Brand New Shiny Lie (2004)
this is not the album it was first intended to be, but it was probably made more interesting by me botching everything early in the game.
my plan was for this to be a two-cd set, where the first disc would be what OH YOU THIS wishes it was during all those nights of drunken masturbation, and the second cd would be disc one’s drugged-out, cross-dressing cousin. then i messed up the recording of the tracks that eventually became the PAVEMENT HUGGING DADDIES EP and had to go about re-thinking the whole thing.
the end product is something altogether different from what it might have been, had i not sneezed into the psychic hairnet of benevolence. ultimately, i had far too many songs to work with and just didn’t feel like recording a lot of them (there were at least thirty songs i wrote specifically for the album that were never recorded at all, and another four or five that were recorded but didn’t make the final cut). one thing that does survive, though, is a kind of sexiness trade-off; most of the songs are either short enough to vanish before interest has a chance to wane, or they’re structured in such a way that any listener who happens to be a pop-purist will gradually be driven insane. i carried over the non-chronological sequencing approach i’d first played with on the PAVEMENT HUGGING DADDIES EP, and i thought this ill-fated album in particular might benefit if i gave some actual thought to the ebb and flow of the thing as a whole, instead of just plopping the songs down according to the order in which they were recorded — something i did with every album i made for years and years, but would never do again after this one.
i died in my hair is still one of the sludgier things i’ve done, at least for the first four minutes or so, and it might be the only song i’ve ever written that has a real breakdown in it, metal style. a few of the guitar riffs go way back to the time of BEAUTIFULLY STUPID, just before the band broke up. i wanted to work them into a GWD song at that time, thinking the music would appeal to gord and tyson (who were both metalheads at heart), but nobody was the least bit interested. so i thought i’d make something out of them myself. the results are probably weirder and more interesting than anything that would have happened to the song as a band vehicle. i’ve always been especially fond of the way the song shifts gears completely around the halfway mark and becomes a dreamy thing that sounds like it’s been flown in from a different album altogether.
nobody loves you when you don’t exist was originally intended to be a piano/bass/drums piece, but i couldn’t get a take or a sound i liked from behind the drums, so i gave up and forgot about the song for a few months. then i thought i’d try getting rid of the drums altogether and adding a little bit of electric guitar in their place. suddenly i found i liked the song a hell of a lot more. likewise with symbolism therapist; i recorded drums to accompany the mandolin, and this time i liked the sound and the take, but it just didn’t seem to fit. the song felt better naked.
chimera is the only song from the pile of stuff i recorded improperly that i was able to properly re-record without losing the inspiration that had been there the first time around. it magically doubled in length when i took another stab at it, with more alterations than the face of that woman who looks like a cat and is routinely made fun of by late night talk show hosts. you know who i’m talking about. the body of the song is kind of the same as it was the first time through, but the first four minutes weren’t there when i originally recorded it during the sessions for what became PAVEMENT HUGGING DADDIES. all of that long instrumental section was written in bed one night while watching the diary of evelyn lau (an interesting early role for sandra oh) and, though i didn’t realize it at the time, this was the very beginning of my bed becoming an important songwriting space for me.
the drum sound changed completely for about the tenth time here. i removed the front head on my kick drum for the first time ever, which was quite a fragrant experience, loosened the remaining head until things sounded about right, stuck a new microphone in there, changed the position of the other mics, and tuned my new maple snare drum up a lot higher to get more of a crack out of it. only about half of the songs feature drums at all, though.
the unadorned acoustic stuff feels a lot more natural to me here than it did on TEMPORARY AMNESIA, maybe because the songs are shorter, the singing is better, and the lyrics are less emotionally naked and more cryptic. to that end, there are a number of songs that are very brief, more fragments than full-bodied songs. the opening track (last of the two-finger typists) is one of those, along with peachy pear and strange cats. it was a harbinger of things to come (though, as with the writing-in-bed thing, i had no idea at the time).
there are also some pretty lengthy tracks, like the aforementioned chimera and i died in my hair, along with paper sword, which is the non-ballad “incandescent” wishes it was but could never be. there’s quite a bit of variety packed in here for an album that’s only three quarters of an hour long, though it’s very much a guitar album, with only two songs featuring any piano or keyboard sounds. it’s also a pretty austere album. there isn’t really anything going on in the way of layered sounds or sonic trickery, aside from some reverb here and there, but the overall sound does seem a little more refined than anything i’d done before.
for a good long while, i felt this album was kind of slight. even before the days of insanely sprawling solo albums like MY HELLHOUND CROOKED HEART or THE ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE, a 45-minute album seemed pretty short for me. the best allusion i can make is with film. let’s say you set out to make a 4-hour epic, but you only get halfway through the shooting script. by that point, you’re already in the middle of a few other separate films, and your head isn’t really in this projected magnum opus anymore. in the end, you do return to the unfinished film, but you realize you can’t add anything more to it or shoot any new scenes. all the actors and crew have moved on to other projects, and you’ve already moved beyond it yourself.
still, you want to have something to show for your work. so you play around with the existing footage, maybe bolster a few scenes with additional fragments shot with improvised methods, and whittle the 2-hour assembly (itself only half of what you intended to have) down to a lean 85 minutes.
that’s what happened here, more or less, if you make adjustments for time and medium. i liked the album, and there wasn’t a song on it that i found myself wishing wasn’t there…but i had the strong feeling i had done better before and would do better again. i couldn’t quite wrap my head around a number of people deciding it was the best thing i’d ever done. not that i had much of an audience at the time, but this was one of my more popular and widely-heard albums before CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN came along a few years later and changed everything.
i’ve gradually come around to the realization that this is probably one of my favourite albums of my own from the restless period where i was forcing myself to rewrite my own musical language in a whole new way, having burned all of the autobiographical, emotionally naked stuff out of my system. it is a good deal leaner than i meant for it to be, but it seems to work pretty well as an album, so maybe it’s better that it didn’t end up as bloated as i intended after all. the drumming is probably some of my more interesting work behind the kit from the pre-CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN days.
this is also as good an example as any of the non-repetitive way of writing i had been working toward. it works much more organically here than it did on OH YOU THIS, maybe because i had a clearer idea of what i wanted to do now and had refined my methods accordingly. the lyrics are probably some of the best i had written up to this point, too. i think they strike a nice balance between being obscure without ever getting pretentious.
i’ll always wonder what this might have been like as the 2-cd set i had mapped out in my head, but it smells pretty good to me. and you can get an idea of some of the other things that might have shown up on the album from cast-offs like husk and easy four, which finally showed up a few years later on OUT-TAKES, MISFITS & OTHER THINGS.
last of the two-finger typists
i died in my hair
nobody loves you when you don’t exist
plinth on fire
you’ll play belligerent
you missed your turn
we sing & we dance