Horsemouth [& other bedtime stories] (1999)
a big sprawling mess, but an entertaining mess, i think.
for a long time i thought this was a patchy album that was inferior to SCREAMING NIPPLES in just about every way, with some good songs sitting alongside some pretty lame ones. now i find i like the whole thing quite a bit, and even the lesser songs have their charms. hell, there are about two and-a-half hours of music here (it’s a double-cd), so it was never going to be the most concise album anyway. the first disc has some insanely long songs on it, and works pretty well as an album. the first part of horsemouth takes a family member’s scary eating habits as inspiration, and gord and i somehow manage to play tight guitar harmonies without either one of us having any idea what the other is doing. it was one of many weird moments of accidental musical telepathy. my main riff is pretty obviously inspired by neil young. eventually the song descends into cacophony, wherein i try to play “amazing grace” on slide guitar, but it’s pretty hard to make that out in the midst of all the dissonance. the song is practically never-ending, and tyson (later our gwd cohort) once told me he thought his life was going to end before the song did, the first time he listened to it. edge of the deep green sea is all about atmosphere and slow-burning, and there’s a bit of a deliberate tom waits influence there. i dig the slowed-down drum loop and gord’s bullhorn guitar. and i finally figured out how to record keyboards in stereo! praise the lord.
protective spleen gets off to a slow start and seems like it might not go anywhere interesting, and my guitar-playing is thoroughly shitty, but eventually the song mutates into something very fucked up, complete with some nice distorted bass from gord (it’s actually an acoustic bass he’s playing, using only the built-in pickup without any effects, though it certainly doesn’t sound like it) and what has to be one of my most messed up vocals of all time as the character of mrs. kafalakatee. dead bald man walking features some of my better guitar playing of the time (funny how much better i was with a slide than i was without one back then). there’s a jarring scream halfway through that comes after a bit of a lull, and it scared the shit out of me when i was close to falling asleep while listening on headphones in bed, shortly after mixing the cd. suddenly my heart was in my throat and i wasn’t so close to sleep anymore. a few things lag (love’s like that and must be crazy aren’t the most inspired PG tunes), but not too badly.
the second disc is all over the place, and much less consistent. oyster bay nosehair and clogged moments were recorded outside on my front lawn on a saturday afternoon, and i was kind of sleep-deprived. we set up at least one microphone to act as a sponge for ambient sound, pointing it at the street, and you can hear cars passing by at some points, which is kind of neat. while my guitar-playing is woefully inadequate, oyster bay nosehair does feature some pretty weird singing, and some nice acoustic bass lines from gord. my best shirt apes the then-popular pearl jam version of “last kiss” for some stupid reason, though the lyrics are suitably warped (“my silky chicken-head, i love you more than my best shirt” goes the first line, and the climax of the song comes when i start wailing, “prior to my circumcision, i was a model citizen”). the best part of the song is the completely unrelated intro, which features gord playing acoustic guitar while i molest a recorder.
still, there are high points, including my bob dylan impression on the ballad of bob & marie and a slightly less psychotic version of tough stuff in the form of more tough stuff. a funny thing about that song — when i recorded the original version for the solo cd DON’T TALK LIKE A BABY, my dad walked in on me just as i was starting the song, and you can hear me tell him between the opening lines that i’m recording. on the version that shows up on this cd, my dad walked in on me again while i was recording, only it was in the middle of the song, and i again had to tell him i was in the middle of something. i thought that was pretty funny. there’s also an odd part at the beginning of horsemouth [part 2] where i was picking up my guitar and sitting down after hitting the record button, and the patch cord hit the strings for a second, playing something that i couldn’t yet do with my fingers. that track was another one that was recorded outside. a neighbour stopped by and talked to me for a while during an instrumental section, and somehow i was able to keep playing and chat with him at the same time.
sympathy for the monkey starts off as some weird snarling thing before segueing into a pretty decent recreation of “sympathy for the devil” (even the “woo-woo” backing vocals are present), only with new lyrics about genitals and constipation. near the end, gord and i both play simultaneous guitar solos that have nothing to do with one another. land of the toads is a bit like a bedtime story gone very wrong, and it gradually descends into complete insanity, with both of us making some pretty twisted background noises while i talk about naked kool-aid man and the ladies of the canyon losing their diaphragms. in the end, the highlight of the second disc is probably i couldn’t write a song if it crawled up my ass, which tells the incredible story of the backstreet boys’ ill-fated attempts at writing their own material from nick carter’s point of view. it’s life-altering stuff. the hidden track was supposed to be four or five minutes of dementia, but i could only fit about thirty seconds on the cd with the room that was left, forcing me to truncate all the good parts. maybe i should have made it a triple-cd instead.
i had a funny idea for cover art that i never got around to realizing, though i did draw an approximation of it for gord’s copy of the cd. my idea was this: gord would be lying in bed with a truly terrified look on his face, like a little kid, pulling the covers up to his chin, while i stood at the side of the bed (or maybe the foot of the bed) holding a large hardcover book that said “horsemouth (& other bedtime stories)” on the cover. the book would be open, with me preparing to read a chapter, smiling like a loving parent, at once sinister and wholesome. had i known at the time how easy it would be to simply snap the picture and get it on a cd cover, i probably would have set the wheels in motion, but it would be another four years before i would even think to attempt such a thing.
horsemouth [part 1]
edge of the green sea
love’s like that
must be crazy
dead bald man walking
ballad of bob & marie
my best shirt
more tough stuff
oyster bay nosehair
horsemouth [part 2]
land of the toads
sympathy for the monkey
i couldn’t write a song if it crawled up my ass