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'Love Sucks': Tunes for Your Anti-Valentine's Day

For Valentine's Day, music critic John Brady offers up a collection of the best anti-love songs, featured in a new compilation by Rhino Records called Love Sucks.

Transcript

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Now, onto music. Rhino Records has won a dedicated following by releasing compilations organized around specific musical themes, often funny ones. The label's released a new collection of anti-love songs, for instance. It's made for those who have little to celebrate on this Valentine's Day.

Music critic John Brady now listens to the sounds of love unrequited and other notes from the darker side of passion.

(Soundbite of music)

J. GEILS BAND: (Singing) One thing's for sure, love stink. Love stink, yeah, yeah...

Mr. JOHN BRADY (Music Critic): Is there any more divisive holiday than Valentine's Day? All of our other holidays bring us together as a nation. Mother's Day, for example, unites us around our love for our mothers. July 4th, all about our love of country. But Valentine's Day; well, Valentine's Day comes close to being class war d'amour. It ruthlessly separates us into the haves and have-nots.

(Soundbite of "Ever Fallen in Love")

THE BUZZCOCKS: (Singing) You spurn my natural emotions, you make me feel like dirt, like I'm hurt...

BRADY: Thankfully, this time around, the have-nots won't go away completely empty-handed. They can take solace in catchy rock and pop anti-love anthems, such as this one from the British pop punk band, the Buzzcocks.

THE BUZZCOCKS:(Singing) Ever fallen in love with someone, ever fallen in love, in love with someone, ever fallen in love, in love with someone you shouldn't have fallen in love with?

Rhino Records has gathered a dozen of such songs on their recent compilation Love Sucks. Now the lovelorn can dance around their living rooms in solidarity with all the others who Cupid forgot to shoot at. Here's the Velvet Underground bewailing the miseries of romance in Who Loves The Sun.

(Soundbite of "Who Loves The Sun")

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: (Singing) Who loves the sun? Who cares that it makes plants grow? Who care what it does since you broke my heart?

BRADY: As this compilation illustrates, there are two basic types of anti-love anthems. On the one hand there is the lover's lament. This is a straightforward declaration of heartbreak.

(Soundbite of "Who Loves The Sun")

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND: (Singing) Who cares what it does since you broke my heart?

BRADY: The second type is a bit more ambitious. It doesn't just talk about the hurt caused by love lost, but tries to recreate the feeling of that hurt in song.

Of the two types I prefer the second. And the best example on this compilation is Answering Machine by The Replacements; a band from Minneapolis that enjoyed its musical heyday in the 1980s and early 1990s.

(Soundbite of "Answering Machine")

THE REPLACEMENTS: (Singing) Try and breathe some life into a letter. Losing hope, never gonna be together.

BRADY: Lead singer and guitarist Paul Westerberg, sounding both plaintive and aggressive asks, how do I say I miss you to an answering machine? His inability to get his lover on the phone neatly encapsulates all the loneliness and frustration of a relationship gone sour. Westerberg's raspy howl brings the song to the edge of angry despair. He's ringing noisy guitars and pushes it right on over.

(Soundbite of "Answering Machine")

THE REPLACEMENTS: (Singing) How do you say "I miss you" to an answering machine? How do you say "good night" to an answering machine? How do you say "I'm lonely" to an answering machine?

BRADY: Honestly, listening to this album it's a wonder we fall in love at all. Seemingly so much can go wrong, but fall in love we do. Most likely because the rewards; companionship, intimacy, a reason to make restaurant reservations for tonight, outweigh the cost.

On this collection, Joy Division best captures the gravitational pull of love despite the risk of heartbreak with their song Love Will Tear Us Apart.

(Soundbite of "Love Will Tear Us Apart")

JOY DIVISION: (Singing) Love, love will tear us apart again. Love, love will tear us apart again.

BRADY: In his mid tempo wilting cadence, the band's late lead singer Ian Curtis sings of drifting away from his lover. There's a sense of pain and frustration here. There's also wistful sense of resignation. Sure things will fall apart today, but sometime down the road we'll fall in love all over, even though we know it might not work out and that love will end up tearing us apart again.

So happy Valentine's Day; I think.

CHADWICK: John Brady is a writer who lives in Los Angeles. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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