my playlist, however I thought I'd just move the 2,000 odd songs onto it and let them play randomly. Mistake.

    I then came to realise that probably over 95% of music is utter shite - I can't even listen to radio as crap songs are staccato'd between ads.

    TL;DR - I used to live for music, now it's killing me.

  2. Shaddapa ya Face, Billy Fields' Bad Habits, Jump In My Car, Pat Wilson's Bop Girl, Rack Off Normie, anything by Powderfinger

  3. Rock Lobster by the B-52s has to be up there as one of the worst songs ever written.
    Add to that list all that anthemic "I'm a rebel and I'll tell you how to live your life" crapola from Bon Jovi.

  4. Yup - I think of music as much like food. Most of it is crap, with occasional moments of brilliance. But like any fantastic food, too frequently partaking of it will render it dull and insipid. And just like food, sometimes something can be so bad that from time to time, it's really crave-worthy. Things like fish-finger sandwiches with plastic yellow cheese and salad cream. Or My Sharona.

  5. Have missed your articles, hope all is well.

    I was trying to find this blog and accidentally stumbled across this:


    Seems like you nearly had an evil arch-nemesis for a while? too bad he/she did not have much follow-through. A good writer like you deserves a persistant serious arch-nemesis!

    Hope you can make a comeback.

  6. I'm allergic to the Eagles. I don't know why (there's worse stuff out there) but I just want to throw up if I hear more than a couple of bars. They have even wrecked my appreciation of the bird. Also can't bear Sade. Just. Cannot. Bear. My current partner thought she'd be a good accompaniment to an early sexual encounter. I actually leaped out of bed.