Top Ten Surprise Endings
ust to be clear: we're not talking about surprise endings of the narrative kind; the Sixth Sense style twist would make for an entirely different feature. For now we're going to be looking at ten songs where it's the sudden arrival of the ending that's the surprise. Anything that leaves you wondering if your stereo has just broken, or if you've downloaded another dodgy mp3.
Bright Eyes - The Big Picture
Admittedly Lifted's opener has nothing on Fevers and Mirrors' faked radio interview, but its end is still a fine way to introduce Conor Oberst's self-destructive approach. Coming at the end of a very long, lo-fi strum and as he's straining painfully for more notes, when Oberst is cut off midway through one without warning, it actually comes as a relief. The tape noises and snatches of conversation that follow take away from its dramatic effect, but, in a sense, it’s fitting: a neat microcosm of an album that never quite knows when to stop.
The Beatles - I Want You (She's So Heavy)
This isn’t the first-ever example of the surprise ending, but it is likely the best known. An ingenious way out of the drawn-out coda, the cycling riff that it curtails has built up such a momentum by then that anything else would be an anticlimax anyway. Best listened to on vinyl for the added final clunk and realization that you have to get up and change sides.
Mansun - Goodbye
This is the sound of a song (and an album, and a band) with nowhere else to go. Mansun have, by this point, lost all taste and direction to the extent that they're stuck in stadium-ballad hell, complete with fake crowd noise and wanky guitar solo. Then it stops mid-solo and, well, it's a little bit too much like a big sign saying "look! this is a joke!" but it redeems things a little bit at least.
Buzzcocks - Love You More
Punk offered a ton of these kind of endings, but few as great. The song says all that it needs to in the most perfectly direct way possible within two minutes and so just finishes there, the flatline matching the dramatic final imagery of the "razor cuts."
The Magnetic Fields - Punk Love
What better way, then, to represent the sharp edges of punk for your throwaway parody (when you're writing 69 songs, there have to be a few) than by a surprise ending? Bonus points for the rare and comic surprise beginning, as well—"unk love, punk love."
Girls Aloud - Racey Lacey
A logical extension of Xenomania/Aloud's use of every trick in the book, the group’s most recent album finishes with a final tour de force of smart, funny pop and then, after what seems like no time at all, pull the rug out from under it. Just like all great pop, it leaves you wanting more.
Idlewild - Too Long Awake
This is an extreme example of an otherwise average song (on an equally unremarkable album) made by its early halt. Without the ending, it's just Roddy Woomble resignedly complaining and then a fuzzy riff looping around and around. With it, there's a sad tension through the whole song that comes from knowing that though it always seems to be building, it's not going to go anywhere at all.
Clearlake - These Things Are Sent to Try Us
This one is a little bit different: it's not so much the ending, as it is the way it sets up the song that follows. "These Things Are Sent to Try Us" outro starts slowly and takes its time building to cacophony; the title is repeated over and over again as the band thrashes away. The abruptness of its end would be a total surprise, if there was time to think before the jaunty piano of "I Hang on Every Word You Say" has already kicked in.
Elbow - "Powder Blue
Even though it’s a powerful gimmick with surprising replay value, there's only so much you can do with the surprise ending. So "Powder Blue" takes one step back and provides all of the same shock, but with an added flourish. After a whole song going through the emotional wringer and Guy Garvey has just finished the most lung-busting, despairing "oooooOOOOOOOOOO" ever, there's a mournful saxophone striking up to drive home the point, and there's just the briefest of moments to prepare you... before everything else cuts out and someone smashes a glass.
The Strokes - "Hard to Explain
"Ize of the World" has a more confusingly sudden ending (and silence to make it seem like something has been removed, too!), it can't compare t
By: Iain Forrester
Published on: 2006-09-08