• Malcolm Combe

Perfect Songs

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

The following is a re-posting. The original can be found here (

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture – it’s a really stupid thing to want to do.” (attributed to Elvis Costello)

In 2012, I started a WordPress blog. It was mainly a place to host posts about Scots [property] law and legal education, but I occasionally veered off into politics and personal stuff. (Some might wryly note I did that more that more than occasionally.) In one of my dalliances, I took a conversation I had with a good friend too far and decided to set-up a page on my blog listing my ten perfect songs.

This is an imperfect list. Ten is an arbitrary number. Some of the choices I look at and, on reflection, think “is that even the best song by that band?”, but then I further reflect that the song captures something about the band or a time of my life. It is also a snapshot of me in 2012, probably with more of a nostalgic fixation on songs I liked in the 90s and 00s than is healthy, but so be it. Anyway, this is the list from 2012. Would I change it in 2020? Maybe. Probably. Och, never mind, here it is.

Perfect Songs

Here is list of perfect songs, in no particular order*. My self-imposed rules are: one song per band; and only ten songs.

1. Therapy? - Screamager

2. The Levellers - 15 Years

3. Frank Turner - Long Live the Queen

4. The Wildhearts - Mazel Tov Cocktail

5. Runrig - Rocket to the Moon

6. The Killers - Mr Brightside

7. Terris - Fabricated Lunacy

8. Pearl Jam - Corduroy

9. Idlewild - Live in a Hiding Place

10. Coldplay - The Scientist

I could have probably included a track by the Manics, Blondie, Fleetwood Mac, REM, Deacon Blue, Nirvana, Springsteen, The Proclaimers, Radiohead, Dylan, The Undertones, U2, Queen or The Clash, but I suppose they have enough airplay. As perhaps do The Killers, Coldplay and Pearl Jam, so that shoots my argument, but there we go: those three bands penned songs that are just too bloody good, and I don’t even count myself as a huge fan of The Killers.

Of my ten, three songs perhaps merit special explanation as they are a little obscure or arty**. Runrig’s music is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it means something to me. Rocket to the Moon is up there as one of the best nostalgic and cianalas*** inducing songs, so for that reason Runrig get parachuted into my ten, providing a bit of a foil to the English punk/folk of The Levellers. The Idlewild album track I have mentioned I used to listen to on repeat far too often. It is beautiful.

As for Terris, I have never seen them and I know very little about them**** but Fabricated Lunacy is amazing. I am not sure how or when I heard it, but it blindsided me when I did.

I apologise to Soul Asylum, Live, many great great Highland bagpipe players (yes, the double “great” is deliberate) and many others, but in my self-imposed top ten I can only include ten.

I should note that I am well aware I have not included any classical music, nor even the great catchy songs that become football chants like Cwm Rhondda, Guantanamera or The Beach Boys’ Sloop John B, so feel free to ostracise me as a Philistine for those further omissions. In fact, it is all rather English, in language that is – even the Runrig track I chose does not feature any Gaelic, either in whole (like the relentless An Toll Dubh) or in part (like the lovely Skye). Otherwise, by all means castigate me about songs I have forgotten about or misguidedly overlooked.

A final point about music journalism, which apparently Frank Zappa reviewed thus: “People who can’t write, preparing stories based on interviews with people who can’t talk, in order to amuse people who can’t read”. Mind you, he was speaking specifically about rock journalism, so I trust none of those points are true of this blog, its subject matter or its readers. I found that quote in the inlay to Mogwai Young Team. Ah, maybe I should have included a track by them too…

Wait, I forgot to include anything by The Hold Steady or Counting Crows. Oh well, I guess this will have to do.

Finally, the inlay of the 2010 Stone Roses re-issue described I am the Resurrection as “8:13 of perfection”, whereas it is not even my favourite track on that album (as amazing as it undoubtedly is). That just shows how subjective and ridiculous my exercise here is. Sorry.

* Okay, there was a bit of an order. It would have felt wrong to not put Northern Irish noiseniks Therapy? anywhere other than the top of my list, and even though they have many more technically clever tracks than Screamager that track quite simply had to be top. If you know me or Therapy? you will understand.

** “I love your friends, they’re all so arty…” Yes, perhaps I should have included some Franz Ferdinand as well, but “Take Me Out” would have been my choice, rather than the song that pretentiously goes on about arty friends.

*** Cianalas is a Scots Gaelic word that I cannot quite translate. It roughly means homesickness or longing.

**** Via YouTube comments, I gleaned Terris’s former singer became a university lecturer. Fitting.

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