As a holiday, Labor Day is rife with contradictions: one works all year to receive a single lousy holiday -- just one fucking day-- celebrating the worker, but that day falls at a spot on the calendar when venturing out anywhere to do anything out of the usual is sado-masochistic at best and foolhardy at worst due to crushing heat and swarming crowds. By the time Labor Day rolls around, who could blame anybody who opted to ride the long weekend out sprawled in a backyard kiddie pool, downing one Molson after another?
The world is full of songs about work, and in the following list Gimmie Noise attempted to sidestep most of them in favor of some less-heralded favorites, old and new. We hope you'll make this the soundtrack to 24 hours of much deserved inactivity, but can't promise that we won't be slaving away on one level or another while you're zoning out on CSI: re-runs.
Ween, "Pumpin' 4 The Man"
In which Dean and Gene memorialize the indignities of filling station toil in a spazzed-out, hyper-kinetic melee that was probably recorded on stimulants and is all the better for it. The perfect thing to blast from your PC speakers or your iPhone on the day when you're all set to quit or at least reasonable sure you're about to get canned.
Shonen Knife, "A Day at the Factory"
Osaka's she-Ramones send up the monotony of factory work by lending it a hook strewn with clanks, knocks, and scrapes, and somehow making these four minutes seem to last 40. Which isn't to say that "Factory" isn't inherently likable, but every time that it seems like it should be winding down, the thing always seems to have a while left to run - not unlike the most excruciating of work days.
Rhymefest, "Dynomite (Going Postal)"
Like almost every other rapper who was only marginally or vicariously popular in the mid-00s, Chicago's Rhymefest is slinging mixtapes these days when he's making music at all, but back in 2005 the dude was capable of quasi-populist, scratch-heavy bangers like "Dynomite." It's, you know, a little something special to slip into the DJ playlist at the company picnic.
The Bangles, "Manic Monday"
"Oh, hells no!" you protest. "Is 'Manic Monday' really a work song, or is it actually a Monday song?" That's arguable, but I'd be willing to wager a half-hour's salary that most of us suffer through four or five Mondays in a row every week - especially during those weeks that kick off with a Monday holiday, because it's not like all the work you didn't do that day goes away; it just gets knocked back a day, and it's waiting for you when you get back to your place of employment, panting and sitting up like a well-trained spaniel puppy. Also, the Bangles make being an ulcer-likely wage slave kind of epic and awesome here. Did I want to include Dolly's "9 to 5" on this list? I thought about it, but, you know, too obvious.
AC/DC, "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap"
AC/DC always seem like they're having roughly 100X more fun throwing down than anybody at home is having listening to them throw down, and "Dirty Deeds" is a prime example of why. Doing dirty deeds for these guys seems like it'd be the coolest job in the world, even if you were interning or something. Is it stupid to wish for an MTV "Do Dirty Deeds For AC/DC For A Week" contest, like a reality show kind of thing? Too late by a few decades, I know.
Lou Reed, "Metal Machine Music, Part 3"
Sure, this is noise, but most of the time, work is noise: blinding tidal waves of orders and inferences and intimations and static that someone pays you to translate into something useful or at least something positive, a solution. Also, there are probably a lot of veteran machinists and musicians who either wake up to tinnitus that's reminiscent of Reed's historic fuck-off to his label overlords or work in ear-shattering conditions that mimic it. You want a day at the factory? Metal Machine Music is a day the the effing factory, all jitterbug squeal and convulsing feedback loops somebody cut off or edited in chunks but which seem like they could roll on into or beyond infinity.
The Fiery Furnaces, "Chief Inspector Blancheflower"
Fratricide is this song's main theme, but the extended introduction is a such downcast meditation on work and discontents that it calls a pained sort of attention to itself, drawing the listener so firmly and wholly into the narrator's unpromising adolescence that the un-mumbled phrase "So I joined the police force" has the effect of a real jolt as prologue abruptly gives way to the proper story, toneless keyboard burble dropping out, piano-engorged hooks merrily kicking in, Eleanor's welcome voice sounding like a laconic clarion.
Chain & The Gang, "It's a Hard, Hard Job (Keeping Everybody High)"
Hey, nobody said dealing drugs was easy, but someone's gotta do it, and the hours aren't exactly what you'd call regular. No, not a Jonathan Richman number, but you'd be forgiven for any confusion.
Beck, "Soul Suckin' Jerk"
Still righteous, still bitchin', still better than most Beastie Boys singles. Weird Al really should have come up with a cover that involved the phrase "soda jerk," though.
City Pages on Facebook | Gimme Noise on Facebook | Twitter | e-mail us
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.