This is Past Sounds. Every Friday Ghettoblaster Magazine is looking back and finding great music from various eras. Below are songs that sound great no matter what decade they’re played in. So strap in as we take a musical journey, back in time.
Outkast – “Humble Mumble” (Stankonia, Arista Records) 2000
“Humble as a mumble in the jungle of shouts and screams” serves as both the hook for Humble Mumble and a good descriptor of the songs place in Outkast’s output. Stankonia is one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time and contains “B.O.B,” “Ms. Jackson,” and “So Fresh, So Clean” so it’s easy to overlook “Humble Mumble” in relation to the album as a whole, even though it deserves to be in the same conversation as those seminal hits. The song has so many quotable lines it seems unfair, from the introduction of “The funky engine that could” and asking “what’s your locomotive” to Andre 3000 saying “don’t discrimihate til you done read a book or two” to a critic who “thinks hip hop is only about guns and alcohol.” Lyrically it’s just a really fun song and it follows suit musically as well. It’s a song done in three movements, which are distinctive but still very cohesive as they all eventually blend together. It’s absolutely a song only Outkast could’ve made and I haven’t even mentioned that it features Erykah Badu yet, which is a treat all in itself.
Fleetwood Mac – “Storms” (Tusk, Warner Brothers) 1979
Tucked into Tusk, Fleetwood Mac’s most experimental album, “Storms” is a song that is easy to overlook. It’s a serene and heartbreaking song of lost love over a simple folky guitar sung wonderfully by Stevie Knicks. Yet, as is the case with Fleetwood Mac’s best songs, nothing is as simple as it seems. The chorus of “Storms” features some of their best harmonies, which is really saying a lot for this band. Slowly over time percussion and organ build ever so subtlety, resulting in an absolutely beautiful song. On the surface the lyrics seem to be your standard lost love song fare but Knicks’ emotive delivery packs more and more of a punch as the song goes on. Everything culminates together as Knicks sings: “But never ever been a blue calm sea / I have always been a storm” repeating “always been a storm” several times with each time more powerful than the last. Listening to this song is like sitting on a deck watching a slow storm roll in over an otherwise peaceful lake.
Matmos – “Tunnel” (The Marriage of True Minds, Thrill Jockey Records) 2013
Matmos has made a career out of gimmicks. This isn’t a negative thing by any means as their gimmicks have mostly paid off. They make experimental electronic music and normally operate within some put-upon-themselves framework for each album. They have an album built around sounds from surgical procedures, another inspired by old instruments and sounds that wouldn’t sound too out of place at a Renaissance festival and most recently an album made almost entirely out of sounds from a washing machine. The Marriage of True Minds, quite possibly their strongest album, took on a strong framework, yet is by far the most abstract they have worked within. They had people go into a sensory deprivation chamber while they transmitted the theme of the album to the subjects telepathically. They would then interview the subjects asking them what they heard or saw. Some would hum melodies, some would describe images and they took these recordings and based an album off of them. It’s a fascinating listen with some absolutely stunning songs. “Tunnel” is an obvious standout track even without the backstory of how it was conceived. Didgeridoo is set atop pulsating rhythms, bombastic funky guitar sounds and screeching synths in a truly fantastic way. Towards the middle of the song a male voice recording taken from the interview after one of the sensory deprivation sessions whispers “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel … But it isn’t daylight”, giving the song an absolutely chilling vibe as it continues.
Tyvek – “Wayne County Roads” (On Triple Beams, In the Red Records) 2012
People who have never had the pleasure of continuously having to drive in Wayne County Michigan really have no idea how cathartic it is to listen to a song that yells “Wayne County Roads” over and over as the chorus. They are quite terribly painful to deal with. Tyvek is a great five piece band who makes straight up rock music, which is refreshing in a time with so many genres and subgenres. The song is built around a couple of Television-esque catchy guitar riffs. Again, this is just great solid rock music from a totally Midwest band who has been making under known music for years. On the surface this is a pretty simple song about the roads that take you home but nothing in Wayne County is quite that easy.