Illustration of Jefferson Davis sitting on his own coffin and weeping from a "metamorphosis" print (a print that shows sequential images as it is unfolded), 1865
Sometimes you run across two very different songs that share the same title. The universe cannot suffer the continued existence of such dissonance, so the inevitable result is a fight to see which song has the right to the title. Take, for instance, the title "Jack the Lad". According to urbandictionary.com, a "Jack the lad" is defined as, "a male (or a butch lesbian) who's a bit of a bad boy, or so he thinks. The typical stereotype would be a guy who walks about thinking he owns everything (tend to be rather dashing and have multiple tattoo's), and feeds on attention."
There are two great songs called "Jack the Lad" - not including the one by the awesomely-named but terrible-sounding British punk band the 4-Skins. In 1986, the Pet Shop Boys released a song called "Jack the Lad" as a b-side to the 12" single of "Suburbia" (my favorite Pet Shop Boys song). Eighteen years later, Portland band the Minders released a song called "Jack the Lad" on their 2004 tour-only mini-album The Stolen Boy. Which song is better? We must use objective analysis to select the rightful owner of the title.
Both songs score strong marks on instrumental arrangement and melody - The PSB song starts with a melancholy piano line that transitions nicely into a classic '80s synth-pop arrangement with a nice drum-machine underpinning. The Minders version starts with a lone acoustic guitar that is gradually joined by warbly organ and thumping drums. The vocals are also nice in both songs - Neil Tennant is definitely a stronger singer than the Minders' Martyn Leaper, but Martyn is backed up by Rebecca Cole, whose harmonies are one of the Minders' best assets. When it comes to the lyrics, I think it's a clear win for the Minders. The PSBs seem to be singing about British diplomat Harry St John Philby (aka "Jack Philby"), with references to Middle Eastern diplomacy in the early 20th century and T. E. Lawrence. This historical content is fascinating but, unfortunately, scores fairly low if you're looking for "laddishness" in a song. The Minders, on the other hand, spin a tale of a carefree fellow who shoots a man in rage and goes to ground to avoid the gallows. In the end, he leaves England by ship, seeking a new life in a new land. He seems like more of a "Jack the lad" character, and the climactic declaration that he is "cast away on clipper out to sea, sailing far away forever to be free" is a nice touch. I think the Minders take this by a slight margin.
Winner: THE MINDERS
"Jack the Lad" by the Minders
"Jack the Lad" by the Pet Shop Boys