You know what I love? Soliloquies! Nothing is more awesome to me than when an album pauses in all the music and has a track where someone suddenly takes the mike and starts talking. Done well, it can be a hell of a powerful piece, but I respect the courage of anyone who gives it a shot.
Some artists actually go onto be better spoken-word artists than musicians: Jello Biafra possibly, and Henry Rollins definitely. Storytelling never goes out of style, and that's why today we're going to show you some of the best songs without music.
10. Lou Reed, "Harry's Circumcision" Some people like to say that the late Lou Reed is overhyped and never really offered anything much as a solo artist worth noting. To those people, I suggest you grab Magic and Loss because in addition to being a heartbreaking work about cancer and the lives that the disease claims, it's a powerful tribute to how brilliant Reed could be as a musician. "Harry's Circumcision" is a weird piece that explores the lengths we'll go to in order to carve ourselves into a pleasing form -- a rough track to listen to, but amazing all the same.
9. The Legendary Pink Dots, "Glasshouse Parts 1 and 2" I'm not sure if it's cheating to throw Edward Kaspel in here since so much of what he does isn't exactly singing anyway, but this weird poetic interlude has always been one of the most amazing things I have ever heard recorded. It's a soundtrack to a man giving up all hope, and that makes it somehow beautiful.
8. KMFDM, "Dogma": The absolute best part of Xtort was definitely when poet Nicole Blackman (also KMFDM's publicist at the time) took the mike on "Dogma" and just freakin' goes off on the disposable pop-culture world we live in. Though this song is technically not really in keeping in the theme since it's more of a rap with a definite hook, her words are delivered with so much oomph it just would have been weird to not include it.
7. The Cruxshadows, "Jabberwocky" I used to not be able to stand Cruxshadows because even for a goth band, they are just a little too melodramatic sometimes. Over the years, I've come to realize that's it's all in fun. Consider this hilariously over-the-top rendition of Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" for instance. After hearing it, I don't think it should ever be read any other way.
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6. Ani Difranco, "Fuel" Difranco is more than capable as a beat poet, and for four glorious minutes on her big breakout album Little Plastic Castle she proves it over and over again. She wanders through a stream of consciousness looking for a deeper meaning in the modern world, but is left just considering it all wood to burn for the future.
5. Meat Loaf, "Wasted Youth" Though I prefer Jim Steinman's original title of "Love and Death and an American Guitar," Meat Loaf certainly brought the better performance of the story as "Wasted Youth." We follow a boy that goes mad from playing a forbidden power chord as he proceeds to murder friends and family alike.
The live version is even more awesome because it allows Meat to throw out a few comedic lines that weren't in the original which show off his stagemanship. Fun fact: I performed this piece in speech class in high school. Got an "F" for inappropriate material. So in reality, I got an "A."
4. Blood Axis, "Reign I Forever" Now that we are all full of Thor-love from the hit Marvel films, let's look at a more terrible version of the god. Set over an endless sample of Prokofiev's "Dance of the Knights" Blood Axis announces the all-powerful rule of Thor... who they call a war god instead of a thunder god for some reason. It's a fun bit, regardless, and how about some ballet to lighten the smiting?
3. The Cribs, "Be Safe" What Difranco does with style and a certain sweetness The Cribs hit back with a bleak drunken nihilism that reeks of a pointless, hopeless outlook despite the constant refrain of "Be safe" in the background cautioning us to not stray from the beaten path. It just keeps going and going and going down a trapped path, and every step is genius.
2. Rasputina, "My Captivity by Savages" For my money, Frustration Plantation was bar none the best album of 2004, and the one cannot-miss Rasputina album ever. Right in the middle, Melora Creager lays bare the story of how her pioneer family was murdered by wild natives, only for her to survive and be taken prisoner. It's such a random, wonderful part of the record that I honestly hope one day she expands it into a novel.
1. Iggy Pop, "A Machine For Loving" If you're an animal lover you might want to skip this one because it is really, really sad. Pop describes in honest, aching detail the death of a beloved dog from old age and disease, and while his musing on the subject of a pet's unconditional love is something very special, it will still have you in tears by the end.
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