this rivals A ROOMFUL OF SEXINESS for the worst drum sound i ever recorded, but this time the drummer himself is the cause; tyson took it upon himself to school me in the art of microphone placement, and changed most of the kit’s sound in the process. i was able to get the new sound to work well enough on the second half of GOOD LUCK IN THE NEXT LIFE, but here i was forced to EQ the shit out of the kick drum in an attempt to get rid of the mud created, and nothing brought back the attack the snare had lost. the crotch mic must not have been lined up quite right this time around.
the sound does improve a bit on the last half of the album due to tyson’s more aggressive playing. maybe it was the presence of his iron cobra double bass pedal that muddied the waters as well; he said he was generally more comfortable playing double bass, but this was the only cd of ours for which he actually brought the thing over to my place. while i could probably improve the overall sound quality and clean things up to some extent if i remixed the album now, there’s not much i’d be able to do to help the drums…and on some level. i think the muddy sound suits the material.
this makes our previous two albums sound pretty warm and fuzzy by comparison. while i had been angry but still grudgingly hopeful back in october, now the shadows were closing in and harder drugs were coming into the picture, along with serious depression and suicidal thoughts. the job i had found kind of fun a few months ago was now a mind-numbing, soul-sucking black hole that made me feel like killing myself and everyone else around me. the long-distance relationship i had been mining for inspiration since SUBLIMINAL BILE was finally sounding its death rattle, and it was for real this time. i was beginning to realize that some of the people i thought were my friends weren’t actually my friends at all.
more than anything, i wanted to feel a connection with someone, but it seemed most people were inaccessible or closed-off in one way or another, or they just had no interest in connecting with me. i felt like i was screaming into a void after a while. it didn’t seem like there was much point in caring about anything anymore, and it was a pretty dark time in my life, for reasons far too lengthy to get into here.
things would get even messier (and i would grow even more disillusioned) by the time the band was imploding and i was recording BEAUTIFULLY STUPID, but that was still a few more months away. oddly enough, the angry sexual imagery that was so prevalent on SUBLIMINAL BILE is almost entirely absent here, with a new maturity in a lot of the lyrics, though the explosion of sex and rage on i feel great goes some way toward making up for that.
some of my best rhythm/lead guitar-playing is here on the likes of mean it and beauty breeds confusion, and on the latter track i still can’t believe i was able to squeeze all of those ideas into one live take, playing and singing at the same time while improvising the lyrics. today i would probably use at least two different guitar tracks to get all that information across. a lot of the tracks are shorter and are starting to sound more like “proper” songs with some amount of structure, though the subject matter pretty much kills whatever radio-friendly potential they may have had in someone else’s hands.
we’re out of tuna is the token extended track, and it’s one of the strangest things we ever did, featuring some pretty unhinged singing from me with barely any actual words (though some of what words there are really do mean something, oddly enough), some creepy laughter from tyson, a section of backwards beer bottle slide bass from gord, and one part that sounds something like an elephant stampede on peyote. the unpredictable ending is too insane for words. gord always wanted to play this song live because he thought it would really blow people away, though we never got the chance to try it. i think it would have been wild.
tyson has another moment of spontaneous vocal interjection that doesn’t quite come off on beauty breeds confusion, and even adding vocal harmonies of my own after the fact couldn’t cover it up this time. he does it again in the middle of barbiturates, though his brief off-key moan actually sounds more like microphone feedback than a human voice and fits in strangely well, which is kind of funny, and he would always duplicate it whenever we would play the song in rehearsals for what turned out to be our final live gig.
tyson had a thing for occasionally singing when he really felt it in the middle of a song when the spirit moved him. sometimes it really worked, like on redound, where there’s this weird melodic sound that fades in and out near the end when i’m singing falsetto, and it definitely adds something to the song. it took me months before i figured out it was tyson singing into his overhead drum mic, and not some strange cosmic microphone feedback of my own. he does some nice high falsetto singing for a bit in the middle of barbiturates too, though it doesn’t come through as well as it should because of how far the drum mics were from his mouth.
i don’t solo nearly as much here as i had on the previous two cds, picking my shots more carefully. when i do take a guitar solo, it’s a lot denser and more compact, with a lot of ideas squeezed into short bursts of time. i’m not sure how to explain it exactly, but where SUBLIMINAL BILE and GOOD LUCK kind of sound like they’re coming from a similar place, this album seems to be coming from somewhere else entirely. there’s a lot less searching going on. it’s as if we started out completely deconstructing what a three-piece “rock” band is supposed to be, subverting things and stretching them out until songs stopped being conventional “songs” and became something else entirely, and then we gradually became a bit more conventional, shortening the songs, introducing more structure (or at least what sounded like structure) and bringing things back down to earth somewhat.
and yet this music isn’t “normal”, and it sure as hell isn’t radio-friendly. if anything, there are more mistakes here than there were on either of the previous “freer” albums. my anger and self-loathing, while present on the last two albums, explodes here into something much deeper and more aggressive, with vocal performances to match. even on something like rancid popcorn, which might have been a nice mellow song on the last album, my singing is full of venom and warps the music into something a lot stranger.
but this isn’t a one-man show by any means, and there are a lot of sexy moments from the other guys. tyson’s drumming is ridiculously creative throughout, from the dance-influenced beats and crisp fills he hammers out on mean it to the grungy throb of electricity, the jazzy solo fill at the beginning of rancid popcorn, and the almost tribal rhythms in parts of we’re out of tuna. likewise with gord, who unleashes some insanely gorgeous bass playing on it’s only a game, which ends up driving the whole song, and i don’t think he was ever able to duplicate what he played there.
tyson talked me into adding a long vocal harmony section to the middle of that song when i hadn’t intended to, elevating it to an emotional place it wouldn’t have reached otherwise, and i had finally come around to realizing how often he was right about where harmonies should appear — so much so that we had a stoned session devoted entirely to vocal harmony overdubs, which is a long story in itself. the point here is, without him the song would have a gaping hole in the middle, because those harmonies wouldn’t exist. the result is one of the few true GWD ballads, and possibly the best one of them all — an honest-to-whatever-deity-you-worship love song, admitting things are doomed, but doing it for once without any anger…just longing, and resignation.
i feel great, on the other hand, is pretty brutal, featuring what has to be some of my most intense and emotionally uninhibited singing of all time. in the past i was always the one who would keep songs going past their natural conclusions, sometimes to tyson’s displeasure, but here he was the one who urged me to kick into a final verse when i was ready to stop, mouthing “keep going” repeatedly with a mesmerized look in his eyes. i love his “OH MY GOD!” outburst at the end of the song, even if the final hard consonant got cut off when i stopped recording.
if i had let tyson talk me into smoking some mary joanna before we recorded the song, it would have come out completely differently, probably dulling my rage and effectively robbing the song of most of its power. he always found my lack of interest in recording under the influence odd (i was more into getting blitzed after the music had been recorded and listening to it in an altered state of mind)…my reasoning was, i wanted to be firing on all cylinders at all times, because the crux of the songs kind of revolved around me. he and gord smoked out on the porch while i seethed inside, waiting to explode…and explode i did. it’s a wonder my vocal cords didn’t explode too, given the abuse i put them through on this song.
there really isn’t anything here i’ve ever thought of as filler, maybe because the album is only an hour long, which was a little on the short side by our usual standards, so there wasn’t as much room for lollygagging. that’s a funny word, idd’nit? lollygagging. even molest the sky, which is kind of slight compared to most of the other songs, is an oddly joyous end to an album full of self-loathing and bitterness, at least on my part…i think gord and tyson were having a good time, and i’m not sure they ever quite grasped just how much of my true feelings were in the music. there’s blood in the grooves here. but not so with molest the sky, where my little rant at the end about the formation of a halfway house for emotionally damaged animals is one of the few playful bits on the cd recalling the silly days of old. tyson kept smiling and saying “faster!” as we built up the tempo at the end far beyond any logical point, getting off on the absurdity of it all.
when it was all over, i told tyson i thought it was interesting how it seemed like we had really become a true band by this point, and it was funny how much tighter and shorter our songs had become. i mean, the first six songs (plus a cast-off that shows up on the posthumous CONDOM MINTS collection) all come from one session, and it still boggles my mind how we were able to pack all of that variety into an hour or two of one day. we probably could have done even more if tyson didn’t have to take off early…we were on fire that day.
tyson made it clear he wasn’t fond of the fact that i kept little between-song bits of dialogue and false starts, because he felt it made our cds sound unprofessional, but i’m really glad i kept those moments. it gives things an organic, human atmosphere. we were just three guys improvising most of this stuff in a little room between the kitchen and the living room anyway. why try to pretend we were doing something else? when i went back to remix SUBLIMINAL BILE and GOOD LUCK in 2002 to fix my weird panning from the first editions, i even reinstated some bits of banter i had cut out the first time around. maybe i’m weird, but some of my favourite moments on the guys with dicks cds are the bits between the songs, where we’re just goofing around or working out a bit of what we want to do.
the title for this cd was another one of tyson’s ideas. i think he was making fun of someone and said the word in an effeminate voice with a lisp, and something about it appealed to me. i thought it was a stellar album. i even went so far as to write on the back of the original jacket, “this cd should be played fucking LOUD.” there was talk of entering battles of the bands, playing gigs all over the place, and maybe even living together at some point so we could just record non-stop. the possibilities seemed endless, and love was still in the air, at least for a while.
none of us had any idea this would be the last full-length album we would ever record together. least of all me. had i known, i probably would have respectfully grabbed tyson by the left foot, and forcibly prevented him from changing the drum sound. but what can you do? hindsight’s a psychotic squirrel with too much eyeliner.
beauty breeds confusion
we’re out of tuna
it’s only a game
i feel great
molest the sky