Monday, January 23, 2006

Radio Free Apathy

Apathy Jack writes:

So, I decided I would compile a top five list: Albums To Have A Nervous Breakdown To. (Look, the government gives me long holidays, I have to do something to keep my mind occupied...)

In no particular order, here we go:

The Loneliest of Creatures – Dr Kevorkian and The Suicide Machine

Probably the bleakest record I’ve ever heard, this concept album tells the tale of a space probe billions of miles from Earth. It sees an Earth-like planet, and attempts to make contact with Houston to send back the information. There is no reply, maybe because the probe is too far out, maybe because Houston is no longer listening, or maybe because there’s no one left on Earth to receive the signal. Running out of power, the probe sends one last message back to Earth, then dies alone in space.

Of the six tracks on The Loneliest of Creatures, only two have vocals, and there is even a paucity of actual instruments at times, much of it being composed of ambient noise of various sorts. And it’s still the saddest goddamn thing I’ve ever heard.

Sometimes I listen to the Dr Kev album The Ironman as I go to sleep. I once substituted The Loneliest of Creatures.


I’m not in any hurry to have those dreams again...

Music To Crash Cars To – Deathboy

If your taste for the bleak needs more in the way of lyrics, this album may be what you’re looking for. With the relentlessly cheerful We Will Destroy to kick the album off, it isn’t long before Scott Deathboy is singing “I want to knife a pop star, I want to rape a girl band, I want to kill on TV, to make you understand”.


This album also contains the single most depressing song I’ve ever heard: The hideously upsetting Lost Again.

Sweet Heart Dealer – Scarling

I wracked my brain trying to describe this EP, but the best I could come up with was that if a small girl was brutally killed, then came back not quite right, and was very angry about a lot of things, and decided to form a band, it would probably be Scarling.

However, poking around their website, I found a quote from someone called Alternative Press that sums it up even better: “Scarling sounds like being French- kissed by the most beautiful beings in the world, and then being unable to stop the bleeding.” I still wince a little every time I listen to Band Aid Covers The Bullet Hole – and I’ve listened to it a lot of times...

Come In And Burn – The Rollins Band

Here it is, on the news
Someone I know is now someone I knew.

Can’t believe it happened again.

Henry Rollins, as those familiar with his work will know, is not a happy man, and this, to my mind, is the album that most directly points this out.

Songs like Starve and Inhale Exhale are about bettering oneself, but there is never any pretense that improvement is not necessary: He must improve himself because he is not good enough. More directly than any of the others I’ve mentioned, this is an album about loneliness, self-loathing and desperation, presented in as angry a way as is humanly possible.


Now, of course, I come up against a wall. I only have four albums for this supposed top five. For a while, I was considering Rust: A Fiction, by The Mercy Cage, which is certainly a very dark record. But, really, in terms of sound-tracking a Nervous Breakdown, the only real contender is the horribly, horribly depressing Needle Marks (and Scars) – easily the second most depressing song I’ve ever heard (between Lost Again and Band Aid Covers The Bullet Hole). The rest of the album reminds me of nothing so much as being alone in a small dark room when it’s raining outside, but the other tracks don’t jump out at me in as distinctive a way.

So, here’s where it gets interactive: School starts again shortly, and, as we all know, my poor coping mechanisms mean I fold like a bad hand of poker at the first sign of stress. So what should I be listening to as I do so? What should I be singing to myself over and over again while I hide under my desk and pull out clumps of my own hair and possibly the hair of others?

I’ll buy whichever CD gets the most compelling recommendation.

(Sundries: I’m interested primarily in whole albums. Sure, even the examples I mentioned have a few tracks each of dead air, but I’d prefer there to be a majority of tracks that fit the criteria, rather than “This one song...”. Also, it would help if this was something I could get at Borders or Real Groovy. Shinjuku Thief’s second album is probably terribly upsetting, but I can’t lay my hands on a copy without effort, and I don’t like effort...)


HORansome said...

I recommend 'One Ring Zero's' 'As Smart As We Are.' Whilst there are some terribly uplifting songs on it (and I mean that they are single songs on the album that are uplifting and terrifying in parts) there are also some absolute happy-angst gems such as 'Radio,' lyrics by Daniel Handler, which features two brilliant lines: 'If I had a radio for every time you loved me I wouldn't have a radio at all,' 'If I had a leisure suit one tenth of one percent as cute as certain parts of aspects of your face, every single summer day I'd looking so fucking good you'd say, "The way I treated you was a disgrace."' There's also Neil Gaiman's song about actually wanting something out of life and my personal favourite, a love song between two Golems which wins the main prize for being uplifting and tragic all at the same time. Whilst I hate to say it, 'One Ring Zero' is 'They Might Be Giants' for adults (which is massively unfair to the album 'John Henry'). Available from Borders (well, it was two months ago).

the feature what creeps said...

Generally when I think of especially bleak music I think of Lycia or Black Tape for a Blue Girl ... Personally I prefer Lycia and think they are probably musically more compelling (also, the artist behind Lycia even had a side-project called 'Bleak' and released an album which is supposedly even bleaker than his main body of work, unfortunately I have not been able to get my hands on it). Not sure if they'll be available at Marbecks or RG but it's conceivable you'll find something in the alternative section.

Here's a lyrical sample of the uplifting delights you may expect to await you:

she reaches out to me, she whispers so sweetly
"come to me, be with me, sink with me, die with me"
Sorrow is her name and she's mine
her hands reach out to me, her words bore deep in me
"i'm so alone, please won't you come and be with me"

the feature what creeps said...

PS: for a specific album recommendation I'd suggest 'Lycia - Cold'

Lycia's official site here:

I'm in the mood for Lycia now, but I couldn't bear the guilt of being responsible for my co-workers' collective suicides.

taikonaut said...

radiofreetaikonaut disapproves of such a gratuitous misuse of radiofreetaikonaut's schtick.

petals said...

Call The Doctor by Sleater-Kinney, particularly tracks like 'Good Things'. & Live Through This by Hole. Lie in bed, drink gin, and cry.

Josh said...

Buncha morose motherfuckers. Don't listen to them, man -- Pizzicato 5 is what you need, and lots of it. A night of that and the next morning you'll be all "AAAIIEEE!! Welcome students to Happy Sparkle Apathy Time! I give you learning in the brain! ^_^" -- it'll be great.

Well, that or you'll, y'know, go crazy and kniferape every member of your faculty right in the eyesocket, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.

El_Mutante said...

I love Loneliest Of Creatures.

Funnily enough, I've gone to sleep with it on too. Didn't give me nightmares though I don't think, that said however I do get a lot of fucked up dreams anyway.

Really dig that album. I'm a morbid fuck.

Eric Olthwaite said...

How about something classical like Gustav Mahler.

I can just picture you putting it on your stereo, and your flatmates turning to each other in the lounge after about thirty seconds saying "It's happened, where's the sweepstake sheet"

Anonymous said...

hi there,

well I would have to suggest one of my favourite albums of all time

Rock Bottom by Robert Wyatt

If you don't know his story he was one of the founding members of Soft Machine (that late 60's slightly strange UK psychedelic group) before going out on his own.

Rock Bottom was recorded after he fell out of a 2nd story window broke his back and was paralysed, hence the title. Apart from having the most fragile voice I've ever heard (very unique) he is also just a great musical talent, there are no cliches on this record.

The only problem is trying to find a copy, if it is at RG or alike it is probably on vinyl, though it did get rereleased on cd a few years ago, personally I think this album is actually worth whatever god-damned awful price anyone wants to charge you for it on the internet, where you could no doubt find it in some overseas shop, if this shows up in your mailbox I don't think you'll regret the visa bill.


Porges said...

I suggest Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s F#A#∞. Though much of the album is barely more than a soundscape, the terrain is so bleak you can’t help but feel forlorn. The album begins: The car’s on fire and there’s no driver at the wheel, and the sewers are all muddied with a thousand lonely suicides, and a dark wind blows. The government is corrupt, and we’re on so many drugs, with the radio on and the curtains drawn. We’re trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death.

It should’nt be too hard to find a copy of the album... then find a quiet time, a good stereo, and sit and listen. Oftentimes it seems to me a movie without pictures, only when closing your eyes you realise where the pictures really were.

Porges said...


Josh said...

And maybe it goes without saying, but "In the Morning" off Anika Moa's latest is, if not actually horrfically depressing, then very, very sad.