This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #490: This Mess We’re In by P.J.Harvey (feat. Thom Yorke)
A lifetime ago, I was part of a writing community called Trifecta. One of the weekly writing challenges offered in Trifecta was called the 33-word Micro Story challenge. Let me tell you, 33 words may not seem like enough words to adequately tell a complete story but, in the hands of talented writers, entire worlds can be created. Writing concisely is a great skill (one that I am still a work-in-progress on). This song, “This Mess We’re In” is one of the very best examples I have ever seen of the Art of storytelling being conveyed via concise, pinpoint writing.
Polly Jean Harvey is a legendary figure in the genre of Alternative Music. She is a talented singer/songwriter, a feminist and an artist who seeks to creatively re-invent the medium in which she works. In the year, 2000, PJ Harvey released an album entitled Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. The city in question is New York. In order to do something original, she decided to create a song for the album that was to be sung almost entirely by someone else. She would assume the backing role on her own album. Her collaborator turned out to be Thom Yorke, lead singer on my favourite band, Radiohead. “This Mess We’re In” is a complete play about infidelity. It is presented from the point of view of Yorke. It is about the desire for an encounter, the actual encounter and the aftermath of an encounter that both parties knew was morally wrong but that they seemed powerless to stop. The lyrics are as crisp and sparse as any song I have listened to. There are few words used and not an unnecessary word in the whole song. As a writer wannabe, this song is a guidepost that I will use to judge the evolution of my own craft. To me, PJ Harvey’s writing is simply amazing.
“This Mess We’re In” sounds hauntingly beautiful but, it will not make you smile like Coldplay just did with “Yellow”. This song will make you think, like a good novel does. It will draw you into the world of two adulterers and make you question what your own actions would be under similar circumstances. A morality play told in song. A story not to be missed. I look forward to hearing what you all think about it.
The link for the music video for the song, This Mess We’re In by P.J. Harvey (Featuring Thom Yorke) can be found here. ***The lyrics version can be found here.
P.J. Harvey’s official website is a good one. You should go and see it for yourself by clicking here.
Many thanks go to KEXP for providing the inspiration for this post with their great Countdown list. The link to their website can be found here.
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