Music journalism has long held a salacious appetite for sexual similes. But for my money it’s the segue – the seamless transition from one song to another – that deserves the ultimate accolade in this field: being hailed the musical equivalent of the multiple orgasm.
Watch the way Arcade Fire moved from ‘Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)’ to ‘Rebellion (Lies)’ at Madison Square Gardens the other night. Just when it seems the climax is over, a second dose of ecstasy suddenly sweeps in as one song magically begins to spill over into another:
It’s surely the highlight of any Arcade Fire gig. So why don’t more bands attempt the mighty segue?
Plenty of bands have done so in the studio over the years. Prog-rockers have been addicted to the things since Pink Floyd began merging whole albums into unbroken chains of music, such as on ‘The Dark Side of The Moon’.
Such seamless transitions can work brilliantly in pop too; just listen to ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ or the last few tracks on ‘Abbey Road’. David Bowie was partial to the odd segue, while in recent years Glasvegas (helped by their love of segue-friendly feedback), Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Flaming Lips have carried the flame.
The masters of this noble art, especially in the live arena, are U2. Whatever the Bono-haters say, it’s the various segues into ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ they’ve used over the years that have played a large part in securing their formidable live reputation.
U2’s approach to blending songs is simpler than Arcade Fire’s, with Bono’s vocals as a bridge – but the effect is often just as sublime.
It doesn’t have to be the preserve of acts that earn their living making stonking great big soundscapes either. Bands with shorter, sharper songs such as The White Stripes are also keen on segues, often blending multiple songs into medleys.
Fiery Furnaces are pretty good at pulling this off as well, as they show here while switching effortlessly from ‘Don’t Dance It Down’ to ‘Single Again’:
Let’s hear it for the segue, then. But who have I overlooked? Can you think of any other memorable examples in music history?