There appears to have been a big spike in traffic here over the last couple of days – due to my post on The Burning House, which seemed to resonate with quite a few people. Cheers to all the Tumblr users who liked and reblogged it.
I’m a little busy with college stuff at the moment (two weeks till our final projects are due in), so I’ve had to put some stuff on hold, including… [drum roll] a brand new three-song release – I’m now hoping to have it ready to go sometime in/around the third week of September.
One thing I did manage to do before things got too hectic was contribute to another Fire at Sea release, which you can listen to right here (or here, where you can also read the lyrics):
If you have a chance, you should also check out my fellow Fire at Sea-er, Sarah Daly’s new YouTube channel, on which she speaks and sings and tap dances* on camera.
I’d better get back to work. But I’ll hopefully be talking to you again very soon.
Cheers for stopping by,
*she has not posted any tap dancing videos (…yet?)
Welcome to the second episode of Shared Name/Shared Love. In this series, I examine pairs of songs I like which happen to have the exact same name. In this edition, I look at two singles from two different bands’ third albums.
[Don't forget to vote for your favourite of the two in the poll below!]
[And go vote in the last post's poll, while you're at it!]
The Smashing Pumpkins – ‘Zero’
from: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness 
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – ‘Zero‘
from: It’s Blitz! 
I was very late in the game getting into The Smashing Pumpkins, only starting to pay significant attention to them around 2001, just after the band had broken up. It was almost the exact opposite of the traditional music snob “I was into them before everyone else was” scenario. Yeah, I’m more into the post-snobbery, where I only like things after everyone else has stopped liking them – or has forgotten about them. Which is why I think Machina/The Machines of God was by far their best album…
But seriously, Machina is actually quite good, though without a doubt below the standard set by the band’s second and third albums, Siamese Dream  and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness . The former slipped by me at the time. It’s possible – likely, even – that I saw the videos for ‘Today’ and ‘Disarm’ on MTV, but they didn’t resonate with me. Whether that was because they just didn’t appeal or because they weren’t shown that often, I’m not sure.
There was no escaping the first two singles released from Mellon Collie, though. The videos for ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’ and ’1979′ were ubiquitous. And while I liked them (the first a lot more than the second), I wasn’t pushed to get the album at all. This apathy continued even when the video for the album’s fourth single seemed to take over my television entirely.
Eventually, I would go back and get those records. On top of appreciating them as a listener, they also formed a key part in the development of my guitar playing. And one particular standout was track four on the first of Mellon Collie‘s two discs – a song which had been the album’s third single, whose release at the time I managed to miss entirely. That song was ‘Zero’:
There were no complex reasons behind my love for this song. It, very straightforwardly, ticked all the requisite boxes. It was loud. It was heavy. It rocked. Billy Corgan’s voice – occasionally an issue for me – was deployed most appropriately, his snarl mirroring the cutting guitar riffs and distorted harmonics. Billy Corgan’s lyrics – very frequently and issue for me – also fit brilliantly.
It was a joy to play, too. It felt great to strap on an electric guitar, get the most overdrive and distortion I could muster and slash the strings to get that main part going. Mimicking the crazy solo parts without any pitch shift/octave guitar pedals (or actually being able to play them…) proved a lot trickier. But it wasn’t hard to thrash out some chaotic noise that fit the part.
Another reason ‘Zero’ will always have a place in my heart is that it was one of the first songs I ever played solo in front of an audience. During Freshers’ Week in my first year of university (in 2002), I went to one of the many college societies’ ongoing receptions, at which there was a sort of open mic thing. And so I, on an acoustic guitar no less, had a go at spitting out this song. While it wasn’t a smash success, I definitely didn’t embarrass myself, which is probably the best I could have hoped for back then.
It wasn’t too long after that “event” that I came to know Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Unlike the Pumpkins, I got in with them more or less on the ground floor. True, I didn’t get too involved in the early hype that surrounded their self-titled debut and Machine, but I’d say I could claim a decent amount of indie snob points having picked up Fever to Tell in the summer of 2003, long before ‘Maps’ made most folk sit up and take notice.
Fever to Tell is due to appear in my Top Ten Albums of 2000-2009 series, having claimed the #4 spot in my original list, so I won’t go into any depth about it here. Needless to say, I loved it. And I will also say that a massive chunk of that love was specifically down to Nick Zinner’s use of the electric guitar.
I believe it was the decreased prominence of that instrument on the band’s second album, Show Your Bones, that caused some people to be less enthusiastic about it. It was definitely a more subtle affair. In some cases, this may have been to the detriment of the album, but it also delivered some amazing tracks. In particular, the album’s last track, ‘Turn Into’, is spectacular, moving from delicate fragility to grandeur and joy and back, closing the album perfectly (I’ve talked about this briefly before…).
The Is Is EP might have suggested the band was heading back towards its earlier sound, but when their third album, It’s Blitz! eventually came out, it revealed they had moved even further afield, with the guitars of Fever (electric) and Bones (acoustic and electric) seemingly giving way to an army synths and disco beats.
The album’s shift was heralded by its first single, ‘Zero’:
Dynamics-wise, it actually shares a bit with ‘Turn Into’. It has that subdued first verse, teasing you along before then kicking in. And it also has a moment where Zinner’s lead guitar bursts into the song, having been sidelined for two minutes and 15-20 seconds. But while ‘Turn Into’ has a more measured vocal climax, arriving in the bridge when Karen O sings: “I’ll fall right in to keep you out / I’d like to tell you all about it.”, ‘Zero’ peaks more literally – and more frequently – in each chorus, as she squeals the “crying, crying, crying” and “climb, climb, climb” parts, hitting the spot each time. Yes.
As for choosing between the two songs. Well, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs track is far more inline with my current listening habits and tastes. Being released much more recently is bound to help that. Likewise, the Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Zero’ obviously trumps the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ on nostalgia points.
I don’t think either does its job particularly better than the other.
SP’s ‘Zero’ still rocks hard and kicks a significant amount of bum and makes me want to jump up and down and bang my head.
YYYs’ ‘Zero’ still has its strutting swagger and makes me want to find the nearest dance floor and throw my shoulders back and move my hips and put my hands in the air.
Which of those two things do I want to do more – and more often? Almost certainly the latter. Perhaps I’ve lost my edge/dark side (if ever I had one), but these days I never really find myself “intoxicated with the madness” or “in love with my sadness”. I’m much much much more likely to want to “shake it like a ladder to the sun” and “climb, climb, climb higher”.
Though I’m still not sure about putting leather on…
Anyway. I’m going with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for now, though I definitely still love the Smashing Pumpkins’ track. What do you think? Vote in the poll and leave a comment below: