Inspired by the cuteness of the internet and the awesomeness of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, here’s a bunch of new wave songs about a whole range of the animals with whom we share this world — and who could slaughter us all if they ever organized! (For the Spotify playlist, click here.)
Adam and the Ants: “Dog Eat Dog”
On “Dog Eat Dog,” you can practically hear Adam unshackling himself the old sound and S&M image that made him the Rodney Dangerfield of punk. While the music is still quite raw (and ominous: how I love that OOOWWWWW OOOOWWWWW), the words herald the arrival of a new Adam primed for pop stardom. “Our first single, ‘Dog Eat Dog’ was more or less a general assault on the public,” Adam told me during our Mad World interview. “I thought our music was better than everyone else’s, as every band does, and I put it lyrically. ‘Only idiots ignore the truth’ was a result of being ignored [by record labels and the press] for three years.” Hot “Dog” — Mr. Ant had arrived!
The Cure: “The Lovecats”; “All Cats are Grey”
I forgot to include “All Cats Are Grey” on our recent Color Mixtape, so I’m happy for this opportunity. The opposite of the playful “The Lovecats,” the Cure’s other kitty ditty sounds as solemn as its title. Sofia Coppola selected it as the song to play over Marie Antoinette’s closing credits, to signal the end of the party at Versailles and, indeed, the end of the young queen’s life (in the final scene, she’s being carted off to Paris where she’ll be imprisoned until her beheading). Call it mood-y music.
Duran Duran: “Hungry Like the Wolf”; “The Man Who Stole a Leopard”
“The animal within us” and “man versus woman” — or, rather, “man falling prey to woman” — are big themes in Duran songs. Interesting that, several decades post-“Wolf” — a Simon Le Bon metaphor that suggests sex brings out the animal in us — Duran returned to the subject with “Leopard” (lyrics by Nick Rhodes), a love story between a man and actual feline.
“Lions,” Tones on Tail
I haven’t thought about this song in years! Our friend Jeremy suggested it. He’s just back from an African safari expedition, so he has big cats on the brain.
“Rock Lobster,” The B-52’s
Another Jeremy anecdote: One of his first jobs was hosting at a Red Lobster in Kissammee, FLA. Even before I was a vegan, you wouldn’t catch me eating crustacean flesh. Gross.
“Bring on the Dancing Horses,” Echo and the Bunnymen
I’ve been on an E&TB kick these days, thanks to their excellent new record. But watching this video had me lusing for the Ian McCulloch of his beautiful, pillow-lipped, big-haired heyday. And what a poet: “Shiver and say the words/Of every lie you’ve heard.” Sigh. If I could go back in time, I’d be an Bunnymen groupie. Although I’d probably get punched out by Courtney Love — that was her turf.
“Cat People (Putting Out Fire),” David Bowie
Love the song, but the movie terrified me. I always say how I’d like to come back as a cat in my next life, but the kind who lay around all day, not the kind in Cat People. Yikes!
“Release the Bats,” The Birthday Party
“Bite! Bite!” This one’s for my goth buds — particularly one of my oldest friends, Stacey. As a teen she insisted we call her Vampira. She had a pen pal named Morbidia, who insisted they trade vials of blood by mail. This being at the height of the AIDS epidemic, we suggested that wasn’t such a good an idea.
“I Want A Dog,” Pet Shop Boys
Pet Shop Boys have this little trick they deploy here and here where they take what seems like an unremarkable dance track and infuse it with unexpected emotion. That’s what happens with this Frankie Knuckles-produced song from Introspective, which pounds away for a few minutes until Neil Tennant starts singing, “I want a dog, a chihuahua, when I come back to my small flat I want to hear somebody bark, you can get lonely, I want a dog.” And then you realize you’ve just heard the saddest song ever made.
“See Jungle! (Jungle Boy),” Bow Wow Wow
Technically, nothing to do with apes, but Annabella does exhort the listener to throw off the constraints of civilization and live like a shit-flinging simian.
“Papa’s Got a Brand New Pigbag,” Pigbag
“Blue Monday” was a million times more successful, but this was the other monster independent dance record of the time. With New Order, you could maintain your sullen moody persona on the dance floor, but when this came on and the horns started blaring, all pretensions went flying out the window.
“Lions After Slumber,” Scritti Politti
Holy shit, this is a virtuoso performance. I love the gleaming sweatless perfection of latter-day Scritti Politti, but this b-side to “The ‘Sweetest’ Girl” has some real fire in its belly. It’s less a song than a lengthy, and I think largely improvised, litany of Green Gartside’s possessions, obsessions, failings, aspirations and pretensions. He keeps the ball in the air for more than six minutes and you can hear him getting lost in the track and you get lost along with him.
“Welcome to the Monkey House,” Animal Magnet
How is it I can’t remember where I left my keys and yet I am able to summon up the title and performers of a song I heard maybe once more than thirty years ago? Anyone? You Tube commenters lead me to believe Animal Magnet were a big deal in Birmingham and this was a major label release so perhaps there’s a Duran connection. Anyway, kind of fun in an overblown, affected way.
“Crow and a Baby,” Human League
Yeah, I’m aware crows aren’t animals, but Noah made room for two of them in the ark, and he was acting on orders from God, so who am I, or you, to contradict God and Noah? We commented in MW:TB that “Being Boiled’”s “Listen to the voice of Buddha/ Saying stop your sericulture” was one of the great unsettling opening lines in music history. “A crow and a baby had an affair/the result was a landslide, the result was a dare” runs it a close second. And it still weirds me out all these years later.
“Evidently Chickentown,” John Cooper Clarke
AMC’s PC-saga “Halt and Catch Fire” is far from a great show, but the music supervisor is doing an amazing job. I’m hearing songs on the soundtrack I never imagined popping up on an American drama: “Germ-Free Adolescents” by X-Ray Spex, “First Time” by The Boys, even “Are `Friends’ Electric”. But I don’t think I’ll ever be as astonished as I was when the nasal Northern voice of John Cooper Clarke, Manchester’s famous punk poet, turned up at the end of an episode of “The Sopranos”. The Martin Hannett-produced “Evidently Chickentown” is almost suffocatingly bleak and ominous. It fit perfectly into David Chase’s world of grudges and simmering violence. Here’s the scene and the song. (No chickens were harmed during this sequence. I don’t know that for a fact.)