As long as people have made music, they’ve written words to go with it. Long before the rise and fall of poetry and prose; stories, philosophies and emotions have been communicated in songs. Going back to the early medieval period, the Venerable Bede noted it was commonplace at feasts for the guests to pass around the harp and sing ‘vain and idle songs’. Whilst that might make Bede sound like that annoying bloke who brings his acoustic guitar to the park, it does show just how long the relationship between words and music have harmoniously existed.
One of the great joys of lyrics, is that it is an art form without boundaries; you can chase the poetic and romantic, you can tell the story of someone else or of yourself, hell if you’re Mark Kozelek you can literally just run the listener through what you did on a particularly nondescript Tuesday in October 1996. There is no structured way of writing a great lyric, you simply have to stumble onto something that resonates with your listener. Whilst we’re sure a great deal of research has gone into the development and art of lyrics; if you now Google “this history of lyrics”, you just get the lyrics to History by One Direction.
Minibars, expensive cars, hotel rooms
And new tattoos, good champagne, and private planes
But we don’t need anything
‘Cause the truth is out
Out there someone somewhere is finding as much meaning in that as they are in Leonard Cohen’s finest words, and isn’t that proof of the unclassifiable, lawless power of a pop lyric
One band looking to make just as much impact with their words as their distorted guitar-pop, are Leeds’ Bruising. The band formed back in 2014 when front-woman Naomi Baguley spotted guitarist Ben Lewis wearing a Perfect Pussy t-shirt in a Leeds nightclub, the rest as they say is history. Following the release of their excellent debut single Emo Friends/Honey the band’s winning blend of noisy guitars and perfectly poised harmonious vocals caught the attention of both musicians, Andrew WK and Meredith Graves are fans, and pretty much every music journalist going.
It has been a year since that release, but Bruising haven’t been wasting any time, touring with the likes of Waxahatchee and Los Campesinos!, all whilst Naomi spent a year in Berlin studying. Their much-anticipated return came last week in the shape of a new single, I Don’t Mind. Picking up from where their previous output left off, I Don’t Mind is a piece of great contrasts; guitars flick from tuneful and emotive to venomous and distorted, the drums clatter in a roar of percussive noise, but drift out just as quickly, while Naomi’s vocal, from a bruised and almost timid beginning, roars into the chorus, “I don’t mind, I don’t mind, I love you, I don’t mind.” Discussing the lyrical inspiration, Naomi notes, ‘“I don’t mind” is a sweet phrase, it’s supportive and comforting, not as passive as it seems. Whatever you are going through or whatever you need to be – I don’t mind’. And Bruising seem like that sort of band, a band who will be there with you at your lowest ebb, but equally soundtrack your wildest nights out – whatever you need they’ve got a song for you.
As Bruising release their latest single, and prepare to head out on tour, Naomi was kind enough to put together a mixtape featuring some of her favourite lyricists from Morrissey to Mitski.
1. Morrissey – I Have Forgiven Jesus
After making this playlist I realised that all of the songs are very sad, maybe it’s easier to write compelling lyrics about a sad subject. Anyway, we have to start with the master of misery, Morrissey. The title of this song seems like just a provocation, but the lyrics are very moving, especially in the chorus.
2. Mitski – Last Words Of A Shooting Star
Thoughts on a turbulent aeroplane, and the simplicity and sadness of “I am relieved that I left my room tidy”.
3. Anthony and The Johnsons – For Today I Am A Boy
Anohni’s voice is beautiful, and this is a song about struggling with gender that I can’t do justice to. I suppose this song is great not just because of the lyrics, but the feeling in Anohni’s voice when she sings them.
4. Arthur Russell – Love Is Overtaking Me
I believe Arthur Russell was the greatest sweetheart of our time. This song is very romantic and I like that he isn’t afraid to say “love”.
5. Radiator Hospital – The Truth Is Out There (Parts I & II)
The lyrics in all of Radiator Hospital songs are worth writing about, but this one is very special to me. I didn’t realise before hearing this song that it was possible to write so simply about the reality of life.
6. Joni Mitchell – River
This song is cool because it’s ~christmas sad~. I used to listen to this song and the whole of Blue when I was a teen, and definitely fixated on the line “I wish I had a river I could skate away on”. I love Joni Mitchell’s dignity and honesty.
7. Sufjan Stevens – Casimir Pulaski Day
I don’t really need to explain why this song is sad, or beautiful, or holy. I used to listen to it in the car with my dad when I was a kid, and I don’t really listen to it anymore because it can get too much sometimes. But it deserves a special mention.
8. Leonard Cohen – So Long, Marianne
This song itself isnt necessarily very sad, but it has taken on the sadness of Leonard Cohen’s death. I love the verse about the “green lilac park”
I Don’t Mind is out now via Beech Coma. Bruising head out on tour next weekend, click HERE for all live dates (or look below).