Friday, 11 March 2016

My Top Ten The Fear Songs

There are lots of songs that deal with fear... Don't Fear The Reaper, Fear of a Black Planet, Party Fears Two, The Pop Singer's Fear of the Pollen Count... but this week I want to look at songs that deal specifically with THE Fear.

What's interesting is that all these songs come from the last 20 years (pre- and post-millennial angst must be the driving factor). Be afraid... be very afraid...

10. Graham Coxon - The Fear

Still the least annoying member of Blur, and pretty prolific as a solo artist. This is from his second album, way back in 2000, and it's obviously about being caught between Damon and Alex. What could be scarier?

9. Ben Howard - The Fear

Very popular with the young uns these days, and he certainly plays a mean guitar on this one. Not really sure he says anything to me about my life... but then, he was born in 1987*, so he's still a whippersnapper.

8. Ricky Ross - The Fear

An ominous little angry-acoustic number from the main man of Deacon Blue, virtually impossible to find on the internet because of someone called Rick Ross who apparently is also rather popular with young people these days. The live version I tracked down is a little echoey, but at least you can hear Ricky's accent is still strong.

7. Röyksopp - The Fear

I don't pretend to understand what Röyksopp are all about, but every now and then I dig a bit of ambient electronic fear-mongering.

6. Boo Radleys - Best Lose The Fear

We'd all like to disappear every now and then. This is from Giant Steps, the album just before the Boo Radleys woke up the whole world (for fifteen minutes, anyway).

5. Travis - The Fear

It's easy to pigeonhole Travis as the rather twee and jangly band they became, but there was a real edge to their first couple of albums, and I'd forgotten how much I liked this particular song from The Man Who.

And just in case you were wondering, they took their name from Harry Dean Stanton's character in Paris, Texas... not Bickle or Dave Lee.

4. Ian Brown - F.E.A.R.

The title almost disqualified it, but if you're familiar with the song at all you'll know that Ian is as obsessed with the definite article as any of the other songs on this list. Plis, if I was walking round Soho and a King Monkey came riding towards me, backwards, on a bicycle, I think I'd be pretty damned terrified.

3. Doves - There Goes The Fear

It's weird when you consider that Doves started life as the (imho bloody awful) dance-pop combo Sub Sub. I far preferred Doves, and this was perhaps their finest moment - a Top 3 single that was deleted on the day of its release, meaning if you didn't buy it immediately, chances are you never got a copy.

If you're wondering what Doves fear, the video offers a few clues...

2. Lily Allen - The Fear

I heard Bob Harris play this among his usual mix of country, classic rock and Americana the other week... and it didn't stick out at all. Because like many other artists Bob plays (and unlike so much other contemporary pop music), Lily Allen actually has something to say in this song... and in her work in general. She may well be one of the most important pop stars we have in this country at the moment. With so much bland, anodyne and over-produced music clogging up what's left of the singles chart these days ("I was born in 1972, you know!"), it's great that Lily can still hit Number One with a song like this: a scathing indictment of contemporary society packed with wit, attitude and genuine pop hooks. 

(*Lily was born in 1985, a much better year.)

1. Pulp - The Fear

This Is Hardcore remains my favourite album of the 90s. The opening track set the tone for the darkest Pulp record (which is saying something, if you've heard Freaks or Masters of The Universe), the one that marked the grubby death of Britpop just as Different Class had celebrated its heights. Radiohead had set the ball rolling a year earlier with OK Computer, but Pulp's wilful act of pop self-destruction was the audio equivalent of stage-invading Michael Jackson's messianic abyss at the Brits. Plus, at 26 years old, alone in a tiny one-up one-down hovel somewhere between the pylons and the motorway, this record really was the soundtrack to my life...
This is our Music from A Bachelors Den
- the sound of loneliness turned up to ten.
A horror soundtrack from a stagnant water-bed & it sounds just like this.
This is the sound of someone losing the plot -
making out that they're okay when they're not.
You're gonna like it, but not a lot & the chorus goes like this:
Extra points for quoting Paul Daniels there.

It's a weird thing, but I still think of the 90s as being within reaching distance... yet this was released 18 years ago now, and by then decade was almost done. When I realise that, I really do feel The Fear.

Which one gives you the heeby-jeebies?


  1. Another excellent top ten. Very pleased to see the Travis tracks in here - they are, as you say, so often discounted out of hand, unfairly in my view.

    Very strong agreement on the Pulp track too, though for me Doves would have pipped it to the top spot.

    Any love for John Cale's Fear is a man's best friend?

    1. *Track* singular, even. Must have got overexcited at the prospect of seeing Travis live in May.

    2. Thanks, Martin. I like the John Cale song but it's not The Fear, hence disqualified.


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