Keep Your Scars (2002)
and the vocal experimentation continues.
this was more of cut-and-paste affair, in that i had a lot of unfinished songs that had been sitting around for a while and i either meshed them with other unfinished ideas, or with new ones. a few songs were written in a more organic fashion, but on the whole there was a lot of disparate lyric-grabbing and cross-stitching going on. i viewed this as a direct continuation of what i started on TEMPORARY AMNESIA, and there was virtually no break between the two; the last song on TEMPORARY AMNESIA was recorded on september 17, i finished mixing and mastering the cd on the 18th, and on the 19th the first song intended for KEEP YOUR SCARS was recorded. i stopped shaving, too, though i didn’t think much would come of it at the time. part of the drive to keep going came from a desire to throw two new cds gord’s way when he came back from a two-month cross-canada adventure with julie.
choke goes way back to the last days of GWD. gord and tyson actually liked it and wanted to give it a go, which was becoming a rarity by that time. i toyed around with inserting some acoustic breakdowns, but it never really cohered into a proper song. then i dropped the breakdowns and tried writing lyrics, some of which eventually ended up in onto the nothing. then i ditched the lyrics and left it alone for a while until i decided to just improvise the song into a state of completion while it was being recorded. the layers of wordless singing that serve as the introduction are kind of shitty, but what can you do? at least there’s a nice part in the second half of the song where i sing gibberish in two different octaves.
schizophrenic lust was one of the few songs written specifically for the album with nothing cut-and-paste going on, and it marked the first time the fender rhodes got some love in quite a while. it turned into a pretty nasty dissection of a girl who danced upon my brain during the time of BEAUTIFULLY STUPID. between the terse guitar flashes and the way the electric piano just kind of dissolves into nothing at the end, it’s probably one of the better things on the cd. i always especially liked these lyrics: “you’re drawn to the boys who disguise themselves as men / what do you do when you learn they’re still the same boys, just wearing different clothes?” that’s probably the harshest assessment i’ve ever come up with for someone with a thing for older guys.
floored is another one of the more interesting tracks here, with snatches of lyrics coming from all over the place but somehow cohering. i think the singing is kind of tepid, but i do like the bed of swirling guitars and the way the “chorus” is a lot softer than the verses instead of the other way around.
jaw-lock is notable for being one of the only songs i’ve ever double-tracked the drums for. some of the lyrics came from a dream i had while staying in italy just after A ROOMFUL OF SEXINESS had been recorded. in the dream, i was in a library, sitting at a table with a few other people. a man who looked a bit like the son of anthony stewart head came over to the table and stood there looking at me with a curious expression. in response, i started screaming, “jesus loves me, this i know — because the bible is a FUCK BOOK!” needless to say, i was asked to leave. i like the guitar harmonies, though. and incidentally, the word i was really after was “lockjaw”. i didn’t realize that until it was too late.
you could never be gets a drastic makeover here; where as a band vehicle it was caustic, angry and rocky, here it’s relaxed and verging on some weird r&b approximation. i think the “gung ho shrimp rabbi” hook really adds to the song, and i almost wish i had thrown it in a few more times to put it over the top. strangely enough, it was something i found myself singing in the bathroom of my mother’s house (before our relationship came to an end) while preparing to brush my teeth. it only took me something like three years to work it into a song.
charlie brown sings frère jacques, meanwhile, started out as a creepy 2/4 piano march i improvised the same night “beautiful high” and the fried GWD session of hilarity was recorded. tyson and gord were attempting to make a movie in my basement, and they ordered me to provide some suitable music from upstairs, so i pounded away on the piano and found this odd, jerky music coming out. they both came back upstairs about ten minutes later looking profoundly unsettled and told me my basement was haunted. tyson still has the result on tape, along with some other stoned silliness and a weird moment up in my attic when i spontaneously started banging on a piece of wood and hitting the change in my pocket, creating some almost ethnic-sounding rhythms in the darkness.
anyway, i decided it was about time i put together some sort of spoken word piece, since it had been quite a while, and that music turned out to be a suitable vehicle for it. some of the concepts (having to insert change into body parts in hell before you can regain the use of them; a teacher undressing mid-lesson and allowing the male students to pleasure themselves while conversely allowing the female students to leave if they feel uncomfortable) date back to 1999, while the “anorexic fish” bit was a song fragment i came up with at gord’s birthday party in april of 2000.
now there was an interesting night. future guy with dick andrew asked me if my hair was a wig, because he wasn’t used to seeing it anywhere near my shoulders. later, his stomach led a silent rebellion while he was passed out, and gord’s brother cliff scrambled to catch the last of the uprising in a large blue plastic bowl (the kind you generally eat popcorn out of) in an attempt to save the couch from being tainted. amanda poured me an uneven mixed drink before passing out as well, with a coy little smile on her face. it took me about one sip to figure out that it was comprised of about 80% southern comfort and 20% coke. not my kind of thing back then. yes, my imaginary friends…those were the days of johnny the abstainer.
but back to the song. one musical bit came from late one night in march of that same year, one particularly crude spoken bit near the end was written in march of 2001 (the sex talk of old briefly resurfaces here, though it’s now delivered in the imagined character of a psychotic new york serial killer writhing in the flames of hell instead of coming from any personal feelings), and several bits were improvised as they were being recorded. if that isn’t jumpy, i don’t know what is, and it’s only one example of all the cutting and pasting that was going on.
even spoiled brats grow up sometimes remains one of the catchiest nasty songs i’ve ever written. it was almost a year old by the time i recorded it (written during the time of GOOD LUCK IN THE NEXT LIFE), and another one of the few songs written in one sitting. gord and tyson were pretty fond of it back in the day, and it probably would have shown up on the follow-up to STELLAR, had that album actually happened.
onto the nothing, on the other hand, may be the worst thing i’ve ever recorded. ever. ever-ever-ever. i don’t think i’ll be able to make myself listen to the song again for as long as i live. it’s just horrific. the guitar intro was used to much better effect on a jesse topliffe song called “who can i blame?”, which puts this track to shame. blueberry on drugs is a bit better, and most of it goes back to the time of BEAUTIFULLY STUPID.
pretty pain hails from a month or two earlier, right around the time of “beautiful high”, and i think it’s one of the best things on the cd. it’s got a weird piano soul thing going on, with an ending that turns into something oddly funky. the hidden track is also one of the better things on the cd. it doesn’t have any actual words…just a bunch of vocal nonsense on top of some shifting rhythms. but who knew i could drum well in 7/4? certainly not me. at this point my drumming skills had improved considerably, and i pull off some things on some of these songs that would have been unthinkable a few months earlier.
i finished this album the very day gord and julie returned to windsor from their trek that took them to victoria, vancouver, sault ste. marie, and all sorts of crevices in between. they hitchhiked the whole way there and back and somehow managed not to get killed, raped, or robbed at any point. i went over to gord’s place with my new cds and the beginnings of the facial hair i had been lusting after for years (julie said it gave me a “rougher” look, which made me happy), excited to show him how far i’d progressed already from what we were doing in the band. he liked some of the songs, but didn’t seem to really connect with the music as a whole. before long, we started to sort of drift apart musically, going on to have separate musical adventures.
as with TEMPORARY AMNESIA, i’ve gradually come to accept that i didn’t give this album a fair shake at first. i like it a lot more now, and if you throw out onto the nothing along with most of ketamine (which is all downhill after the instrumental intro), i think it’s all pretty good stuff. at the very least, you have to appreciate me clucking like a crazed chicken in the middle of the supremely grungy pissing on your parade.
this album also marks the end of a certain way of working, as OH YOU THIS would begin a shift toward something more refined.
pissing on your parade
had voices then
charlie brown sings frère jacques
even spoiled brats grow up sometimes
i’m a paper bag with a condom inside
onto the nothing
blueberry on drugs
marry me, mom
you could never be