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Sunday 30 September 2018

Upon A Fearful Summons

I talk about insecurity an awful lot; how central it is to our basic psychology and our lives in general is a hill I would die on daily. It isn't the whole story, obviously - and today I'm going to talk about another one of those needling driving forces.


Now, guilt means two things. The first meaning is that someone is culpable for an act, that they committed an offence. That's not the guilt that we are talking about.

Guilt is a feeling.
No disease of the imagination is so difficult to cure, as that which is complicated with the dread of guilt. - E. M. Forster
Who hasn't felt guilty over something? Something they have done that they think they shouldn't have, something they haven't done that they should have? It's almost unthinkable that someone could go through life and not feel it at least once, right?

Do we feel it for the right reasons?

That's an entirely different kettle of fish, right there.

See, it's good that if we do something that is actually wrong, that we should - afterwards - realise it was wrong. If we literally hurt someone or inconvenience someone, for no good reason, then we should feel bad about that. It's how we know we are good people. In fact, even if we have done the bad thing for a good reason, we should feel it. It keeps us grounded. It reminds us of the consequences, and that even though - for a very basic comparison - we have saved one hundred lives, we shouldn't diminish the severity of sacrificing one life to do so.

The problem is, we aren't rational beings at heart - and we aren't necessarily good at sorting and filing the emotions we feel.

Hands up if you feel guilty for wronging someone that has forgiven you.

Should the forgiveness of the other party absolve you from guilt? You might think so - but we all have different levels of acceptance, for actions that we feel can be forgivable. It varies from person to person, too. I would forgive in a heartbeat accidental attacks against my person from people I know and trust, far faster than I would forgive even more minor infractions from people in the street.

What it comes down to, though - guilt is only slightly assuaged by the forgiveness of the second party.

Guilt is only assuaged truly by forgiveness of ourselves.
That deed which in our guilt we today call weakness, will appear tomorrow as an essential link in the complete chain of Man. - Khalil Gibran
In my eyes, how willing we are to forgive ourselves isn't connected to the actual severity of the action in question, because we are awful at being objective in terms of judging ourselves.

This is going to get deeply personal right now, so fair warning.

I feel guilty about not being as healthy as everyone around me.

Not just the fat thing (which I talked about in a previous blog). The constant pain and the lack of lung capacity from my other badness makes me something of a broken toy soldier at the best of times, so I just can't necessarily take part in things that I used to take for granted.

This means that people often have to take me into consideration when we do things as a group, and that not only tweaks my anxiety off the scale, it also makes me feel guilty for inconveniencing them - even if I can't actually magically cure my rheumatoid arthritis and pulmonary fibrosis, and even if they assure me (and trust me, I believe them!) when they say it isn't actually a problem.

I nonetheless feel guilty over this thing I have done wrong, this hardship I have inflicted on others. Which is, yes, logically speaking absolutely ridiculous.

The thing is that logic has nothing to do with it, obviously; it's just the way that we are wired, which begins at an early age, continues throughout our lives, and has little bearing on reality. We don't live in a society which fully accepts the weaknesses and frailties of others - not yet, anyway. We still have this very British, very ridiculous Stiff Upper Lip mentality, which was primarily set up as a way to - funnily enough - assuage guilt.

The Stoics loved this - loved the idea that if you just tell yourself you aren't affected by the thing, that if you bear with it and just put up with it, then everything will be fine. And let's just say that, in British society, at various points in our history - there's been times when it was quite, quite useful for the social status quo to be against grumbling or discontent.

It is still a huge part of our society. Workplaces treat their employees like shit because the workers are of a culture and a mindset wherein they just, you know, put up with it. Our politics has been rife with austerity measures and literally punishing people who are sick or poor because everyone is expected to just, you know, put up with it.

And the moment that we "cause a fuss", the moment that we stick our heads over the parapet and say, actually, that ISN'T legal, that ISN'T in my job contract, that ISN'T a thing you should be doing - we feel guilty. Because we're bucking expectation, we're rubbing against the conditioning of the society we have lived in since we were born and the social pressures of everyone we know. Or almost everyone.

Which is, I think, the only reason why the current status quo continues today.
The soul must accept guilt in order to destroy existing evil, lest it incur the greater guilt of idyllic withdrawal, of seeming to be good by putting up with wrong. - Ernst Bloch
See, it's a big motivator - nobody likes feeling guilty. It's a significant drain on our mental health and our well-being, and contributes to stress in a big way. So of course, it gets used as a manipulative tool.

Unfortunately, one of the first places we come across it is in childhood - usually directed at us from a parent or guardian, to try and make us behave. It sticks with you. It's why it is effective even later in life, long after it was necessary to cajole us into behaving in a "civil" fashion. Manipulators will use guilt to try and make us do what they want us to do, regardless of how it makes us feel or if its the right thing to do. Both on a personal scale, and on a national one.

Our insecurity leads us by the nose, and that isn't a good thing. Our guilt leads us, too - perhaps not as often but just as surely. We feel guilt for action and inaction, and we let it guide us without questioning it, without fighting it. How can we stop it from leading us into misery?

Put simply, as I said earlier, we have to forgive ourselves.

We need to show ourselves the same kind of love and understanding that we show those we love and care about the most. We need to be capable of empathising with ourselves. We need to take a look at ourselves and express understanding - we know why we did the thing we did, we know that it upsets us, we shouldn't push ourselves too hard. We made the wrong decision, so we should fix it, but punishing ourselves for it won't help. We were put on the spot and went one way when we should have gone another. We should try and soften the impact, but we shouldn't simply languish in how bad we feel about what we did.

Guilt warns us, reminds us that we're still moralistic creatures. It's the doing, though - it's the fixing, the understanding, the refusing to do evil - that really matters.

And as much as guilt may cut us, there is a certain warmth, a certain comfort, in the words:

At Least I Tried.

Saturday 22 September 2018

Adventures In Albums

So you know that I like my music and I like my tabletop roleplaying games, right?

Well I got asked a very interesting question by my buddy the other day:

(Pardon the rubbish screenshot.)

And my response, at first, was just one word:


But then I really got thinking about it.

See, concept albums are cheating, sort of. Like Dream Theater's "The Astonishing" and Nine Inch Nails' "Year Zero" (the latter is only vaguely a concept album, but concept enough). They already have a story, a shared world, a contiguous thematic running through every song. They already proceed at pace through a narrative. Likewise Dream Theater's "Metropolis Pt2: Scenes From A Memory," itself a sequel to a song on a previous album - and likewise a large swathe of Coheed & Cambria's output, Rush's "2112", Daft Punk's "Discovery", Fear Factory's "Demanufacture". All of these albums tell a story, and putting together a roleplaying campaign from an existing story isn't all that challenging.

Of course, you do come across the difficulties in terms of wanting the campaign to be accepting of player choice - you don't want to railroad them too hard, because that gets pretty tedious. Take it from a player who has been railroaded a fair amount. You end up either slumping into inactivity just to let the game play out its course, or you fight desperately against the rails - neither of which are ideal.

So maybe it is easier to take an album that doesn't already have a story, and tie the disparate songs there into a singular narrative befitting a campaign.

Now, you'd have to pick a game based on the album, too. If you primarily play Dungeons & Dragons, then putting together an album based on the bleak audio soundscape of Burial is going to be difficult. Likewise, playing a gritty game of Cyberpunk 2020 to the wizard-based brilliance of Uriah Heep is going to be tonally awkward.

You also want an album that has sufficient breadth for a variety of scenarios to occur. I mentioned Burial? Well if you want your campaign to have a victory parade or any kind of fanfare or ceremony, then you are not going to find it in Burial's back catalogue. That's not a criticism. I love a bit of Burial. I just know the sounds he creates.

So I mean, there's a way to put this theory to test - it's actually doing it.

Let's hammer it down. Let's pick an album.

And I pick an absolute stomper, that I have loved since the first time I heard a single track from it. The record that brought Metallica into the limelight, that taught James Hetfield how to sing and reminded the world that metal existed. The eponymous album, Metallica, also known as The Black Album.

What game goes with this particular epic?

Well with songs like Of Wolf And Man, The God That Failed and Holier Than Thou, some kind of setting with monsters and religion is necessary, but beyond that - we have an open playing field. So let's go with D&D or Pathfinder. (My folks tend to play Pathfinder but I know D&D has a big PR campaign right now.)

We start with, not a setup of the locale or anything, but dreams - and every single one of the player characters is having an awful nightmare. Truly awful. None of this "you're naked in class" bullshit. No. Truly awful. (Enter Sandman)

The characters wake up. It's been the third straight week of awful nightmares in this city, and things are getting desperate. Some people are doing terrible things just for relief, just to get some sleep - things that the local Theocracy simply can't abide, so the adventurers are tasked with putting an end to a particularly troubling incident wherein a man claims the nightmares are possessing him. (Sad But True)

Then a traveller comes into the town. They approach the priesthood of the Theocracy at the same time as the party are being debriefed about the man's reported possession. The wanderer claims that she knows why everyone is having nightmares, and that there is an evil that needs to be dealt with. The Theocracy, of course, throws this out as nonsense - though they clearly know something. (Holier Than Thou)

The party is dismissed. So is the stranger. That night, the stranger visits them and tells them to leave. The people in this town won't survive the predation of the creatures feasting on their nightmares. They are too tied up in their hollow Theocracy and their little lives. They all retire for the night, probably after some philosophical or moralistic banter - and in the morning, the stranger is dead in their bed. And the party are arrested for the crime of his murder. Cast out of the town in banishment. (The Unforgiven)

So they leave. They have to travel a long way, because the town is way out in the desert - it's a long way to the nearest settlement that they haven't been banished from. In this time they run into some evil creatures that attack them - though these creatures are wide-eyed and painfully slender, obviously having not rested or fed properly in a while. (Wherever I May Roam)

The adventurers reach the next settlement - which is militarising. Mercenaries roll in every day, following the crusaders that arrived last week. After some potential initial aggression, the party becomes aware that the crusaders are here to purge whatever evil is giving the entire continent nightmares - an evil located in the town they just left. If they give away where they just came from, they get asked a lot of questions, but it becomes obvious - soon, the crusaders are marching to war. (Don't Tread On Me)

The adventurers are offered... well, a fairly exorbitant sum to march with the crusaders - and if that doesn't entice them, then maybe there can be other ways to convince them to go along. They are about to depart when the town is attacked - by demons, led by a half-demonic werewolf whose bearing and manner is strangely familiar. It is during the battle that the party are made to face their own worst nightmares, brought back from the very beginning session. They have to fight their deepest fears made flesh. (Through The Never)

When the dust clears, many of the crusaders - and mercenaries, and innocent townsfolk - are dead. It is time to lick wounds, count cost, and really look one's selves in the eye. Decide what they want to do. Decide if they can let this evil continue. Hopefully - they cannot. So they saddle up with the remaining crusaders to go put an end to this nightmare menace. (Nothing Else Matters)

It is partway to the quiescent town that the campaign started in that they are ambushed, yet again, by the werewolf - and during the ensuing fight, in which he singles out the party, he brags that his master cannot be stopped. The prophecy is nigh at hand and the entirety of (insert name of region here) will drown in their own nightmares, and his lord will come forth and feast on them! It was so easy for him to conceal himself in this town! To adopt the mantle of a pious priest, to turn the other priests to his way of thinking! So easy for such an alpha predator! ...the party kill him, obviously. (Of Wolf And Man)

Upon reaching the town again, they find it closed for business. Significant numbers of the townsfolk are missing, or malnourished and lethargic. The priests of the Theocracy wander the streets, wailing in despair and yelling snatched fragments of their holy texts. They speak of the thing that lurks in the darkness of their chapel now, of how they cannot sleep because they know it feeds from their nightmares. Some are crazed enough to attack the party - they have lost their faith, they have seen the promises of their god (delivered through the high priest of the Theocracy, now a dead werewolf) come to nothing, they have lost everything. (The God That Failed)

There it is - the temple. The party has the chance to rest up before they make entry. Upon kicking in the doors they find themselves facing down some minor demons, but their real enemy is the crushing waves of negative feeling flooding the chapel. Anguish, hopelessness, hatred, fury, despair, misery. That's the worst thing - crushing misery. It makes what should be an easy fight that much harder, as they fight their way into the catacombs. (My Friend Of Misery)

The final battle looms. The party enter the catacombs - and find a shadow. Nothing but a shadow, that welcomes them with waves of nausea, self-loathing, more misery. As they reel against this assault they notice the shadow split into multiple shapes, with glowing red eyes, forming - yes, it's the trope - copies of the party themselves. The DM should have, by this point, worked out their standard tactics. Turn their own tactics against them and see if they can work out how to defeat themselves! (The Struggle Within)

If they lose, then the shadow absorbs them... and moves on to absorbing all of (insert name of region here). But if they succeed - then a true evil has been defeated. A dark force responsible for nothing but misery and anguish. And as the town and the crusaders alike herald the party as heroes, everyone knows they are going to get some sleep soon.

And there you have it. A campaign from an album.

That was kinda fun, actually.

So, in reply, Pat: yes, yes you absolutely could.

Saturday 15 September 2018

Bit By The Music Bug

So in the past couple of weeks, there are several songs that have absolutely sunk their hooks into me and just not let go.

I thought I'd share them with you, let you listen to them, let you decide what you think about them. They will, at least, be an insight into the way my brain works at any given time.

So in no particular order.

Rag'n Bone Man - Good Grief (Bastille Cover)

His... Voice...

Just how can you not love that voice? It's beautiful. Absolutely heartbreaking. And as much as I like the Bastille original, this is so much better. It feels the way it is meant to feel. It feels like loss. Real loss. Bittersweet but total.

The album he put out - the most recent one, with Human on it - to me, that felt a lot like the kind of albums people put out when they first win talent shows. The albums usually produced and written by SyCo or whoever. They don't feel like the work of the artist, they feel too tailored for market, too polished, too impersonal.

This, and the song Wolves by the same, feel like the REAL him.

Bury Tomorrow - Black Flame

Introduced to me by Thew, aka ToyGrind - best UK Transformers youtube metal beard man, even if he is a little Skywarp-centric for my tastes - this song is just... brutal.

Again, the voice is absolutely phenomenal. Voices. Daniel Winter-Bates on the scream and Jason Cameron on the clean. It's technical and delicious, and tells a bleak, savage story of murder and betrayal. I hear this song in my gut and in my heart.

Yeah, I'm into the angry stuff a lot of the time.

(If you check Thew out tell him SteelAngelJohn sent you.)

Childish Gambino - Feels Like Summer

You ever listen to a song and it just feels like a sunny day? Like the tarmac is boiling and the sun is beating down on you like a hammer? Like Smokey Robinson's Cruisin, like Etta James' At Last?

Donald Glover's vocals here are pristine, drifting into the ear like a dream. The video itself is beautiful, but we're not here for that - we're here for what listening to this song does to us. And it takes us on this long walk through the neighbourhood on a baking hot afternoon, with people everywhere just enjoying the good weather.

Then we listen a little deeper. We listen to the concern of a world moving too fast, to the knowledge that things are not right and aren't necessarily getting better. There's no solutions, here. We're too busy staying upright to fix the fact that the world is tilted.

At least the sun is shining.

Coheed & Cambria - Here To Mars

Listen to those lyrics - yeah, those vocals again, what can I say, I am weak for a good vocalist - and tell me that this isn't true love.

Just so well written, so well played. Coheed are on point, as always. The lyricism, the story inherent in the song, just impacts me right in the gut. It rings in the soul like a bell. It is pure and undiluted and erupts from the throat like a promise. It feels real. So, so real.

Of course, when you realise that Coheed & Cambria do almost exclusively concept albums that form a continuous story and that this song is part of it...

And as a bonus, there is a gorgeous acoustic version played with the National Symphonic Orchestra. And it is likewise just as beautiful. Do yourself a favour.

Bugzy Malone - Run (ft Rag'n Bone Man)

I realise that grime is an acquired taste that not a lot of people I know have acquired. This track, though - like at least fifty per cent because of Rag'n Bone Man's sublime vocals on the chorus, and forty per cent because of the beautiful production of the strings in the instrumental - transcends the genre Bugzy Malone generally delivers to.

They say that when an artist talks about a thing they know, that is when they deliver a transcendent piece of music. James Taylor is great, sure - but the most soul-searingly real song he has ever sung (or wrote in my opinion, despite being an incredibly prolific songwriter) was Fire And Rain. Biographical. Tapping into a thing the artist truly knows, truly feels. Right here we have the same thing, this song is damn near biographical as I understand it.

What a voice, though. Yeah I had to say it.

Hozier - Nina Cried Power (ft Mavis Staples)

Voice, again. I know.

But look. Okay. This song is about protest. This song is about speaking truth to power and being uncompromising about that fact. It's about the spirit behind the songs you sing. It's not the song, it is the singing. It's not the wall, but what's behind it. It's not the waking, it's the rising.

It, like a lot of his songs, honestly feels like he closes his eyes and lets a divine power reach into him and write the songs for him. He's a fantastic songwriter, and he has exquisite skill and consummate capability in delivering those songs vocally. To the point that I believe the singers that he names in this song would be proud of the voice he uses to pay them tribute.

Say what you want about Take Me To Church, this song should be what defines the man.

Panic! At The Disco - Dancing's Not A Crime

Yeah, this one kinda took me by surprise too?

Two of my coworkers are chatting about a song, I casually enquire as to which song they are referring to, and are told - this one. So I decide to pop it on while I take care of some morning tasks.

And I get this huge, idiotic grin on my face, that just doesn't go away.

Yes, it's poppy, very poppy - lots of production going on here, though you can't hide Brendon Urie's vocal talents behind it all. It doesn't say anything deeply important or proffound. It doesn't solve any philosophical conundrums. Do you know what it does do? It makes me want to clap, and it makes me want to dance.

Just like Janelle Monae's Americans. Just like White Denim's Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah). Just like the Amy Winehouse version of Valerie. There is a talent, a real skill required to produce a song like that. A song with vocals clean as cut glass that slide through the scale like Fred Astaire on a dance floor, songs that make you smile because not smiling isn't really a fucking option right now, that make you vibrate with positivity. That takes work, and it's work that Stint - the producer and co-writer - put his heart and soul into.

In the past 48 hours I have listened to this song 30 times and I am not bored of it. I swear.

And his vocals are superb YES I SAID IT

So there's a rundown of what is in my current circulation. You never know, you might find something in there you didn't already know you liked. I hope, with the arrogance of a man with a beard and expensive headphones, that I have at least introduced you to a song that you appreciate.

Stay tuned, folks. The blogs might not always be about music, but I am, and I'm the one writing them.

Sunday 9 September 2018

Asuka's Final Battle (What You Are Owed)

So if you have watched Neon Genesis Evangelion - not Rebuild, I haven't caught up on that - you will be aware that there's two endings.

To the uninitiated, the Anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion is a "mecha" anime show. It ran for about two dozen episodes, and it started out as being a bit of a pisstake of the old tropes of mecha anime - lots of dramatic music as the "robots" are tossed out into the city to fight against the "monsters", so on. It all gets very, very dark later on - it gets terribly existential, dealing with crippling anxiety, trauma, depression, having to pilot your own mother as a war machine (true), and in the end, probable apocalypse.

See, the original ending - spread over two episodes - was a very philosophical one. It didn't hand it to you on a plate. There were references throughout the series to a thing called the Human Instrumentality Project. Instrumentality, in the end, involves humanity coming to terms with who it is as individuals and coming together. Literally.

A part of the series is that the Angels attacking Tokyo-3 have a protective mechanism called an Absolute Terror Field - a near-impenetrable barrier that can only be pierced by using another against it, something the EVAs are capable of doing. It is later confirmed by another character that every living thing (and yes, the EVAs are living underneath that armour) has one. It just so happens that it is only Angels and EVAs that can actually physically manifest the field to protect themselves or act offensively. Its primary use is not to hold anything out, but to hold the ego in.

The goal of the shadowy organisation pulling the strings behind the whole series is to bring humanity together as one, by collapsing their egos one into the other, and forming humanity into a single, homogenised existence. Wherein all of our flaws would be perfectly fitted against the strengths of others, and just existing would be enough.

That's what happened, at the end. There were budgeting issues which meant that animation had to be trimmed, but what came forth was set wholly in the minds of the main characters - which given what was happening to them seems appropriate, as they are all becoming part of one single consciousness that supports and compliments itself perfectly. Taking an external production problem and turning it into a plot point, one of my favourite things - and the dread and anguish that has littered the series comes to a resolved conclusion.

And the fanbase... went... fucking... bananas.

I hate to imply that it was because they didn't get it, but that's how it comes across. The show was full of scenes of "robots" smashing huge monstrous bad guys into pieces, and then it ends with a philosophical discussion about existing and why it hurts. I mean, I love that stuff, but the impression I get is that people feel they deserved a full, frank, totally explicit and clear explanation as to how this series had come to an end. They felt entitled to a satisfactory ending.

Hideaki Anno received death threats.

It is upsetting that, in this day and age, this isn't as much of a big deal - but in 1997 writers didn't lurk on Twitter for the world to casually fling 140-character abusive messages at. They didn't have Facebook pages for people to post awful threats on, and then complain about their freedom of speech being neutered if the person whose page it is doesn't want that to happen thank you very much.

No, he received death threats by mail. By post. Hundreds of them. And thousands of letters from fans outright stating that he had "ruined the series" for them.

As if it already existed beforehand, magicked out of nowhere, and he had dipped his toe in it and curdled it.

So Anno did something brilliant.

Regardless as to how one feels about Instrumentality and why it was happening, it was the "good ending", to use a video game phrase. What Anno decided to do was show everyone what they wanted to see, what they thought they wanted - and he gave them the "bad ending".

What's that? You thought that the actual ending was too thoughtful, too opaque, didn't tell you explicitly what happened or how or why? Well you are gonna get to see it all, from outside. So you can understand exactly how all of this happened. What's that? You hate Shinji? You only like Asuka when she's kicking ass and generally being bulletproof? You LOVE Rei? Alright. We'll do something about that.

So you get to see every single character (aside from two) get actually "killed". Rei is the one doing it. Reducing every single individual into a pool of fluid. Every background character, every side character - that isn't otherwise killed directly, by being shot or bleeding to death.

Asuka gets to be the superhero. She flies into battle like a valkyrie, she slaughters her opposition, she absolutely RUINS a dozen enemy EVAs, smashes them to pieces... until she gets stabbed in the head, and then they all get up again, and they literally eat her.

And all the carnage happens, and everything is spelled out for you, and those pools of liquid are what was actually meant to happen in the OTHER ending but now we're seeing it from the outside of someone that isn't a pool of liquid, and it is all pretty obvious...

...and then Shinji fucks it all up. And then there's only two people left alive, living on an earth drowned in the pool of liquid that used to be the entire human race aside from the main character that everyone seemed to hate and the secondary character that everyone also seemed to hate. No Instrumentality. No peace. Just a world with nothing in it but these two fucking annoying teenagers.

The end.

Congratulations, everybody, you did it. The artist responded.

Flash forward about twenty years... and now people have far greater access to the folks that create the things they enjoy. Actors have Instagram accounts. Writers are on Twitter. People can name the producers and voice actors behind things they like. Everyone has a presence, everyone has a place on the internet. That can be both good and bad.

I like to think I know how to act, when talking to people that make stuff I like. Twitter is good for that. I've only had personal conversations with a few of them. George Watsky is a very down-to-earth guy, and we had a brief talk like three albums ago. At first I freaked out a little, but then I remembered - he is a person, just like me.

There's a step further than that, though. Like, he is a person like I am - and if he started offering me unasked-for critical analysis on my writing, then I would be put out, right? Especially if he started demanding that I make changes, because he deserves this thing to be changed. That would be unreasonable, and the reverse is also unreasonable. Pretty basic. I have no place or right to demand that he rewrite Cardboard Castles because I dislike part of it. It's his art. All I can ask for is to access it, and beyond that, nothing.

George Watsky didn't owe me anything. He still doesn't. No artist owes me anything, unless I have literally commissioned a piece directly and paid for it up front, and that is a very specific artistic arrangement. I am not entitled to demand changes or adjustments.

That word, entitlement. A lot of people have that.

I didn't like Alien: Resurrection. It was a bad film. The first half - while it was still riding a train of interesting characters interacting with each other - was pretty okay, despite the direction of the thing and the cinematography being very weird and French and whimsical. The second half was hot garbage.

I am entitled to TALK about how I didn't like it, and why. I am entitled to espouse my opinion on it until the cows come home. I am not entitled to DEMAND it to be remade to my taste, and I should not expect to be able to. Being an adult is basically all about managing your expectations.

I guess that people are just happy enough to act like assholes, even to people making things that they enjoy.

Sunday 2 September 2018

It's Raining Men, Hit The Floor

A lot of folks have seen a variation of this:

And, yes, It's Raining Men (The Weathergirls) and Bodies (Drowning Pool) are a great example...

...but there's a few more we can point at.

I already had a look at this topic as a question which was given to me during my last Reader's Request blog, which you can read over here. I gave a couple of examples. Let us branch out from those, but start quite close to them.

Let's go.

Eamon - Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back) / Frankee - F You Right Back

I know this is cheating. I don't like either song but it was a master stroke of marketing to do this - to release a single talking about a mystery girl that our man Eamon is finished with, and for her to then turn around and do the same thing? Right back?

I mean it would be quite something if it really WAS a couple having an argument over the airwaves. I know there's several songs which are actually like it. Diss tracks - there's plenty of those that were exchanged by radio and singles charts.

By definition, though - it is the same event from a different perspective. At least that is how it is presented. As I recall, cheeky chap Eamon was thoroughly confused about who this Frankee was. Then they both vanished into obscurity after tag-teaming the singles chart for two weeks.

Metallica - Disposable Heroes / Metallica - One

This is more like it.

The first song - a soldier, charging into his fate in battle. The casual and dispassionate mass slaughter of human beings played out in his eyes in real time, while part of the song is delivered like a eulogy after the fact. "Now an empty shell," the line says. Also the chorus. "You coward, you servant, you Blind Man."

It doesn't explicitly state that he dies.

And in One, which is famously about a situation presented in Johnny Got His Gun (and uses movie footage from it in the music video), we are presented with a man who - "Now that the war is through with me, I'm waking up, I cannot see."

I think you are seeing the same man from two different points - before he treads on the land mine that sends him to that hospital bed, and the existential torment that follows.

Shudder to think.

The Levellers - What A Beautiful Day / The Who - Won't Get Fooled Again

A revolution, you say? Like the one Tracy Chapman was talkin' about?

It is again a case of perspective, and What A Beautiful Day is a far more snide look at how the events of the overturn happened. The cynicism behind whether it will all do any good, and how it comes about, and the end result. Almost like a journalist from a foreign nation, reporting on the toppling of a hostile religious government, and the chorus is the commentary from the people the singer is interviewing.

Won't Get Fooled Again is a lot more happy-go-lucky. The singer knows the cycle of peace, war and revolution, has been through it before, has seen it before and knows it will happen again. There's little cynicism there. It's an acceptance of the thing that is happening - as if it needed to happen, and they are glad that it has. Though perhaps there is a little knowing wink in the title. "I get down on my knees and pray we won't get fooled again."

Chance would be a fine thing, lads, but play on.

Rise Against - Hero Of War / Nine Inch Nails - The Good Soldier

Okay, back to the Front.

Two soldiers we see before us. We see one moving through their career, and in the process, coming to question everything that they thought was true. They follow orders. They do as asked, even as they know those things are morally and legally wrong. They do too much, and they come home, not sure if they are really the soldier that left - not proud any more, no more than a hollow shell with medals on their chest.

The other, soldier - we see him for the scope of one operation, and in that time, we see a duality. It isn't a creeping insecurity. He already knows that something is wrong - he already knows that this isn't a thing that should happen. He's disconnected from it already, and just running through the motions. He even seems to double down a little - repeating to himself that God Is On Our Side, and telling those that listen that this is the way it's going to be.

And this last one is a doozy.

Don Henley - Boys Of Summer / Bruce Springsteen - Thunder Road

"I can tell you my love for you will still be strong, after the boys of summer have gone."

I don't know how much time separates the two songs, but a fair while - has to be, surely. If only because in Boys Of Summer, Don Henley tells us all about how he thought he knew what love was. That implies youth - as you get older you realise love is a million different things to a million different people.

In Boys Of Summer, the singer's dream girl is busy. She's busy with, presumably, the boys that come around town during the Summer. We know they had a thing together once - though precisely how much that meant to her, we simply don't know. What we do know is that it meant a lot to him, enough that he can't get her out of his head eve when he knows she is (presumably) off with other guys.

The promise is that he'll love her when the others leave.

Cut to Thunder Road.

The singer is at the lady's house, and he asks her to come with him if she wants to. He tells her that he's no hero, but he is who he is, and just maybe, she might think that is enough. He urges her to not waste the Summer waiting for "a saviour to rise from these streets" - another boy of Summer. He references, too, the boys she sent away - boys who scream her name in the street, desperate for missing her.

Presumably, by the tone of the song, the lady - Mary, Springsteen names her - accepts the offer. The two get into the car and drive, to try and make it good if they possibly can. He really did love her after the boys of Summer had gone.

At least... that's one way this could have panned out.

There's an alternative option, of course. That Don Henley is truly a different perspective - that he was just another one of the boys of Summer that Mary dismisses. One of those left with ghosts in his eyes when he gets sent away - the ghosts of her, her hair slicked back and her wayfarers on. The ghosts of her, walking real slow, smiling at everyone. Ghosts, that he can see everywhere.

Spooky, no?

I'm kind of glad she ended up with Bruce. No offence, Don.

So there you have it. Five different events, ten different songs.

You got any more?