Drug use is such a prevalent theme in modern music that I'm surprised it took me this long to get around to blabbing on about it here. In any case, here's another installment of my weekly blabbings, this time tackling (you guessed it) drugs - from fun times and general glorification to cautionary tales and the gritty details of addiction. As usual, please feel free to make any additional suggestions. Cypress Hill - I Want to Get High
Kicking off the outstanding Black Sunday is this doped up, half-sinister and half-giddy ode to smoking weed. B-Real is by turns energetic and sedated here, backed by a drowsy, hazy beat that hits you like that first cloud of smoke from behind the opened door of a hot-boxed room. Hell, my eyes feel a little red-rimmed just listening to this.
Primal Scream - Loaded
Another gem from an early 90s masterpiece, Loaded embodies the rave mindset of the time not with its music so much as its attitude. The whole psychedelic-rock-meets-dance-music of Screamadelica was perhaps best expressed by the sample from The Wild Angels: "We wanna be free, to do what we wanna do! And we wanna get loaded."
Buckcherry - Lit Up
There are many, many rock bands who do nothing more than make you wonder why they exist - Buckcherry would be one of them if not for the two good songs they ever wrote (seriously - I've had the misfortune of hearing a few of their albums from front to back... they're pretty bad), and as you might guess, I consider this one of those two songs. It's not difficult to make a coke-addled night sound like fun, but it's the way they pull it off that makes it special. While the contrived bunch clearly wish they were Guns N' Roses, the band really captures that sleazy, boisterous feel almost as well as their hard rock idols, and it's just so damn catchy.
The Notorious B.I.G. - Warning
Yet another 90s classic - Ready to Die gave a lot of insight to the life of a drug dealer, and Christopher Wallace's stories of these occupational hazards are still as captivating as they were when he first laid them to tape. Here, he goes over the paranoia of a well-off drug dealer, knowing all too well that the next attempted robbery could well be right around the corner, be it rival dealers or strung out customers, all with his trademark rapid-fire flow and that smart Isaac Hayes sampling beat.
Deftones - Beware
There are plenty of songs warning of the dangers of dabbling in drugs, but very few are able to sound not only this genuine, but this haunting as well. Chino Moreno delivers a typically passionate vocal performance, and the music is so dark and harrowing that it's impossible to simply write this off as a cheesy "don't do drugs, kids" sentiment. This bypasses preaching altogether and screams out experience with a staggering sense of creativity and force; it really is a lesson in how to make an anti-drug statement.
The Dandy Warhols - Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth
This one comes from the perspective of someone watching an old friend destroy themselves with heroin addiction, which goes oddly well against the bright, poppy, and hook-filled music. Courtney Taylor-Taylor's smarmy declaration that "heroin is so passé" makes for one of the most unexpectedly catchy choruses of the 90s. As Patrick Bateman should say, it's a "song so catchy, most people probably don't listen to the lyrics. But they should!"
Velvet Acid Christ - Fun with Drugs
This song's title (as well as the abundant Fear and Loathing samples) may give the impression that it's embracing drug use, but the menacing whispers of "I see you, I feel you, I know you, I own you" and especially "I know you never wanted this" over that throbbing beat make its intent quite clear. Presenting addiction as a malevolent antagonist alongside the cheery samples shows the dichotomy of drug use very well, and that trademark EBM gloomy danceability certainly doesn't hurt, either.
Alice in Chains - God Smack
Dirt is one of those albums where it seems like if you look closely, each physical copy can be seen to be dripping leftover cooked heroin. Just about every song here feels dirty, dark, and overpoweringly hopeless, but then there were more philosophical moments like this. Layne Staley cleverly compares following a religion with addiction to heroin, reasoning that "God's name is smack for some." If only the band that took this song's title as their namesake had ever been this interesting...
Spiritualized - I Think I'm in Love
Not many songs that seem to capture the feeling of being on heroin musically as well as lyrically, but I Think I'm in Love does it perfectly. The way the music gradually feels more and more warm and psychedelic as the track progresses is brilliant, as well as Jason Pierce's murmurings. He starts out describing the beginning of the high, and then goes off describing a plethora of feelings, all of which he immediately contradicts, and they range from dry ("Think I'm in love, probably just hungry") to nearly absurd ("Think I can fly, probably just falling") to flat-out depressing ("Think I could be your man, probably just thinking"). Eight minutes about drug use as an escape from heartache that fly by every time.
Elliott Smith - Coming Up Roses
It's rather difficult to pick just one song by Elliott Smith, but this one won out simply because of how well he weaves the strong drug slang into his lyrics. He often said that these references were not meant to be taken literally, but whether or not that really was the case, this song paints a very bleak picture of seeking escape in drugs and shunning the resulting judgement of others, only to judge yourself even more harshly. Listening to tracks like Coming Up Roses now after seeing how clearly tortured the man was makes it all the more heartbreaking.