The Queue: Busted, Once Upon a Dead Man and Microwave

The Queue is a recurring feature in which I discuss some of the music that I’ve been listening to recently. This week I examine a couple of very different tracks featuring Charlie Simpson and Microwave’s ability to turn simple structures into winning songs.

“Nostalgia” – Busted

Falling in love and breaking up have long been the two most common sources of lyrical fodder for songwriters. Less common are songs about that awkward middle ground that falls somewhere between being in love and being broken up. “Nostalgia,” the most aggressive and catchy track from Busted’s 2019 album Half Way There, addresses that unique state of confusing semi-commitment head on. “I was doing just fine without you,” Charlie Simpson sings in a punchy chorus, “Do I even want you back or is it just nostalgia?” The song smacks of pure, Cartel-inspired pop punk but its lyrics present a deeper layer of intrigue when considered as Simpson’s commentary on returning to his boy band roots after many successful years away.

“Carry” – Microwave

Death Is a Warm Blanket is arguably the most critically acclaimed release from Atlanta rockers Microwave and while its intense sonic violence doesn’t celebrate the melodic aspects of the band that I love best, DIAWB is not without moments that scratch my personal Microwave itch. “Carry” is an objectively simple song, moving through its verses and choruses with little structural ingenuity, and yet the song acts as a wonderful showcase for the band’s innate songwriting ability. “Carry” hums along with an understated but effective vocal melody, a couple of looping drum beats and simple but satisfying collection of riffs and yet the gratification that the song offers for at least this one listener is totally above and beyond that disproportionately basic selection of elements. If that ability to create something greater than the sum of its parts isn’t the mark of great songwriting, I don’t know what is.

“A More Ordinary Time” – Once Upon a Dead Man

Another of Charlie Simpson’s many side projects, Once Upon a Dead Man released only 2016’s brief EP, Concepts and Phenomena. That EP’s penultimate track, “A More Ordinary Time,” is by far the project’s best and the heir of a long and proud tradition of synth-pop ballads that includes songs like Cyndi Lauper’s inimitable “Time After Time.” Programmatic beats bounce from left to right and swelling synth lines fill the lower register as delicate vocals trace a piercing melodic line, creating an entrancing and timeless track.

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