now there’s an album cover you can take home to meet your mother, and what has to be one of the best ever titles for a compilation. but if you’re curious about the cramps, i recommend picking up “songs the lord taught us” and the “gravest hits” ep (available as an “extra” on the “psychedelic jungle” cd). both were produced by alex chilton, who—according to the mythology that’s built up around him—at one point held a gun to lux interior’s temple while they were recording vocals and said, “sing it right.” and lux, bless his vocal cords, must have obliged, because he’s still alive today. i had forgotten how much i liked the cramps and ended up neglecting them for far too long…hearing their first ep at phog recently reminded me of that demented energy. definitely ideal drinking music for me right now. not that i drink much these days, but still. the high-pitched scream that happens at least twice in “the way i walk” is one of the most infectious things i’ve ever heard. it grabs my posterior and demands that shaking ensue. or at least it used to. now it’s more like, “yes. my brain is about to split open. i should be screaming too. more scotch!”
at long last, my laptop is up and running again, which means i can get busy making copies of the new cd. if not for the unexpected power supply issues, i would have built up a pretty nice supply by now and there would be plenty of copies at dr. disc, and probably some at phog as well. instead, i’ll now have to try to make as many copies as i possibly can in a short amount of time. we’ll see how it goes. it’s kind of a miracle that the laptop still works at all; apparently these hp notebooks—and the model i have in particular—have a reputation for dying without warning after about a year of use, if that. it’s practically a surety. and yet mine has been going strong for four or five years and still seems to have some juice left, even though i don’t think there are any fans left inside that still work, it sounds a bit like a tank sometimes, and the tip of the power supply that connects to the back of the computer looks like it survived a chemical explosion. most people who know a fair bit about computers can’t believe that it still functions. it’s a freak of nature. i’d like to see if the keypad eventually just becomes a series of indeterminate black squares with no letters left at all. every so often, another letter disappears. right now things look like this:
good thing i can type comfortably without looking at the keys.
onto more pressing matters. i think i have an idea of what the next album will be, possibly. and it’s not any of the things i thought i would be working on next. ain’t that the way it always goes? i have all these projected albums sitting on the meat rack, some of which i’ve already recorded songs for, but they’re all waiting around for me to give them some attention…and instead, something else comes out of the woodwork and showers me with slivers. see, a few days ago i recorded a song that’s been simmering for a while now. a bit of back story is required. actually, it isn’t necessary to explain the song’s inception so much as i enjoy boring people to tears by typing long-winded passages of text explaining things no one wants to know anything about. i feel this is my calling in life. so, away i go.
a few years back (i’m going to guess it was roughly 2003 or 2004), there was this kids help phone commercial that would air once in a while on tv. all i remember is a middle-aged married couple having a screaming match, i think off-screen. a pretty teenage girl was on her bed, kind of half-sitting, half-lying/laying/lemming. as you do. she turned up the music she was listening to on her stereo in an attempt at drowning out the arguing, while looking vulnerable in a subtle way, as if she was used to this and it was more of an annoyance than anything, but maybe there was something deeper there as well. i have no idea who the song was by and i suppose i never will, unless it’s floating around on youtube somewhere (it doesn’t seem to be). but i remember it vividly. it was just a snippet. a chorus. or part of a chorus. it sounded like a slightly poppier shudder to think song, drained of most of the dissonance you would expect to hear, and i think there was a recurring lyrical hook that sounded like “you know” but was probably something else like “moo, row” or “poo snow”. because lots of cows have a way with oars, and lots of people have frozen things come out of them when they’re in the bathroom. commercials in general normally make me run for the hills with lye in my heart, but not this time. that song was catchy. i liked it.
eventually the commercial was phased out, never to return. just like that ferrero rocher commercial i became infatuated with a few years ago around christmas. but that’s another story for another time, and one you’ll pull out to embarrass me on my wedding day, i’m sure. of course, i’ll never get married, so the joke is on you. the point is, if madonna replaced michael stipe in REM, we’d be in for some pretty frightening music. no…that’s not right. the point is, i decided i would take the seed of this obscure commercial song, or the feeling of it that i retained, and reshape it into something of my own. that’s called plagiarism, kids. but when johnny does it, it’s called fornication. remember that. all kidding aside, i didn’t actually lift the music from the commercial and call it my own…i just allowed it to influence my erection. i mean direction. i mean…yes. for the longest time i had the chorus lick and nothing else. then i picked up several funky old acoustic guitars from folkway music in guelph, and one of them revealed some ideas to me that seemed like they might work with the embryonic thing i had been carrying around with me. maybe a week ago, i wrote lyrics, somewhat randomly. they were just there, and suddenly the song started to seem like it had some shape to it. then i found a few lines i had scratched out something like a year ago and then abandoned, which were incorporated into the new lyrics with surprising ease. then i decided i would record the thing, which i did last thursday, quick and dirty.
as is usually the case, it didn’t quite turn out as i expected. i think the “chorus” does a halfway decent job of capturing that sludgepop sound i was after…i probably could have beefed it up with a few more electric guitars, employed more distortion and used sticks instead of brushes on the drums, but never mind. the whole thing ended up being somewhat refracted from my initial intent. it ambles along for a while, sounding like the closest i’ve come to “rock” and “pop” for quite a long time, and then it splinters into improvisation and what i guess is a very brief attempt at relaying through sound a little bit of what it looks like inside of my head right now. i think it would make a fun opening track for a cd. the last two times i’ve said that, the songs in question really have found themselves as the starting pistols of their respective albums. so i think it’s safe to say the third time will follow suit.
if this song is any indication of where things are going, the results will be simultaneously more and less accessible than the last few albums. more hook-filled, but also stranger and in some cases potentially off-putting. if that makes any sense at all. i could be completely wrong, but after the initial uncertainty wore off i think i’ve decided i like the way the song turned out, and i might as well make use of my current mental and emotional state by doing what i’ve always done in times of nudity—arranging a date with nine of my favourite prostitutes. or channeling my unease into music. whichever comes first and costs less money in the end. if past examples are anything to go by, the result may not be the nicest, most inviting album…then again, the ugly music from the past (which almost no one has ever heard) mostly came out of quasi-romantic entanglements that ended badly, or were in the process of ending badly, or were going badly and would soon end badly after sputtering a few times on their way to the finish line. this time there’s none of that to scream about. so i don’t think there will be all that much emotional nudity or ugliness in the lyrics, so much as it’ll worm its way into the music and the sound of the thing. i like the idea of taking catchy tunes and warping them, twisting them in on themselves, lobbing cherry bombs and leaving jagged tears in the fabric of the songs. maybe that’s what i’ve been doing all along, but this time the stakes are higher. my life is on the line.
alright, so i’m being silly. the doctors told me i have at least another 300 years to live. and i said, “are you fucking KIDDING me?” and they said, “we know! isn’t that great news! you’re a living miracle!” and i said, “no. that is not good news. you’ve seen how much trouble most people start to have when they get to be 80-something. imagine how difficult it’s going to be to take care of yourself when you’re 216 years old. imagine how saggy you would be at that point. i mean, my breasts would somehow manage to fuse with my chin and abdomen at the same time while still hanging loose, and i would probably have a vocal range of about two notes. how am i supposed to work with that?” but then they told me i was like the highlander, johnny mcwest of the clan mcwest, and i would never progress physically beyond the age i was at the time of my first death. and then i realized i had been drinking drain-o with amy winehouse in an alley somewhere in belgium, and none of it was real. i was forever changed. and you better believe i drew up those divorce papers faster than britney spears discovered the wonders of wigs and weaves.
moving on. people have been playing AN ABSENCE OF SWAY on CJAM (as you can see here), which kind of surprises me. as i’ve said, it just strikes me as being a less immediate album, and i didn’t expect people would be that into it. maybe i feel that way because there’s a certain odd energy swimming around inside some of the songs that isn’t immediately obvious, but that’s neither here nor there. it’s…elsewhere. i guess it just always surprises me when people seem to like anything i’ve done. and it’ll surprise me even more if people like the next album, given where i think it might be heading. whatever the case may be, hopefully i’ll be able to drop some copies of SWAY off at dr. disc sometime before the weekend so whoever wants it can grab it. damn that fried pin (which draws power from the ac adapter) for slowing me down. damn it straight to the computer pin afterlife. oh, wait…it already went there of its own volition. alright then.