Aural Caffeine: Six Songs to Effectively Pry Me From that Armchair

(Not to be confused with previous posts Albums to (Accidentally) Assault Old Ladies in the Streets To, or Albums to Make Bureaucracy Bearable— nuance is our friend, and let’s at least acknowledge that there are various degrees of water-treading that one can fall victim to.)

The last couple of months at work have sent me deep– deeper than I’ve ever been– into the realm of soul-crushing bureaucracy and paperwork. Trudging blankly in and out of offices, standing in queues, writing a lot of emails and making a lot of despondent phone calls. It should have been fairly straightforward, but certain factors and “solutions” and players keep popping up to make things more complicated than they should. Add the fact that we’ve been servicing clients in the other end of the globe whose schedules just absolutely refuse to line up with ours and what you get is a very tired, very sleep-deprived Jorge, taking 30-minute naps underneath his desk at work like a regular George Costanza, dreading the caustic tones of my phone’s alarm.

Ladies and gentlemen, the face of fatigue. Surprisingly, fatigue looks like an unkempt lunkhead doing a terrible Robert De Niro impression.

(Sidenote: this should be common sense, but for some it never occurred to me: when you’re on a schedule like this, where every minute of sleep is precious, don’t set a favorite song as your alarm ringtone. You grow to absolutely despise it. It’ll take years for The New Pornographers’s “The Laws Have Changed” to recover from the damage.)

Thankfully I have my trusty iPod, ever by my side in times of need, energizing me and shuffling me loose from the grip of exhaustion and back into the world to complete these tedious tasks. Here is a list of songs that Shuffle has miraculously landed on just when I needed them the most.

The Clash- “Complete Control”

Probably my all-time favorite Clash song, from the simpler days of punk, before their ambitious eclecticism effectively smothered their natural gift for melody. This was the first song that came on as I woke up from the very first nap I took under my desk. Groaning as I prepared for another web conference, this track hit me like a sludgy shot of coffee straight to the head, and had me re-energized by the time it hit its victorious coda. Still one of the most thrilling conclusions to any song in the history of rock music.

Bomb the Music Industry!- “It Shits”

This song isn’t so much a kick in the face as it is a Chun Li-like succession of kicks, each one more intense. Interestingly, as outright rocking as this song is, it’s all about being tired, with lyrics about malingering and passing out on couches  A wildly energetic burst of power-chord fury complete with programmed 8-bit synth lines and xylophone melodies, this track shook me back into consciousnes as I nodded off in the back of a taxi on my way to an on-site client meeting.

Cheap Trick- “Surrender”

Yeah, this may raise a few eyebrows, but I’ll proudly proclaim my love for this Cheap Trick song. Everybody loves to shit on them for their ridiculousness, their penchant for over-the-top stage histrionics (a five-neck guitar? Really? You can’t even reach the bottom necks!) and some genuinely shitty singles (“The Flame”, blechh). And I will concede that a big chunk of their discography– hell, perhaps even the majority of it– is brimming with cheese. But find me a bigger, more badass chorus than this. Find me a more melodic fist-pumping anthem about generational disconnect. Find me a more rousing coda than “WE’RE ALL ALRIGHT! WE’RE ALL ALRIGHT!”.  This track snuck up on me while I was trying to figure out how to work a fax machine.

Charles Mingus- “Hora Decubitus”

The genius of Charles Mingus. I first became aware of this amazing composition in the form of a brilliant version by Elvis Costello and the Metropole Orkest, from the live album “My Flame Burns Blue”. As much as I came to love that version, the original– under the name of “E’s Flat, Ah’s Flat Too” from “Blues & Roots”– made me a diehard Mingus advocate. Still, my favorite rendition is this one, now renamed “Hora Decubitus” and found on “Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus”. It possesses a certain closed-off abrasiveness that is not present in the lush full-orchestra arrangement, without falling so close to the anarchic arrangement found on B&R. My iPod’s Shuffle landed on this track as I was commuting to work one particularly cold Buenos Aires morning, and was immediately followed by…

Elbow- “Grounds for Divorce”

To be clear, I know absolutely nothing about Elbow. This song was part of a mix CD made by a friend of mine, and it’s the first and only song I’ve ever heard by them. From what I can tell (the internet tells me they’ve toured with Coldplay) I’m not really missing out on a whole lot. But I really love this particular version of this particular song. A live version of “Grounds for Divorce” with extra oomph provided by the BBC Orchestra. It’s badass, and a great song to get yourself psyched up for hours upon hours of tedious office work.

The Damned- “Neat Neat Neat”

I had to compose myself after nearly giving in to the tense, nervous energy in this wonderfully manic song while in line at a government building. This two-and-a-half-minute blast of blocky, unhinged 70s punk is precisely the type of music you need to be listening to while waiting in any sort of queue, although it can feel a little anticlimactic when you spend 45 minutes getting yourself pumped up and finding nothing but a few papers to sign when you finally reach the end of it. Ah, well. It was a fun wait.

9 thoughts on “Aural Caffeine: Six Songs to Effectively Pry Me From that Armchair

    1. Are there any other Elbow songs that are any good? I honestly only know this one. If there are other songs that approximate this level of badassery, please make sure to pass them on.

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