Top Ten Songs about Fire
created by RedTimbre
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There is no image more powerful or striking that that of a roaring flame.  There is little else as hypnotic as this fundamental element, in  its ability to maintain life and destroy it, provide heat and light, and more or less harness the power of the sun.  It is this visceral intrigue that compells us to rubberneck at a fully-engulfed house, and to gather like moths upon its enthralling blazes and stare mindlessly into which, should a fire be lit in our midst.  And as little else on Earth compares to such a force of raw energy, fire makes for an especially evocative image to deploy in literary or lyrical form.  Accordingly, here are ten songs that exploit the element's awesomeness, in the name of purely incendiary music.

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10
"Both Ends Burning" by Roxy Music
posted by RedTimbre - 7/26/2012
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Closing Roxy Music's 1975 album Siren, this song epitomizes the album's tireless nightlife momentum, chock full of busy grooves that are fit for dancing to.  Frontman and songwriter Bryan Ferry sings, "You're a flame that never fades.  Jungle red´s a deadly shade.  Both ends burning, will the fires keep somewhere deep in my soul tonight?"  Ferry seems to be sacrificing sleep and self-control for a lustrous temptress, a femme fatale in a red dress, for which the album is named.  And as she ignites a fire in his heart (or maybe somewhere lower on the body), it seems he will "keep on burning til the end," at least as far as far as that overdubbed backbeat and concerned.  It's a disco inferno.

9
"Man on Fire" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
posted by RedTimbre - 7/26/2012
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The song begins gently with just some easygoing folk guitar-picking and laidback vocals  as frontman Alex Ebert introduces himself:"I'm the man on fire walking through your street, with one guitar and two dancing feet."  The song gradually increases in urgency as horns and piano beckon us, along with the lyrics, to "come dance with me."  When the melody starts to take the shape of a Southern Baptist hymnal, Ebert is shown to be on a mission, to revel in the music that he carries with him, beside his burning heart.  The rest of the album maintains this essential undercurrent of 'music as religion.'  It certainly does seem to nourish the soul. 

8
"Fire in Cairo" by the Cure
posted by RedTimbre - 7/26/2012
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This song showcases a very young Cure (from their 1979 debut), and a relatively stripped-down one, not yet reaching their full, heavy studio production glory.  But even still, scaled back to no more than two layers of punk riffing/lead guitars, bass, drums, and Robert Smith's gentle come-ons: "Shifting crimson veil.  Silken hips slide under my hand.  Swollen lips whisper my name, and I yearn.  You take me in your arms and start to burn."  (This is before his spells out FIRE IN CAIRO in rapid, Spelling Bee-defying succession.)  That 'fire in Cairo' is desire.

7
"Smoke on the Water" by Deep Purple
posted by RedTimbre - 7/26/2012
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This song is about two things: one being the first riff anyone just starting out on the guitar learns to play, the other being about an actual fire witnessed by the band and started amidst a Frank Zappa concert.   Apparently, an antendee had fired a flare gun at the ceiling ("fire in the sky"), destroying the casino in which the concert was held, as well as all of Zappa's musical equipment.  This song gives new meaning  to 'rockumentary.'  It also gives a million Guitar Center employees headaches on a daily basis.

6
"Grapevine Fires" by Death Cab for Cutie
posted by RedTimbre - 7/26/2012
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This song from Narrow Stairs depicts the scene of a rapidly spreading wildfire, but uses such a blistering image as an analogy for the apocalypse, as Ben Gibbard sings, "When the wind picked up, the fire spread, and the grapevines seemed left for dead.  And the northern sky, like the end of days,  The end of days."  The melody is a lamentful one, as guitar twangs and jazzy organ chirps carry the song along its hopeless trek towards a pit of doom, but haunting are those beautiful choral harmonies, which provide bitter punctuation to lines like "It's only a matter of time before we all burn."

5
"This Fire" by Franz Ferdinand
posted by RedTimbre - 7/26/2012
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From their self-titled debut, this sexy disco track from the uber-stylish and uber-catchy dance rock band Franz Ferdinand ignites a fire within us all--as ensured by tight guitar harmonies, an even tighter backbeat, and an overall ornate-and-precisely-arranged product that seems too full of internal friction not to spontaneously combust.  And as frontman Alex Kapranos notes, "This fire is out of control.  It's gonna burn this city, burn this city."  

4
"Fire" by U2
posted by RedTimbre - 7/26/2012
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This song from October is a great example of early-era U2: slightly post-punkish, pure raw power.  The Edge's delay is less smooth, more jagged and serrated, and each note comes back like a tireless knife-fighter. "There's a fire inside, when I'm falling over," Bono sings.  "There's a fire in me when I call out."  And judging by the seething furocity lying in this song, you believe him.

3
"Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads
posted by RedTimbre - 7/26/2012
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This song from 1983's Speaking in Tongues is branded with that weird energy that is David Byrne's signature.  And more than artificially-inseminated synth textures and atmopherics,  odd chord combinations, a morbidly obese bassline, all these components amount to an irresistably infectious sum that is greater, and way more comprehensible, than the parts.

2
"Up in Flames" by Coldplay
posted by RedTimbre - 7/26/2012
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For those who love Coldplay for their (i.e. Chris Martin's) heart-swelling piano-pop ballads, such as "Fix You" from X&Y or "The Scientist" from Rush of Blood to the Head (which has 27 million views on Youtube), then the song you're looking for on their latest, Mylo Xyloto, is "Up in Flames."  Little more than Martin's voice, a piano melody, and some basic percussion, the chorus is easy to sing along with in the typical Coldplay fashion, and feels good to do so. And as it turns out, the chorus is the song title, which makes this song sort of an ode to the power of an effective chorus, even if it is about the immolation of a relationship.

1
"Light My Fire" by the Doors
posted by RedTimbre - 7/26/2012
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Okay, so this Doors track might be more about smoking pot than actually gathering some flint and kindling in order to get a campfire going, but you can't be a proper libertine without some matches/a lighter, without which a good number of drugs can't be enjoyed.  And Jim Morrison would know better than anybody.  Illegal contraband aside, this suggestively-lyricked and culturally- pervasive hit brought the ne'er-do-well sex appeal of Jim Morrison--along of course with the jazzy and psychedelically-mellow backing instrumentals of guitarist Robby Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, and drummer John Densmore--into countless teenage households. With mixed results. "She gets..."

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