Sad-Ass Music #7: I Get by with a Little Help from My Commenters

By William Cody Watson | Feb 1 2013

I realize that any time someone writes from their gut and expresses their opinion on any type of subject, and then the public is given an open forum to express their thoughts on that original writer's set of opinions, they're absolutely going to; some with love, some with feral viciousness. VICE is a perfect example of this, as it is a very polarizing outlet of information on a variety of topics. You'd be hard-pressed to find a writer for VICE who hasn't faced the commenter guillotine. After a while, you either learn to cope or you just move on with a thicker skin.

Luckily for me, y'know, maybe my column is a bit safe and not too many people want to cut off my head with a rusty pair of pinking shears while my mother watches on in horror. Nah, mostly people just wanna say that they identify, or that maybe the article was kind of “OK,” which I fucking absolutely adore. Everyone, please keep that up. I really, really appreciate that.

Then there's the people that stop in and drop off their own ideas for what elucidates “Sad-Ass Music.” And hey, I'm totally fine with this type of commenter as well, I say “BRING THAT SHIT ON!” The more sad-ass music we can throw around to the masses, the better. So, yeah, please everyone, keep that up too. But, what I figured I'd do, was basically turn it around. I'm not a total dork-ass knowledge bank of EVERYTHING Sad-Ass Music related (believe it or not), but I do have my head on pretty goddamned straight; or, shit, crooked depending. I thought I'd take a lil cruise of my own comments and compile a list of the suggestions people have given me, then take all those suggestions for a little spin. That's what I've done, and here are the results. 

Len - “Steal My Sunshine”

Someone said this song was actually sad, but like, I just don't care. Did anyone ever notice, though, that on the front of the moped-scooter thing homeboy is driving, there's totally a VICE sticker? Deep in this mufuckin' game. But, yeah, as far as this and sad-ass music and all that, no. Just no. Sorry. Instead, I suggest the Cardigans' “Erase/Rewind.”

Third Eye Blind - “Semi-Charmed Life”

Again, yeah... I can see it. Meth is whack. Hope, not dope, etc. This could totally rub noses with a lot of things I've posted, between shit I grew up on and shit y'all feel guilty listening to. I get it, and I agree, sure sure... It's just that I hate this fucking song. So much. Instead, I'll suggest the Verve Pipe's “Freshmen,” which I feel packs just as much nostalgic punch, but with twice the emotional damage, but also twice as many people going “Holy shit, oh yeahhhhhh maaannnnn, thaaat song, fucking rad.” Wanna go a thick step deeper into that real grim realm? Take a trip down Ben Folds Five's “Brick” road. Shit your pants to that one.

Beulah - “A Good Man Is Easy To Kill”

I actually bought this CD used for a girlfriend, but I never gave it to her, and I don't know why, because lord knows I never listened to it. That was back when I was deep in those CMJ pages, scanning for sincere RIYL's and snagging from the shelves accordingly. This band is actually pretty good. Like, good in that High Fidelity soundtrack kinda way. John Cusack could certainly shake his shaggy head along to this song. This song, itself, is pretty good. So to the commenter who suggested it; hey bud, A plus. This is a solid jam that could've been put on at a party. It's kinda pussy-ass and sounds like it could be in a fart commercial, but hey, it's catchy. As far as sad? I read the lyrics, dude says “When they drill holes in your skull / And screwed that halo to your head / Did you think you could fly?” and I'm not saying that's very sad, but goddamn it's pretty cool. I think I might rather hear a heavy Built To Spill burner instead, though.

The Fiery Furnaces - “Rub-Alcohol Blues”

Nah, I'm good, thanks though. Really. I'd maybe rather fuck with basically anything by Destroyer.

Steve Miller Band - “Fly Like An Eagle”

Dude, fuck it, I LOVE STEVE MILLER BAND. And yeah, if you read the lyrics and listen, it is pretty heavy. It's got some legit, real-deal topics. I get it; that the world is totally fucked up and everything more-or-less sucks on a daily basis; but let's face it, most of us are too fucking selfish and we're all going to hell. Steve Miller doesn't make me think of sad stuff though, he makes me think of Trans Ams, fireworks, sunglasses, cold beers on hot days, somebody throwing me a slice of pizza. Hell, I don't know. Thanks for suggesting this, you did the right thing, but I'm going to go play a golf video game or something. I dunno, there's always something like Tom Petty's “Breakdown” floating around if you wanna hold tie an American flag on the front of your three-wheeler and cruise around whilst bumming to the max.

The Antlers - Hospice

OK, someone suggested an entire album... Hm, well, OK. I thought I was familiar with these guys, but apparently I was not. I had them confused for that band the Constantines who are fucking rad, 'cuz they sound like Bruce Springsteen on steroids fucking around with Fugazi, and it's just burly. But yeah, that's not this band... I'll be honest, I didn't wanna have to try to listen to this whole album, I was like “you're asking too much of me, bro” but then I fucked with the intro, an instrumental track, and that flowed into the next track, then I heard the vocals. I purposely didn't google the band, I just let the record roll on. I didn't want to spoil what I was hearing by knowing their names, or what they looked like. By track 2, “Kettering,” I was very pleased someone suggested this record and had decided to listen to the entire thing. So, hey, y'know, maybe you can influence a half-ass music writer to listen to some band he hasn't heard, and then he'll write about that band and you'll feel warm and fuzzy. Thanks dude, I love you. Antlers got Sad-Ass on lock.

Graham Nash - “Simple Man”

OK, yeah, this wins. It's all sweet, and delicate, and innocent, but goddamn, it's solid and lumbering and makes your heart squeak and shudder. Ugh, you guys are getting it together in a solid way. UGH. I JUST WANNA HOLD YA, I DON'T WANNA HOLD YA DOWN, I HEAR WHAT YOU'RE SAYING AND YOU'RE SPINNING MY HEAD AROUND, AND I CAN'T MAKE IT ALONE.” Fucking heavy, dude. I'll be in the bathroom playing with my razor, just like, knock the special knock if you need me... I'm sure I'll be awake. Thanks, please come again.

Klaus Nomi - “Cold Song”

What? Yeah, probably. Maybe. I dunno. Kind of creeping me out. This is what goes down in a sad mime's mind when he's just perpetually yanking at that rope of life, right? Fuck it. I'd probably just rather be listening to This Mortal Coil or Dead Can Dance or some shit. Not knocking this weird, singing mime shit though, by any means. It's pretty dope.

Stina Nordenstam - “Under Your Command”

This is pretty cool. It's not my ultimate definition of sad-ass music, but y'know, I'm not the end-all-be-all judge on high, truthfully. It's got the direction, for sure. This is a bit sexy to me, honestly. Like a weird PJ Harvey-meets-Björk kind of thing with some bedroom sensibility. I don't know, it's a pretty killer track. It's like some sort of 90s soundtrack deep cut – maybe third from last. I can hang. Not a bad suggestion, by any means. And after reading the lyrics, I can dig on the harsh reality of the track, even if her delivery pushes it out with an almost sado-masochistic kind of sincerity. It doesn't come across as really sad or depressed to me, it's actually almost sensual. Hmmmm... Maybe I'm just really fucked up when it comes to love and romance; jury's out... I mean, but there's also, like, Lisa Germano's Geek the Girl album which will really fuck you up. Holy shit, “...A Psychopath” is one of the most potent tracks ever, with a real 911 call providing background audio of a girl getting tormented by a home intruder. Yikes.

Malcolm Middleton

I've already hit up Arab Strap, so I don't really know if this counts, but someone did suggest it. I also realize that Arab Strap, at least from a lyrical and storytelling point of view is much more showcased by Aidan Moffatt's heavy-hearted yet lackadaisacal and crass tales on love and life. So, yeah, OK... I'll throw Malcolm into the mix, especially when the first three results of a Malcom Middleton YouTube search are as follows: 1. “The Ballad Of Fuck All,” 2. “Fuck It, I Love You,” and 3. “We're All Going To Die.” I'll leave it at that, and give this commenter two thumbs up. Duh.

Swans - “Goddamn The Sun” & “Failure”

At this point, I have already included Swans, so mehhhhhh. BUT. Yes, easily so easily, either of these beautiful songs of decay and desperation should have made, at least, Sad-Ass #1, obviously. Maybe that was my fault, maybe I slipped up. “Goddamn The Sun,” is a great track, I've been listening to it forever, but I don't think it's quite the song that “Failure” is, or maybe it fluxuates. I don't know. Maybe I'm just trying to talk in circles because I feel bad I haven't showcased either of these songs thus far, and this commentor stepped it up. Fuck. We all know how good Swans are at creating sweaty, primal music. Hopefully, we all also know how good they are at making beauitful and brilliant tales of darkness; some kind of wayfaring Americana bleakness, coated in soot, broken boned, sore, and scabbed, always with that brooding beauty that Michael Gira knows how to bend and shape and control at his will. “Goddamn The Sun” and “Failure,” yeah fuck it, both are fucking perfect. Ten points to you.

Jeff Buckley -“If You See Her, Say Hello” 

Yeah, I get it, to every human being alive, Jeff Buckley just shoots up to the top of the list when you start thinking about sad music, alongside mainstays like Elliott Smith and Nick Drake. But, y'see, for me, I bought a girl a Jeff Buckley record, Grace, at some point in our relationship, and we both sat in the parking lot of my apartment complex trying to wrap our heads around it. It just couldn't be done. It's not that we didn't understand it, it's just that we didn't like it, and we turned it off. So, yeah, I guess I just never gave enough of a shit to approach it again. I feel foolish, duh, truthfully, having not really tried again, especially considering that I'm writing this type of column. But, as I listen to this now, like right now, I get it. I get why people like this. I get why people put this in the sad file. It is sad, absolutely, but it's also kinda like an artsy fartsy John Mayer, and I'm still not that into it. I'd just rather listen to Bob Dylan, or even better, Jeff's dad, TIM BUCKLEY, now that cat was the real deal.

The Good Life -“Album Of The Year”

This is pretty good, but I'd rather be listening to Burst & Bloom.

Morrissey - “He Knows I'd Love To See Him”

We all know that Morrissey is the dude, that's a no-brainer, this is an easy copout suggestion. We all know the Smiths and Morrissey are gonna pop up, and they both have. It's always just a matter of what song are you gonna go with, so you went with “He Knows I'd Love To See Him,” I went with “Every Day Is Like Sunday,” when I was 16 for a mixtape, shit's all gravy baby. Yeah, this song rules.

Sufjan Stevens

So someone said they keep waiting for Sufjan to pop up, and I'll just be honest, I've only heard one Sufjan Stevens track in my entire life, and that is not an exaggeration. I heard one, and guess what? It was one of the most dismal songs I've probably ever heard, so I can't even give you a rational explanation as to why I never sought out more. So Mr. Commenter suggesting Sufjan, yes, OK, I will roll with you in the field of grass and we will listen to the track of pure mental torment that is “John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” And, like, dude, what a song title/what a song subject... Heavy. Rad. I make no promises that I'll continue seeking out material from Sufjan, because honestly, I'm kinda happy just living in this song, but hey, you never know; I'm wild, I do what I want... Feel free to leave me even sadder Sufjan songs I should check out in the comment box. [EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS ONE

So there's that, I don't think I missed too many, tried to cover the bases. I'm glad people have been enjoying this column, and honestly this piece here was just to show that I truly do care. I respect my readers, and I really do hope you all are able to take something benefitial from my words. Sure, I'm just fucking around most of the time, and I don't know what I'm talking about, but I do speak with my honest heart and real conviction, because I know no other way to speak. I want you to read this and understand the importance of music, the importance of emotion, nostalgia, honesty, reality. These are our lives, and these songs we hear and sing along too; these are the soundtracks. We are writing our own biographies, documentaries, the stories of ourselves, every second of every day. Let's score that shit with some beautiful melodies and hot-blooded hooks. This is important. You understand that?

To those who come here and say anything, even if it's negative, I have to appreciate it. I appreciate that you spent your time reading my words. That means the world to me. For those who have told me they enjoy the article, or have shown that they identify with it, I am floored and grateful.

Please keep reading and I'll keep writing and together we'll enjoy the fruits of love. This is what I'm here to do. I love you all, so very much.

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