Sparrow Songs: Metal that’s not about death

It’s been a while since I did one of these posts! So, one image that people have of metal music is “Oh, it’s all screaming about death and Satan and so on”. But this is not true! So, in this blog post I’m going to just post some metal songs about really random topics. Enjoy!

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A map of every town in It’s Grim Up North

Where does the North begin? This debate has been raging on the Wikipedia talk page for Northern England for over a decade. Well, luckily the answer has already been given to us by… the KLF. In 1991, the band – then going under the name “The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu” – recorded a ten minute techno song “It’s Grim Up North”. The majority of the song consists of town names being delivered in a Scottish monotone over a pulsing techno beat, ending with the phrase “are all in the North”.

I’ve taken the song lyrics – using Wikipedia’s interpretation of ambiguous lines (so “Cheadle Hulme” not “Cheadle” and “Hulme”, but “Accrington” and “Stanley” not “Accrington Stanley”) and ignoring the fact that Leigh appears twice – and mapped them all.

So, what is in the North?

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Other thoughts: “Every Valley”, by Public Service Broadcasting

What’s this? An opinion about something that’s not a book? Yep! Every Valley is the new album by the found-sound ensemble Public Service Broadcasting, and it’s the best album I’ve heard this year.

If you’re not familiar with them, PSB build progressive post-rock songs around mostly spoken-word clips taken from old information films. It’s not that this is an original idea – a lot of rock acts have played with samples to spice up long instrumentals, from Maybeshewill to 65daysofstatic to The Books – but PSB try to do more than just go for cheap jokes or coast on the quaintness of the past. As they joke, PSB’s mission is to “teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future”.

With each album, they’ve become deeper and richer – starting with The War Room EP, which uses old Blitz Spirit propaganda films from WWII, through the mishmash of newsreels and educational films from Inform Educate Entertain, to The Race for Space, which turns real radio transmissions from the Space Race into gripping songsEvery Valley is certainly their worthiest project yet, covering the fall of the South Welsh mining industry in the latter half of the twentieth century.

God, that sounds grim, doesn’t it?

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Sparrow Songs: Instrumentality

beep beep beep

Our website went down for a bit because the ‘Confirm your identity’ emails got sent to the spam folder. Oh well. We’re back (hopefully).

So, here are some more songs. This time, let’s go for some instrumentals!

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Sparrow Songs: Old and New Yorkshire

A Yorkshire pudding for your Sunday

I came of age in the mid-2000s, in a musical era when guitars had to be described as “angular”, beats as “danceable”, accents as “provincial”, and NME promised that the nexy big thing was New Yorkshire. A lot of the hyped bands of the era never really came to much (remember the Pigeon Detectives? Reverend and the Makers? They were the future once) but there’s a lot to look fondly on there, unless it’s just the nostalgia. So this week, it’s songs from Yorkshire, new and not-so-new.

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Sparrow Songs: Some Soul

GIF of a show called 'The Soul Mass Transit System' from The Simpsons

All aboard

Let’s try something new. Every week (when I remember), I’m going to post a few songs here. Just whatever I’m listening to, really. Anyway, let’s get the ball rolling with a bit of soul.

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It keeps happening – Hella Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of the War of the Worlds

So, I think the record will show that I like War of the Worlds. A lot. And of course, this love extends to the famous rock opera by Jeff Wayne et al. Sure, it takes some liberties with the book, but of every adaptation I’ve ever seen, Jeff Wayne’s version is the only to be faithful while still being enjoyable. Some of the changes even improve the story a little – having the Journalist witness the events of Thunder Child doesn’t make sense geographically, but it’s better than Wells’s admittedly clunky idea of switching viewpoint to the Journalist’s brother. So yes. I like it.

But now there’s a new version! With Oskar Schindler himself, Liam Neeson! Kaiser Chief Ricky Wilson! Anne of Cleves impersonator Joss Stone! Dubstep Microsoft shill Alex Clare! X-Factor bastard and David Cameron’s best mate, Gary Barlow!

Is it better? Well… not really.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t compare them! And we’re going to do so in ridiculous detail, because that’s just how much I love War of the Worlds.

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