Good Luck in the Next Life (2001)

this is more varied than SUBLIMINAL BILE, and not near as consistent. but some good stuff does live here.

hurt like it should is one of our more interesting improvisations, with the time signature switching from 4/4 to 5/4 and back again. it’s also home to one of my more intense vocal performances up to this point. at the end there are two outbursts that are pitched somewhere between screaming and weeping without quite becoming either one, coming off like some weird feral howling.

it felt like i was ripping pain out from inside of myself while singing it. which i guess was kind of what i was doing, though the lyrics stayed pretty elliptical and vague. the phrase “you know what you did” became a mantra, sung over and over again, as if i could exorcise the demons if i could just stab at those words until they felt my anger and confusion.

the rhythmic hiccups in the song came out of tyson calling my attention to a part near the beginning of “vicodin” where my guitar stuttered at will and followed a different rhythm from what he was playing on the drums.

“what if we tried to do something like that on purpose?” he said. “only, instead of it just being something that happens once or twice, it kept happening through the whole song?”

it sounded like a good idea to me. gord was a few hours late that night, so we had time to cook something up while we were waiting for him. for some reason the first thing that fell under my fingers was one of the prettier-sounding things i’d played on the guitar in a while. tyson seemed to like it. by the time gord showed up, the seed of the song was already there.

tyson brought over his video camera to film the session. when we watched the footage for this song later, after smoking a joint, it sounded to me like there was a harpsichord playing a decorative figure an octave or so above the guitar. i’m not sure where that came from. i’ve never been able to figure it out or hear it again. maybe it was my brain’s stoned way of telling me to overdub something along those lines. i didn’t, though tyson suggested adding some vocal harmonies after the fact.

i tried. i also tried adding a bit of additional guitar. it just seemed wrong. the song felt better naked, like most of our music did. but i gave some serious thought to breaking one of my unwritten rules and re-recording my two guitar solos, because i had no idea what i was doing in the moment, and they sounded kind of shitty to me.

i asked tyson what he thought. he said he liked those solos and found them “relaxing”. so they got to stay in the end, bad notes be damned.

eating my own waste is pretty upbeat for a song about LSD-induced hallucinations, germs, and defiance, with my guitar echoing in druggy ways and gord and tyson laying down some funky shit. gutter trash is one of the most accessible things we ever did, and you could almost call it a straight ballad (lyrics about removing eyebrows with a corkscrew aside), which is kind of scary. it’s got a nice reggae-inspired lilt to it. i like the bit at the beginning with tyson laughing and fooling around before he realizes we’re recording.

what else? almost resembles a conventional rock song, with one of my best guitar solos on the album. that one gave us some amusing moments when, during rehearsals for one of the few live gigs we played, tyson would ask, “what else?” after we finished a song, and i would say, “that’s the next song!” only to get a blank stare back. he remembered our songs better by key lines or pet names than the actual titles. i always thought that was a neat little thing.

this time out, a few of our improvisations don’t cohere as well as they did on the last album. the worst offender might be asphyxiate. there are a few nice vocal harmony bits, and there’s a very stylish entrance from tyson when the drums kick in, but there’s not a lot of interesting stuff going on inside the guts of the song. this time i really meant it when i said, “i got nothing.”

i kind of shot my wad with the first two songs that night, and what came out here felt more like the ugly afterbirth of the venom i’d already sprayed all over the place. i did make some pretty angry facial expressions, and tyson later told me he was a little freaked out by some of them. but facial expressions aren’t enough to save a song from being sub-par. neither is an allusion to the papa ghostface classic “don’t go” (a far superior song to this one) near the end.

on the other hand, two of the songs i thought of as filler for years are now two of my favourite things on the album. tonsillitis in a vacuum doesn’t have much substance in the lyrics department, but gord unleashes a monster of a bass riff that would be revived fourteen years later, my guitar-playing is as discordant as you could want it to be, and the instrumental interplay (complete with odd shifts in tone, dynamics, and rhythm) underlines the strange connection we had, where a lack of any rehearsal or written material didn’t stop us from improvising like we somehow all knew where a song was going. which just made it stranger, because we almost never had any idea.

then there’s the punky we all get off — one of the more aggressive songs here, taken at what may be the fastest tempo of any guys with dicks song ever recorded. it’s pretty catchy for the improvised slab of vitriol it is. the performance is one of our tightest on the album, and there’s even a bona fide chorus in there.

absolutely perfect is at once one of our catchiest tunes and one of my filthiest diatribes. we were just getting up after that first night of recording, drinking, smoking, and filming goofy skits in the park. i was still half-asleep and my brain felt like it had a layer of motor oil gumming up some of the gears. so i’m not sure how such a silly little song came out, or how i managed to sound like i was awake and alert. too bad about one of the drum mics starting to vibrate at the end. that’s part of the reason the song fades out before an extended, unheard coda. (this track is also home to one of the few instrumental overdubs on any GWD song — a brief synth part that comes in during the bridge section.)

something about lies would be one of our best mellow tracks if it wasn’t for all the wrong notes. i guess that’s the price you sometimes pay when you never really rehearse anything. it’s still one of our best mellow tracks anyway. gord looked comatose when we were recording it, and was so wiped out he later claimed to have no memory of the session at all. in the video of our final live performance up there you can hear the song free of fluffed notes, the way it was meant to sound.

blood at the back has a nice smoldering buildup to its overdriven climax. gord plays some tasty lead bass while my guitar fills in most of the low end, and my lyrics make up what may be the weirdest come-on i ever came up with.

things end on another demented note with old together. where “vicodin” was psychotic, this song is more playful, and nowhere near as lyric-driven. it was one of the only times i got to stretch out on an instrument with keys in the final phase of the band, and there are long instrumental passages that border on jazz, or at least as close to jazz as we could ever hope to get. i like the eerie repetitions of “you know what you want” and tyson not being able to find his beer at the end.

gord and tyson thought the album should kick off with an interlude — a little skit in which i act out the part of the host of a game show called “guess their dick size”, challenging contestants to ascertain how well-endowed each member of the band is. they thought it was hilarious. i thought my little monologue was pretty lame and far from my best work. i kept it near the end of the album, because i felt hurt like it should was a much stronger and more appropriate beginning. it would have been too jarring, jumping from lighthearted silliness straight into unadulterated pain.

in the end i guess this sounds like a logical extension/progression of the sound we established on the last album. there’s still a lot of venom in the lyrics. i’m still often singing to or about the same girl SUBLIMINAL BILE was inspired by. but there’s a marked drop-off in sex talk. where it does show up, it tends to be more tongue-in-cheek than before, with the exception of some ugliness in asphyxiate. and there’s room for some moments that expand our musical landscape  — there was nothing like gutter trash on the last album, and hurt like it should finds a way to bleed pain from its pores without relying on any of my typical bile-spewing mechanisms, exchanging the obvious for a bunch of half-formed images that make little literal sense but somehow make emotional sense. the bit where i turn the word “really” into a cracked, elongated howl on the line “you know it’s really what we feel” is still probably my favourite moment on the whole album, for whatever reason.

TRACKS:

hurt like it should
eating my own waste
asphyxiate
tonsillitis in a vacuum
absolutely perfect
something about lies
what else?
blood at the back
gutter trash
an interlude
old together

LISTEN:

gutter trash

we all get off

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