This was recorded before NUDGE YOU ALIVE but released after. It took me a while to figure out what to do with it.
The plan was to kick off a guitar-based CD with Feel-Good Film of the Summer and a piano-based CD with Puppet Shoot Puppet, recording both albums at the same time. Then I realized I accidentally changed my mixer’s settings at some point and was recording most of these songs (and half of the songs on NUDGE YOU ALIVE) using a different “mode” than I meant to, compressing the data a little to save on recording time without knowing it.
At first I was depressed and thought the songs were ruined. Then I decided to throw everything together on a double-CD that would in theory become BRAND NEW SHINY LIE. But these songs didn’t seem to fit in at all with the ones I recorded with the right mixer settings. I considered remixing everything in a doomed attempt to improve the sound quality, months after NUDGE YOU ALIVE was finished.
Then I decided I didn’t feel like doing that. Because I was lazy. And the songs didn’t sound as bad as I thought they did after I had a bit of time to stop swearing at myself. So I threw them on a CD as they were and called the thing an EP, almost as an afterthought.
Given all of that, this works better as a mini album than it has any right to. All these songs sound like they belong together. So maybe it’s for the best that it worked out the way it did. As for the difference in sound quality that had me almost unmoored when I first caught it, today it just seems like the overall sound is a little bit darker than some of the other things I was recording during this period, in an almost imperceptible way. Maybe a little warmer. That’s about it.
This hits everything I was trying to do but not always able to nail on OH YOU THIS, and does it better, in less than a third of the runtime. Puppet Shoot Puppet was recorded three weeks after I finished recording the last song on that album, and it’s such a huge leap forward it’s a little bit nuts. This is one of the few songs I tried re-recording from scratch when I thought the original recordings were too flawed to release. The remake has some interesting elements, with busier drumming, and years later it got a home on the MISFITS (1999 – 2007) compilation. But the original has it beat in all the ways that matter.
My then-new mandolin makes its debut appearance on I Traded My Face for a Used Ratchet Set. It was conceived as a full-bodied piece with bass and drums, but I couldn’t seem to get the bass in tune with the mandolin, so I added “stomp-claps” in lieu of a rhythm section. In a weird way it’s almost a precursor to some of the things I would be doing down the road on CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN. Not that I had any way of knowing it then.
Tell Me Something must be one of the catchier things I’ve written on any instrument. Which is funny, because it’s pretty wordy and there aren’t any hooks that repeat themselves. I’ve always liked those floaty slide guitars during the cough-and-you’ll-miss-it bridge section. Lugubrious, Baby was meant to have a salsa rhythm, which is pretty funny when you consider how insanely dark the lyrics are. When I got behind the drums I wasn’t really feeling that anymore, so I gave it more of a jazzy lilt. That I’d reached a point where I could even play the drums with a jazzy lilt was kind of surreal.
After finishing work on OH YOU THIS, I picked up a new snare drum and a ride cymbal less given to over-ring, making for a pretty different drum sound here and a smoother ride (hey, look — a pun!), though the mic setup stayed the same. There was more crack than thwack this time around. I also ended up double-tracking my voice on two songs for a bit of a different sound, which wasn’t something I ever thought to do much before.
For this CD I decided to avoid sequencing the songs in chronological order for the first time in well over three years, not counting a few compilations no one ever heard. It was kind of strange not just throwing the songs on CD in the order they were recorded, giving some real thought to what might work best as a track list for a change. I think Feel-Good Film of the Summer works well as an ending even if it was once meant to be a beginning. It doesn’t get much louder than a whisper, but I like the lyrics and the electric/acoustic guitar drone that comes in halfway through. There was something in there that felt a little different from any other song I’d written at the time.
With almost every album I’ve ever made, I can tell you when I thought of the title and what it was all about. This one mystifies me. I needed a name for the thing, and I came up with one, but it was as random as album titles come, and I can’t for the life of me remember what — if anything — it was supposed to mean.
Puppet Shoot Puppet
I Traded My Face for a Used Ratchet Set
Tell Me Something
We Are the Happy Rabbits
Feel-Good Film of the Summer