Hard News by Russell Brown


One man’s Meat Puppets is another man’s Poison

The history of the use of popular music in psychological torture is real and ugly, and I don't mean to trivialise it here. But when I heard Bryan Crump trailer a radio documentary on the subject this week with an office poll on the music his workmates would regard as cruel and unusual punishment, it got me thinking.

For a start, I thought the Radio New Zealand staff picks weren't really that scary. I mean, I've never actually heard One Direction, but I can't imagine this week's boy band really being able to create a proper musical instrument of torture. It would be like being tortured by a kitten, surely.

It took me no effort to think what my answer would have been. It is burned into my psyche.

In 1986, I was working nights at the HMV Store in Piccadilly. Being a record store, it had a sound system for playing music. If you worked the back counter, you usually got to choose what went on the stereo and that could be quite fun, especially near closing time on Friday nights, when it seemed appropriate to push the boat out a bit. Madonna, Public Enemy, Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction, they all got a spin.

But every now and then, management would decree that a particularly significant new release would be played back-to-back for a week.

And one week (hell, it might even have been two fucking weeks) the flagship new release was the original soundtrack of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, which was playing to packed houses nearby.

So I listened to that pompous cod-rock musical, end to end, until time itself ceased to have meaning. I just recall thinking how awful this music was and wishing it could end.

There is still plenty of music that makes me dive for the kill-switch. I can't get through a song from the last Florence and the Machine album and I have been known to yell SHUT UP JUST SHUT UP at various whiny-assed, keening rock acts. But Andrew Lloyd Webber's flagship work touched me in a bad way.

But of course, one man's Meat Puppets is another man's Poison. And I'm sure that you, dear readers, will have your own anti-favourites; the music you would confess to anything to escape. Well, today's the day to share them here. You may wish to include YouTube links to your musical nightmares -- in which case, just paste the long URL (not the youtu.be one) into the comment window and it will automatically embed.

Do your worst ...

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