There's been a lot of doom and gloom and pessimism around these parts lately. So here's ten songs wishing us all better days in the future...
10. Madness - One Better Day
One of the less successful Madness singles, perhaps because it lacks a killer chorus. (Although that never stopped Squeeze's Up The Junction.)
9. Guy Clark - Better Days
One of my favourite discoveries of the last 12 months: Guy Clark. Even though we lost him last year, there's much more where this came from...
See the wings unfolding that weren't there just before8. The Bees - (This Is For The) Better Days
On a ray of sunshine she dances out the door
Out into the morning light where the sky is all ablaze
This looks like the first of better days
Always good to hear a song that references Jack & The Beanstalk. (The curse of writing this blog is that I now want to go find another nine.)
The Bees are from The Isle of Wight and have to be called The Band of Bees in America because, presumably, there's already an American band of Bees.
7. George Jones & Tammy Wynette - I've Seen Better Days
Of course, this being a George Jones song, you can pretty much guarantee the better days are in the rear view mirror, disappearing into a blip at a hundred miles an hour.
6. Public Image Ltd. - Home
I don't hold John Lydon in the same esteem that many of my blogging buddies do. Nothing against him, but I was a bit too young to appreciate punk at the time and by the time I did get to know him, he'd become something of a figure of fun. That said, I like that side of him, the buttery part which seems completely unashamed to make a tit of himself in the service of popular music, and Home is a great example of that. The only song in this list not to feature a "Better Day" in the title: but that phrase is all over the chorus. Plus, you get to see Sideshow Bob trash a house in the video, and that's always worth the price of admission.
5. Citizen King- Better Days (And The Bottom Drops Out)
One of the best things about writing this blog is when I trip over songs in my record collection that I'd forgotten all about. This is from 1999, and I might not have heard it for 18 years. Brings back some fun memories of my time in radio though...
One foot in the hole4. Ocean Colour Scene - Better Day
One foot gettin' deeper crank it to eleven
Blow another speaker
And I ain't got, I ain't got much to lose
Cuz I've seen better days
Been the star of many plays
I've seen better days
And the bottom drops out
Ocean Colour Scene were the first band I ever saw live. (Yes, as with buying records, I was a VERY later starter when it came to live gigs!) They had a very retro sound which worked perfectly in the Britpop era but obviously couldn't last. Massively uplifting guitars and choruses: we could use some of that right now.
The thing about that retro sound is: that's what a lot of present day indie bands are missing, in my humble opinion. I picked up the debut album by The Blossoms the other day and there are some decent indie pop songs on there but they're so glossily produced, there's just no edge to them. It's like they've been created using CGI rather than real actors... like (SPOILER) in that new Star Wars flick everyone is raving about but me. And don't even start me on The 1975! As I get older, I realise I prefer new records that sound old... which I guess is the end of days for me ever being a hipster. Not that I ever was. At least we still have Jack White doing stuff the old way...
3. The Jayhawks - Better Days
One from the charity shop pile. The Jayhawks are a band I've been meaning to check out for awhile. This is from their 2001 album Smile, which I'm guessing is the one on which they filed off most of their folky, Americana edges and made a play for the mainstream. As a result, it's a bit bland in places, but there are some outstanding pop songs here too. Better Days (after a few listens) has a very powerful hook and some great harmonies. Further investigation required.
2. Bruce Springsteen - Better Days
Back in the early 90s, Bruce lost his mojo a little. I think it was that classic thing of being a bit too happy. Having gone through a turbulent divorce (resulting in the classic Tunnel of Love), he'd found the woman he needed, Patti Scialfa, and they settled down to make a life together. The world seemed bright and so he pottered about in the studio making two records about how happy he was, then released them both on the same day. This was an odd thing a couple of big name artists did in the 90s. Guns 'n' Roses did it too, although - controversially - I think Use Your Illusion Volumes 1 & 2 were far better records than Bruce's Lucky Town and Human Touch. The weird thing is, Bruce has spent his whole career choosing only the very best songs to make up classic albums, then leaving hundreds of still-great tracks to gather dust (or eventually be reissued in collections like Tracks and The Promise). The one time he did a Prince and released virtually everything he'd recorded that week, he really should have used the same restraint. There are enough strong tracks on Lucky Town and Human Touch to make one classic album... not two.
Still, it's good to see him so happy. The video makes that abundantly clear. Watch it, and maybe some of that early 90s optimism will rub off on you too.
1. Billy Bragg - Tomorrow's Gonna Be A Better Day
Come on Billy, make us all feel better...
To the misanthropic misbegotten merchants of gloom
Who look into their crystal balls and prophesied our doom:
“Let the death knell chime, its the end of time”
Let the cynics put their blinkers on and toast our decline.
Don't become demoralized by scurrilous complaint,
Its a sure sign that the old world is terminally quaint.
And tomorrow’s gonna be a better day,
No matter what the siren voices say
Tomorrow’s gonna be a better day,
We’re going to make it that way.
Which one made your day a little better?