Ah, love songs – oh, how I despise you.
When you think of how disturbed, conflicted, disastrous and vicious romance so often turns out to be, it’s perverse that most love songs are light hearted, simple-minded affairs that pander to haywire hormones.
Well, I’m jack of it.
Perhaps I’ve had a bad year, perhaps I’m just bitter, but I’ve created a playlist of songs for those who wish love only came in feline or bottle form.
It would be easy for me to start with Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart or The Cure’s Boys Don’t Cry (which has the plaintive line “I took you for granted / I thought that you needed me more”) – but while both songs are great, they’re … well, too easy for me to start with.
Instead I’ll shift the focus onto The Way I Made You Feel by Ed Kuepper, who croons not about how he feels but about the devastation he’s wrecked on someone else (see the YouTube clip embedded at the top of this story).
In fact, there are a few songs that look at broken love not from the singer’s point of view but from their partner’s, such as Fiona Apple’s Criminal or The Stone Temple Pilots’ Sour Girl, which is about a girl who only becomes happy once she leaves the singer. Then again, considering how Scott Weiland dances in that video clip, it’s not surprising she fled as fast as she could.
A more common subgenre of bad romance songs (and no, I’m not going to talk about Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance) are about people who know they’re in love with the wrong person – and yet can’t help themselves.
You have the Buzzcock’s classic Ever Fallen in Love, Ratcat’s That Ain’t Bad, Mental as Anything’s He’s Just No Good for You, not to mention Beats International’s Dub Be Good to Me, where the singer cries, “I don’t care about your other girls, just be good to me.”
However, at the risk of sounding like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho when he expounds the majesty of Phil Collins, my favourite song in this genre is Icehouse’s All the Way:
It might ruin my street cred to admit that I adore that song – but then, I never had any street cred anyway.
(Icehouse also wrote Love in Motion, which contains the knowing line “Taking that back step one more time” when talking about pursuing the object of his desire.)
Then there are the songs about schmucks who don’t know any better – such as The Offspring’s surprisingly literate Self Esteem (“The more you suffer / The more it shows you really care”) or the Beach Boys’ Here Today (“The brand new love affair is such a beautiful thing / but if you’re not careful, think about the pain it can bring”). I’m almost tempted to add Robert Palmer’s Simply Irresistible to this list, if only because I love the line “She’s so fine, there’s no telling where the money went” (as a schmuck, I can relate to that) – but I’d probably be digressing, so instead I’ll move on to songs about broken hearts.
Tim Finn is the king of this genre, thanks to his melancholic I Hope I Never (which I love enough to embed below), and his jaunty I See Red, which contains such pained lines as “I feel used and spat out.”
Another jaunty heartbreak song is Too Many Times by Mental as Anything (I know I mentioned them earlier, but I think they’re awesome) – about a man who drinks every day because he doesn’t know how else to deal with a breakup. The poor man obviously doesn’t own a cat.
For a completely different musical style, there’s Ray Charles’ brilliant Hit the Road – every time I listen to it I love it even more, if only for the female snarl of “You’ve got no money, you’re just no good”. Having once had a girlfriend (who I truly fell for) say something remarkably similar to me, I can relate.
Those feeling particularly bitter can opt for Tom Waits’ Everything Goes to Hell Anyway (“Why ask politely, why go lightly, why say please? They only want to get you on your knees”) which in an odd way reminds me of The Divinyls’ Boys in Town, where Chrissie Amphlett bitterly sings: “I was just a red brassiere … to all the boys in town.”
Then again, Amphlett never wrote a simple – or stupid – song about love and sex. Although the band became known for their mainstream successes, they actually created scores of complex, raw and beautiful songs filled with yearning, disappointment, frustration, and a desire that a lover would come to their senses, such as I’m on Your Side or Love School (two of my favourite songs of all time). Incidentally, Amphlett also covered the aforementioned Love in Motion by Icehouse.
And while I’m talking about my favourite songs (and you can tell I have an obvious Australiana bias), I’ll end with another Ed Kuepper song – namely the destitute and yet full-of-life Maria Peripatetica, which to me is the most perfect song ever written.
Actually … there is one more Australian song I just have to mention: Billy Field’s brilliant You Weren’t In Love With Me:
Admittedly, his glasses are awful – but it’s a freaking awesome song nonetheless.