Greatest Hits: Thom Dent | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Greatest Hits: Thom Dent

Music Editor Thom Dent casts a wistful eye back onto his past, as he compiles a five-song soundtrack to his life

 The first song I ever bought: Jay Sean – ‘Down’

If you look at it objectively, Jay Sean’s 2009 single ‘Down’ is never going to be remembered as one of pop music’s all-time classic singles, and it is far from the most pioneering or distinctive songs of all time. But I don’t know what it is – maybe it is the glitzy chart perfection of that 3:32 runtime, maybe it is the way that an economically-astute Lil Wayne compares himself to the downturning economy during his feature, perhaps it is simply the sheer amount of dreamy six-pack on display in the music video. The point is, to me this is far, far more than just a throwaway single from some relatively obscure slice of muscle with a buzzcut and a record deal. I have long maintained that 2009 was one of chart music’s absolute vintage years, and I will always maintain that the 99p that I spent to put ‘Down’ onto my second-hand iPod nano was money well spent.

The soundtrack to a thousand car journeys: Gorillaz – ‘Dirty Harry’

I was thinking of putting a Radiohead tune in this section, considering the obsession my dad had with forcing Thom Yorke’s whale-esque falsetto down mine and my brother’s preteen ears, but in the end, it matters not how much I loved bumping Hail to the Thief back in the day, it never came close the hype generated by the first few bars of ‘Dirty Harry’. There are so many distinctive things I remember about this song: the way the lo-fi drumbeat sounded through my dad’s Peugeot 407 speakers; the way my parents used to cringe at the bizarre sample that precedes the rap verse, which sounds like a fly scraping down a window-pane; the weird way the recording skipped and stuttered as it played (I am still not sure if this was a production choice or a damaged CD, but nevertheless it is golden).

The greatest sound in music history: Kate Bush – ‘The Big Sky’

There are, of course, many great moments littered throughout the history of recorded music: Hendrix’s rendition of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, the first appropriation of the ‘Good Times’ bassline by the MCs of late-70s Harlem, the insane vocal crack during Merry Clayton’s shrieks on ‘Gimme Shelter’… but rising high above all these magnificent noises is Kate Bush’s pronunciation of ‘honey’ on my favourite Hounds Of Love tune ‘The Big Sky’. The utterly delicious way in which she rolls the initial ‘h’ at 1.42 is, quite simply, the single most evocative vocal inflection I have ever heard, and in my opinion the greatest noise ever put to tape. Although her ridiculous ultrasonic wails during the final chorus do come close.

The sound of my adolescence: Merchandise – ‘Telephone’

I am sure a lot of people’s journey through puberty can be tracked quite nicely through a selection of indie hits from the last 7 or 8 years – whether it is The Vaccines, Peace or even those greasy bastards the Arctic Monkeys. For me, no band sums up those wavy, Strongbow-tinged years of hedonism as well as Tampa Bay DIY folks Merchandise. ‘Telephone’, with its stupid toy bass hook and the yawning, Elvis-aping delivery of Carson Cox’s vocal, seems to perfectly sum up every decadence, every excess of my teenage venture through the indie resurgence. Plus, I am pretty sure Carson is the only man I have ever properly, properly fancied (although Jay Sean’s abs are, again, very impressive).

A song everyone should hear: Empress Of – ‘Woman Is A Word’

I first came across this song about a year ago, during some casual surfing of Spotify. It was on a playlist of music made exclusively by women, compiled by Noodle from Gorillaz (it is a good playlist, you should check it out if you can). And what a happy accident it was to stumble across this gem, this absolute worldie. I do not think I have ever fallen so far in love with a song so instantly – it must have only taken me one verse to commence furiously sharing ‘Woman Is A Word’ amongst my friends. It is a storming, diamond-shimmering anthem for the ages, a life-affirming feminine battle cry from Empress Of, the nearest thing pop music will ever have to a Boudicca. I cannot remember having ever been left more stunned, or empowered, by a piece of music – and it only took ‘Woman Is A Word’ 3 minutes to do it.

I like music and writing. You can see why I'm here. (@thomdent)


16th March 2018 at 9:00 am