a, Arts & Entertainment, Music

Deep Cuts: Dark Undertones

Chainsaw 

Artist: Ramones

Album: Ramones

Released: February 4, 1976

This song begins with a chainsaw. Jonny Ramone’s heavily distorted, relentless guitar keeps up that chainsaw sound throughout—power chords, power chords, and more power chords—and Joey Ramone’s doo-wop, ooooh-oh-oh vocals don’t even try to disguise the fact that the song is about a gruesome chainsaw murder, which is kind of punk: “Texas Chainsaw massacre/ They took my baby away from me.” What’s even more punk, however, is the next line: “They chopped her up and I don’t care, woah-oh.” 

 

Carmelita

Artist: Linda Ronstadt

Album: Simple Dreams

Released:  September, 1977

Originally written and performed by Warren Zevon, “Carmelita” has led to numerous covers, but Linda Ronstadt’s is the prettiest. The guitar is reminiscent of mariachi and Ronstadt’s vocals are dreamy and unfocused. It makes for a stark contrast to the lyrics, which follow a desperate junkie as he appeals to his lover (Carmelita) to pull him out of the abyss of heroin withdrawal: “Carmelita, hold me tighter/ I think I’m sinking down/ and I’m all strung out on heroin/ on the outskirts of town.” 

 

Right Profile

Artist: The Clash

Album: London Calling

Released: December 14, 1979

London Calling is such a masterpiece that this track is easy to overlook. Behind the elaborate horns and reggae/ska/whatever-influenced guitar are some seriously dark lyrics. I don’t really know what they discuss, but its probably something to do with alcoholism and/or drug addiction: “Nembutal numbs it all/ but I prefer alcohol.” Ultimately though, Strummer’s vocals just degrade into “aarpghargahshhhsh.” 

 

Salad Days

Artist: Mac Demarco

Album: Salad Days

Released: April 1, 2014

The titular track of Mac Demarco’s second album is, in fact, an allusion to Shakespeare: the expression refers to youthful idealism and indiscretion. Demarco, however, the typical slacker that he is, looks back on those days not with regret but with nostalgia. Now he’s just getting old and has to do grown up stuff: “As I’m getting older/ chip up on my shoulder/ rolling through life/ roll over and die.” The guitar is so pleasant, and as a result, so artificial, that it could be from an early Beach Boys record. This dissonance, exploring lyrical authenticity against instrumental artifice, is what Demarco wants to convey. 

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