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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Singing Two Songs at the Same Time

posted by on January 30 at 15:14 PM


Maybe it’s a greedy time-management issue or maybe it’s the natural result of the post-Girl Talk era, but to paraphrase Pete Townshend, all the best rock songs have two singers singing two different songs at the same time.

The grandpappy of the genre is, for me at least, is “The Murder Mystery,” the nine-minute double-warble tone poem that lands near the end of The Velvet Underground. But it would take a good 15 years for the two-songs-at-once formula to move out of the avant-garde icebox and into the arena of rockrockfuckingROCK (or in the case of example number two, the arena of folkfolkantiFOLK.)

Item #1: “The Lowest Part is Free!” the 1994 Archers of Loaf track whose double-decker bridge makes it the most exciting alterna-rock song ever.

Item #2: “Steak for Chicken,” the 2001 Moldy Peaches track featuring two complete sets of lyrics that intertwine so beautifully and hilriously, adding up to the most perfect realiziation of the two-songs-at-once formula except for:

Item #3: “Burn, Don’t Freeze,” the 1999 track by Sleater-Kinney, also featuring a different set of lyrics for each singer, and the most amazingly intense and intricate interplay between the two. I never got to see ‘em do it live, probably because balancing Corin’s shout with Carrie’s mewl live onstage brought up some serious sound-mixing issues. Still, the platonic ideal of the genre, for now.

If anyone knows of any other great double-decker songs, let me know. I’m working on a two-songs-at-once playlist to make my head explode…

RSS icon Comments


Gang of Four's "Anthrax," although Andy Gill just talks while Jon King sings. But the contrapuntal concept is similar.

Posted by segal | January 30, 2007 3:22 PM

I knew there was a Gang of Four song for the canon...thanks, dude.

Posted by David Schmader | January 30, 2007 3:27 PM
Posted by stan | January 30, 2007 3:28 PM

psych...that file doesn't work. but check out that song anyway.

Posted by stan | January 30, 2007 3:29 PM

I'm guessing songs from television musical episodes don't count.

Posted by Baxter | January 30, 2007 4:41 PM

Dreamless, by Jawbox. It's just the chorus, but oh, it's a good 'un.

Posted by Levislade | January 30, 2007 4:46 PM

"Anchored in Love" by the Carter Family (also just the chorus).

Posted by Kim Hayden | January 30, 2007 4:55 PM

"Latyrx" by Latyrx. It's "rap", but still amazing.

Posted by bailee. | January 30, 2007 5:07 PM

dammit. #8 beat me.

Posted by lar | January 30, 2007 5:42 PM

Yes!! Double lead-vocal tracks are my favorite thing ever, I'm so glad somebody else has pointed out how great they are. "Burn Don't Freeze" is just stupendous...between Corin and Carrie, and Janet's drumming on that track, I feel like I'm accelerating to 110 mph every time I hear it.

My other favorite double-lead vocals:
"Year of the Tan" by Imperial Teen (on their 2nd album)

"I Hurt You" by the Pretenders (on Learning to Crawl, actually the second vocal is the first vocal in canon with itself)

I think there's a good one by the English Beat, I forget the title now....

Posted by David | January 30, 2007 5:44 PM

I can't believe I forgot to mention the Latyrx song. It's amazing, and kind of gives me a headache.

Posted by David Schmader | January 30, 2007 6:25 PM

Game Theory - "Room For One More, Honey" (1988). Slays me every time I listen to it.

Posted by Joshua H | January 30, 2007 7:42 PM

"Post-Girl Talk era."


Posted by Fawkes | January 31, 2007 2:30 AM

miranda july "lena beamish"

Posted by josh | January 31, 2007 9:16 AM

Simon & Garfunkel, "Scarborough Fair/Canticle"

Posted by KS | January 31, 2007 11:25 AM

Most of the songs on Q and Not U's debut No Kill No Beep Beep had some element of dual vocal interplay, my favorites examples from that album being "Hooray for Humans" or "9 Things Everybody Knows."

There's also the classic David Bowie & Bing Crosby christmas duet of "the Little Drummer Boy."

Posted by christopher hong | January 31, 2007 12:26 PM

Halo Benders - Virginia Reel Around the Fountain

Posted by Jeff | January 31, 2007 6:02 PM

The Trucks definitely have a few songs on their album with parts that have dual vocals. Zombie, Shattered and Old Bikes just to name the ones I can easily think of...

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