While medical science tries its best to keep this "bag of bones alive" (thank you, Flamin' Groovies), I often turn to music to get a quick shot of "soul relief." Here are some of my go-to songs for rejuvenating the spirit, in no particular order.
5. Screeching Weasel - "The Science of Myth"/"What We Hate"
My Brain Hurts is the greatest pop-punk album of all time. That much is indisputable. Now, regarding the best song on the album, that's a matter of personal taste, and I prefer "Guest List." However, it's only the third song, and because it's the first one that's really poppy, it really serves to set the tone of the rest of the album.
By the time you get to the end of side one, which closes with "The Science of Myth," not only does your brain not hurt but you'll be floating on Cloud 9, feeling that sense of euphoria that all good pop-punk aspires to. As the song fades, the silence that follows perfectly sets up the intro to "What We Hate," which begins with a single guitar strumming out the four chords that will carry you through the next two minutes and 26 seconds of elevated consciousness.
These songs work too well together to pick just one, and you have to hear them together to get the full effect. Because both songs have serious, philosophical lyrics (as opposed to, say, "Fathead"), the music and lyrics combine to make everything seem fresh and new with limitless possibilities. It also helps if you're 16 when you first listen to it.
4. The Jam - "Thick as Thieves"
This is the perfect example of how important an album's song order is. I never owned a proper copy of Setting Sons, on which this song appears. Rather, my friend Ryan made me a tape of it, ostensibly with the "shuffle" function on and excluding "Smithers-Jones" and the rushed cover version of "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave." This means that "Thick as Thieves" was the sixth song, rather than the second. Similar to the situation with "The Science of Myth," "Thick as Thieves" benefits from following five other great songs. So by the time it starts, I'm already locked in to that feeling of musical bliss and still crave more.
On paper, it's not the most brilliant song. But that's why music is meant for listening. There's an intangible quality that escapes rational understanding, and whatever it is, this song has it in spades.
3. Martha and the Vandellas - "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave"
Despite the Jam's version of this song being on the wrong album (it should have been on their debut) and being a tad underwhelming, I do have to credit Paul Weller and company with turning me on to the wonders of Motown, specifically, any song penned by Holland/Dozier/Holland. And of all the great songs penned by that songwriting trio, this one's still my favorite. It always makes me think of hanging out in a downtown area near the beach, late afternoon (my favorite time of day for listening to music). To me, the song's verse is the quintessential Motown chord progression, and Martha Reeves' vocal performance is so damned powerful, it's like she's got a direct line to my soul.
2. Ramones - "Howling at the Moon (Sha-La-La)"
Laugh if you will. Lecture me about the Ramones' "golden years." I've heard it all. But I still love this song, and I'd bet a lot of people do too; they just won't admit it.
"But it's got keyboards!" And? "But Joey sings, 'Keep the faith, baby!" OK, so that's corny, but again, who cares? It's got one of those simple melodies that never gets old. They could have made it ten minutes long and I'd still want more. It's the type of song that could bring a tear to my eye, under the right circumstances. This affects my soul in a different way from other songs, touching a more tender spot. And because I feel kind of weird even saying that, I need to balance it out with something a little harder.
1. Metallica - "Master of Puppets"
There's a lot to be said for the power of nostalgia. During the summer before I entered eighth grade, my family drove up to New England for a vacation. And on the way there, I listened to Metallica's Master of Puppets over and over ("and over again, my friend" [oops; wrong place for a P.F. Sloan reference]). This was the first real metal album I heard, having previously listened to GNR, Mötley Crüe, and the like (I was a kid. Leave me alone).
Though I was still into little league baseball, I was beginning to resent the jocks and other popular kids at school. Listening to metal further alienated me from all of them. This was 1989, before jocks became a huge part of Metallica's fan base.
I loved Metallica's mix of aggression, which helped bolster my sense of pride for my burgeoning outcast status, and melody, which appealed to my burgeoning aestheticism. And on Master of Puppets, the title track does the best job at balancing both. Listening to even a few seconds of this song takes my mind right back to that family vacation. If only my body could do the same.