Recently, NME ran a little blog feature entitled ‘What Are the Best Sub-Two Minute Songs?’, funnily enough listing some classic tracks that clocked in below the two-minute mark. There were some gems in there that rank as some of my favourites, short or not, such as David Bowie’s ‘Breaking Glass’ and The White Stripes ‘Fell In Love With a Girl’.
I was bizarrely intrigued by the fact that they chose to list a ‘Top 9’ rather than a ‘Top 10’, wondering whether it was a witty comment about the list being too short. Whether or not I was looking into it too deeply, as a result, I was inspired to delve into my music collection to find a few more favourites of mine.
THE VACCINES – Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra) (1:24)
Easily the track that I am most surprised didn’t get a mention on NME’s list. It’s right up their alley – a brief blast of indie rock.
The Vaccines’ debut single was in fact a double A-Side, with track two, ‘Blow It Up’, reaching the epic height of 2:40. However, it was ‘Wreckin Bar…’ that grabbed everyone’s attention, for its brevity yet still being brilliant and sounding… complete. It does make you wonder whether the track would have been nearly as good had it been any longer.
Honorable mention goes to their debut albums’ other sub-two minute track, Norgaard (1:40). Interestingly, The Vaccines decided to release the two shortest songs on the album as singles. Considering the bands’ success since, I guess no one is complaining about being shortchanged.
RADIOHEAD – You Never Wash Up After Yourself (1:44)
OK Computer and Kid A are mainstays at the top of best of 90s and 00s lists respectively. Radiohead’s albums are so engulfed with praise that it is easy to forget that they have a spectacular catalogue of B-Sides and EP tracks.
‘You Never Wash Up After Yourself’ is found on the My Iron Lung EP, an odd eight-line poem, set to a single guitar, recorded live in one take. Considering the heavy production that their albums have had, it’s an intriguing anomaly that sadly goes overlooked.
TOM LEHRER – The Vatican Rag (1:13)
Comedic songs are traditionally short, as some comedians try to stretch a single joke to the point of snapping by setting it to a tune. I promised myself I would avoid such novelty tracks, but I couldn’t resist giving the great Tom Lehrer a nod. Anyone who listened to me on BBC Radio 6 Music may remember that I managed to name-drop him – something I was quite proud of.
Believe it or not, once upon a time, you could take the mick out of the Catholic Church without all the nasty taboos, and in 1965, Lehrer did a damn good job of it. And I can’t think of many other songs to discuss such difficult subjects as genuflection and transubstantiation. Deep.
SYSTEM OF A DOWN – Ddevil (1:43)
System of a Down have an impressive range of teeny tiny tracks, such as ‘Bubbles’, ‘Shimmy’, ‘Fuck the System’, ‘Science’ and ‘X’, however ‘Ddevil’ is perhaps the daftest track.
Nonsensical lyrics about refrigerators, Shakespeare and an inevitable political quip, set to a goofy rhythm, and frontman Serj Tankian making silly noises (squeaking and snorting, quite literally going the whole hog) unite maybe make this the quintessential System track. That’s quite an achievement when squashed into less than two minutes.
NINE INCH NAILS – Big Man With a Gun (1:36)
Trent Reznor has him a big old dick, and he doesn’t care who knows, as he screams his ‘fucking gun’. While it appears in the centre of the ever disturbing concept album The Downward Spiral, which culminates in its lead character’s suicide, his furious stream of sexual fantasy is arguably the album’s most intense ninety-six seconds.
‘Big Man With a Gun’ was infamously an ideal driving force as an example of misogynistic horrors within the rock and rap, that got Nine Inch Nails onto conservative activist C. Delores Tucker’s naughty list. Nineteen years on, The Downward Spiral has four US platinum records, and five albums later (including two number ones), their eighth album is eagerly awaited. I have a funny feeling that Mrs Tucker needn’t have bothered…
PEELANDER-Z – So Many Mike (1:58)
Have you ever reminisced about just how many people called ‘Mike’ there are? No? Well, Peelander-Z have been, intrigued enough to write a song about it. A few months ago, BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens played this plain odd track.
I hunted it down, and considering just how silly the song is, I’m not sure that I should be particularly proud of my listen count.
GELLIEMAN – Aicha (1:27)
It’s terrible, but after so many years, it still makes me smile. Enjoy. Pffffff…
So, what micro-songs would you listen to get that last horror out of your head?