Keep Your Scars (2002)

And the vocal experimentation continues.

This was more of a cut-and-paste affair. I had a lot of unfinished songs sitting around, and I either meshed them with other unfinished ideas or glued new ideas to their chins. A few songs were written in a more organic way, but for the most part there was a lot of disparate lyric-grabbing and cross-stitching going on here.

I looked at this as a direct continuation of what I started on TEMPORARY AMNESIA. There was almost no break between the two albums. 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, his girlfriend at the time.

Choke goes way back to the last days of GWD. I toyed around with inserting some acoustic breakdowns (acoustic metal is a thing, right?), but it never really cohered into a proper song. Then I dropped the breakdowns and tried writing lyrics, some of which 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 meh (I was going for a Tim Buckley “Starsailor” thing and didn’t quite pull it off), 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 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. Between the terse guitar flashes and the way the electric piano just dissolves into nothing at the end, it’s probably one of the better things on the CD. One of the angriest, too. I’ve always liked these last lines: “I was killed as a child / The details were never discussed / I’ve been dead my whole life.” Felt like an interesting way of attacking unhappy childhood business from a different angle.

Floored is another one of the more interesting tracks here, with snatches of lyrics coming from all over the place but somehow working together. 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. The instrumental climax might be one of the album’s best moments.

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 when I was in Italy just after A ROOMFUL OF SEXINESS was recorded. In the dream, I was in a library, sitting with a few other people. A man who looked a bit like the son of Anthony Stewart Head came over to my table and stood there looking at me with this strange expression on his face. I started screaming at him, “Jesus loves me, this I know — because the Bible is a fuck book!”

Needless to say, I was asked to leave. I like the fuzz guitar harmonies, though. And the word I was really after here was lockjaw. I didn’t realize that until it was too late.

You Could Never Be gets a drastic makeover. As a band vehicle (heard on CONDOM MINTS) 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. Almost wish I’d thrown it in a few more times to put it over the top.

Charlie Brown Sings “Frère Jacques” 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 trying to make a movie in my basement, and they ordered me to provide some appropriate music from upstairs, so I pounded away on the piano and found this odd, jerky music coming out of me. They both came back upstairs about ten minutes later looking unsettled and told me my basement was haunted.

Anyway, I decided it was about time i put together some sort of spoken word piece, since it had been a while. That music turned out to be a good 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 inviting the male students to pleasure themselves while allowing the female students to leave if they feel uncomfortable) date back to 1999, while the Anorexic Fish section was a song fragment I came up with at Gord’s birthday party in April of 2000.

That was a night to remember. Future bandmate 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 the rest of him was unconscious, and Gord’s brother Cliff scrambled to catch the last of the uprising in a large blue plastic bowl — the kind you eat popcorn out of — in an effort to save the couch from being tainted. Amanda poured me an uneven mixed drink before passing out herself, with a coy little smile on her face. It took me about one sip to figure out it was made up of 80% Southern Comfort and 20% Coke.

But back to the song. One musical bit came from late one night in March of that same year, one very crude spoken bit near the end was written in March of 2001 (the sex talk of old resurfaces here for a moment, 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 going on.

Even Spoiled Brats Grow up Sometimes remains one of the catchiest nasty songs I’ve written. It was almost a year old by the time I recorded it (it was written during the time of GOOD LUCK IN THE NEXT LIFE), and another one of the few songs here written in one sitting.

Onto the Nothing may be the worst thing I’ve recorded. Ever. Ever-ever-ever. I don’t think I’ll be able to make myself listen to that 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. And Marry Me, Mom is…well…that’s one of those songs you need to hear to believe I was crazy enough to write it. It’s got a nice bossa nova-inspired outro.

Pretty Pain hails from a month or two earlier, right around the time of “Beautiful High”. I think it’s one of the best things on the CD. It’s got this weird piano soul thing going on, with an ending that turns into something kind of funky. The hidden track is interesting too. 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 that well in 7/4? Not me. Not in 2002.

I finished this album the day Gord and Julie returned to Windsor from a trek that took them to Victoria, Vancouver, Sault Ste. Marie, and all sorts of crevices in between. They hitchhiked a good part of the way there and back with no real plan and somehow managed not to get killed or robbed at any point.

I went over to Gord’s place with my new CDs and the beginning of the facial hair I’d 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 beyond what we were doing in the band. He liked some of the songs but didn’t seem to really connect with the music in any meaningful way. Before long, we started to drift apart, having a lot of separate musical adventures before STEW brought us back together again some years down the road.

As with TEMPORARY AMNESIA, I’ve 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 and most of Ketamine (which is all downhill after the instrumental intro), I think it’s pretty good stuff for the most part, with some of my better drumming of the time. 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. I’d like to think a few chickens have heard that tune over the years and thought, “Hey! Here’s a guy who understands what I’m feeling.”

OH YOU THIS would begin a shift toward something a little different.

TRACKS:

Choke
Schizophrenic Lust
Pissing on Your Parade
Floored
Pretty Pain
Had Voices Then
Charlie Brown Sings “Frère Jacques”
Even Spoiled Brats Grow up Sometimes
I’m a Paper Bag with a Condom Inside
Jaw-Lock
Onto the Nothing
Blueberry on Drugs
Marry Me, Mom
You Could Never Be
Ketamine

LISTEN:

Pretty Pain

You Could Never Be

LYRICS:

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