If there is one thing guaranteed to turn me off going to see a film, it is someone claiming that it has a “great soundtrack”. So it is that I have not yet seen Donnie Darko, and at this moment I am intensely grateful for that. Not that I have anything against the movie (other than that it seems to be a favourite of the kind of mumbling disgraces to humanity who like Pavement (see below)), but going to see this tender tale of a boy and his bunny would have also meant one more hearing of Gary Jules’ ‘haunting’ cover of “Mad World”. And I think I might be at that point when one more hearing might be the death of me (and several bystanders).

“There you go again Tanya, you old cynic! Doesn’t it mean something that at Christmas a real proper song might be number one instead of the usual tinselly tat?” Yes it does, dear reader, it means that the world is even more fucked than I had thought. Christmas is the one time of year when I can imagine some tiny excuse for people buying the miserable tripe they do: their brainstems have been replaced by mincemeat and their cranial fluid by sherry. For a non-Christmas record to be No.1 at this time of year removes even this crumb of comfort – people are buying Gary Jules because in all honesty they think it is a good record.

Let us examine the song more closely. It is ‘moving’ i.e. it has been slowed down and sung in a wheedly voice to a sparse accompaniment. This is the oldest trick in the pop book and yet it never seems to go out of fashion – the shoddiest piece of pop nonsense can sell bucketloads a second time if you sing it slowly enough and trot out the acoustic guitar (or as in this case piano). WHEN WILL YOU LEARN?! Singing songs more slowly does not make them more REAL, it just makes them LONGER. For extra agony Gary Jules has decided to sing “Mad World” in the style of Michael Stipe, which is essentially spitting in hope’s face: just as it seemed we might soon be rid of Stipe’s own pestilential band a clone appears!

And what of the composition itself? “Mad World” was originally on the aptly named The Hurting album, the first by Tears For Fears, a pair of hairsprayed poltroons who had taken their name from a phrase used by radical psychoanalyst Arthur Janov. Janov deserves a spot in the box at the International Pop Crimes Court in The Hague, as his therapy also inspired John Lennon and laughing stocks of the universe PRML SCRM. Janov’s influence on Tears For Fears led to “Shout”, as in “Shout, shout, let it all out.” I will now attempt to test this advice myself.

(deep breath)


Oh, I feel better now. Maybe Janov had a point after all. Anyhow, “Mad World” in its rubbish original version was a moody bit of synth-pop entirely typical of its era: it was gibberish and nobody paid any attention to the words anyway, they were too busy lengthening their overcoats to care. Slowing it down has meant that it is impossible not to pay attention to the words and what a surprise they are rubbish. It turns out that the song is written by someone who feels alienated, hated and unloved – fair enough says this impartial listener. Gary may not have written the words but he has set a terrible precedent – what is now to stop people taking A Flock Of Seagulls singles seriously? Or – dear heaven no – Depeche Mode???

One thing I heartily approve of, though. The dreams where Gary dies are some of the best I’ve ever had, too.