Playing the Jeremy Kyle to children with disputable dynastic claims, the Underground Wires DNA Test is an examination of the consanguinity of some of our favourite upcoming artists. We want to know if they gleam their lyrical leanings from a third cousin, or which grandad thought them how to play piano. Asking artists to embrace their heritage rather than hide it (after all, everybody has a dodgy uncle they’d rather their mates didn’t know about) we aim not to reduce a contemporary artist’s work to mere influence, but rejoice in their confraternity like Gary Barlow told us all to in ‘Never Forget’. The Test Results are downloadable in Mediafire mixtape form for closer inspection.
Our inaugural DNA Test comes courtesy of the much-heralded Villagers. Conor J. O’ Brien kindly let the UW nurse swab some cells from his cheek and commented with passion on the findings. Quite honestly, I’ll feel a bit of a heavy-breathing fanboy hype-machine if I write any more gushing words on the guy, so read those I’ve already written for a background into the band, its motivations, and a charming childhood memory of his, um, rampant egoism.
1. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billie – ‘Cursed Sleep’
The first thing I liked about this song was the raw electric guitar which contrasts with the lush string arrangement.. then the lyrics got me.. “I cried and felt my legs fail”… Something sinister has invaded the sweet scene of the first verse. It’s a beautiful song, but it’s evil. I like how he doesn’t put ‘love’ on a pedestal. It needs to be dressed down!
2. David Axelrod – ‘Song of Innocence’
On the rare occasion that I’m wallowing in domestic bliss, David Axelrod is there with me, helping me make my tea. Although all of his songs do it, this one in particular seems to change the colours of the walls. Sometimes it even makes them bend. I’m really glad there’s no singing on it.
3. Elliott Smith – ‘Between the Bars’
A very beautiful song. The chords and the melody are amazing, and it’s so intimate that it feels like he’s singing it directly to you, into your ear. The imagery is very potent – it’s as if the singer wants to control somebody, but at the same time he’s projecting his own self-image onto this person. So, in effect, he’s using the song to embody an imagined saviour of some sort. Or sumting LOL
4. Philip Glass – ‘Metamorphosis’ (1-5)
This is the first five tracks of a 7-track album called ‘Glass: Solo Piano’. To listen to all tracks in sequence is quite an experience, especially if it’s late at night. It does things to the inside of my body. I think, on occasion, it may even squeeze its way through the heavily fortified walls of my soul!
5. Scott Walker – ‘On Your Own Again’
I think ‘evocative’ is the word for this one. It’s only one minute and forty-eight seconds, but by the end of it I feel like I’ve been through a lengthy divorce settlement on the roof of a tall building, wondering why the sun never seems to set. No, I can’t find a way to describe how much I love this song. Sorry.
6. Tom Waits – ‘Martha’
I finally got into Tom Waits this year. I never really liked him before, but something clicked and he’s all I listen to at the moment. He seems to be able to write something completely theatrical, and place it beside something much more directly emotional, then play with these bounderies until they no longer exist. The way children do.
7. Irving King & Harry M. Woods – ‘Try a Little Tenderness’
Whilst this song was a goodie to begin with, it was Otis Redding who really woke it up. Type ‘Otis Redding Try a Little Tenderness’ into YouTube, and watch the first video that comes up. My god.
8. The Walkmen – ‘Donde Esta La Playa’
I think The Walkmen are weird. Myself and Tommy (who engineered the Villagers EP) used this song as a reference for guitar and drum sounds while we were recording (which is why I’ve added it to this list). I think this whole album (‘You & Me’) sounds amazing, but it’s nowhere near ‘Bows & Arrows’. I wish they spent more time on the songwriting these days..
9. Bright Eyes – ‘Bowl of Oranges’
I found it hard to choose a song from this album (‘Lifted’). I suppose this is a sort of standout track, but the whole album is amazing. A wise friend of mine once told me how he came across the inlay booklet and read the lyrics of the album from start to finish, like a book, only to be astounded that it was accompanied by music and singing.
10. Low – ‘Cue the Strings’
This song sounds like the end of the world – it seems to be both mournful and celebratory at the same time, and the vocals sound so close-up whilst maintaining an incredibly epic quality. I like it a lot.
11. Roy Orbison – ‘Crying’
A completely faultless recording. I really can’t find the words to describe how incredible this song is.
12. Faith No More – ‘The Real Thing’
I spent my early adolescence listening to Faith No More constantly. I’d literally have headphones on while I was having my breakfast. They are an amazing band – this song exemplifies how they can maintain a high level of melodicism and sharp lyrics whilst completely rocking out. In this respect, if Villagers even comes close to Faith No More, then I will die a happy man. A smiling skeleton I will be.
13. Of Montreal – ‘Gronlandic Edit’
The first time I heard this song, I wanted to scream out the window of the car but my natural inhibitions wouldn’t let me. Actually, recently heard about a girl who had an accident, and subsequently lost the use of the part of her brain that controlled her inhibitions. Isn’t that incredible?