Posted on July 29th, 2008 in Music

Amazing dive bar songs

Recently, I made a huge playlist of songs that are
What’s better than listening to whiskey-soaked laments at 1am?
made to listen to on the jukebox in a shitty dive bar (with pitchers of shitty beer). Some of these are harder to find, but if you end up in a dingy bar some night with nothing but a a few dollar bills and an Evan Williams on the rocks, think back to this list and throw on whatever you can find.

If you can think of any amazing stuff that fits the vibe here, post them in the comments!

26 of the best:

Andy Williams – The Hawaiian Wedding Song
[The Hawaiian Wedding Song/1959]
Crooner Andy Williams covered this 1926 love song in 1959, turning it into a lazy aloha that fits a dive bar in a strange but perfect way.

Big Star – Thirteen
[#1 Record/1972]
Alex Chilton’s haunting portrait of adolescence is one of the most sad-but-satisfying songs to listen to over a glass of whiskey.

Bob Dylan – It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue
[Bringing It All Back Home/1965]
Dylan is an obvious staple at the bar, and ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue‘ is a classic that should be played during every visit.

Bob Dylan – Tangled Up In Blue
[Blood On The Tracks/1974]
Dylan uses a lot of his patented tricks here (that increasingly intensifying talking/chorus thing); this song always reminds me of a less-confrontational ‘Hurricane‘ (see below).

Bob Dylan – Hurricane
Used brilliantly by Richard Linklater during a poolhall scene in Dazed and Confused, ‘Hurricane‘ is an 8-and-a-half minute anthem of racial hypocrisy, but damn if it doesn’t sound perfect in a bar.

Charles Manson – Look At Your Game Girl
[Lie: The Love And Terror Cult/1970]
People tend to forget that Manson was a pretty talented songwriter (Dennis Wilson was a fan!) before all the Manson Family Murders. This song has an eery resemblance to some of Devendra Banhart’s material. And what greater song to play at a grungy dive than that of a batshit-insane murderous cult leader?

Chris Isaak – Wicked Game
[Heart Shaped World/1989]
The bluesy, neo-50s croon of Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game‘ is velvety-smooth—the crème de la crème of jukebox heartbreakers.

The Clash – Guns Of Brixton
[London Calling/1979]
Guns Of Brixton‘ hints at the dub-step influences The Clash explored more fully on London Calling followup, Sandinista!. Definitely a weird song (listen for the boings), but it’s amazing when you’re six beers deep.

Danzig – Tired Of Being Alive
[Danzig II: Lucifuge/1990]
Danzig is always great to hear in a dive bar; ‘Tired Of Being Alive‘ boasts a monster crooner-metal chorus that everyone in the joint can sing along to.

Danzig – Sistinas
[Danzig III: How The Gods Kill/1992]
The master of mixing completely different time periods, Danzig gives ‘Sistinas‘ the pretty-50s treatment with black metal undertones; deathly and perfect for late-night, deserted-bar listening.

Elvis Presley – (You’re The) Devil In Disguise
[Please Don’t Drag That String Around/1963]
What would a dive bar be without Elvis on the jukebox? Not a dive bar, that’s what. This is my favorite Elvis song: sad, but with an ass-shaking chorus that begs for booze and pool tables.

The Jesus Lizard – Monkey Trick
A pummeling bass riff takes this song from no-wavish noise-punk and puts it in bottoms-up throwdown territory. Play this on the jukebox during a barfight and someone might get killed.

Joy Division – New Dawn Fades
[Unknown Pleasures/1979]
Suicided musicians are always a good bet for dive-bar jukeboxism, and Joy Division is the most obvious example. The haunting melody and raw, post-punk production of ‘New Dawn Fades‘ has that perfect-for-a-bar mixture of intensity and gloom.

Meat Puppets – Roof With A Hole
[Too High To Die/1994]
Meat Puppets’ ‘Roof With A Hole‘ is a classic grunge jam that sounds even better amidst a room full of dirty drunks and grimy walls and floors.

Nirvana – The Man Who Sold The World
[Unplugged In New York/1994]
Nirvana is always a safe bet, but the best song to play in a murky dive bar is actually the Bowie cover, ‘The Man Who Sold The World‘, from Unplugged In New York. The solo at the end is as haunting as anything could be.

Paul Westerberg – Even Here We Are
[14 Songs/1993]
At only 1:42, you’re not getting much for your quarters on this one, but Westerberg is another staple of the bar, and ‘Even Here We Are‘ is just so delicate. And sad.

The Ramones – She Talks To Rainbows
[Adios Amigos/1995]
Most people at the jukebox will play the Ramones’ late-70s classics (rightfully so), but tucked away on their final album is this little gem, which has a sedated intensity (sad, gentle) almost opposite that of their punk roots.

The Replacements – Here Comes A Regular
One of the most gut-wrenching bar songs ever written, ‘Here Comes A Regular‘ demands to be listened to in a booze-drenched gutterhouse or not at all.

The Replacements – Johnny’s Gonna Die
[Sorry Ma, Forgot To Take Out The Trash/1981]
The dirty bassline on ‘Johnny’s Gonna Die‘ is everything a dive bar should be. Paul Westerberg’s voice was made for these occasions.

Richard Hell & The Voidoids – Blank Generation
[Blank Generation/1977]
Hell’s Blank Generation is one of the best protopunk/punk records ever; and its title track is a straight-shot of wide-eyed boozy delight.

The Rolling Stones – Sympathy For The Devil
[Beggar’s Banquet/1968]
You’re obviously not going to the bar without hearing—and playing—The Stones. ‘Sympathy For The Devil‘ is a sprawling, druggy classic.

Sonic Youth – (She’s In A) Bad Mood
[Confusion Is Sex/1983]
Outstanding no wave from pre-alternative Sonic Youth. The nihilism of ‘Bad Mood—and no wave in general—is lovely to hear in a room full of self-loathing strangers.

Sonic Youth – Tuff Gnarl
One of Sonic Youth’s early forays into popdom; ‘Tuff Gnarl‘ is absolutely suited for barplay (those confrontational lyrics!). It’s less antagonistic than ‘Bad Mood‘ (above), but still plenty anti-social.

The Velvet Underground – Venus In Furs
[The Velvet Underground & Nico/1967]
This song is one of the all-time bar greats; a dive bar staple if there ever was one. Lou Reed’s singing of sadomasochism to a hypnotic backdrop…is ice cold and spine shivering.

The Velvet Underground – Heroin
[The Velvet Underground & Nico/1967]
Another downer from the Velvets. (Really, this entire album is great dive music.) Reed’s tales of heroin abuse could almost be seen as too vivid for some of the lifers.

Wire – Reuters
[Pink Flag/1977]
This classic from Wire’s seminal post-punk album Pink Flag features bleeding guitars set to a churning, steamroller rhythm. Its apocalyptic political edge is awesome to listen to in filth.

Posted on February 19th, 2008 in Music

32 amazing songs to listen to in the pouring rain

Dudes & dudettes, I am sure you can agree that there’s something magical about listening to a sad song in a thunderstorm. Here are 32 of my favorites. Enjoy:

Psychotica – 180º
This seminal goth band’s debut album was a mainstay on my playlist back in high school. ‘180º‘, in particular, is a grand foray into industrial goth androgyny.

The Sound – Winning
[From the Lion’s Mouth/1986]
Post-punk pioneers The Sound were unfortunately overlooked due to the successes of Joy Division, New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen and others. Nevertheless, they released some chilling, hopeless music that used to send shivers up my spine when I would go for walks at 3 a.m. through my empty town of rural suburbia.

The Music – Getaway
[The Music/2002]
The Music’s masterpiece, ‘Getaway‘, from their self-titled debut, is a rain-soaked anthem of intense, thunderous guitars and wailing vocal pleas that never fail to make my blood boil.

Dimbodius – Breaking You
[While We Fall/2004]
Breaking You‘ is a sprawling, hypnotic cadence of desparation and dejection. Afloat in dreary reverb and steady electronic backbeats are passionately slow vocals that evolve and devolve like a thunderstorm.

M83 – Unrecorded
[Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts/2003]
M83’s gorgeous debut surprised everyone with its intricate electronic homages to My Bloody Valentine, and this epic instrumental cascade of synth-soaked melody is a perfect introduction. ‘Unrecorded‘ could probably start a rainstorm if you played it loud enough.

Optiganally Yours – Oar
[Exclusively Talentmaker!/2000]
Rob Crowe hid this little gem on an obscure side project, deftly ensuring a treasure trove of happy-to-be-sadness for anyone lucky enough to discover it. This is one of the most depressing tracks (the lyrics!) ever.

Team Sleep – Your Skull is Red
[Team Sleep/2005]
This bone-chilling track from Deftones’ Chino Moreno features skull-splitting melodies and the type of passion and murderous lust we’ve come to expect from Chino.

ohGr – JaKO
The side project of Nivek Ogre (of Skinny Puppy fame) harnesses a dark, pulsating energy that meshes some 80s new wave to Skinny Puppy’s usual industrial gristle. Perfect for a midnight storm.

The Church – Under the Milky Way
The Church’s greatest moment (utilized perfectly in Donnie Darko) is quite possibly the saddest, most demoralized song ever written. Steve Kilbey’s wistful baritone seems forever mired in frozen gloom.

The Boxer Rebellion – Never Knowing How or Why
The Boxer Rebellion’s debut is a chilling assemblage of Sigur Rossian vocals and droning soundscapes that make for a perfect soundtrack to a rainy afternoon.

The Organ – Memorize the City
[Grab That Gun/2004]
This now-defunct all-girl Canadian band has released some of the most depressing music of the decade. ‘Memorize the City‘ is a heaving journey through the empty, rain-soaked streets of Desolation City.

Ra Ra Riot – Ghost Under Rocks
[Ra Ra Riot EP/2007]
Perhaps made even more surreal by the recent death of drummer John Pike, ‘Ghost Under Rocks‘ is an emotional deathgrip—weaving and winding through a landscape of anguish.

Ellen Allien & Apparat – Way Out
[Orchestra of Bubbles/2006]
Ellen Allien’s collaboration with Apparat showcased a beautifully produced set of moody electronica, most notably this masterpiece, which mixes Allien’s evocative vocals with a backdrop of hammering beats and synthy melodies.

The Raveonettes – Lust
[Lust Lust Lust/2007]
Drenched in reverb and moving along at a sexy, hypnotizing crawl, ‘Lust‘ is the perfect backdrop for a canvas of gentle rain on an otherwise silent Sunday afternoon.

The Dandy Warhols – Good Morning
[Come Down/1997]
This classic Dandy Warhols track is a druggy meditation of droning guitars topped with Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s typically lackadaisical vocals, relenting only after a brilliant guitar-solo crescendo.

New Order – Crystal
[Get Ready/2001]
Possibly the greatest song New Order has ever recorded, ‘Crystal‘ is nothing short of an anthem for driving fast in the rain. Bernard Sumner’s melodic vocals have never sounded so intense with the accompanying keyboards and throbbing bassline.

The Big Sleep – Sleep Forever
[Sleep Forever/2008]
The title track of The Big Sleep’s latest record is a perfect album closer, awash in shoegazy guitars and wailing vocals, like a massive summer thunderstorm.

The Get Up Kids – Like a Man Possessed
[Another Year on the Streets, Vol. 3/2004]
One of The Get Up Kids’ softer, more introspective moments (which makes a jawdropping appearance on an episode of One Tree Hill), ‘Like a Man Possessed‘ combines a restrained tempo with melodic guitarscapes and a vigorous breakdown.

Denali – The Instinct
[The Instinct/2003]
Maura Davis’s classically trained vocals have never sounded as frozen and hopeless as they do on this Denali song—backed by steady, electronic drums and cacophonous guitars, this track was my only solace for weeks following my grandpa’s death a few years ago.

Radiohead – Where I End + You Begin
[Hail to the Thief/2003]
Radiohead’s ‘Where I End + You Begin‘ is a kaleidoscope of haunting atmospherics that perfectly compliment Thom York’s manic vocal stylings—creating a sort of bi-polar mood that never fails to clone the feelings I had in 2003 when I first heard it.

Starflyer 59 – Too Much Fun
[The Fashion Focus/1998]
The epic wall of guitars that is ‘Too Much Fun‘ is the greatest song ever recorded. At almost 8 minutes long (8 minutes of God), there isn’t a better song to listen to during a tumultuous flood.

Sound Team – TV Torso
[Movie Monster/2006]
Sound Team’s ‘TV Torso‘ is a feverish locomotive of mood. Trance-inducing, uncompromising and frenetic.

Sparklehorse – Cow
Mark Linkous’s typically surrealistic wordplay and intricate arrangements add a bizarre, dreamlike quality to this song—perfect for a gentle rainshower on a weekend afternoon.

Blonde Redhead – 23
Featuring Kazu Makino’s now-customary blend of abstract vocal stylings and a canvas of My Bloody Valentine-influenced distortion, ‘23‘ vomits beauty and inhales my soul with each listen.

The 101 – Regret
[Green Street/2005]
The 7-minute closer from The 101’s first full-length is ceaselessly lethargic, but its reassuring hook was a Saturday afternoon mainstay for me a few summers ago.

Maserati – The World Outside
[Inventions For the New Season/2007]
The World Outside‘ is a sparkling bit of instrumental post-rock: textural, vibrant and graceful.

Honey is Cool – Bolero
[Early Morning Are You Working/1999]
The wintry, otherworldly vocals and tundric guitars of ‘Bolero‘ are as good as anything Karin Dreijer has recorded since.

Moonbabies – I’m Insane But So Are You
[June and Novas/2001]
Every time I listen to the jangly guitars and hopeless lyrics of this song I am instantly shoved into the Japanese dreamworld described in Haruki Murakami’s classic, Norwegian Wood.

Failure – Another Space Song
[Fantastic Planet/1996]
Failure’s “Another Space Song” is a dismal, metaphorical tale of being left alone to die in nothingness. The intro of this song is taken directly from a scene in the 1973 animated French surrealist film Fantastic Planet.

Hum – Little Dipper
[You’d Prefer an Astronaut/1995]
A stentorian nightmare of space and drugs; a thunderous wall-of-sound (sluggishly moving/barely breathing) drones amidst swells of feedback.

On!Air!Library! – Feb.
In just a couple of minutes, these experimentalists overlay a simple, repetitious guitarscape with an utterly hopeless vocal line that seems as sad as anything ever could be.

National Skyline – A Night at the Drugstore
Former members of Castor and Hum teamed up to create this; scourged in chilling synths, ethereal samples and emotionless drum loops. A perfect choice for walking around in a midnight thunderstorm.

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