i can promise you only this much: if you sit here for an hour, in a comfortable chair - with no external electronic devices keeping you company (only the handheld, liquid, alcohol-containing varieties . . . perhaps invidious nicotine) - i will have done my best to give you something to think about.

(a lot of people are in a hurry these days. don't read this right now if you're in a hurry. read it when you're particularly interested. maybe on the stool, after a great night's sleep, and a good cup of coffee.)



one night . . . okay, many nights, i found myself with this QWERTY keyboard in front of me. the 88, 76, or 61 key type keyboard was generally just behind me, and plugged into the same machine as this keyboard. about 8 feet to my left is a wet bar, including a little fridge, and a wine rack. heather kept putting bottles in that area. i kept taking them away, in a sense.

sometimes, especially when going over tracks, i found myself inclined to make little notes about stuff - mostly as comic relief. right now, for example, i'm auditing the "pleasant background" song. (and i've decided to alter something. you'll never know.)

because these "liner notes" are inspired by fermented grains, grapes, malted barley, etc. they are by no means comprehensive. in some places, they may not be comprehensible, too. on the other hand, they prolly go on and on considerably more than most. and certainly more than any liner notes i completely omitted before, for any of the previous records. of course, i'm really just doing it to entertain myself. but if you find yourself reading these words, they might turn out to completely mystify you as to the otherwise simple orchestrations herein.

*if, at any time, you feel you may be missing some of the jokes, have a clever person explain you to them.1

[1] if it's still inexplicable, it probably wasn't really clever at all



in the late 20th century "bands" recorded "albums" which were collections of musical pieces fixed, mechanically, within single unit repeat-play devices, and consumed by people with money - in fact, in exchange for money.

on these "albums" (which were largely collections of "songs" and in most cases, a collection of after-thought "songs" pastried around one or two particular "songs" which the "band" or marketing-influence thought of as "good songs" or "worthwhile songs" if they were british) the "bands" would often include written lists of names and references, left to demonstrate their humanity, sense of appreciation, or favor-repaying capabilities.

these lists thanked unknown and, for the most part, unknowable people. generally, the lists didn't articulate the services or other bits of beneficence for which the thankees were thanked.

and then here's me, an illinoisan, and a writer of "songs." i'd made a conscious decision to never include a "thank you" list on a record, for two reasons

1) you always forget the most important people

2) a lot of people "thank" a label executive who may have been mildly aware of the release, by way of a memo that arrived, on a thursday, when s/he had acid indigestion; or the "band" were saying "hello" to some big shot they met once, or wanted people to think they'd met once.

it's no good to thank one's great educators like polly washington, because nobody really knows polly washington outside of boondock (or in this case, urbana) illinois. (and it's also no good to say "my middle finger" to tools like stoia or yanchus, although it gets you more street cred with the tough kids and cognoscenti, alike.)

instead, i'd like to thank people whom i've never met - people who've brought me some of the best three minuteses of my life:

if i could bow down, and kiss nicky ryan's feet, i would like to do it. of course, people say things like "i would kiss nicky ryan's feet" when they speak metaphorically. but i would like to kiss nicky ryan's feet. perhaps we could go out for a relaxed, informal cocktail or pint afterwards. but i don't want the foot-kissing to be deemed a formality, or taken for granted. it would be important to me that nicky ryan understand the debt of gratitude, the debt of musicianship, the debt of humanity i owe personally, and likely on behalf of a generation of people whose lives were made better, and whose prospects were modernized, and made better, by nicky ryan's efforts.

sound dramatic? believe it.

nicky ryan would probably tell you different. nicky ryan might say "well here's where i stole it from..." and i welcome you to investigate nicky's forebears. because i am just the singer, and more or less the person who conceptualized and mentally orchestrated the tunes before walking into "the studio," i should probably thank me for the nicky ryan effort, too. except that in the nicky ryan case, it's better music. and it's enya, and not me, making it.

oh, there i went, dropping the name of another recognized person whom i've never met. i've never met kate st. john, roger eno, his brother brian, caroline lavelle, herb ernst, or david arkenstone, too.

but i learned a lot from being a kid in a college town where a band called "obvious man" played gigs. their roommates, poster children, were even more successful. in fact, poster children got out-of-town people interested! to me, their drummer was the stunning aspect. (given that 18-years of life-experience and beer were the major relevant factors influencing my perception, i'd say it was an astute observation.) i eventually suckered him into playing a few tracks for me. and truth be told, he deserves writing credit for most of the best parts of album #3.

(if you choose to google any of these terms and contrast them with me, keep in mind that now that they've got these internets, people confuse my father and me - which is odd because he's totally pre-teevee and i'm so post-wave.)




heather bought me a set of pajamas for christmas. i can't remember which crayola would represent the color, but furious bride's maidens refer to it as "seafoam." and both top and bottom were polka-dotted with the disembodied heads of smiling cartoon monkeys.

i lounge in them, but i also wear the top in public when i'm feeling both lazy and sassy. i'm reminded, by them, that my life is more comfortable because a neck tie doesn't restrict the flow of blood to my brain five days per week.

as this song gestated, it turned from a happy song to a wistful song for two reasons. one is just that the music developed that way, and i didn't argue with it.

then, i googled the biggest prick from my law school class, and found that he was still slaving for a big firm, but not the big firm for which he'd originally signed away his soul. i thought "who's monkey are you now? and why are you still wearing that monkey suit?" because most people i knew back then have already jumped back out of the rat race. something about an economic collapse may have hastened some departures.

anyway, i don't feel bad for him, because he was a prick. and i'm sure his secret handshakes will earn him plenty of bread, whether or not he has any jam. the song is simple, in a way. it's two chords, for example. but then again, it's not all that simple. the reason it's more interesting to the ear than its two-chordedness might suggest is that the two chords are not necessarily fired at predictable beats.

"but wait!" you say, "this song is in 6/8, just like the rest of 'em. how can there be different beats?" well, yes. to some degree, there is a lot of kick on the one and snare on the 4. but look, there's more to beats than that.

the 4th best record of all time had 12 songs, all in 4/4 time, but utilizing such intense syncopation - often in the bass parts - that you'd never know it was supposed to be dull rock. (i met the bass player, once. and i got him drunk. i feel good about that. it gave me the opportunity to ask him if he'd named his next band "cast" because a line from the last song on the 4th best record of all time decrees "the change is cast." he said yes.)

it's possible that the guys making that record were trying to not sound like all the records ever made before them. or maybe they just had a very particularized idea of how each song should go. either approach works.

as long as i'm now dropping references like heavy stones, i should add that i THINK i saw the lead-singer/lead-songwriter responsible for the 2nd best album ever made on brunch at the beach chalet, at the beach end of golden gate park. at least, i thought it was him at the time. what i know for sure is that it wasn't sharon stone's husband . . . he was with sharon stone. (i was with heather.) that was in 2003.

by the time the internets were capable of carrying random homemade videos posted by fans, i figured out that the guy in question may have been a lot thinner than the one i saw. on the other hand, his second and last great album came out ten years before the encounter. so who knows. sharon totally checked us out. for that, i applaud her. we ARE sexy. and we were looking exceptionally fine that day. and because we were wearing sun glasses, she could only have assumed we were watching her the whole time if she were fatuous. (we were. why wouldn't you?) plus, i had a guitar with me, so we looked arty.

anyway, back to that guy . . . if i get lucky enough to earn the privilege of calling shots in some capacity (traditionally it means you made a lot of money, but i'm open to new ideas) i'd like to invest my earned capital in seeing what i could get him and his mates to do with the possibility of making a third album with that group of lads. (and if it's just money, i'd only spend it on art in some form anyway.)

intriguingly, i know one guy who played on the second album. i also met a guy whose debut album was somewhat produced by the genius i thought might be brunching with sharon. (his name - the guy, not the bruncher - is mine, except spelled more scottishly, and then again not spelled at all as he refers to himself as "bleu." i gave him a copy of an album i had which was like his album, except that he wanted the girl back.) i feel i've come super-duper close to him, in a way.

i know i got close to that bass player i mentioned, because i got him drunk. i'd like to think it will all be okay as long as all those guys somehow know that their records were way, way more important than all the other records of the intervening years, no matter the disparity in sales figures. ( realistically, i know that there's also a certain amount of greenhouse-gas reduction and military-industrial-complex rearrangement to do before everything becomes okay.)

what doesn't work for anyone but the songwriter2 is rehashing the familiar beats, the familiar progressions, the familiar root chords - for one more pass through three minutes of anonymity.

kick SNARE kick kick SNARE!

you've heard it before. it will be hard for anyone to make it as good as those first few times you heard it.

monkey pants features most of the genes which make up gram parsons' sin city, steve pride's mr. bones and bic runga's the be all and end all. those are all the same song, up to the very last bits of musical DNA. but each is particularly interested in making its statement in a precisely timed, tensioned manner. it's no surprise that each is, all at once, stunningly beautiful, familiar, and unique.

ideally, monkey pants has carved its own niche by changing the subject of the angst, the tension of the backbeat, and the emphasis on the front. to be safe, it also eliminates the third chord.

[2] who, like the parent of a newborn, thinks his/her contribution is a miracle, and wants to tell you about all its nuances -- when you know good and well that it's exactly like all the others



heather has irish and Sicilian heritage. it's not an unfamiliar combination in this hemisphere, where young lovers sought something different, but acceptable. (btw, Word just capitalized the latter for me, but not the former. is that respect, or intimidation? either way, the irish never get respect. even a computer program thinks they're a common noun.)

back to my point . . . i guess it might have seemed revolutionary to the catholic kids who decided to marry outside their hair color. i don't like to revision history. heck, maybe it turned the world on its axis when irish kids started dating sicilian kids. (whoa, the program didn't do it that time. i guess it's growing up.) i just think it's funny that the convenient thing that allowed these two groups to come together, despite their differences, is also the governmental force which traditionally demands that people behave in a very particular, codified way. (or not, but then you have to chant to some quasi-fictional character a hundred times - in which case, you're golden.)

funny how we in america make fun of iranians for their post-modern return to fundamentalism. i mean, yes, they are ridiculous - but so are we. c'mon! i thought to myself, as i listened to a caller vent against islamic fundamentalism, only to finish with "because there's only one true road to salvation, and that's through jesus christ, our savior."

does it really matter what name you give to your god, or your prophet, if your general aim is to shut down the activities of others? i mean, if you're taking that road, you might as well travel with the people that are most zealous to get there - and if that caller fled this country for a madrassas, i'd be happy to drink a madras to honor his departure.

let's face it, JC was a real dude. he was a jewish carpenter (hence the name). and his biggest admonition was do-unto-others. what that has to do with killing heretics is beyond me. let me tell you this: the most "holy" among us are virtually unheard of, but they're doing great works every day. if you make the papers, you're probably not among them.

dr. joycelyn elders, the surgeon general of the united states, was run out of office for pointing out that many of societies troubles stem from an insistence, among some cultures, that young men not . . . mmm, touch . . . certain parts of their own bodies . . . in such a way as to achieve a release of pressure pent up by insufficient activity within their reproductive systems.

a couple of major religions come to mind, which similarly admonish their adherents and young people against this touching.

now, most people understand the hunger for food. an appropriate, almost inevitable response to hunger for food, is eating food. most people understand fatigue, and being really sleepy. the response to this series of signals from our bodies is to sleep. eating and sleeping are two of the three major functions of our bodies, but they're both mere deputies to the third function. only the third function can be called our Purpose for Being Here. our Purpose, as far as our bodies see it, is to make other bodies. to this end, we sleep and eat, to keep our bodies capable of fulfilling the Purpose.

yes, we might create Great Works of Art while distracted from our Purpose for Being Here. and interestingly, some Art is the result of persistent denial, by our conscious minds, of the needs of our bodies - because denial of food, sleep, and . . . mmm, "pent-up" energy, shall we say . . . causes delirium. and people get really creative when they're delirious. they can invent entire wars, and elaborate plans for genocide, for example. and gorgeous paintings.

but clarity of thought, unfettered by "pent-up" energy, can also lead to Great Works of Art, and thoughtful, intricate plans for avoidance of wars (such as municipal noise abatement ordinances, for example, which keep neighbors from killing each other).

thanks to joycelyn elders, a shrewd woman. and to those who've not followed her advice: before you go out wilding, engage a choirboy, or fly a plane into a building - touch yourself. when you're done, you'll probably forget all the rage and silliness. instead, you'll likely want to have a sandwich, and a nap.


pleasant background music for old folks

my maternal grandmother was diagnosed with alzheimer's when i was 9 or 10. that was way back in the first days of the disease. so who knows how long she'd been exhibiting diagnosable symptoms? it was kind of like AIDS at the time: doctors finally put a name to something that they'd realized to be a very bad thing.

she continued to breathe for another decade or so, mostly within the walls of the mesa verde convalescent home, in costa mesa. back then, there wasn't a huge shopping complex, or Crazy Chicken nearby. so for most people, it wasn't much fun.

i kind of liked it, though. i felt a great deal of simplistic childhood compassion, and i didn't have a lifetime's worth of memories to deal with. i didn't have the generational sense of "i'm next." i was a kid. she sang christmas carols with us, word for word, years after the last time she'd spoken to anyone. so if you doubt the power of music . . .

my favourite person at mesa verde was a man named norman. he was much younger than most of the inmates. he had some sort of debilitating disease which robbed him of quick speech and coordinated muscle movement. but he wasn't dumb, and he wasn't old. he was all there, except his body wouldn't help him get it across.

we had good times.

most of the people in the "convalescent" home were not getting any better, however. it's not the fault of the staff.* it's just that people live too long, now. or rather, we haven't yet figured out a way to accommodate or accentuate the lives of the extremely old.

so they're left to sit in their wheelchairs, along the walls, until Death shows up for them. ideally, their minds are, at that point, inducing them toward the types of dreams and imagery that the FDA does not currently allow.

for more thoughts on the future of aging, see beta babies from the partial shebang. it's a winner.

*(a hard working bunch of earnest mexicans who faced daily accusations of thievery from people so old and senile that they forgot, every day, that they'd given away all their stuff years before.)


sugar pills

if you've found a friend with whom you choose to release "pent-up" energy, the two of you can choose to go ahead with the full gambit, and fulfill you're Purpose for Being Here, by creating an entirely other person.

but, contrary to the edicts of certain well-dressed and highly organized cults, you're not required to create another person as a consequence of mutual energy-release. you can simply release the energy for the sake of fun, and exercise, and because of the undeniable urge to release it. after all, if your Lord didn't want you to do It for fun, (s)He wouldn't have created hormones and contraceptives.

if you're lucky enough to live within the boundaries of a fiefdom, democracy, or monarchy which is not organized by leaders whose minds are trapped in the 12th century, you can acquire safe aides which can help you choose when to coordinate energy-release with other-person-creating.



let's blame whitey for this

a 50,000 watt radio station near me once featured an amusing, sometimes thought-provoking afternoon radio talk show. this show was the anchor for the rest of the programming, which was all talk, and almost entirely of a conservative political bent.

one day, during a news segment, we got to hear a soundbite of a black woman3 identified as living in a part of town not generally seen by white people - a part of town the Real Property of which would not generally be owned by the people who lived in and on it; a part of town without lush gardens.

this woman's soundbite was a reaction to the breaking news of a fire which had killed three children. "whey wuz da pohleece?" she queried. the radio station wanted us to know how indignant she felt about society's failure to respond immediately to her emergency.

"how ridiculous she is," we thought, as we buttered our scones. "where were the parents?"

the sound of her voice stayed with me for years. and i planned to write a song about how ridiculous was her complaint. where were the parents?

my plan was derailed by foreseeable events. after watching brownie doin' a heckuva job, i was unable to pen my clever, ironic indictment on the world's lack-of-personal-responsibility-pandemic. for the second time in a decade, lots and lots of people died because an enormous and expensive government had not read its daily briefing.

i started to wonder about the radio station's decision to air this particular woman's reaction. i formerly dabbled in electrojournalism myself, see. so i know there's someone making a decision about how to use those finite seconds of airtime. did they seek to provide a representative neighborhood reaction to a tragedy.

did they choose the sexiest, if inciting, soundbite? did they want to outrage us whities?

maybe it doesn't matter anymore. maybe the future of radio excludes the use of the spectrum, which belongs to all of us (see red lion broadcasting v. fcc 395 u.s. 367, 1969). at that point, we'll be getting all of our news content from without the united states, because boring old facts-reporting is not commercially viable. (cf "television," track 14, infra)

whitey comes in many forms, and some of them are pretty dark. but i'd like to mention something about the john ashcroft/sean hannity version of whitey. (because i voted for george bush the first time, i feel as though i have some credibility in outing those who are NOT credible conservatives). heather and i were driving back from a pleasant weekend in cincinnati (chez whitey). it was around 1 in the morning when i pulled into a Love's truck stop in western indiana, for gas.

there was a wilford brimley lookin' dude in that Love's. he watched as a van full of indie-rockers unloaded into the station. like all indie-rockers of 2006, these kids hadn't known that certain eyeshadow wearers were originally intended to be arch-enemies of certain longhairs. so they were all in the same band. (mods and rockers, living together, it'll be anarchy!)

i watched the wilford brimley lookin' dude as the van unloaded. he actually, physically rolled his eyes upon observing these harmless youngsters. it's not as though he'd never seen them and their kind (a buhzillion times on television). but he thought it was kind of his duty to roll his eyes. (you know, because bursting from your waistline, walrus moustaches, and turning left are normal.)

and that was the point that it all snapped together for me. it was his role to roll his eyes. their job was to look "weird," and his job was to roll his eyes in response.

[3] ah yes, i can almost hear That Group of People asking "how could you tell she was black? "



eight cents worth of sugar water
frozen in a plastic bottle
added to five more just like it
glued inside a plastic jacket
wrapped in colored, translucent cellophane
sold to you for $3.84
consumed by your children in seventeen seconds

pitched into a sturdy satchel
rubber made, or glad of plastic
dragged out to a different junk bin,
crammed in
wheeled out to the curb on wednesday
thursday it's someone else's problem
buried in the ground for years and years and years

and years, and years, and years

blight, great floods, an avian flu,
a meteorite the size of chicago,
nuclear winter from north korea,
melted glaciers on coastal nevada,
fossils of humans trapped in eruptions;
one geological layer above
six empty bottles of sugar water,
wrapped in plastic, preserved forever

eight cents worth of sugar water
pissed around a porcelain basin
wiped up with disposable sponges
tossed into a rubber container
pushed to the ground by a ten ton trawler
twenty-five feet above the water table
nowhere near your cul-de-sac
not far from your water source.



dog and cat greet the houseguest

garrison keillor and elizabeth marshall thomas may have said everything that needs to be said. also, it's possible that they put it more tangibly, or made it more immediately recognizable as The Truth. still, it was a hoot making this song.




the mind shuts down.

is it possible to listen to something and watch something at the same time?


is it possible to listen to something and watch something else at the same time?


you might think you can do these things simultaneously, but you can't. i discovered this phenomenon while watching an illini basketball game and talking on the phone. when i'd hung up, i realized i had no idea what frank williams had been doing. (not that i normally understand, nor could explain, what frank williams is doing.)

some people think they can talk on a phone and drive at the same time. to some degree, they're right. but it's not because they know what's going on on the road. it's because driving is usually really easy.

on the other hand, listening to something involves the brain. in fact, the brain gets really excited about listening - in the same way that your techie friend gets excited about a project that will allow him to unleash some new idea/learning/software.

the brain likes to paint images. it can't do it when the images are already provided. if you're like me (a slow reader, somewhat stupid about the book learnin') you may have already noticed that you retain a whole bunch more when listening than you might have done while reading.

when you get bored with the redundant crap on the boob, you'll be glad to find that there's a whole bunch of great radio out there on the internets - much of it from countries that hold Jesus only in polite regard.

you'll be enlightened. you'll be entertained. you'll have used your brain!

television is not presented for you, thinking person. it's for people who will buy things. you will not buy things. you've already figured out what you like, and also how to get things for free.

television is for people who aren't reading this piece right now. television is directed at people who don't read.

why fight it? if you bought the things people wanted you to buy, you could have your very own television programming. but then you'd also have to give someone money for that stuff. and although you're probably sufficiently enlightened to know that you don't really have to have that money, you also know that you don't want that stuff.

it's a dilemma. reminds me of all the boxes of free CDs i got from the big record companies. this was back in the days when

1. big record companies existed

2. music was contained in a tangible object

3. people thought it was worth it to send things to me in the post.

almost everything i got was worthless, even painful to the ears. but one of the things i got, for free, was rufus wainwright's record rufus wainwright. it's one of the best 30 or 40 records ever made, i think. for one thing, it's not like everything else. for another, it's enough like everything else that you can feel at home with it.

this record came from the same company that made a lot of lonely people feel happy to know that elliott smith was lonely, too. i got those records as well, but i have to say - no matter how he made those people feel - that i kept thinking of musical turns that elliott ought to have seen within his songs, on account of how obvious those turns weren't, and how obvious the turns he took were. i think that's why he appealed to a lot of above-averagely-intelligent television watchers. (also, he was sort of a prick towards me the two times we met. it might have been because i was standing next to a record company prick both of those times. guilt by association is fair, and i certainly don't hold it against him. he wrote some stuff that gave me chills. and he was smart enough to know that getting record deal is not the end of the process - unless you mean that it's the End of The Process.) but i'm talking here about records; records that will go into the permanent collection.

one of the things that rufus does amazingly is to blend the leadoff track into some kind of rhythm. it's odd because it starts out with no beat - in fact, not played to any beat at all. that's unusual.

you can count out the beat to most everything - this record for example. if there's anything that will make this record memorable in the minds of some (whether they recognize the reason, or merely feel it) it's that each note, each beat, has a very specific place in time relative to all the other beats and notes.

sounds simple enough, i suppose. but you'd be amazed at how many people fudge it when it comes to playing music.

rufus wainwright's sister martha, for example, has been party to a bit of fudge. i don't blame her at all, in fact i think she's pretty good. she's susceptible to the workaday pressures of her profession, just as are we all. in the case of our profession (guitar strumming, generally) there's this external pressure to include other musicians, playing other instruments. people think it makes the songs sound more interesting.4

in some cases, people are right. but that's only when the other musicians are playing the songs with extremely close attention to the exact location of every beat and note. and again, you'd be surprised at how many people don't.

when i saw martha, she had a band of professional musicians who were totally able to read the notes on the page - and had no idea of how the songs should sound. it was the same thing with sarah harmer (another of my favourites) the year before, on the same stage. (this was in the room reserved for canadians, and to some degree canadiennes. but luckily, i have a canada infatuation. did you notice?)

timing, accents, emphasis are the tension-builders. without tension, all music is background.

if you want an example of tension making a song great - even if it's in 4/4 time, even if the instrumentation is simple - seek throw the R away, by the proclaimers. (it helps if you drench things in reverb, but the lesson remains the same.)

another great bit of tension from that first track on rufus is the violin (i think) thing at the very end (it starts at 5:23 and moves upwards and around in pitch until 5:31, at which point it holds its note). it's musical genius of which pretenders like me could only dream to conceive. so pats on the back all around for van dyke parks and jon brion.

(if you were wondering about the television song this diatribe ostensibly reveals: is it mundaneness? is it mondayness? it's le monde anus.)

[4] there's also no need to commit yourself emotionally to a group. you can watch them fly-on-the-wall. with a solo artist, you feel like you'll hurt his feeling if you turn around and go to pee.



all the best things in life are beautiful and deadly

a girl was walking across campus, talking on a cell phone. because she'd been raised in captivity, she didn't recognize the enormous city bus as her natural predator, so she walked directly into it. the bus won.

thankfully, i didn't see it. i'm sure it was horrific, and devastating to everyone personally involved.

so why make light of it? you ask. well, because her parents just had to sue somebody. and although they didn't, by any means, deserve the initial anguish; their litigiousness invites an outrage of its own.

see, it's litigating parents making everything so boringly safe that's led to the false sense of security that keeps sheltered white kids out of the gene pool. helicopter moms may one day be able to stay by the sides of their daughters in virtual perpetuity. until then, their lawsuits merely rob the rest of us of exciting, potentially dangerous playground facilities.

those scrapes on my knees taught me a valuable lesson: "watch it, kid."

all the great playgrounds are gone. they've been dismantled out of fear, or by court order. it's ridiculous. and it's extra ridiculous because it comes at the same epoch when parents are choosing to cease inoculations for their kiddos. they don't blame themselves, see. but they'll blame others if there's money in it.

a generation of little ones has grown up defenseless. they can't recognize their predators, and they aren't immune from their traditional pathogenic enemies. it reminds me of the time in biology class, in 10th grade, when we put a white lab mouse in the ball-python's terrarium. the poor little guy walked all around, sniffing for the bearer of the exciting new smell.

when the mouse finally touched the tip of it's pursed nose to the nose of the tight-coiled snake, there was a sudden blur. when the blur calmed to visible lines again, the mouse was in the middle of the new coil.

a streetwise brown mouse would have hightailed it out of there.



forever's too long

steve tyska wrote this gem. he gave us his blessing to do this version. the real blessing was the group of songs he penned before deciding to help people more practically, by becoming a doctor.

his band was called cowboy x, and it's not the same cowboy x that i found on the internets just now when i googled it.

some people can perceive, digest, and retribute the life experience concept so that others can understand a bit more about the why-we're-here question. that's what steve tyska did, frequently, if glibly (which is also my wont). i hope the lives he saves are worth it, because songwriting missed out on a master.




rex, wendy, vince, bad bob; gaspode, angua, wuffles; droopy; brian griffin; bones barton; gromit; s.l. helper; colin saunders; h.k. phooey; prince children [age 47]



recording an album "at home" is hardly new. in fact, it's not even all that recent. heck, the rolling stones were doing it back before you were born. but . . . unt this eez a beeg but . . . until recently, recording at home either meant your album sounded like crap, or it sounded great because you had a tens-of-thousands of dollars of equipment type studio, but it was in your house (or in the case of the rolling stones, a big bus) rather than an address on saville row, ocean avenue, etc.

it's different now.

the intimation that we recorded this entire record ourselves will certainly lead to reactions such as "oh my god, really!?!" where apt, but also "yes, boy you sure did" in other spots.

two microphones, a couple of cables, and a handful of musical instruments - only two of which cost more than $200.

some of the tracks of this album were recorded in conditions of extreme high fidelity. imagine the which and the where for yourself. the mystery of the science is largely relegated to the past. on the other hand, if modern political governance has taught us anything, it's that enough people want to be fooled. so like i said, use your illusion.

as it hap[pens, your illusion can be ;-)easily ;-)dispelled. if you were to put on a dynamic, expensive, expertly produced record - something from jellyfish, or bryan ferry's don't stop the dance come to mind - you'd immediately recognize what fools and amateurs are the rest of us musical poseurs.

please don't.

instead, listen to it A/B versus older stereophonic gems such as the mamas & papas creeque alley. that's what i listened to, over and over, while trying to figure out this two-channel paradigm. oh, and also, this entire sentiment is written with headphones in mind. without headphones, all of these things will sound dandy. but i understand that this is the ipod generation. and if there's one thing the ipod generation has learned, it's that headphones tell the whole story you'd never known. if there's another thing the ipod generation has learned, it's frustration - a useful lesson.

what's even weirder is that we used a software program, written by a handful of terry pratchett fans, which is freely available on the internets (emphasis on the "freely"). this handy string of 1s and 0s is worth about $10 grand in 1999 dollars (which, we remind you, were outstanding dollars) or rather, 1999 technology (which continues, for many, to be represented in outstanding dollars).

so you see, a "home recording" can now be had which doesn't sound like crap, but also costs zero dollars. i'm not saying we did it it. i'm just saying it's possible. hooray!

one of the ways we didn't strive for perfection is by slaving particular notes or beats to a triggering mechanism, which could keep them perfectly on beat. another way we didn't strive for perfection is by adjusting imperfections in the pitch of our singing voices. there's plenty of perfect music out there, if you're interested.

some of the ear-catching bits that might seem like mistakes are unusual syncopations. this trick is one of the more fun uses of technology. a real person plays a genuine instrument, but then the track gets moved forward or backward in time from its original spot. so an instrument that was playing at the back of the beat can be put at the front. or certain notes can be put at the front. or the whole thing can be moved an entire measure, or six. it makes the take a lot easier to lay down.

sometimes i wonder whether nick drake and joe boyd did the same thing, but with tape, for the strings parts on river man. it could have simply been written out as played, but i can't imagine anyone being that clever. even those guys. check it out: they start on the 2, and end on the 1, of something that comes in 5s. try explaining that in 1969!

(on the other hand, that was back in an era when orchestral musicians had prospects. also, people generally had some semblance of an attention span . . . maybe it wasn't all that hard.)

there are a small handful of other, different times when something might sound off-kilter. those were unintentional.



who knows what this term really means. it's a bit of a golden calf. and even the guys who've been doing it for years can't quite explain it. they wouldn't feel they could put it into words.

mostly, it's to do with limiting frequencies in a sound spectrum. it's also to do with leveling the dB among those frequencies.

bored yet?

for the last so many years, records have been mastered so as to be just as fookin' loud as possible. it's like advertising on the commercial idiot box. for some reason, people think you'll be grabbed by something blaring.

truth is, we've all learned, or been forced by necessity, to tune it out. loudness was probably pretty attention-getting back in the days when everyone went to bed at sundown. back when cars didn't bring BOONCE-BOONCE-BOONCE all the way into your living room. back when when a barking dog meant intruder, not lazy neighbor.

these days, there's so much noise around all the time, it's kind of become the new quietness. if you really want to grab people's attention, be silent.

in a handful of specific ways, this record was mastered. for the most part, it wasn't. there were some tones that just seemed too quel to alter. (admittedly, there were others that didn't seem kewl or alterable). so there may be moments you want to hear differently, or louder. feel free to master it yourself, using any number of free online audio mastering programs - there's even one written by a guy named leon.

you can tweak the high-end if you find it too trebley, etc. where applicable, adjust the volume control to your satisfaction. but no matter what you do, you'll just not be able to rid yourself completely of that delicious AM radio buzz.



ask for proof

geez we're a gullible lot. i said "we're a gullible lot." what, you don't believe me? it's true!

the difference between old wives tales and edicts from the government is that old wives tales rarely seek money. gossip asks for money, but not old wives tales.

if i were a late-80's neo-anarchist (this was before "punk" rock skateboarding was the in-crowd thing) i'd tell you to "question authority." it's basically the same thing. except that my version has a clever little lesson attached.

"proof," you see can refer to specific things, not just evidentiary generalities. because i don't understand math, i won't try to explain one definition of "proof." because i well understand alcohol, i'll tell you about another one.

i'm sitting here, listening to the second greatest album of all time (it's titled bellybutton, look it up) and sipping from a rocks glass half-filled with hiram walker's triple sec5 and rocks (hence the name). i can drink hiram walker's triple sec on the rocks because, although it's not grand marnier6, cointreau7, or some such fancy orange liqueur; it stills contains an honest 30% alcohol.

for some reason, there's no alcohol in alcohol anymore. i think it's being replaced by water - which in some cases is better for you than is alcohol. maybe it's being replaced by sugar, which is bad these days (although it may have had a popular resurgence in the science community by the time you read this bit . . . i suggest you check for yourself).

thing is, i already know where i can get my hands on water and sugar. and it's almost always cheaper than alcohol. so i've been wondering why so many major "alcohol" producers seem so interested in eliminating the alcohol from their products and replacing it with sugar water. is it the cost? is it that people buy more bottles?

must be the latter. after all, the good stuff makes you stop drinking after one or two8 whereas you can drink practically forever from a bottle (well, bottles) that have no alcohol in them.

my friend scott, the retro-furniture guy has a canadian club lamp, in the shape of a canadian clubc bottle. the proof on that reads 86. i wonder what year that was. certainly it was much further in the past than bottles of jack daniel's which read "43 percent alcohol by volume." (that's the same thing, for those of you who don't speak canadian.)

in the olden days, producers of alcohol made alcohol that had alcohol in it. since then, a strange bedfellows of righteous godseekers and righteous well-intentioned proletarian seekers9 put a hex on reelection seekers, forcing the latter to "do something" about all the drinkin' and carryin'-on. the reelection seekers imposed higher taxes on booze that exceeded a particular proof ceiling (generally 80 proof, or 40% by volume if you're still canadian ) which forced the pussies in the alcohol business to lower their proof (see "adding water").

some brave alcohol producers have continued to scoff at silly government, and its relentless, self-serving hypocritical moralizing. they pass the cost of the extra taxes on to the consumer, and that consumer thinks she's just paying for better quality mash. in fact, if it became a hot button issue again, she could probably get the good stuff for less. but not before noon on sundays, because that's evil.

(oops. in writing this tirade, i've killed the last of the hiram walker triple sec. i'll now open the bottle of dubouchette. in a very particularized, rigidly defined sense; i am not picky.)

i'm getting to a point, here. the point is that you'll get what you accept. if you don't accept crap, you'll get something better. it's as true of re-election seekers as it is of triple sec. the difference is this: sometimes re-election seekers do something that's good for you, and you don't like it. re-elect them.

when triple sec merchants try to so something good for you, insist on a better triple sec.

[5] hiram walker is probably dead. his decedents have not given me any money to write about him, or his triple sec. ''m not sure that they've advertised at all since the 70's. i'm not sure they advertised in the 70's, either. but i think they did. go find your dad's old collection of vintage era playboy magazines, and check. (by the way, that's called "pubic" hair. rhymes with "cherubic," ironically enough.)

[6] also not paying me

[7] ibid.

[8] the impressionable may be reading

[9] not the same thing as the proletariat, of course. often quite wealthy.