I could name many songs or albums I respect on an artistic level but don’t particularly care to hear all the time. Sgt. Pepper’s is one — the album redefined what’s possible in music, but it’s not an everyday listen. Much of Aimee Mann’s music can be a wonderful expression of your feelings one day and a dreary listen the next, just as Coldplay’s The Scientist is so beautiful and poignant that I would be a miserable wreck if I heard it more than once a week. A lot of prog rock is interesting in its experimentation but not really the sort of thing that pumps you up for a day at work or makes the commute go faster.
It’s rare to hear the opposite, a song that is a fun listen but would have to be called an abject failure artistically. I happened to hear one today — the Cranberries’ unusually upbeat ode to drug addiction, Salvation.
Oh, it’s a pleasant bouncy tune. It’s just a little strange to hear “To all the kids with heroin eyes, don’t do it / Don’t do it / ‘Cause it’s not, not what it seems” at a pace and rhythm better suited to a Husker Du outtake or perhaps one of Midnight Oil’s more energetic numbers. And then the “a ha ha / a ha ha / a ha ha” after the chorus sounds like they’re trying to record Aerobicize with the Cranberries!
Sometimes, lyrics and music are a good fit without being an obvious match. That’s my take on Suzanne Vega’s Luka, so unfairly derided in one of the VH1 snarkfests by Mo Rocca and company. The cheery setting is all part of the kid’s facade of good cheer, hiding the abuse he’s enduring.
It’s hard to make that sort of argument for Salvation, especially when the horn section takes over. A good R&B kissoff to a cheating lover, maybe. A call for political action, sure. But a plea to come back from the brink of addiction? Only if it’s an addiction to sleep, because this is a great wake-up song and a fun listen in spite of itself.