Cheer up …

A tweet yesterday asking for mood-improving music made me think about the subtle differences between things that can make you feel better and things that can make you feel worse. Everybody is different, so what works for me might not work for you, but broadly these are the things that really help if you’re feeling a bit Mondayish.

MUSIC

I generally look for “someone who’s more unhappy than I am”, but Liz’s link to Swans made me feel about a billion times worse. That’s probably why I never really got into them, even though I think the music is good.

The trick is for there to be an “up” in the “down”. The reason why tracks like NIN’s Hurt are so popular is because they end on a note of optimism – yes, life sucks, but we’ll get through it. I love Pink Floyd, but that’s because after enough guitar solos you’ve forgotten whatever it was you were upset about in the first place. I basically love music that jumps right down into the hole with you and then pulls you up by the heartstrings.

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I used to listen to Nick Cave a lot because “he’s someone more miserable than I am”, but really the appeal is that there’s an element of parody to what he does. Take a song like (my favourite) Weeping Song. For a song about crying, they actually look extremely bloody cheerful. He’s so completely enjoying himself there that you can’t help but smile.

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Yes, The Cure work too, for exactly the same reasons. Even better was The Mary Whitehouse Experience‘s take on Robert Smith.

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Sometimes just listening to something different can make all the difference. I don’t listen to “world music” often, but can often find it incredibly uplifting when I do. Most of the stuff I listen to is recogniseably rock, but with the twist of instrumentation or composition based on the local music of wherever it’s from. (See yesterday’s post)

FILM

When I was six years old, I remember unclipping my seat belt to retrieve a toy that had dropped into the well between the back of the driving seat and my own seat in the back. At that moment, a lorry slammed into the back of our car, leaving the boot resembling a concertina that had been dropped from a great height.

To cheer us all up, my dad sat us down in front of Kind Hearts and Coronets. It was absolutely the perfect thing to watch.

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If you just want to have a good grizzle, Moulin Rouge is a great guilty pleasure – or Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers if you want to watch sexy elves mope for three hours.

If it’s not straightforward melancholy you need resolving, Dog Soldiers hits the sweet spot for macabre comedy – though few things make you feel as wonderfully, viscerally alive as the outright gun porn of Shoot ‘Em Up or Commando.

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GAMES

Oblivion is great for when you just want to be taken away from it all to somewhere pretty with skippy lambs and sunshine (if you don’t mind the odd invasion from the planes of hell and all that). I love Fallout 3 for its twisted humour (where else can you open a door in the middle of nowhere, only to find a blank wall emblazoned with “f*** you” behind it?), but the trouble with RPGs is that they take ages to play, which is not so great when you’re not in the mood for doing very much. On the other hand, there are few things as satisfying as blowing up mutants at point-blank range with a nuclear hand-cannon.

Sometimes you just want to kill something hard – like when some teenage jerk has short-changed you in the Co-op – and during such moments, the simple pleasures of games like WET and Max Payne 2 really hit the spot.

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There are days when even pointing a gun and pulling the trigger feels like much too much effort, and that’s when casual games come into their own. I’ve whiled away frankly ridiculous amounts of time playing the desktop version of Bejeweled Blitz, which seems to do something subconsciously to my synapses that works out as some sort of brain-massage. My favourite way to play it lately is to play the Foetus live DVD in windowed mode and then idly click away at the Facebook version of Bejeweled Blitz in a smaller window on top. This works great at being the perfect audio-visual-tactile experience right up until I get distracted by Thirlwell’s hawtness and miss that perfect 5-gem cascade. I should probably try that with my Rammstein DVD – no danger of distraction there …

PopCap make a lot of other great games – most famously Peggle, and my underrated favourite, Zuma’s Revenge (which should appeal to any passing fan of Monkey Island) – but there’s one game of theirs that’s absolutely guaranteed to bring a giggle to the most down-in-the-dumps grumbler: Plants vs Zombies.

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