04 December, 2011

The Top Ten Most Deeply Uncomfortable, Woefully Misguided or Just Plain Offensive Songs To Embarrass And/Or Disturb Everyone In The Room: Edition #1

The concept is simple. There can be no definitive Top Ten list of songs like this, which is why this is Edition #1. Some of these songs may be great. They are more often atrocities. Their quality is not what's under judgment here. What's being judged is their ability to make a person - in this case, me - deeply uncomfortable with their surroundings.

10 - James White and the Blacks, "Stained Sheets"

Cartoonishly sleazy fake lounge-jazz with atonal organ accents, skrankly-crank guitar sproings and the artiste's trademarked gross, curdled, gurgling alto sax plays out in the background while James White and Lydia Lunch have a nice little conversation on the phone for You, The Listener, to Observe. Well, it's a pretty one-sided conversation, since White does nothing but sneer half-finished insults and leer half-baked come-ons in a petulant middle-schooler's voice, and Lunch does nothing but moan painfully in a tone pitched somewhere between a woman continually denying herself an orgasm and a tortured cat. The song ends with them growling and whining at each other like dogs in heat. Classy. It's clearly meant to be a parody of overtly "sexy" disco songs, and it succeeds pretty well at that, but where it really does an A plus job is making you feel dirty. I want to take a shower after this song ends.

9 - Lou Reed, "The Kids"

You want to clear out a party fast? Put this on. Admittedly, Side 2 of Berlin in its' entirety would do the trick too. But for one-stop shopping, you can hardly do better than this, a seven-minute opus about the German authorities coming to take away two children from a mother immersed in drug addiction and prostitution. Nothing kills an atmosphere of drunk backslapping revelry faster than the sound of Bob Ezrin's two children screaming for their mommy over and over again, after Lou Reed's spent four minutes groaning at you in the most lifeless, depressed, slit-wrist monotone he could possibly muster over a bunch of slug-paced, falling apart acoustic guitar chords. Of course, it's all more than a little theatrical and overblown - The Water Boy? What are you, Lou, Rudyard Kipling? Adam Sandler? - but that still doesn't take away from the fact that it's a song that makes people uncomfortable. I mean, the song starts off with the lines "They're taking her children away…"

8 - Project Pat, "Gorilla Pimp"

The most disturbing thing about this song is, depending where you are, you could put this on at a party and no one would notice, because the beat is very, very catchy and smooth Dirty South hip-hop, with a great keyboard bassline and anemic string synths, and Pat's Memphis accent coming out of the speakers helps to camouflage the meaning. That's fortunate for Pat, because the lyrics on this one are near Burmese levels (as in the guys who put out an album called Men that had songs titled "Rapewar" on it) of misogyny. For three verses, Pat talks about grievously abusing prostitutes as casually as he'd talk about the weather. The guy just does not care. At all. This is not the type of glossed-over Hollywood Oaktown G smack-a-hoe horseshit that you'd get from Too Short, as hilarious as he is. Pat goes into gruesome, remorseless detail: "No money for a mack, mean drama for a hoe/Paramedics toting you through the trauma center doe/Busted lips, broken leg, but I got my bank roll/Tried to put a struggle up so she got her eye swole." Truly disgusting and callous. Of course, a great use for this song would be to put it on the PA at a Le Tigre concert.

7 - Chris Brown, "Cry No More"

The combination of injured passive-aggression, moist self-pity and whiny self-delusion that suffuses this song is truly disturbing. It's basically your bog-standard Breezy R&B moanathon from a musical standpoint - autotuned melismatic vocals, neutered synth patches, crappy funkless drum programming, antiseptic production, the whole nine yards - but what puts this one over the edge and on this list is the backstory behind it. Throughout the song, Mr. Breezy-Deezely-Doo pirouettes through his vocal gymnastics that mean absolutely nothing, and the lyrics seem vaguely apologetic about something. When you peruse the lyrics, though, they actually drip with wounded anger: "Don't wanna cry no more, and I don't wanna hurt no more, especially if it causes this, I don't want no part of it, because it hurts me so bad." Okay, well, so what, you're asking? After all, most pop music these days outrageously fakes emotion without compunction and tries to manipulate you into feeling sorry for someone who's got more money and sex than you'll ever have in your life. The thing is that this song is, purportedly, a song of apology to Rihanna, a pop singer who used to be Chris Breezy Brown's girlfriend. (What kind of ostensibly heterosexual man walks around with the nickname Breezy anyway? I vote latent.) You might also happen to remember that he beat the living fuck out of her like a red-headed stepchild who owed him rent money and that it was all over the news because her face was all swole up like a beach ball filled with Naugahyde. You mean to tell me it hurts you so bad, Punchy? Combining the backstory (which may be false; I mean, is this really an apology?) with the music, it all combines for a truly repulsive effect, outranking Project Pat on the list because A) Project Pat actually has talent and B) Chris Brown actually did some of what Pat just talked about doing.

6 - Swans, "Young God"

Seven minutes of the most punishing dirge you can even conceive of. Harry Crosby's murderous bass work on this little number is in true MVP territory, especially for someone who all sources tell me really couldn't play worth a damn. Michael Gira's lead vocal on this song, a nauseating first-person documentation of Ed Gein's homicidal urges and desires to wear other people's skin, is one sustained howl of indescribable pain. Disturbing doesn't even begin to cover it. After listening to this song it was truly hard for me to ever get scared by music again. Why is it this far down the list? Probably just because I'm used to it by now, which says an unfortunate amount about me.

5 - GG Allin, "Master Daddy"

This is a song GG Allin wrote about child molestation. You could make an argument for it being No. 1 on the list and I wouldn't disagree, but why should I give GG Allin No. 1 on any list?

4 - Paul Anka, "Having My Baby"

For a song that really, truly, genuinely makes my skin crawl, you'll have to search long and far; however, this song is grotesque. With this song, Paul Anka hit upon some previously unrealized alchemy of sickly sweet maudlin mush, screamingly awkward "tender" attempts at masculinity, insufferable condescending bullshit and a pompous chauvinist paternalism so remarkably embarrassing that the woman singing along with him sounds like she doesn't even want to be in the same room. The line "I'm a woman in love and I love what's going through me" could not sound more unconvincing if Andrea Dworkin was singing it.

3 - Brainbombs, anything at all

The Brainbombs are a brilliant band that are so ridiculously and absurdly horrifying that they actually become really funny after a while. But if you want to make everyone within earshot think you're a serial killer and a menace to society who should be locked up posthaste, there's really no better choice for the job than these amoral Swedish degenerates. Their songs are morally indefensible screeds and extraordinarily toxic rants from the imagined diaries of various psychopaths and sociopaths set to the most punishing, insanely cruel monochord riffs possible. The secret to the band is that, basically, the riffs, the vocals and the drumming happen to be really, really good. Or, at least perfectly suited to the material. Listening to these guys regularly is probably bad for you. I wondered whether or not to select the utterly hideous "Anne Frank," or "Macht," or "B.L.E.E.D.," or "Slutmaster," or "Ass Fucking Murder," or "Queen of Necrophiles," or the primally revolting "Obey" (a song that I have only listened to once in my life) for the top position, but I realized: when all of the songs are so ludicrously offensive, you can't really select one that's more offensive than the others. It's an all-or-nothing proposition. Originally at No. 2, but knocked down a notch because they're just a bunch of scabs with a big collection of Peter Sotos books in real life. Still, for pure antisocial élan, almost nothing is more suitable than this.

2 - Michael Jackson, "The Lost Children"

Okay. Imagine (I know this is going to be hard), but imagine you're Michael Jackson. More than that. Imagine you're Michael Jackson in 2001. Not 1979 or 1984. 2001: full-on demented freak sideshow, vagina-nosed, blood-spattered Ichi the Killer-era Michael Jackson. Imagine that you have been through some of the most torturous and humiliating public trials in human history for crimes that you may well have committed that involved the abuse of children. With all of that in mind, it might really be a good idea not to record a horribly sentimental song, replete with tapes of fluting laughter, running water, little boys' voices in a forest, and the lines "When you lay me down sleeping, and my heart is weeping… I'm keeping a place" about little children in trouble. But no. This probably wouldn't occur to you. Because you're Michael Jackson. In 2001.

1 - Heino, "Carnival In Rio"

This is what pop music would have been like if the Nazis had won World War II. This song is the Seventh Reich. It is the sound of woefully misguided cultural appropriation, disturbing obliviousness and just plain stark horror all bundled together and shot straight into your face. With Heino's bulging-eyed blond mug and astonishingly stentorian bass leading the way, the entire thing sounds like some mocking approximation of "Latin-tinged" pop music from 1953 made by evil German aliens and is indescribably terrifying. That sound you hear right now is the sound of me in pure mortal terror trying to get away from it. No. NO. NO. NO, I SAID!!!!!!!

Honorable Mention: Whitehouse, "Baby"

I don't know where else to really put this, because it's a sound collage: it's not exactly a song. And I kind of feel like Whitehouse are more of an art project about human evil than music, if I'm really being honest. But this collection of subtle humming noises, running water, and the continually manipulated moans of a child that possibly sounds mentally disabled and keeps making a noise between a laugh and a sob is one of the most disturbing things I have ever heard in my life, and I can't explain why. Putting this on in a crowded room at top volume would probably clear it in about a minute flat or get you beaten up.

The idea for this post was initially inspired by Eugene S. Robinson (of the great band Oxbow), and his article for Metalsucks entitled "Top Ten Records For Making Everyone In The Room a Little Uncomfortable." You can see it right here and see how much I ripped him off. I'm sure you're thrilled.

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