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40 Songs I Will Always Love, Cool or Not (Pt. 2)


This is part 2 of a two-part post. The first half is here.

Let’s continue, shall we? Things may get a bit rowdier here in the second half. But as before, there’s something for everyone.

“Need You Tonight” – INXS

Looking back to the decade that produced me, there was a point when all the ridiculous fluff of the mid-80s gave way to some really timeless, inspired tunes. I figure it was about the time Kick came out. Still one of the grooviest guitar riffs I know, this song was ultra-cool on arrival and still is. It makes non-dancers want to dance.

If you like it: The rest of Kick is worth a listen. Consult an INXS die-hard for further instruction.

“Jolene” – Dolly Parton

A heartbreaking song about a girl watching her man drift away to a woman she can’t compete with. There is something so refreshing and honest about a song that looks unflinchingly at personal powerlessness, without dolling it up by babbling about hope. We’ve all been devastated by a Jolene of some kind, in one way or another. Utter defeat is human too, and Dolly saw something meaningful in it.

If you like it: The White Stripes do a fantastic cover of this song, mercifully ignoring the obnoxious custom of changing the gender when a male sings it. Check it out.  

“Kiss From a Rose” – Seal

You heard me. Overplayed, melodramatic and loved by all the demographics I am not, I still think this song has one of the most compelling and original melodies I’ve ever heard. It sucks me in. And a brilliant melody is truly, exceedingly rare, no matter how much music you consume. Even the most celebrated artists often excel at everything but melody, Bob Dylan most famously. That rare talent for melody is (for example) what the Beatles used to write so many dozens of devastatingly likable songs, with which they proceeded to conquer the earth. Kiss From a Rose, despite its clichéd floral theme, despite its over-the-top harmonies, despite its embarrassing affiliation with the worst of the Batman movies, features a verse melody so effortless and original that it probably gives Bob Dylan nightmares. I urge you not to watch the video at all, just listen. Ignore the words even, just follow the notes.

If you like it: I have no idea where to point you, for neither Seal nor co-writer Trevor Horn nor Batman himself will likely lead you to anything in the same league.

“Astro” – The White Stripes

Only bitter old men say rock is dead. This is an early one from the Detroit divorcees-turned-siblings. If you can figure out the bizarre innuendo in the lyrics, more power to you, but the saucy guitars should carry enough meaning for anybody. I love this band.

If you like it: See them live! In the mean time, check out Jimmy the ExploderOffend in Every Way, or Black Math.

“Bulls on Parade” – Rage Against the Machine

If you don’t know Rage, they were (are?) a quartet of furious, rocking leftists, led by charismatic frontman Zach de la Rocha. Quite possibly the only rap-rock outfit that made any great music. Though political music is as old as music itself, no act ever achieved the same level of sheer, physical intensity with it. Bulls on Parade is a better-known track of theirs, and it still rocks my bones.

If you like it: Try Fistful of Steel, People of the Sun, Killing in the Name, or Freedom.

“Say it Ain’t So” – Weezer

Weezer’s first album is another one of those uncanny mid-nineties albums that are thoroughly, consistently exceptional. Say it Ain’t So is the standout on an album of standouts. The music is easy, catchy, and lighthearted even when it’s serious. In my humble yet coldly dismissive opinion, nothing they’ve done since has been as remarkable as any of the songs on this disc. Listing Say it Ain’t So here is really just a sneaky way for me to include ten of my favorite songs in the space of one.

If you like it: Get “the Blue Album,” as it is known.

“The Funeral” – Band of Horses

I was all over Band of Horses’ debut album when I first heard it, and this was the best track. It’s the song’s stoic refrain that gets to me:  At every occasion I’ll be ready for the funeral. Read it any way you wish; I think it’s a powerful philosophy. To my horror, Funeral was used in a television ad by the Ford Motor Company. I know it shouldn’t matter, but it does.

If you like it: Band of Horses’ self-titled debut is solid, as I’ve mentioned.

“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” – U2

Yep. U2 has been releasing a steady stream of material for almost 25 years, and though it would surely get me drawn and quartered in some neighborhoods I’ll go ahead and say that I don’t think it gets any better than I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. That’s not to say it’s anything less than brilliant, in fact, every time I hear it I know I’m listening to one of rock’s greatest anthems.

If you like it: Reintroduce yourself to U2’s other early hits: One, Where the Streets Have No Name, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Mysterious Ways. If you’re looking for obscure U2 songs you’re definitely asking the wrong guy.

“Fast Car” – Tracy Chapman

Saddest song in the list, no question. Read verbatim, the lyrics appear to profess hope, but something — in Chapman’s voice, in the guitar riff, some subtle note of pleading somewhere — betrays a sinking doubt through all of the pair’s talk of better days to come. We’ve all done it: talked hopeful talk when we just don’t buy it, and nobody else does either. Fast Car is a song about people who are broken, and know it.

If you like it: I always loved the title track off of New Beginning.

“Brother Down” – Sam Roberts

Brother Down is probably his best-known song, but I’m not so sure Sam Roberts is known outside of Canada. It is enormously catchy, and seems to have stayed fresh after hundreds of listens. Catchiness is a virtue in my books, evidently. But the lyric is really something too: a highly quotable speech about finding principles you can actually live by.

If you like it: You may just be a Sam Roberts fan, and if so you’ll like almost everything of his. But probably not. Try Bridge to Nowhere, to start.

“March of the Pigs” — Nine Inch Nails

Not for the faint of heart. I was scared of this kind of music as a pre-teen. Nine Inch Nails, particularly on their 1994 masterpiece, The Downward Spiral, is hellishly dark. My friend, upon first hearing it said, “I’ve got to buy up everything of theirs before he [NIN mastermind Trent Reznor] snaps and shoots everyone.” Now in his forties, he has calmed from his early suicidal/homicidal subject matter, and as much as I hate to say it, the music has lost something. March of the Pigs is an intense, raging tune that will leave you no doubt as to what I’m talking about.

If you like it: You wore lots of black in high school. The Downward Spiral is must-own for you. So is its predecessor, Broken. Listen to them in the dark on headphones.

“Cherub Rock” – The Smashing Pumpkins

The Pumpkins are a rather polarizing band. Perhaps as a testament to their creativity, their material is all over the map in terms of style, and most people either love them or hate them, or both. Some of their stuff is ugly, boring or worse. Just about everyone agrees, though, that 1993’s Siamese Dream was their stroke of brilliance, and leadoff track Cherub Rock is one everyone loves. For best results, listen at loud volumes.

If you like it: Try Soma, Geek U.S.A., or Rocket. Venture into the rest of their catalogue at your own risk.

“I Feel it All” – Feist

Feist always makes me smile, but especially on this track. To me, I Feel It All is about throwing yourself headlong into whatever fate your desires will bring you, only acceptance and curiosity rather than ordinary foolishness. The perfect soundtrack for one of those rare days when wake up knowing exactly what you want in life, and it happens to be sunny. And what a line: I’ll be the one who’ll break my heart.

If you like it: Try So Sorry, Mushaboom or Let it Die.

“Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” – Jimi Hendrix

I didn’t know what awesome meant until I heard this tune. I remember the day too. I was thirteen when my friend called me and said “David! My brother’s having a sixties flashback! Come over quick!” When I arrived they were knee-deep in Beatles, Doors, Hendrix and Stones. I had never heard Hendrix before, and it blew my mind in the best way. That whole mid-nineties summer was like our very own 1968. Voodoo Child‘s first solo break was unquestionably the coolest thing I ever heard in my life, and I don’t think anything’s topped it since.

If you like it: You have probably liked it for a long time. If not, lucky you.

“Isis” – Bob Dylan

My favorite Dylan tune is actually A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall, but I already included it in my Six Amazing Songs post. Isis is a close second. Sit back and listen to Bob tell you one of the strangest travel stories you’ve ever heard. In less than fourteen verses, he covers it all: romance, adventure, comedy, poetry and history.

If you like it: Consult your local Dylan nut for further recommendations. In the mean time, try Tombstone Blues if you want to keep laughing.

“Mutilated Lips” – Ween

What to say about Ween? If anyone is doing their own thing with abandon, it’s these guys. No style or subject matter is taboo for them. Pick a random Ween track, and you could get a straight-laced country song, a psychedelic soundscape, a bitter acoustic breakup song, or an Irish drinking song. And those are only the songs that lend themselves to description. Behind all the weirdness is some top-shelf musicianship that most people probably don’t stick around to discover. Mutilated Lips, though plenty weird, is a seductive song with an extremely unattractive title. Words fail me, give it a listen.

If you like it: Ween is a real grab bag; try Beacon Light, The Mollusk or A Tear For Eddie.

“No Way” – Pearl Jam

Non-Pearl Jam fans often scoff that the Seattle veterans have released little of spectacular quality after 1991’s debut Ten. Even my friend, a musicphile and fellow Pearl Jam lover admitted, “They do have a lot of forgettable material.” I don’t necessarily disagree, but all their fans know that they’ve lain a steady trail of gems all the way through their 18-year career. They also remain one of the best live acts around. No Way is a standout from their late-nineties comeback album, Yield.

If you like it: Try Corduroy, Brain of J, or Tremor Christ, assuming you already own Ten.

“D7” – Nirvana

The “band that saved rock” left such precious little material before Kurt Cobain’s death that virtually every other notable song is too well-known to be worth mentioning here. D7 did not appear on any of the band’s releases, and hopefully you’ve never heard of it. It’s unreleased status is not much of a mystery — it’s a cover, so it lacks Cobain’s genius with melody, and the beginning is quite dry and plodding. But D7‘s glory comes in its second half, when the trio kicks in the distortion and lets it rip at speed. Suddenly the same words take on a riveting intensity, not that they make any more sense. The shrill guitar solo bumps it up another notch, followed by yet another when Cobain brings the “vocals” back in.

If you like it: You probably know the multi-platinum Nevermind inside and out, so try these lesser-known, equally raging Nirvana originals: Negative Creep, Radio Friendly Unit Shifter, and School.

“Tiger Woods” – Dan Bern

I urge you to give this one a fair listen, even if the opening few lines offend your sensibilities. It’s a ridiculous song with a rather rude central metaphor (you’ll see), but one with a rare earnestness to it. As silly as it appears on the surface, it is indeed a passionate song about wishing for greatness. I hate to have to mention that this song was written long before Tiger Woods was a symbol of anything except undisputed superiority in one’s chosen pursuit.

If you like it: If you investigate Dan Bern you may find his huge catalogue is preoccupied with politics and religion. God Said No is worth a listen and will give you an idea of how he reconciles his faith with his wild imagination and racy lyrics.

Oh, Me – Meat Puppets

Another song that is probably best known by its inferior Nirvana cover. Idols of Kurt Cobain, the Meat Puppets are a supremely talented band who never made music that was quite accessible enough to rise beyond a comfortable level of obscurity. Every time I hear this song, I feel like I’m hearing my own story. If, for whatever reason, you ever want to understand me, all you have to do is understand this song. I don’t have to think / I only have to do it / The results are always perfect / But that’s old news. The beautiful guitarwork on the Nirvana version is actually not Kurt Cobain but Curt Kirkwood, the Meat Puppet who wrote it.

If you like it: The Meat Puppets have a wild and extensive catalogue to get lost in; start with the other songs of theirs Nirvana covered (Plateau and Lake of Fire.) See whose version you like better.

Bonus song:

It Girl – Brian Jonestown Massacre

Couldn’t leave this one out. I don’t know what to say about it, but I love it. You will too.


Photo by Clearly Ambiguous

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Brad March 8, 2010 at 2:06 am

Kiss From a Rose – Absolutely love it.
Bulls on Parade – Hard to beat it in terms of “righteous” angry music.
Astro – Kind of catchy.
Say it Ain’t So – Used to be one of my favorite songs–this was a heart-wrenching melody, but I just sort of grew out Weezer.
March of the Pigs – Good, but far from my favorite NIN.
I feel it all- I would have to vote for either The Park, Sealion, or Honey Honey on that album
No Way – One of my favorite PJ songs. Love that whole album.
D7 – This is amazingly one of the Nirvana songs that I have almost entirely ignored. Too slow for me I guess. I love a ton of those early songs though, like Even in His Youth and Token Eastern Song (or Born in a Junkyard, whichever title you go by). Man that was some good stuff.
Oh Me – Definitely one of my favorite songs. I didn’t really like the Meat Puppets that much for a while but I kept listening to them and eventually I grew to love them more and more. One of the few bands I’ve actually listened to because of their influence (on Nirvana). I have to say though that when Meat Puppets make a bad song, man does it suck.
.-= Brad´s last blog ..Razed Houses =-.

David March 8, 2010 at 1:43 pm

I have to say though that when Meat Puppets make a bad song, man does it suck.

Haha.. That is definitely true.

Paul April 1, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Really enjoyed your site man. Very interesting stuff. Alas …hate almost every song on this list. I’ll be back though.

‘ The Snow Falls Each Flake In It’s Appropriate Place’

Greetings from Cornwall, England.

Brad March 8, 2010 at 2:11 am

Oops, and:
Voodoo Child (slight return) – Best guitar opening ever.
Cherub Rock – Pretty good.
.-= Brad´s last blog ..Razed Houses =-.

sara ladybug March 8, 2010 at 4:29 am

i love ween but i think their best cd is chocolate & cheese!

David March 8, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Hi sara. Yes Chocolate & Cheese might be their best one. But the Mollusk will always be my favorite. I like the seafaring theme they have going in that one.

sara ladybug March 8, 2010 at 2:54 pm

i definitely like the Mollusk too. In fact i’m listening to it now, which is why i remembered to come check back here. I love Ween b/c they’re so versatile! No matter what kind of music i feel like listening to, theres a Ween song for it. )

David March 8, 2010 at 3:20 pm

For sure! Right now I feel a little “Freedom of 76”

sara ladybug March 8, 2010 at 3:49 pm

AHHHHH! that one is my all time favorite song of theirs.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) March 8, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Need You Tonight is awesome! Reminds me of young days at 15 at slumber parties with no adults, most of us young women were too infatuated with Michael to give any credence to the guys trying to get our attention.

Now to discover some of these others i’ve not heard before…

David March 8, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Need You Tonight is so great. I’m going to listen to it again right now.

And keep posting the new music they lead you to, like with the Bill Withers videos you put up on Facebook. :)
.-= David´s last blog ..40 Songs I Will Always Love, Cool or Not (Pt. 2) =-.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) March 9, 2010 at 6:11 am

Sure~ seeing as you asked so nice ~:-)

Motivational Speaker - Craig Harper March 9, 2010 at 5:25 am

David, David, David. A man after my own heart. The final album by Jimi included Voodoo Child (Slight Return).

Voted #101 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 List.

Keepin the faith!
.-= Motivational Speaker – Craig Harper´s last blog ..Exercise Intensity =-.

David March 9, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Hi Craig. Rolling Stone’s list isn’t a bad place to browse for music you don’t know. Even though they’re classics, I definitely haven’t heard some of them (or more likely I just don’t recognize them by the title.)
.-= David´s last blog ..40 Songs I Will Always Love, Cool or Not (Pt. 2) =-.

Catriona March 9, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I only discovered The Funeral by Band of Horses last week, and never been on this website before, so this made me smile.
Some other good ‘uns on the list too. (:

p.s. it’s the “ooh ooh”s that get me.

David March 9, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Great song isn’t it? I’m currently separated from my music collection because I’m traveling, and it was so nice to hear it again.

Kim Lianne March 9, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Hello again, I am haunting your blog tonight it seems!
(I just read your post about excessive !! I have friends who do this, Lynn often puts !!!!!!!!! at the end of her email sentences but I find it funny and endearing..!

So then, on to la musique!

Ah, ‘Kiss from a Rose’…I remember singing this number karaoke style for an appreciative audience at the Limelite once upon a time *blush*. It is beautiful and yes, overplayed and sappy–I still love it and make no apologies.

‘Fast Car’ still makes me want to cry a little and I did quite a bit when it was used as a moving tribute to a wonderful man.

‘The Funeral’ is an emotional song for me also, for many reasons…in fact, it has brought tears to my eyes both at this moment (!) and previously. Such depth and reality.

Anything by U2 is great I believe–they are so inspiring and I have enjoyed so many of their songs.

I had no idea that we shared the same favourite Ween song! ‘Mutilated Lips’–icky name, lovely and haunting tune. I wasn’t expecting that. I thought perhaps that yours was ‘The Mollusk’ but then, the whole album is great.:)

As an interesting side note: I forgot to tell you that I recently learned that I actually went to high school with Feist (aka Leslie Feist) in Calgary. She used to play bass guitar, had a big septum piercing and kept to herself mostly but was kind to me on my very first day. Small world.

Thanks for sharing these songs. Some tugged at my heart a little but I’m a firm believer that strength can be cultivated through emotion inspired by playing the soundtrack of your life along the way.

Until next time, mon ami~

David March 9, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Hi Kim!!!!

Of all Ween songs I can’t think of one I like more than Mutilated Lips. The Mollusk does come close though. Stares at the sun with its wandering eyeyeee

A schoolmate of Feist’s, who would’ve known? Bob Dylan was in my chem class in grade 12, not sure if I told you that :)

westwood March 10, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Excellent list. We must, like, come from a similar socio-economic background and geo-cultural context, or something.
.-= westwood´s last blog ..Review: District 9 =-.

David March 11, 2010 at 2:50 am

Definitely. I sense a geo-musico-cultural closeness between us.

Big Sis March 11, 2010 at 11:01 am

No Bon Jovi on this list?!?! Didn’t we grow up in the same household? Glad to see the Eurythmics made the cut.

David March 11, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Hey Sis. Bon Jovi, of course! Like I said there was no way to make sure I remembered every song. You Give Love a Bad Name definitely belongs here.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) March 11, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Wanted Dead or Alive!!!
.-= Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor)´s last blog ..New Store Item: Geographical boundaries and global markets outline =-.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) March 13, 2010 at 5:46 pm

OK~ sold on Blue~ except for the insecure oppressive psych vampiric No One Else ~:-) Regardless that R was getting in touch with his “jealous obsessive a***le” side.
.-= Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor)´s last blog ..New Store Item: Geographical boundaries and global markets outline =-.

David March 14, 2010 at 12:54 am

No One Else is an oddball in the bunch. He’s definitely making fun of his own jealous thoughts.

Interestingly, it’s the only song on the album in standard tuning. The guitars in the others are tuned to Eb.

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) March 14, 2010 at 6:12 am

Oh yeah~ that guitar thing ~:-) like I have freakn clue what your talking about ~:-)~

I can’t even listen to it~ all I hear is “Stepford wives” or “blow up doll”

love their sound otherwise though! did my lit research this morning to Garage and Jonas.

Band of Horses is another gem~ really like their sound~ though what’s with all the wedding refs…? maybe its a voodoo thing ~:-) I think I should read their words before judging…

Aoife March 24, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Jolene…..man that is a great song. The kind of song you start singing along to, without even being fully aware you’re doing so. The type of song that when its finished playing its still swirling around in your head.
The very song that allows me to shout “Jolene” out and get all high pitched and enraged, as if my very life depended on it, without even regretting that I sound like an eejit!

Thanks for reminding me how good a song it is.

Harper Grey April 1, 2010 at 2:55 pm

That you have “Ahead by a Century” and “Apparitions” on this list kind of makes me love you. :)

I found Matt Good’s first solo album (Avalanche) to have maintained the brilliant quality he had with the Matthew Good Band, but it’s been a bit of a downward spiral since then… But brilliance depends on time and place and state of mind, so there’s always hope for a resurgence of it.

I also wanted to say that I just discovered your blog this morning, and I’ve been reading entries all day. You’ve created a wonderful oasis of eloquent sanity here. Keep up the amazing work!

David April 1, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Hey thanks Harper.

I have liked what I heard of Matt Good’s solo stuff, but never explored it. I will check it out.

James R April 4, 2010 at 3:28 am

I just Stumbled upon Raptitude, and I’m hooked! Very nice essay about music you love. Comments from a fellow music nerd:
“Jolene” got lots of country radio airplay, and charted very well, but sold about 60,000 copies (back when people actually bought singles). Shortly after “Jolene” disappeared from the radio Dolly Parton bagan a well-orchestrated, financially successful crossover onto the pop charts and, eventually, the movie screen. Doesn’t diminish her prowess as a singer-songwriter; I’m just sayin’…
“D7” is a cover from the great Portland (Oregon) band the Wipers. Their first album “Is This Real?” (only available as part of a boxed set with their second and third albums) is a flat-out masterpiece, full of tales of alienation and righteous anger, set to snarling Hendrixian feedback guitars laid over Ramones-era jackhammer bass & drums.

David April 4, 2010 at 4:47 am

Hey thanks James. I have never heard the original version of D7. I will check out the Wipers.

Marsha O-Neil December 6, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Oh oh oh baby this is so darn big of a awsoe songs! JOLENE JOLENE JOLE JOLEEENNE!!

Marsha O-Neil December 6, 2010 at 8:47 pm


danielle June 7, 2011 at 11:16 am

who says can you tell me who says

Jim October 6, 2011 at 7:58 am

I have to agree with you on Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For. As I have just entered my 40’s, the song still hits me just like it did 20 years ago when I was in college. …Perhaps I should maybe find what I am looking for since my life is probably half over now :)

Greg B. October 17, 2011 at 12:15 pm

I can’t get enough of “Life on Earth” – Band of Horses and “Fix You” – Coldplay. You could also list countless Radiohead songs on here.

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