Bring the noise

There are endless “best song” polls and discussions online, but I haven’t seen any that focus on noises – the little bursts of sound that elevate a song from “all right” to “blimey”. A few examples:

  • The blast of feedback in London Calling by the Clash
  • The beep in Beep by Pussycat Dolls
  • Pretty much anything going on in the background of a Public Enemy song

You get the idea. I don’t think guitar effects or other instrumental effects should count – so no room for the mighty “Der Der!” bit from Soft Cell’s Tainted Love, and no room for the superb keyboard sound from Keane’s Is It Any Wonder or some of Edge’s infinite guitar U2 stuff – and I’d rule out spliced songs too (so no “take me back to dear old blighty” from The Smiths’ Queen Is Dead) but I reckon bizarre backing tracks of found sounds fit the bill, so I’d include Timbaland’s work on the current Justin Timberlake track (which is largely a collection of breathing noises).

Any others?

21 thoughts on “Bring the noise

  1. JD says:

    Music nerd moment: on the second CD of the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mellon Collie” album, the track “Where Boys Fear to Tread” uses an explosion from Doom as a snare hit. Ooooh yeah…

  2. Squander Two says:

    > The beep in Beep by Pussycat Dolls

    Is very cool indeed, and is much the same as the beep on Rest In Peace by the Soup Dragons.

    > I don’t think guitar effects or other instrumental effects should count

    I don’t get it. Isn’t a blast of feedback a guitar effect? And isn’t that beep a synth sound?

    Anyway, I nominate Coming Second by Elbow for what sounds like a really amazing overdriven guitar but is in fact the entire band doing what they called “a Viking chant” into one microphone and completely overloading it.

    And most of the noises ever made by Utah Saints. And Lamb.

    And Robert Fripp’s guitar on Simple by No-Man, because, while it may be guitar, you wouldn’t know unless you read the notes: it’s just this big weird scraping noise. Ditto Fripp’s work on X by The Beloved: again, you’d just think it was cool weird samples in the background.

    Speaking of The Beloved, the orchestra tuning up at the start of Hello.

    And the bit in Don’t Let It Out by Oasis, just before the bassline kicks in, where you can hear someone muttering “Pick up the bass.”

    And, of course, Goldbug’s use of the old Pearl & Dean jingle in their cover of Whole Lotta Love.

    And most of Banco De Gaia’s stuff, which is almost entirely cool noises.

    And No-Man’s use of a Twin Peaks sample in Break Heaven.

    I could go on, and probably will later.

  3. Gary says:

    I don’t get it. Isn’t a blast of feedback a guitar effect? And isn’t that beep a synth sound?

    It was early in the morning! Leave me alone!

  4. Armin says:

    Does the Calmac ferry announcement in one of the Mull Historical Society songs (can’t remember which one and can’t look it up just now) count?

  5. Squander Two says:

    Oo, there’s a specific Banco De Gaia sample that’s just excellent: somewhere on Last Train to Lhasa he takes the countdown to the launch of a NASA rocket and changes the sequence of the numbers. “Four… Three… Eleven… Eighteen… One… Nine…” Superb.

    > It was early in the morning! Leave me alone!

    I win!

  6. Gary says:

    On a slightly related note, I’ll cheerfully admit that I love the current Justin Timberlake song (Lovestoned) – the guitar-based coda, anyway. Thing is, he reckons that bit was an attempt to sound like Interpol. I’ve never heard Interpol, but if they sound like that I may well buy their records. Anyone familiar with both the Justin song and the works of Interpol? Is he right, or talking out of his arse?

  7. darth-tater says:

    BEATLES
    The alarm clock in A Day in the Life
    The tambourine rattling at the end of Long, Long, Long
    All of Tomorrow Never Knows

    U2
    The tape looping back and forth trying to find the backing vocal on Numb

    Blur
    The space invader noises on Jubilee
    A tape recording of them being asked for ID at a club in America off some song on Blur

    And my personal favourite…

    Super Furry Animals – in Hermann loves Pauline when he shouts FRENCH BREAD after saying marie curie was French bred.

  8. Carlton says:

    Did someone mention Mansun? Gah. ;)
    The traffic sound (car horns etc) on Grace Jones’ “Pull up to the Bumper” is a winner.

  9. Rachel says:

    Hi everyone,

    Just want to say that you’re all doing a stellar job writing my dissertation for me! I’m doing it on samples used as compositional devices in pop songs and all your ideas for tracks are excellent.

    Gary – not sure the coda sounds like Interpol, but they are indeed good. Where did justin say it sounded like interpol? Cos I can use that in my dissertation………

    Thanks! :)

  10. Gary says:

    Hi Rachel. It was in an interview with AOL Music, although I don’t have the link handy.

    Good luck with the dissertation :)

  11. Squander Two says:

    > I’m doing it on samples used as compositional devices in pop songs and all your ideas for tracks are excellent.

    If you don’t already, you might be interested to know that Utah Saints sample individual drum hits from loads of different records and then piece those samples together into a virtual kit. They have to add their own cymbals, though — impossible to get a clean cymbal sample out of a record.

    And don’t forget the Glen Miller sample from the end of All You Need Is Love. That’s still one of the best uses of a sample ever.

  12. Rachel says:

    Thanks everyone, it’s very kind of you all to help me!

    All your suggestions are noted…

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