“Going Places” – Everybody Makes Mistakes

It’s been awhile since I’ve been here.  I would like to say that it was because I was busy going places, but that’s not true.  In the time since my last post, I’ve seen the rise and fall of expectations for the Gold reissue.  It seems like some of y’all’s Gold records went places you didn’t want them to go.  Too soon?

“Going Places” is sublime from beginning to end.  I’ve written many a’time about the layers of sound in sf59 songs.  But think back to how those layers sounded back in the Silver days.  Yes, there were multiple layers, but they all sounded the basically the same.  In “Going Places”, we hear JM master the many layers so that each sounds distinct.  Each part plays off another, leading us through the hypnotic, interwoven sound.  

We start off with multiple guitars that sound like we have caught them in the middle of an ongoing chord progression.  The drums punctuate the guitar chords.  The cymbals crash as the main hook of the song begins.  There’s some other percussion sound here that sounds a bit like castanets.  I have no idea what the actual instrument is as I am woefully ignorant on percussion matters.  It adds a nice texture to the beginning.  I don’t think anything like this would have been used on Gold (and even if it was, could you hear it?).  

The guitars weave in and out of each other.  They start a call and response with the keyboards that is one of the hallmarks of this song.  The guitars set up the hook to be completed by the keys. The bass is mobile as it sticks with the guitars for the first part of the hook followed up by a descending line during the keyboard response.  On the second go round of the hook, the bass jumps up an octave during the guitar part just to add a little kick.

The vocal harmonies in the verses add a nice flavor.  The main vocals are rich for one of the earlier albums.  It sounds like he’s getting closer to finding the right key to sing in.  The vocals are wistful during the “going places” refrain. This is may favorite part of the song.  The strings set up the tension before the vocals jump in on the refrain with all of their longing and regret.  After the vocals drop out, the keys carry the melody and the emotion through the outro.  The strings become more prominent and embrace the moments between the melody.  The whole outro is one of the most skillful, wordless expressions of longing I’ve ever heard.

As for the lyrics, I found that I don’t have much to say about them.  I was mostly ignorant of the lyrics in the verses until I had to look them up to write this.  It’s had me stumped for awhile.  I still can’t figure out anything to say about them other than it has a bit of a throwing shade aspect to it. And, honestly, I don’t find that to be nearly as interesting as the music so I will ignore the lyrics mostly.

This is not to say that the song does not have meaning for me.  I listened to this song many a’night when I was delivering pizza while in college.  The call of “going places” took on mythical importance to me.  I didn’t even pay attention to the essential “I don’t want to go” part of the phrase even though I could, at least, understand those lyrics.  I didn’t want to think about places I didn’t want to go.  My mind was filled with thoughts of all the places I could go after I finished college and became a real adult.  What sort of life would I have?  What kind of people would I meet?  Could I find an atmosphere where I would fit in?  Could I find a place were I could thrive?   These were the things I longed for and they found expression in that “going places” refrain.

As it turns out, I didn’t go anywhere after college.  I stayed where I am.  My father’s health is not good and I knew that my mother would need help eventually.  So I stayed behind.  Remembering now all the longing I felt listening to this song in my early twenties, I am struck with the irony that the song now has more of a message of staying in places I don’t want to stay.  

This sounds sadder than it really is.  I am content with my life where I am even though I know there are places where I would fit better.  I’m not sure what I would do with myself if I actually fit in somewhere.  How does one live like that anyway?  I have no clue.

And I find ways to go places even while remaining in the same place.  Going places is not so much about physical location now as it is about how you move when you are where you are.  I’m continually going places with reading or writing.  My mind goes everywhere I’m inclined to go.  There are always mysteries to chase and beauty to see. I’m surrounded by it, even here.

Having conversations with me is not particularly safe territory as I will take the conversation as far as you will allow me.  I know few boundaries in dialogue.  A friend recently commented to me that she liked our conversations because they were different and they reminded her of the book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!.  You don’t know where you will end up when you start a conversation with me.  Will there be earth-shattering emotional revelations?  Will we talk about cat memes?  Will we talk about Nazis?  Will we talk about the B-52s?  Will MST3K references make an appearance?  Will we discuss the history of the Catholic Church as interpreted by a Protestant?  All of that is probable.

My understanding of going places has changed by necessity, much like a flower will break through pavement just to grow.  Whether you are going or staying, whether you are where you want to be or going places you don’t want to go, you have to find a way to keep pushing, to keep reaching.  You shrivel up and die if you don’t.  

“A Dethroned King” – Everybody Makes Mistakes

Here is our spooky song for the album.  The lead guitar lays out a reverb-laden, creepy melody line in the intro.  The fuzzy guitar effect from “20 Dollar Bills” and “No More Shows” (JM was really into that effect on this album; I am glad it was a short-lived fascination) is back on the rhythm guitar.  It counters the powerful melody of the lead by scratching out chords that make you feel unsettled.  You are made to understand that something is not right here.

The bass and the drums hold steady throughout the verses but break loose in the chorus.  The drums do some fills and the bass runs down and then up the fretboard.  The vocals are decent but have trouble standing apart from all the rest of the noise in this song.  The vocals are overdubbed but not quite in sync, lending to that that something is off.  

The song ends in a buzzing minor chord that is held as long as it can be.  This is a trick that we saw on “Too Much Fun”.  In many ways, this song tries to be the “Too Much Fun” of this album, the discordant rock out tune with the layers of sound.  It doesn’t hit the heights of “Too Much Fun”, but, really, what in this life ever does?

This is how you know when you can’t do right
Think you should have gone for a country life
Good for nothing when you lose your ring
Good for nothing but a dethroned king

Today’s song interpretation comes to you courtesy of my Halloween costume I’ll be wearing at a party.  By luck, my best friend was also invited to this party.  We’ve had a pact for years that if we were ever both invited to a costume party, we would go as the Beales of the cult classic documentary Grey Gardens.  I will go as the matriarch, Big Edie.  My friend is going as the stylish daughter, Little Edie (I’m going over to his house after I write this to make sure his drag is on point).  

The Edies were from the Bouvier family, old money from Europe.  They were aunt and cousin to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy.  They were the closest that you could get to royalty in this country, from a wealthy, established family in the social register in New England.  They were within arm’s reach of the most powerful people in the country.  But something went wrong.

The documentary was made in the mid-70s when the pair lived alone in absolute squalor in a 28 room mansion named Grey Gardens in the East Hamptons. They had no running water and were overrun by feral cats, raccoons and imported garden plants that had not been tended in decades.  Big Edie was abandoned by her husband because of her increasingly crazy behavior and obsession with becoming a famous singer.  She was left with the mansion and a small stipend of about $60 dollars a month to live on.  Little Edie did not marry even though the richest man in the world once proposed to her because she believed that she would become a famous dancer if she could only get her break.  Instead of getting her break, she moved into Grey Gardens to care for her mother.

They got by on no money by selling what rings and Fabergé had not already been stolen from them.  Neither of them worked.  People from the aristocracy don’t work as secretaries, you know.  They invented ways to fill up their time by singing, dancing and creating costumes out of drapes, tablecloths with head coverings made of pastel hand towels.  They had been living like this for decades at the time that the documentary was filmed.  And they are, without a doubt, crazy.  Little Edie, in particular, is plagued by paranoia, thinking that strange men peer at her from the privet hedge.

A dethroned king

All of this has made me wonder what it is like for a person who was born into a position of influence and power and know no other life to lose that.  What happens to them when power is stripped from them?  As this lyrics states, a dethroned king is still a king.  He’s not described as a guy who used to be king.  Who else can he be but who he was born and raised to be?  And so it was with the Edies.  They still consider themselves aristocracy as the walls of Grey Gardens fall in around them courtesy of the raccoons who have taken up residence in the spaces between rooms.  

Grey Gardens is fascinating in that in makes you wonder what made them so crazy.  Was it the poverty?  Was it the decades of isolation?  Were they crazy from the very beginning and that is why they were abandoned?  They would tell you that they are not crazy; they are women of conviction and belief in their talents.  They were born into a culture that did not allow for women to have conviction or follow their desires and so they were spat out to fend for themselves.  Little Edie refers to herself as a staunch character.  “S-T-A-U-N-C-H”.  Staunch women don’t break, “they don’t weaken… no matter what.”  

This is how you know when you can’t do right
Think you should have gone for a country life
Good for nothing when you lose your ring
Good for nothing but a dethroned king

Even though they were living in abject poverty as bad as any coal miner’s family from Kentucky in the ‘70s, they still saw themselves as aristocracy.  They were good for nothing else.  They might have fared better had they sold Grey Gardens and lived in a modest home out in the country.  But the aristocracy doesn’t live like that.  To give up their home was to give up their station in life and they could not abide it.  

A dethroned king

Even at their elderly age, they believed that if they could just get their talents in shape, they would become famous and be returned to the life they were born to live.  It was certainly delusional thinking, but I have to admire their conviction.  

One of the most famous scenes in the documentary is Big Edie singing “Tea For Two”, extolling the virtues of a reclusive life with the one you love.  She caresses the multicolored straw sun hat on her head as if it was a tiara.  She gestures her hands like a professional performer.  She loses herself towards the end, rips the hat off her head and bellows indecipherable syllables. She regains her composure just in time for the last line,  “Oh can’t you see how happy we would be?” The dual themes of a delusional grasp of current reality and the heady mix of dreams and fantasy that permeate the film are distilled into this one moment.

I’ve been practicing the song so that I can perform it.  It is one part classically trained, one part elderly and one part crazy.  Big Edie is a soprano.  I am a contralto.  It takes some work to mimic this unique performance, but I have learned from it.  There is no room for being timid.  There is no time for being concerned about how you might appear to others.  You just go for it, full-throated, like you were born for it.  It is a staunch attitude I would do well to practice more in my own life.  I was never born to power or influence, but I can learn how to tap into them more by observing these dethroned, noble women.  

“My Name” – Everybody Makes Mistakes

This song is the sound of things to come.  It seems to belong to Leave Here a Stranger more so than this album.  It’s a good driving song, with its steady, relaxed tempo and LHAS is a driving album.  It has that feeling of driving around with the windows down, rolling past a summer sunset and smelling the honeysuckle in the air.  Or maybe it’s that I just can’t wait to get to LHAS because it is my favorite and my restlessness is showing.

The song builds in layers.  After a short drum intro, we get dual acoustic guitars and a synthesizer laying out the laid back rhythm.  In four measures, we get a second synthesizer adding harmony to the mix.  In another four measures, the bass and the lead guitar jump in.  This intro takes it’s time setting the mood before the vocals begin.

The vocals are clear and take a more prominent place in the mix than what we typically hear on a sf59 song.  We get a back up harmony vocal in places that adds to the fullness of the song.  Each instrumental part takes its chance to grab your attention.  The synthesizers swell in the chorus.  The acoustic guitar gets its own solo moment.  The bass jumps around through most of the song until it stands out with descending lines in the outro.  But even in these moments, nothing stands out too much.  There are no soaring solo moments in this song, just a steady contentment.

These are what you like
So I’ll turn in my card ‘til the payment’s right
These are things you need
I’ll turn in my card until the payment’s right

This song is about belonging.  We could take this in several different directions.  It could be about taking on a name in marriage.  It could be about the atonement found in Christ’s sacrifice.  It could be about joining a band.  Whichever way we go with it, it is about finding people you belong with.  There is a sense that the relationship might be transactional because of the mention of payments, but, for the singer, it is more than that.  He enjoys being around the person and enjoys the sense of belonging they have with each other.

Let’s go with the band interpretation.  This not because I think it is the right or the best interpretation, but because I went to a marching band competition over the weekend.  It brought back so many memories from high school.  When I walked next to the field and heard the drum line beat out a marching cadence, my breath hitched.  I was transported back a quarter century and all those  summer and fall days I spent marching in that line with a group of about 80 kids, all of them exquisitely diverse and quirky.

‘Cause I like it when you’re hanging around
And I like it when you’re hanging around
‘Cause you took on my name
‘Cause you took on my name
‘Cause you took on my name
‘Cause you took on my name

I didn’t join the band because I wanted to be in the band.  I joined because I wanted to hang out with my friends who were already in band.  I learned the saxophone just well enough to be able to play along with everyone else.  I had no intention of being any better than that.  

Soon some of my other friends followed me in joining the band, like I was some kind of pied saxophonist.  We all spent a lot of time hanging around.  Day long road trips were equal parts conversation and sarcasm.  When all the people became too much for introvert me, I would put the She’s the Queen cassette in my Walkman and listen to it for hours, finding a place of solace amidst all the over sized personalities corralled together in that yellow bus speeding down the interstate.

These are things you say
When we drive in a car with the songs we make
These are things I need
Know when to call and know when to leave

Despite my best efforts to remain a mediocre musician, I ended up learning a lot from that experience.  There’s something about learning to breathe in and out at the same time as the people around you.  You work together (with some people you may have nothing in common with and may not even like) to form shapes on the field that have meaning.  You learn to listen to everyone around you so you know when you are out of tune.  You learn to watch the people around you to learn when you are in the out of place or out of step.  You learn your place as a part of a whole. And isn’t that what belonging is really about?  Finding your place, your rhythm, your note that blends in with those around you.

‘Cause I like it when you’re hanging around
And I like it when you’re hanging around
‘Cause you took on my name
‘Cause you took on my name
‘Cause you took on my name
‘Cause you took on my, on my name

Watching the bands at the competition this weekend, I realized how much I missed sharing that kind of unified purpose with a group of people.  I miss the kind of conversations that you end up having with people because you are stuck next to them for hours and you have to find a way.  Conversations these days don’t have that forced element to them.  If someone gets on my nerves now, I can leave.  I don’t have to work my way through it.  Maybe these kinds of restraints lead to deeper relationships because you have to work for them.  

I still miss hanging around those guys, even the ones who got on my nerves the most.  I miss the shared purpose.  I miss the belonging.  But, as this song says, you have to know when to leave and once you leave, you can never go back.  You can’t step into the same river twice.  The closest you can come to it is to remember that once you shared a name and a purpose with those people.  What you learned from them is never far away because it is a part of who you are now.  And in this, the belonging never ends.

“Just Try” – Everybody Makes Mistakes

This song has a weird way of sounding sparse even though there’s several layers to it.  Maybe it’s the drums that make it this way.  The song starts off with a sparse drum track that sounds like one of those pre-programmed percussion tracks you can select on your keyboard to help you keep time.  It could be the opening of an early ‘90s New Jack slow jam.  It stays simple throughout the song with just a few extra hi-hat hits on occasion and maybe a few isolated hits on a tambourine.  

The bass seems simple too.  It blends in with the keyboards throughout the song except for a few walk downs during the verses.  The keyboards are more layered.  The base keyboard track is has an organ sound playing chords that stretch out into time.  The second keyboard track has more of a woodwind sound.  It floats over the surface, playing higher notes, adding accents to everything else going on.  The third keyboard track is a rather Beatles-esque piano playing alternating notes before the chorus and playing chords at a steady tempo the rest of the song.

The lead vocal is soft and full of longing.  There is a whispered overdub track that’s not quite in time.  This kind of trick might be considered sloppy elsewhere but here it fits.  The layered harmonies really prop up the main vocals.  The ‘ba-ba-ba-da” backup vocals help to keep the vocals moving where it could have lagged if it was just the main vocal alone.  The backup harmonies in the chorus weave in and out of the keyboards and the guitars in an intoxicating way.  You can feel how hard the singer wants us to just try.

The main guitar plays lonely notes over the verse with reverb and a hint of overdrive.  The notes drop down during the chorus to make space for a second guitar with a clear tone and reverb playing punctuated chords that hit you like the pangs of isolation.  And isn’t that just what isolation is like – seconds blending into each other only to be interrupted searing, reverberating memories of how things used to be.

This song and the next are sort of codependency companion pieces.  It never occurred to me before, in part because the themes are not in the order you would expect.  We are dealing with the pain of loss first.  It isn’t until the next song that we hear the joy in the relationship before it’s end.  So, yes, it’s out of order – a bit like a Quentin Tarantino film or a George Lucas trilogy.  But once you know this, it’s easier to follow along.

So this is how it feels when you’ve got no one
So this is how it feels when you’ve got no home
I don’t wanna be alone
Sitting by a no ringing telephone
I don’t wanna be alone

Sometimes these tales I write about my life come out sounding like I am the hero of my own story.  I do not intend this.  I do not think of myself as a hero.  Sometimes the more complicated details get left out of a story because it doesn’t fit the lyrics or it bogs down the narrative.  If you were to observe me in the wild, you would find me much more complex than what is represented here.  I can’t decide where this story fits in the hero paradigm.  It is either conclusive evidence that I am not a hero or it is the best hero story I have.  I don’t know…

When my ex broke up with me last year, the decision came down hard, angry and without warning.  A Sunday begins by relaxing in bed, playing video games and eating junk food; it ends with your real life turned upside down.  She has moved to the other side of the house and you are crying in bed, alone and heaving up every bit of that junk food you ate in the morning.  This is how it feels when you realize that you have no one now and the home you thought you would have for the rest of your life is gone.  

Food did not pass my lips again for several weeks.  I lived on coffee and nicotine until my stomach could no longer handle the coffee either.  I passed the time by chain smoking and staring off into space.  The breaking of a heart is a physical experience as much as it is anything else.  It was rather like withdrawing from drug.  My body shivered constantly though I was not cold.  I could not sleep nor rest.  The excessive bile in my gut passed through me any way it could, almost like my body was purging itself of a poison.  

So we’ll just try
Just try…

I wanted this to be over and for things to go back as they were.  I pleaded with my ex that we work together to find some way through it, that we just try.  I begged, my voice as full of longing as the singer in the chorus.  She was not interested in trying.  The conditions she set for even beginning to try were more than I could ever meet.  

I still tried on my own.  I thought that if I said the right words, some magical phrase, or did the right things, I could convince her that our relationship was worth some effort.  It had not yet dawned on me that if you are with the right person, you don’t have to work so hard to convince them that you and the relationship are of worth.

So this is how it feels when you’ve got no eyes
So this is how it feels when you’ve got no one
I don’t wanna be alone
Sitting by a no ringing telephone
I don’t wanna be alone

I felt blind.  I was surrounded by darkness and could not feel my way through.  I was scared.  But time in the darkness gains you night vision.  Your sight adjusts until you can spot variations in the blackness and begin make out shapes surrounding you.  It turns out that night vision was what I needed to spot the subtle variations of my psyche that I missed in the light of day.

I was sitting on my bed shivering, covered in blankets, when I realized that I was shivering because I was afraid.  I asked myself, “What are you so afraid of?”

“I’m afraid of being alone.”

It seems like such an obvious thing, but I did not know it until that moment.  I tried to track this fear of being alone back to it’s source.  When was the last time I felt alone?  I peered on the expanse of my life and I saw how much I had done to avoid being alone.  All the relationships I jumped into, all the shit I put up with just to try to keep the peace and keep a relationship going.  And all of this was done with the complete ignorance that my motivation was to never be alone, whatever the cost.  

My mind raced past all the years until I saw myself as an eight year old girl with pigtails and a secondhand sweater, sitting on the ground playing in the dirt and rocks, alone.  That little girl had to endure things that no one should and she did it alone, with no friends and little family support.  She couldn’t leave.  She couldn’t change what was happening.  She could only do the best that she could to protect herself and survive.

This is what being alone meant to me.  It is no wonder I worked so hard for so many years to avoid it.  It frightened me so much that I consciously avoided any awareness of it.  But now it was named.  After decades of running from this unknown monster, it was known and it was named.

It is a funny thing that I was able to keep myself blind to it for so many years, especially since I listen to songs like this one  that call out this fear, plain and true.  I have I really been singing this song for years without even recognizing the many ways it calls out what is at the core of my being?  How is it that a reasonably intelligent person can be so clueless?

So we’ll just try
Just try…

Now that I understood this about myself, I looked back on my relationship with new eyes.  The reason I wanted to try to mend the relationship was less about any love for her and more about my fear of being alone.  That’s probably true of the entire relationship.  This is no easy thing to admit about your own motivations, that you would pull someone close and keep them near you, not out of love for them but because you don’t want to be alone.

Of course, I didn’t consciously know this.  I believed that my love for her was independent of any needs of my own.  The mind will trick you like that, you know.  But you don’t have to necessarily know that a you are committing a crime to be charged with it and convicted of it.  I plead guilty.

This is the evidence that I am not a hero.  But, at the same time, it is the best hero story I have.  Erich Fromm says that this fear of being alone is the central anxiety that we try to overcome all of our lives.  It is the human condition.  It’s what drives us to get married and have children.  It drives us to create, to write, to do crazy things like join marching bands.  It’s why we read or listen to music – to know that we are not alone.

In its darker impulses, it drives us to possess.  We scramble for money, power and influence to gain more and more.  We segregate off into little tribes where we feel we belong.  We wage wars to keep what we have.  The struggle of all of human history boils down to this.  How many of us are willing to admit that it’s all because….

I don’t wanna be alone

“No More Shows” – Everybody Makes Mistakes

We are celebrating Day 50 with one of the best, “No More Shows”.  This song’s got swagger.  It is catwalk strut.  It is cocky, sassy and glam.  And I love it.  It’s probably the closest thing to the sass of I Am The Portuguese Blues that we hear in the early albums.  If I am ever in a situation where I have walk in front of someone who has given me shit before, I should play this song in my head so I can get my strut on.  

The drums are bombastic.   The bass walks up and down.  The guitar tracks are grounded by a gritty acoustic.  The fuzzy guitar from “20 Dollar Bills” is back, but I can tolerate it this time.  There’s enough sound around it to support it.  The lead guitar has a shiny tone.  Rather than taking up all the attention in the room, it weaves in and out of the rhythm and bass, breathing more life in the hook of this song.  The synths play a counterpoint to the hook, sometimes sounding almost pensive.  It adds complexity to what would be a straightforward rock tune.

The vocals are almost thin but that works out with the attitude of the song.  This song is not about expressing some weighty truth.  It’s about being here but yet untouchable.  We’ll hear this kind vocal approach more in later albums where it becomes more nuanced.  The vocals slide long with the hook in the guitars and joins in with the drum punctuations.  The vocals functions more as another instrument in the mix.  That works on this song.

When there’s no heart
Yeah, I wanna live again
Can’t delay it no, no more
No, you’ve got no heart

After my breakup last year, my ex peddled a hard luck victim story to any who would listen and possibly believe it.  She wanted a white knight to swoop in and give her a place to live.  As it turns out, she found two of them – a couple who used to go to our church until they moved out of state.  They believed the tale and gave her a place to live.  Where there is a victim in a story, there has to be a villain and, of course, I was given this role.  The couple believed this too as I figured out when I was unfriended on FaceBook.   I didn’t think much of it until the couple walked back into my territory one day.

They traveled back here to deal with some family business.  They attended church during their visit.  I walked through the church door to see them and their children buzzing about and talking with people.  I decided to chill and see how they behaved.  They seemed to be trying very hard to avoid me so I didn’t push it.

As the service wound down, it was time for communion.  We run our communion by having two servers at the front and anyone who wishes comes up and partakes of the elements.  As I walked up to serve the bread, I thought, “I am going to serve this bread like a fucking boss!”  A loose translation of this is that I wanted the love of God to shine through and that the tension between us would not be a barrier to the ritual.  It was not a time to hold on to grievances.  More important work was at hand.  The entire family filed past me, taking the bread as their eyes were cast on the floor.  I thought, “Well, maybe they are just deeply communing with the Lord.”  

After church, most of the regular church members and the family decided to go out to eat at a Mexican restaurant.  I debated on whether I should even go but decided that I could sit next to some of my friends and make it through the meal unscathed. I stayed behind to help some folks that dropped by to get some things from our community clothing closet.  I joined the part about 20 minutes later.  I’ll admit it; I was stressed on the drive there wondering what sorts of awful things they would be saying about me.  I tried to wipe the thoughts from my mind, but fear tends to be persistent.

I walked into the Mexican restaurant and saw that they put three tables in a row for our party.  There were regular church members at the table on the right and the left.  The couple sat alone at the table in the middle (the kids didn’t come).  The only place for me to sit was directly across from the couple.

I stood under the door frame and growled under my breath, “Oh shit.  This is going to be awkward.”

I try to sleep but I think a lot
I’m driving streets that just never stop
When you know there’s gonna be
When you know there’s gonna be no more shows

My brain screamed, “Abort! Abort!”  My stubbornness ended up winning the day.  “I’m going to sit right there and I’m going to own it, no matter what happens.”  Stubbornness can be a bitch sometimes.  

I sat down, leaned back and discerned the situation.  They were so intent in not acknowledging my existence that they practically had to focus all their attention on the view under the table to avoid it.  I observed this and pondered what it was about.  Were they still so mad at me that they could not look me in the face?  Were they feeling shame because I was the butt of some joke they had been repeating for months?   Were they just tired from their trip and family business?

This questioning is a funny thing.  It’s a trick that you learn for survival if you grow up in an unstable environment.  Observe behavior.  Question motives.  Do it enough and you begin to see patterns.  If you can see the patterns, you know what will happen before it does.  You know when to duck.  You know when to acquiesce.  You know when to cajole.  You know how to survive. You may even be able to bend events to your will, if you are clever and swift.

That knowledge to predict future and possibly bend it to your will is power.  Next to procreation, it’s probably the closest us mere mortals can come to the power of the gods.  That power comes at a price.  You can never stop driving down those well-worn streets in your brain, those streets that lead you to calculating probabilities and making educated bets.  Those streets just never stop and you can never stop driving on them.  If you do, you render yourself blind, an immobile target for anyone to hit.

I drove down those streets in my brain as I watched them across the table.  I factored the probabilities and checked them against known behavior patterns.  I decided their avoidance of me was 20% shame, 80% anger.

When there’s no goals
Yeah, I wanna live again
Can’t delay it no, no more
No, you’ve got no soul

This period of observation and prediction lasted about 30 seconds, then I spoke to them.  My mom did teach me how to act, after all.  I told them that it was good to see them again.  There was silence for about 5 seconds.  The husband (the beta of that relationship) lifted his eyes to about the level of my stomach and muttered something about how it was good to see everyone and then looked at the floor again.  Now I knew for certain who I was dealing with.  They showed their hands and they weren’t particularly good ones.

Stubbornness piped up again in my brain, “You own your space.  They ain’t got nothing on you.”  So I owned my space.  I leaned back and stretched my arm across the backs of the two chairs to my left (I have long arms).  No defensive body language from me, oh no.  I owned the middle.  I jumped from conversations on the left side of the table to the right side.  I leaned in.  I laughed.  I kept other people laughing.  I verbally strutted from one side of those tables to the other.  I did my little turn on the catwalk, on the catwalk, as the old song used to say.  And it felt good.  I felt alive.

I try to sleep but I think a lot
I’m driving streets that just never stop
When you know there’s gonna be
When you know there’s gonna be no more shows

Even in the midst of all my open, confident body language and my jokes, I still was driving down those streets in my brain.  Those streets just never stop.  I watched what they did, calculated their behaviors and crunched probabilities in my brain as I danced from one conversation to the next.  Their insistence on ignoring my existence meant that they locked themselves out of conversations with the people they came to see, the people they missed.  And I felt pity for them because of it.

What would cause a person to do this?  They were holding on to something so tight that it was more important than spending time with people they loved.  What did they need so much that they had to hold on to it with such a death grip?

It goes back to the victim story, I think.  I know how my ex operates.  She will love bomb someone into oblivion if she thinks she can get something out of them.  They were the white knights who saved her and I’m sure she played that up.  They need to believe they are the white knights, I suppose.  It must fill some void within them.  Holding on to that belief was more important than anything else at that moment.  Questioning that I might be the villain I was made out to be would make them question the rest of what she has told them.  That was too much of a risk.  And I felt pity for them again.

I was having a particularly funny conversation with the pastor’s wife as we were sharing our theories on the “Abducted in Plain Sight” documentary.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the couple look up.  They wanted to know what we were talking about.  I turned to them, looked them in the eye and included them in the conversation as if it were the most natural thing to do and there was no tension going on.  It actually was the most natural thing to do.  I didn’t let the tension stop me.  They seemed energized to be included (“The father did WHAT with the abductor in the car?!”).  As we left the restaurant, I looked them in the eye again, smiled and wished them a safe trip home.  They both responded positively to me that time.

I wish I had thought of this song as this was happening because it would have been so appropriate.  I’ve had plenty of tense experiences with people.  My pattern has been to endure it as best as I can and contemplate it afterwards.  This time was different.  It was the first time I understood what was happening in the moment.  It was the first time that I acted out of that understanding in the moment.  The confidence, the humor, the owning of my space was genuine.  I knew I held no shame and no one could make me hold it.  It was no show feigning a confidence that did not exist.  Now that I know what that is like, now that I know who I am, there will be no more shows.  

“20 Dollar Bills” – Everybody Makes Mistakes

I’ve been dreading this day since I started this project. This is, hands down, my least favorite sf59 song. Yeah, I said it. It sounds like an attempt to rip off some Lennon/McCartney glory. It feels like it’s in the wrong key. I’m not a fan of the fuzzy guitar. And it just plods on and on. The harps help lend to the feeling that this song lasts an eternity.

Maybe it’s not so much about the song but the fact that it occurs right before one of my favorite songs. I really just want to get to “No More Shows”. The same dynamic happened to me on Americana when the plodding “You Think You’re Radical” was plopped right in front of “The Translator”. It really probably has more to do with my impatience than the songs themselves.

This song is such a strange conglomeration of elements. We have the pensive piano and harp. We have the weird space jazz synth coupled with the New Wave synth that would sound appropriate on a John Hughes soundtrack. Then there’s the fuzzy guitar. What’s up with this fuzzy guitar? I’m usually all in favor with JM pedal choices, but this sounds like the cheapest solid state piece of junk ever. There’s barely any bass. No drums. The vocals are alright, but they could stand to put on a little weight.

There. I got it out of my system. Everybody makes mistakes. Let’s move on.

When you’re done with the run
I wanna take your height
Like everybody else
Who knows you’re coming back
By luring all your friends
With a never ending light
Not 20 dollar bills
That never change your life
That never change your life

I have good things to say here. This is another song longing for the second coming of Christ. A few songs we have looked at already fall into this bucket, but this one has something different to say. Christ draws us near with His never ending light, not the promises of prosperity and materialism. This verse makes it clear who Christ is, who the singer is in relation to Christ and it rebukes prosperity theology. That’s a tall order for a verse, but this one delivers.

It also shows that the singer has grown from The Fashion Focus. Let’s contrast this song to “I Drive A Lot”. In that song, we hear the singer thinking mostly about himself, what he feels and what he does. He questions who he could be and what he could do if he had lots of money. Here we see the singer is focusing on Christ instead of himself. He has learned that money doesn’t change your life the way you think it will.

He changes the second verse slightly, replacing “who knows you’re coming back” with “with a double-decker house”. He calls out his own participation in materialism. This is not something that would have happened on The Fashion Focus. After calling out his own mistakes, he refocuses back on Christ. This song is altogether more mature and it’s not because of that damn piano or harp either.

Well, that wasn’t so bad after all. I suppose dread is more about the energy you put into it than whatever it is you dread.

“No New Kinda Story” – Everybody Makes Mistakes

We are back to a New Wave sound with “No New Kinda Story”, but it is, I think, for a specific purpose this time. Everything about this song – the sound, the lyrics and the video are a response to Joy Division’s “Atmosphere”. I will not say it is a homage. It is more like a counterpoint someone makes in an argument. Listen to the two songs back to back and you can hear the similarities. You hear it most in the synthesizers. Listen at how Ian Curtis emphasizes the first syllable of a line only to alternate on a later line to emphasize the next to last syllable. Then listen JM and you can hear him mirroring this approach.

But it is the differences that intrigue me. “Atmosphere” is a somber landscape. “No New Kinda Story” is peppy in comparison; you can tell that the emphasis in the music is to feel good and hopeful. Curtis’ vocals cry for connection and to be heard, to be understood. JM’s vocals are steady; his voice seeks to tell you how it is. It is almost matter of fact.

“Atmosphere” is a song that people often think of when contemplating Curtis’ suicide at the age of 23. The lyrics show Curtis begging for connection, imploring another (or perhaps himself) not to give up and walk away. But the lyrics also describe the crippling isolation Curtis felt suffering from depression and epilepsy. He describes how life is so much easier for other people. By contrast, JM’s lyrics tell us that life is really not that bad. We just have to learn how to live out the love that we read about. In comparing the two songs, it is apparent to me that JM’s lyrics are written from a place of privilege. He is a white, heterosexual, middle class Christian male. He is nearly at the top of the social food chain. Things might not be so easy for someone who struggles with disabilities and illnesses. But the misstep here is one of naivete; it is no where near the judgement of The Fashion Focus. This song shows how much JM has grown. And it is nice to believe in the hope and simplicity offered in “No New Kinda Story”.

In order to understand the video for this song, we have to look at its inspiration. The video for “Atmosphere” was directed by Anton Corbijn (who also directed videos for Depeche Mode and U2 around this time). Corbijn likes to film in black and white, showing people in strange costumes walking in striking landscapes while pondering existential realities. In “Atmosphere”, we see figures in white robes with positive symbols on the backs of the robes and figures in black robes with a negative symbols. These robed figures carry large pictures of Ian Curtis through the desert, showing how the the positive and negative aspects of his life carried him through step by step. It is a moving and complex requiem for a troubled person who succumbed to his struggles.

We see the same visual style replicated in the video for “No New Kinda Story”. It is filmed in black and white. It opens with the image of a baby boy in a crib covered in a white sheet. It is the soul incarnate, innocent and frail. The next shot is three women in white robes walking over a rocky landscape followed by two horses (or, I should say, men dressed as horses). These figures appear to be Greek and at first I thought they might be Greek goddesses; but I think they are actually angels. This makes a certain kind of sense. Most of our imagery of angels is based off Renaissance era art and the Renaissance artists stole heavily from the Romans. Of course, the Roman stole everything from the Greeks. Also, it is the Greeks who first came up with the idea of the soul and this video is all about the journey of a soul.

Next we see an old man in a business suit and hat riding an escalator. This old man is the baby from the beginning of the video. Notice that he rides an escalator instead of walking wherever he is going. He is content to be pulled along a predetermined path rather than making his own. As he rides up the escalator, we see one of the angels watching him from a distance. He steps off the escalator. Next we see him walking out of a corporate building or perhaps a medical office. He pounds his newspaper into his open palm as he walks out the door. We see a brief shot of the angel walking on a rocky shore by the ocean. We return to the old man who is still slapping the newspaper in his hand. Something is worrying him; he is agitated.

The shots then quickly alternate between the old man driving his car and the angel walking on the rocky shore. We see a long shot of the angel’s face but it is blurry. Just as the image comes into focus, she closes her eyes to show that she has eerily realistic eyes drawn on her eyelids as her face turns toward the camera lens – to show that she is always watching. She closes her eyes in time with the synthesizer hit in the music that launches the brief, creepy sounding bridge.

The old man is struggling in his car as smoke billows out of the dashboard. I don’t know if this is intended to imply that he had a collision or if he was committing suicide. I would lean toward intentional carbon monoxide poisoning given the allusions to “Atmosphere”, but the logical part of my brain screams that cannot be it because carbon monoxide does not generate smoke. The old man struggles to breath and waves his hat in front if his face to clear the air. We see the face of the angel on the other side of the driver’s side window. The old man reaches toward the window and the door to get out. A black robed hand of a man holds the door shut from outside.

Just as the creepy bridge ends in the song and we return to major keys, the angel opens the car door. The old man slumps forward. He is dead. The angel reaches for him and touches his hand. He stands up while staring at her in confusion. He is not struggling to breath anymore.

We see the angel guiding the old man over the rocky shore. He sits down at a chessboard set on a rock. He looks forward to see his opponent. A man in a black robe gestures while he talks. We do not know what he is saying. I would guess that he is supposed to represent the Devil or a demon, but, really, he just reminds me of Brain Guy from Mystery Science Theater 3000. Brain Guy sits at the chessboard opposite the old man and, of course, he plays with the black pieces.

The old man is nervous as he stares at his opponent. He makes his opening move. Brain Guy makes his countermove and talks some more smack. The angels and horses are watching in the background. We see the image of an egg on white background, perhaps another image representing the soul. Images of the angels and the chess game are mixed with images of food being smashed by a hammer. Brain Guy keeps winning the chess game, knocking over one of the white pieces. The egg is smashed by the hammer. The soul is broken.

The old man takes off his hat. He knows he is beaten. He will not win the battle for his soul. We see the angels and horses walking in a line on the rocky beach like they did at the beginning of the video. The shot of the egg being hit by the hammer is played in reverse and the egg becomes whole again. Brain Guy makes his final chess move, knocking over a white piece. We see the line of angels again, but now the old man is walking between the horses as they guide him over the rocky terrain. The video closes with an image of the empty crib.

The old man has been saved by divine intervention. The angels who watched him his whole life were present during the fight for his soul. When the old man could not win that battle on his own, they save him from Brain Guy. This video raises some interesting theological questions. Did the chess game occur in Purgatory? It happens after his death. Is it possible to be saved after death? Did the old man chose to be saved or was it already predestined that he would be saved? We don’t see him choosing to follow the angels. I believe the Martins are Presbyterian so a Calvinistic interpretation could be probable. It’s a little bit foreign to me, but, hey, how often can you watch a rock video and end up contemplating Calvinism?

If my instincts are right and this song is a response to “Atmosphere”. I think it shows that JM was troubled by the way things ended for Ian Curtis and wanted to reconcile that in some way. The message of the song is a response to the despair Curtis felt. It is part soothing (things are not that bad) and part instructional (this is what we need to live out the all love that we read). The video tells a story about how there may be a path to salvation for Curtis or people like him even though we may not observe it in the mortal realm. The angels are always watching. God is always present. We are never so lost that a hand cannot reach us to guide us over the rocky shores.

“Play the C Chord” – Everybody Makes Mistakes

So we begin with Everybody Makes Mistakes. Going by the title alone, we may find this album to be more humble than the judgement heavy The Fashion Focus. Saying that everyone makes mistakes implies that you recognize that you make them too. This is a good start.

In “Play the C Chord”, we hear JM going back to basics. The rhythm section is made up of a simple drum beat, a clean bass and at least two acoustic guitars. That’s a solid foundation. The acoustic guitars add a meaty texture to the sound that props up the two lead guitars. The first lead is bursts in at the beginning of the song and holds court during the verses, drenched in reverb and chorus. The second lead comes in in the chorus, playing on slide on some high notes. The first lead fills in space during the chorus playing mid-range arpeggios.

There is a synth in the background filling in space but without the New Wave antics of The Fashion Focus. The main vocals are overdubbed and we get some nice harmony backup vocals in a few places. Nothing in this song is particularly flashy. It’s just a solid, well crafted song.

These friends of mine
Fill in the lines
To put in the songs you like
To fill up your time
These friends of mine
Who write the lines
And we write the songs you like
In half the time

Hey, maybe I should get a cowriter to help me fill in the lines and write in half the time. I’ll admit it, getting through The Fashion Focus was a slog. I think there was more to my struggle than just the fact that that it’s not one of my favorite albums. Maybe I only have so much creativity and I’m already tapped out. I mean, I know I’m good for a few stories, but am I good for 50? I’m a good for the hundreds that will be required before this project is over? Gah. It’s frightening to even contemplate.

Something’s wrong if it’s the old news
Just play the C chord
Like it’s something
‘Cause something’s wrong if it’s the old news
Just play the C chord
Like it’s something
Like it’s something

A funny thing happened on all the days I skipped writing during The Fashion Focus. Everyday I heard a beep on my phone during my usual writing time. Every time I checked my screen, I saw that Siri was recommending my blog to me. Did it take Siri three months to realize that that I might be interested in my own blog or was she nudging me to keep writing?

There’s a pressure inherent to trying to create over an extended period of time. You don’t want to keep repeating the old stuff you’ve already done. But what do you do when you can’t think of anything new to do? Go back to basics. Play the C chord (pretty much the first chord any guitar player learns). Write what you know and what you hear. Keep going at it until something breaks through.

Like it’s something new
Like it’s something new
Like it’s something new
(Play the C chord)

The pieces of this song are all parts that we’ve heard before in previous sf59 songs. But this isn’t just a rehash of old news. It is something new because of how well crafted it is. This may be the turning point when JM grasps the songcraft we know so well in the later albums.

It is, at least, encouraging for me and my endeavors here that going back to basics can be the way to find a new path forward. Just keep going at it like it’s something new.

“Days of Lamech” – The Fashion Focus

We begin this song with the scratchy feedback noise that closed out “Too Much Fun”. That scratchy feedback will carry us through the closing of this album. It’s a little bit annoying, like a repeating narrative in your head that you want to go away but yet it persists. The drums beat out a sparse, slow tempo and then we land in all this reverb. You really need a slow song like this to work through the afterglow of “Too Much Fun”. You need to lie in the embrace of all this reverb for awhile just to come back to earth.

But it’s not all just warm, fuzzy afterglow. There’s some creepy stuff in here too. Let’s start with the organ. It’s a cross between a churchy vibe and a Vincent Price horror soundtrack. We have a few church bell chimes in the background (but for whom does the bell toll?). The lead guitar and the vocals bend for notes, trying so hard to find that place where all is in tune, in time and in harmony (and don’t you find those same bends in your own life?). The vocals in the verses are not overdubbed. In the chorus, we get a separate backing vocal that is either run through a delay pedal or is intentionally sung a half beat behind. It throws you off because it is too quiet to be heard and appreciated as its own entity but loud enough for you to recognize that something is not quite right. It is like a person speaking with two tongues.

At a first listen, it seems too low key to be an appropriate album closer. But listen to what is underneath and you can hear how the themes of all the previous songs roll into this one.

These could be days
Like Lamech, Methuselah

Doesn’t it sound like the singer wants it to be like the days of Lamech and Methuselah? Doesn’t he want to get some Old Testament fear and retribution going on now? When I think of the Old Testament, I think of a people with an excessive concern for ritual purity – at least when it was convenient for them to be concerned with it. The Old Testament laws and rituals were primarily concerned with maintaining or regaining purity. Some preachers around here get really worked up about preaching the Old Testament. They speak of it as the fairy tale land we should all want to return to; where God will smite you for the slightest offence and we can ostracize and criticize anyone we don’t think is following the law in our eyes. Really? This is a time we want to go back to? (Side note, these same preachers usually end up getting revealed for carrying on affairs, misusing church funds or having some addiction or another.)

But let’s take a closer look at Lamech and his father, Methuselah. Lamech was the first Biblical polygamist. He killed a man and was exiled from the community. His wives refused to have sex with him as punishment. Methuselah lived until his grandson, Noah, built the Ark, but died before the flood so that he would not be killed with the unrighteous. If these times were so great and the people followed the law and kept their purity, why did they have to be wiped out with a flood?

Boys after girls
And the girls after the boys

Here we go. Another song chiding boys and girls for having sex. About half the songs on this album focus on this very thing. JM must have been very concerned about this at this time and he wants you to know you will face consequences if you walk this path.

So excited
But you wrote it down

I admit it; I’m not really sure what this part means. But it has to mean something because JM wrote it down.

Let’s take a moment to talk about themes and interpretations. It seems like the best place to do it. I’ve talked about how the theme of this album is judgement and projection. Do I think that JM intended to write an entire album with the alternating themes of condemning others for their sins while abdicating responsibility for your own space in the world? No, I don’t. That sounds way too artsy and uncool for someone like JM to attempt. But we are not always in total control when we write. In fact, if you are writing well, your writing will become a conduit for ideas and concepts that are greater than what you intend or maybe even realize at the time. I think JM wrote about what bothered him at the time: the malaise of his own life and boys and girls dancing with evil and having sex. What makes my interpretation of the album different is that I see these two realities as connected to each other.

One in the farms
Or in the hills or a wedding day

More sex. A roll in the hay. Jack and Jill roll down the hill. The inevitable event of your wedding day. Sex. Sex. Sex.

So excited
But you wrote it down

There’s something unresolved about all of this. If it was resolved, JM wouldn’t need to write about it. We write about what we can’t reconcile.

Let me tell you a story from this past week. I came upon some evidence that someone I know is engaging in some insurance fraud. This person treated me in a bad way, in a way that was never resolved or reconciled. The people she is defrauding don’t take kindly to such things and if it was found out, she would face some consequences – perhaps not Old Testament consequences but close enough. I pondered this over the course of an evening and decided I would report it the next day during business hours.

I thought it would be justice. It would be the right thing to do. It would be fair. After writing about judgement and projection so often on this album, I saw my own judgement rattling around in my head. I stopped myself and thought about what was going on in my own life that I would not want to be revealed. Oh…….. Ok. So I did not follow through with reporting the insurance fraud. I still think it is wrong, but that doesn’t mean I need to insert myself in the process. As much as I might say it is about doing what is right and just, it is really about retribution. And who seeks retribution for others the most? The one who knows he deserves some punishment of his own.

I go back to the church bell chime in this song and the question of for whom the bell tolls. It is really fitting that is here to close out this album. The Donne poem that quote comes from begins by saying that no man is an island. The singer is not separate from those he judges and condemns. The one who judges is closer to the judged than he would care to admit. It will all be revealed eventually anyway; it always is. The judge may have his days of feigned superiority, but those days will end. “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. “

“Too Much Fun” – The Fashion Focus

I’ve fallen in love with this song again. It’s not that I ever really forgot this song, but The Fashion Focus has been off my radar for a good 15 years. When I picked this album up again to write about it, “Too Much Fun” grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Half the days that I’ve skipped writing about this album have been because I’ve been too busy listening to this song. I also was not ready to let this song go so I have delayed.

I’m doing something different with this review. I feel like the music often gets short shrift in my reviews as I tend to focus more on the lyrics. So this review is going to be all music. The lyrics are just another song about judging boys and girls for doing what they are prone to do together and how they will face the consequences of their lack of imagination. We’ve heard that story before. This review will get the same treatment that anything I am in love with gets – I will over analyze it, take it apart and study how the individual pieces make up the whole. I want to know this song as a lover knows the hills and valleys of the body of her beloved.

It is hard for me to describe how this song impacts me physically. It is almost sexual. This song touches me where I need to be touched and pounds when it needs to. It knows exactly where to go to fit my body and my brain. It knows when to tease, when to hold and when to move. My breath hitches at unexpected moments. Before I know it, my eyes water and tears drip down my face. As the song ends, my whole body feels satisfied and spent but not exhausted. But just like that line in Brittney Howard’s song “Stay High” (one of my new musical obsessions): “I already feel like doing it again, honey”. I hit rewind and go at it again. The song still finds ways to surprise me, no matter how many times we get together.

This crying business surprises me. I’m not a person who cries at just anything. What is it about this song that hits me this way? My mentor did her dissertation on the experience of crying and she says that we cry when the body and the spirit are overwhelmed. It could be sadness. It could be laughter. Whatever it is, it is more than our bodies are attuned to handle. In other words, we encounter something that is just too much. And this song is definitely too much. When I run the song through this app I have that shows how much sound there is in a song, this song maxes out the spectrum for the entire display. It is too much even for the app to handle. Consequently, this review of the song may be too much as well; if it’s not, then I’m not doing the song justice.

Let’s start off talking about the time signature. Early on, I was convinced that this was in a weird time signature because things hit when you don’t expect them to. But I counted it out. It’s a normal 4/4 with a couple of half measures thrown in a few places. Those unexpected hits are because of the variation, measure by measure, of where the strong beats and accents are. Just to give you a sample of this, here are 12 measures with the strong beats/accents marked in bold.

0:30 – 0:43
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

0:43 – 0:56
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

0:56 – 1:10
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Do you see how it is never the same? It goes on this way for the entire song. If I am to answer why the song continues to surprise me, I have to start here. It is in the very foundation of the rhythm of the song.

Now, let’s move on to the rest of the music. I will break it down into sections of 4 measures, each section lasting about 15 seconds. In each section, I’ll tell you everything I hear (this may end up being my dissertation by the time I’m done with it).

We’ll break it down into these parts:
1. Rhythm 1 – The tone is distorted and heavy, sounds like a chainsaw. At least one of these guitars is using a chorus pedal. It usually follows the bass. This is actually probably about four guitars playing the same part.
2. Lead 1 – This is the easiest part to identify in the mix. The best way I can describe the tone on this guitar is that it sounds like wind whistling through a metal pipe attached to an airplane.
3. Rhythm/Lead 2 – This has a cleaner tone and usually stays in the mid-range.
4. Bass – Umm, it’s the bass.
5. Percussion – It’s the drums with a few surprises thrown in.
6. Vocals – Yep, there’s a few surprises here too.
7. Keys – Yes, there are keyboards on this song.

And here we go.
0:00 – 0:16
1. We start with a muted rhythm guitar scratching out the tempo. Notice how JM hits the half note of the 4th beat? Pay attention to that. That half note on the 4th beat is important. The rhythm sets up the descending chord progression that is is the heart of the song, ending in that pounding riff in the fourth measure.
2. Where the rhythm descends, the lead ascends. Step by step, it gets higher. It rides on the same note through the fourth measure riff until it slides up the string on the fourth beat of the last measure.
3. Rhythm 2 plays jangly full chords in the mid-range.
4. The bass jumps in on the fourth beat of the riff and hits the half note too.
5. The drums don’t pick up until the fourth measure riff, hitting strong on the half notes.

0:16 – 0:30
1. The riff leads right into a crushing Emin chord. Can’t you just feel that low E string buzz right in your soul? The rhythm follows the standard descending chord progression.
2. The lead goes up an octave from the rhythm in the first measure. It descends to mid-range before doing some string slide pyrotechnics in the fourth measure riff.
3. Rhythm 2 is still playing jangly chords.
4. The bass follows the descending line of of the main rhythm guitar.
5. The drums settle in to the song in this song. Accents on the half note of the fourth beat of each measure keep you on your toes; they hit before you expect them to hit. The cymbals hit on every note and half note until the riff where they hit on the first beat and the half note of the second beat.

0:30 – 0:43
1. Rhythm 1 follows the standard chord progression.
2. Lead 1 starts on a high note but with even more expression as it descends and rides some feedback over the riff.
3. Rhythm 2 still playing jangly chords.
4. The bass follows Rhythm 1 until it goes up an octave in the fourth beat of the riff.
5. The accents on the half note of the fourth beat of every measure are stronger now.

0:43 – 0:56
1. Still cranking out the chord progression.
2. Lead 1 gets even more expressive. It holds on to the same note for almost two measures, jumps up, then goes down for a harmonic notes. More string slides on the riff with a “wah wah wah” that sounds like a motorcycle revving up.
3. Still hitting jangly chords.
4. The bass follows the descending chord progression until throwing in a surprise by going up an octave on the fourth beat of the riff. It is a good counter to the descending line in Rhythm 1.
5. Drums are still varying the strong beats and accents. Sometimes they hit later than you expect, sometimes earlier.

0:56 – 1:10
Big girls like telling boys that always shove

1.The volume comes down to make room for the verse. Rhythm 1 plays a slow succession of notes instead of full chords. It joins in with the bass for the riff in the fourth measure but doesn’t hit as hard as it did during the intro.
2. Lead 1 rides some feedback in the first measure, then fades out.
3. Rhythm 2 switches up to jangly arpeggios.
4. The bass carries the chord progression during the verses. It jumps up an octave on the fourth beat of the riff.
5. The drums go simple during the verse. Strong beats remain consistent. It hits on the half note of the third beat now, instead of the fourth. During the riff, the drums wait to hit hard until the third and fourth beats.
6. The vocals are doubled. JM didn’t have as much control over his pitch at this point. The variations in pitch make everything sound a bit eerie.

1:10 – 1:23
Fact is, is nothing more than too much fun / and they….

1.Rhythm 1 plays a slow arpeggio before ending in a chord in the first measure and repeats this in the second measure. It switches to a chord in the third measure. It hits the notes on the low E string hard during the riff, building up the tension.
2. Lead 1 retreats during the verse.
3. Rhythm 2 plays arpeggios and has a bit of feedback on the third and fourth beats of each measure. The feedback creates a slow pulse in the background, helping to build up the intensity.
4. The bass carries the chord progression. It starts to hit harder during the riff. It jumps up an octave on the fourth beat of the riff.
5. The drums keep up the simple pattern of the verses but hits every beat and half note of the riff, getting louder with each beat.
6. The pitch of the double-tracked vocals really wavers on “fact is”. They don’t hit syllables at exactly the same time on “too much fun”. One of the vocal tracks is just a millisecond off. Eerie yet again. The vocals pick up the “And they” from the next lyric on the fourth and half note beats of the riff.
7. A keyboard chord swells in the background during the fourth measure.

1:23 – 1:31
Fade / They fade out

An interesting thing happens with the rhythm during the break. It starts with one four count measure, adds a two count half measure, then back to a four count measure. There may have been sf59 songs that used timing variations like this before, but it never hit me the way the break in this song does.

1.Full on, heavy distortion on an Emin chord. Just layers and layers of it for six beats. Moving that up a half step on the half note of the second beat of the half measure is just creepy as hell. It’s not on the beat where you expect to hear a chord change. Once it changes, it’s not the chord you are expecting. Like, who just moves up a half step in a chord progression? I can swear that I hear a spinning speaker effect in here somewhere.
2. The lead blends in with the rhythm here.
3. Jangly guitars hitting on the second and fourth beats of the measures.
4.The bass hits hard right along with Rhythm 1.
5. The drums play a standard beat during the first measure. There’s a strong beat during the half measure just to throw you off. Back to normal for the first two beats of the third measure, then we get a bit of a drum fill on the third and fourth beats.
6. By picking up the “And they” in the previous section, all the emphasis can go on “fade” in the first measure of this section. In case you didn’t get it the first time, “fade” is repeated again in the half measure with a jump mid-word to a higher pitch. JM really wants you to know these boys and girls will fade. One of the vocal tracks goes a bit flat during the first “fade”. I don’t know if this was intentional or not. It could be that JM couldn’t control the pitch. It could also be that he wanted it to sound just slightly off so that you would know that this fading business is no good.

1:31 – 1:45
They fade out

1.The fourth chord in this progression moves down a half step from the previous chord. After holding this chord for a measure, it goes back up a half step. This mirrors the half step move at the beginning of the break section and doubles down on it. Oh, you think that half step move sounds creepy? Well, here’s two more. How you like that, huh?
2. The lead steps out with a mid-range note that it holds for most of this section. There’s a couple of string slides before hitting a high note that cuts through all the other sound at 1:45.
3. Rhythm 2 follows 1 in the chord progression, but I think it’s using a spinning speaker effect here.
4. The bass does a nice string slide at 1:44.
5. The cymbals are used well here to ride above all the sound from the guitars. There are strong hits on 1:35 – 1:38 which accentuate the changes in the chord progression.
6. JM really wants you to know these kids are going to fade out. The vocals are smoother and in pitch here with just a slight waver on the last syllable of “out”.

1:45 – 1:58
1. Rhythm 1 sounds even more powerful now, especially during the riff. Is it possible that even more guitars were added in for this part at this point?
2. Lead 1 really jumps into the forefront here and shows you what the rest of this song is really about – crazy adventures in feedback. What even is that wobbly noise that Lead 1 is making over the riff section?
3. Rhythm 2 is making a lot of jangly noise in between beats. It’s a small thing really, but it’s those harmonics thrown in when there’s so much else going on that gets to me.
4. The bass follows along with Rhythm 1 here.
5. The drums make a point of hitting the half note of the fourth beat in the first three measures. Rhythm 1 and the bass are also hitting the half note. This is one of those tricks that ninja surprise you about this song. While you are paying attention to that scorching lead, the rhythm section is jumping in early before each measure. It builds the tension. During the riff, the drums pound on alternating, low pitch drumheads.

1:58 – 2:12
1. Rhythm 1 and the rest of the rhythm section continue to hit on the half note of the fourth beat of the first three measures.
2. Lead 1 rolls into a little bit of feedback at 2:03. Then it goes into some vibrato. The lead almost sounds like it is groaning on the last two notes of this section.
3.Those jangly guitars are still taking up space between the beats and, God, I love it.
4.The bass goes up an octave on the last beat of the riff.
5. The drums switch things up from the previous section by alternating between drum and cymbal hits during the riff.

2;12 – 2:25
Big boys like dead end girls that always shove

1.Rhythm 1 retreats to make room for the vocals. It joins in with the bass for the riff.
2. Lead 1 rolls into some feedback after the end of the last section. It holds the feedback until 2:18.
3. Rhythm 2 plays some jangly arpeggios.
4. The bass goes up an octave in the riff.
5. The drums go back to a steady beat. They wait until the third and fourth beats of the riff to hit hard.
6. The pitch on the overdubbed vocals is off a little bit. You can hear it most on “boys” and “shove”.
7. Do you hear that pulsing sound that hits on every beat? That, my friends, is a keyboard. As we get deeper into the song, more textures get added. I’m convinced that there are keyboards earlier in the song, but I can’t hear it well enough to describe it to you. The pulsing is clear enough here to hear it and it just one more thing to add to the tension, like the ticking of a time bomb telling you something is about to happen.

2:25 – 2:38
Fact is, it’s nothing more than too much fun / And they

1.Rhythm 1 stays in the background but gets stronger in the riff.
2. Lead 1 retreats to make space for the vocals.
3. Rhythm 2 still doing those jangly arpeggios.
4. The bass follows Rhythm 1.
5. The drums hit every beat and half note in the riff, getting louder with each beat.
6. Again, by adding “And they” to the fourth beat of the riff of this section, it sets up the emotional impact of the next break section.
7. The keyboard pulses are stronger here.

2:38 – 2:46
Fade / They fade out

1.Rhythm 1 comes back strong with lots of distortion.
2. I can’t hear the lead part here. It may be mixed in with the rhythm guitar.
3. Rhythm 2 is doing jangly chords but on beat instead of in between beats. The strumming pattern goes double time on the third and fourth beats of the last measure.
4. The bass follows Rhythm 1.
5. The drum takes the forefront during the half measure.
6. You can hear the pitch variance with the overdubs most on the first “fade”.
7. The keyboards switch from pulses to playing the notes that Lead 1 played in the first break section.

2:46 – 3:00
They fade out

1.Rhythm 1 still filling out sound with all that distortion.
2. Lead 1 hits a few accent notes, then rides some feedback. There’s two string slides at the end of the section.
3. Rhythm 2 mostly follows the Rhythm 1 but the strumming speed increases at the end of the section.
4. The bass slides down the string at 2:59.
5. The drum and cymbal hits accentuate the chord changes in the rhythm guitars and bass.
6. There’s still some pitch variance in the overdubs here but it is not as bad. Mostly, the vocals sound tired at this point. I guess it’s all this fading out.

3:00 – 3:14
1. Now we are getting to what this song is really about – just walls of guitar sound. Rhythm 1 is playing stronger now and this is how it will remain for most of the rest of the song. It moves up an octave at the end of the riff.
2. At this point in the song I begin to lack the words to describe how expressive the lead is. It wails. It groans. It protests.
3. The strumming on Rhythm 2 intensifies. It plays on the beats and the space between beats too.
4. The bass goes up an octave at the end of the riff.
5. The drums start hitting on the half note of the fourth beat of each measure. Again, while you are distracted by the lead, the rhythm section builds tension by hitting earlier than you expect. Total ninja stuff here.

3:14 – 3:26
1. Rhythm 1 slowly builds the intensity in the background.
2. Lead 1 does 6 different string slides during the riff. Six!
3. Rhythm 2 also continues to build intensity.
4. The bass goes up an octave during the riff.
5. The drums continue to hit on the half note of the fourth beat.

3:26 – 3:40
Dead boys

1.Continues building intensity.
2. Lead 1 screams, shakes and wavers.
3. Rhythm1 becomes Lead 1 at the feedback coming in at 3:36. I don’t know if the guitars actually switched the parts or if it is just that I can’t hear the jangly guitars anymore after that second lead comes in. Maybe it’s that this post already has too many numbered lists even for me and I’m only halfway through the song. I need to downsize. This is too much.
4. The bass follows Rhythm 1.
5. We are starting to get some drum fills now.
6. “Dead boys”. Wait, what? Yep, he sings “dead boys” here. It’s deep in the mix but you can hear it between 2:27 – 2:29. Listen for the “s” at the end of “boys” to find it. Once you hear it, you can’t ever unhear it again. This may have been a marker for a third verse that just never made it into this world. I think that was the case since it doesn’t seem to be overdubbed.

3:40 – 3:53
Dead girls

1.Continues building.
2. Lead 1 wavers on the first note, then repeats the same notes we’ve heard the lead play in previous sections. What is different this time is that the lead holds on to those notes a little longer than before. There’s three string slides over the riff but instead of sliding up to a high note, it lands on a gravely low note.
3. I can’t hear a second lead part here but I still hear the jangly notes.
4. The bass goes up an octave at the end of the riff.
5. The drums are still hitting on the half note of the fourth beat.
6. You can hear “dead girls” from 3:40 – 3:43. Listen for the “s” in “girls” to find it. This is the last vocal part on the song. Vocals are now retired.
7. I hear a single keyboard note repeating during the riff.

3:53 – 4:06
1. It goes on and on.
2. Lead 1 stays low but plays the same note intervals as previous sections. It rolls up to to some mid-range accented notes over the riff.
3. Lead 2 is coming back, I swear.
4. The bass goes up an octave during the riff.
5. The drumming pattern is altered during the riff. You hear cymbals when you expect drums and drums when you expect cymbals.
6. I hear a keyboard, mainly in the left speaker, but not well enough to describe it.

4:06 – 4:20 (*snicker*)
Are you ready to fly yet? Everything is ramping up.

1.It’s going on for now but it’s about to change.
2. Lead 1 sounds almost tortured in the first three notes. It keeps ascending until it alternates back and forth, faster and faster.
3. The jangly guitars are hitting punctuated chords that counter the flow of the rhythm.
4. The bass goes up an octave during the riff.
5. The drumming in the riff is powerful with lots of space in between the beats.
6. The keyboard is still there hitting pulses along with the jangly guitars.

4:20 (*more snickering*) – 4:34
Fake out. It’s time to get mellow, y’all. You wanted to keep going for it, didn’t you? But, see, this is the key to great music and great sex. You don’t go for that high as soon as you can. You don’t even go for it when you think it’s reasonably appropriate. Four minutes in seems appropriate, doesn’t it? This is the difference between a musician who taps out after a 3 minute radio edit and one who does a 7 minute opus and still leaves you wanting more. And as Missy Elliot says, “I don’t need no minute man.”

1.The rhythm backs off and melds with the bass. It has just enough edge during riff to remind you it’s still there.
2. Lead 1 has the wind through a pipe sound again. It’s moving slow and holding on to each note. The notes seem to get more intense the longer they are held.
3. The jangly guitar does some slow arpeggios.
4. The bass really shines here because you realize how much it’s doing to hold everything together. It stays low in the riff.
5. The drums here are so mellow they almost sound like the drums off of “Monterey (Lounge Version).
6. You can hear the keyboards most during this part of the song. Everything else recedes enough that the keyboard notes pierce through.

4:34 – 4:47
You don’t realize how much you needed this reprieve right now in the song. It gives you just enough time to catch your breath. You can feel everything that’s happened in the song so far catching up with you.

1.The rhythm follows along with the jangly guitar now, only joining the bass on the riff.
2. Lead 1 repeats the same notes as the previous section, but it is softer now.
3. The jangly guitar is still doing slow arpeggios.
4. The bass is still holding everything together and stays low in the riff.
5. The drums stay quiet. Those cymbal hits are a nice touch and add a little spice to this section.
6. The keyboards are still hitting some high notes just around the edges of the song.

4:47 – 5:00
It should be noted that even though this is the quiet part of the song, my song analyzer still shows this full sound across the spectrum.

1.Don’t you just hear that low E string of the Emin in the beginning just buzz deep in your soul? The rhythm picks up the intensity just a little bit in this section, becoming more prominent during the riff. It begins to alternate things subtly in the background. On the first measure, it hits a note on the fourth beat. The next measure, it hits on the half note. It’s trying to get you off balance again.
2. Now we hear the counterpoint to what the lead played in the previous 2 sections. It rides feedback over the riff and slides down the string on the half note of the fourth beat of the measure.
3. The jangly guitar goes along with the rhythm and is becoming more prominent in the mix. It’s starting to ramp up.
4. The bass stays low in the riff.
5. The drums start mixing up a little, adding 8th note accents.
6. The keyboard is still doing high notes, now at times blending in with Lead 1.

5:00 – 5:13
The intensity is building back up. Because we’ve had this brief reprieve, you are now ready to hear what this song is about to do to you next.

1.The rhythm moves in and out with the jangly guitar. It lets itself be heard during the riff.
2. Lead 1 goes back to the same riff it has done multiple times already. This time there is a longing to the way the notes are played. Something is ending here. Can I just take a moment to say how wonderful those stray notes are during the riff on the first beat and the half note of the third beat? It is the perfect transition to what comes next.
3. Lead 2 hits on the on half notes to counter Lead 1 and the bass. There’s a couple of scratch chords at 5:03. It hits some high feedback at 5:05, briefly melding with Lead 1. It rides some low feedback during the riff.
4. The bass goes up an octave during the riff. The reprieve is ending.
5. The drums hit alternating accents on the beats and on half notes during the riff.
6. The keyboard keeps hitting high notes, adding to what Lead 1 is doing.

5:13 – 5:27
The reprieve is done. We are back at it again.

1.The rhythm section keeps hitting on the half note of the fourth beat of each measure. Again we see this trick of hitting the half note before the next measure as a way to build up intensity and keep you off balance while you are distracted by the lead.
2. High and low and higher and low. It’s not the notes you are expecting to hear from a lead part. There’s dissonance. There’s some quick, alternating notes during the first 3 beats of the riff. On the fourth beat, there’s a short slide down followed by a slide up.
3. Lead 2 plays some mid-range notes, hitting on the half note of the fourth beat with the rhythm section.
4. You know now that the bass is going up an octave during the riff, right?
5. There’s a cymbal crash on the half note of the fourth beat for the first 3 measures. During the riff, there’s cymbal crashes and the beats and half notes through the third beat, then drums only on the fourth beat.
6. The keyboards actually play the notes that Lead 1 normally plays. It’s interesting that it does this since Lead 1 is doing something unique during this section.

5:27 – 5:40
Are you ready now? You better be.

1.Rhythm 1 is back in all it’s distorted glory and it holds the chord progression here. It is still hitting on the half note of the fourth beat of each measure.
2. Lead 1 starts playing the riff you expect but with some changes. It holds that that first note for a long time. It adds extra notes during the second measure. It does 6 string slides over the rhythm riff ending in 16th notes on the fourth beat.
3. Lead 2 is hitting chords in this section.
4. The bass gets unpredictable here. Everything seems like normal in the first measure. It runs up the fret board in the second measure. During the riff, it plays the first 2 beats like normal but does string slides over the end of the riff. The bass’ slides begin where Lead 1’s slides end.
5. The drums do a fill in the second measure and alternates the pattern during the riff.
6. The keyboard plays the line that Lead 1 usually plays but with some changes. It goes sharp during the second measure and flat during the riff.

5:40 – 5:53
Because this song is ready for you.

1.Rhythm 1 hold the chord progression.
2. Lead 1 goes all over the place during the first 2 measures. There’s actually this cool blues moment in the second measure. You don’t hear anything you would expect to hear from the lead until the third measure, but it doesn’t stay here long. It hits the same note over the rhythm riff.
3. Lead 2 follows the chord progress of Rhythm 1 but with a string slide at the end of each measure.
4. The bass moves up the fret board during the second measure. It stays low during the riff.
5. The drums back off a bit during the first 3 measures to make room for the string slides of Lead 2. It comes back with strength during the riff.
6. Honestly, I’m not sure what the keyboards are doing anymore. They may be making pulses.

5:53 – 6:07
1. Rhythm 1 holds the chord progression. The rhythm section is still hitting on the half note of the fourth beat of each measure.
2. Lead 1 rides into this section playing the same note it was holding in the last section. It goes to a higher note in the second measure and keeps hitting that note for the rest of this section.
3. Lead 2 finally jumps into the limelight. It does those crazy “wah wah wah wah” noises during the second and third measures. It holds the same note through half of the rhythm riff (which is a dissonant note compared to Lead 1), then does some string slides before hitting some 16th notes on the fourth beat.
4. The bass goes up an octave during the riff.
5. The drums aren’t too flashy here so as to make room for the dueling leads. There are some nice cymbal accents though.
6. Where there ever keyboards on this song? I can’t remember because of all this guitar.

6:07 – 6:20
1. Rhythm 1 still hold the chord progression. It hits each note of the riff even harder than it has before.
2. Lead 1 just keeps hitting that high note over and over for this whole section. Do you hear it buzzing in your head?
3. Lead 2 goes all over the place. You hear a variation of the lead riff in the third measure, but with a string slide and a feedback swell, it’s gone before you can grasp it.
4. The bass follows Rhythm 1 and stays low in the riff.

6;20 – 6:34
The third measure of this song is the part that really gets me, the part where all the divergent parts meet on the same chord. I mean it really gets me.

1.Rhythm 1 is holds the chord progression but it’s louder still. It buzzes like a army of chainsaws during the riff.
2. Lead 1 hold the high note through the second measure. There’s a couple of scratch chords then it joins Rhythm 1 in the third measure.
3. Lead 2 plays a variation of the lead riff in the second measure. It joins the chord progression with everyone else in the third measure. It plays a lower harmony note to complement Lead 1. At the end of the rhythm riff, Lead 2 plays those 2 random transition notes that Lead 1 played in the end of the reprieve section. That’s a queue that things are about to get even more intense. My God, how is it even possible?
4. The bass goes up an octave in the riff.
5. Do you hear the tambourine? Yes, there is a tambourine now. They just keep adding more and more.
6. I think the keyboard is hitting pulses in the background.

6:34 – 6:47
It’s time to get high.

1.Rhythm 1 alone is more sound than most songs get.
2. Lead 1 moves up a note each measure and holds each note until it launches into outer space over the rhythm riff. It comes back to Earth with some string slides in the fourth beat of the riff.
3. Lead 2 hold the same mid-range note for the first three measures. It goes down a note just as Lead 1 launches in to space. It does some string slides with Lead 1 at the end of the rhythm riff.
4. The bass stays low during the riff.
5. We still have tambourines. We get a drum fill in the second measure.
6. I’m pretty sure the keyboard plays a discordant note to the two guitar leads during the rhythm, then drops down to play some lower notes during the string slides.

6:47 – 7:00
1. Rhythm 1 seems to be hitting even harder during the riff.
2. Lead 1 returns to play a variation of the lead riff but with lots of wavering notes. There’s two string slides at the end of the rhythm riff.
3. Lead 2 has retired from the dueling lead business and is back to jangly chords. Some of the chords hit on half notes.
4. The bass goes up an octave during the riff.
5. Tambourines and cymbals, man.

7:00 – 7:15
The tempo slows on the last riff of the song.

1.Rhythm 1 holds the chord progression one last time.
2. Lead 1 plays what almost sounds like some blues riffs until it moves up to one last, tortured high note over the riff.
3. Jangly chords fill the space between the beats.
4. The bass stays low during the riff.
5. Tambourines right to the end. The drums are particularly powerful during this last, slowed down riff.

7:15 – 7:42
Everything converges on this last Emin chord. Feedback swells from every direction. It isn’t until about 7:22 that the amount of sound starts to decrease to a normal level. At 7:33, we get that weird, scratchy feedback that will lead us into the next day’s song.

And there we have it. I wanted to do this review this way because I feel that I don’t describe the music or the sound well enough in these reviews. So I picked the SF59 with the most sound of any of them to do this. It’s kinda like if you are the new kid in school and you want the bullies to leave you alone, you take on the toughest bully of them all. And this song is the toughest of all the SF59 songs because it is too much.

But I don’t want to end this by describing this song as a bully because the other reason I did this is because I love this song. And like any lover whose worth it, it made me work for it. I’ve been at this for days now.

I want to close out by saying something about being too much. This song is gratuitous. It’s overblown. And that is exactly why I love it. Last week I was sharing a cigarette with a homeless guy named Michael outside the venue before a Pedro the Lion show. He looks at me and says, “I’m gonna tell you something my mama always used to tell me. You don’t have 5 talents. You don’t even have 10 talents. You have 80 talents and don’t you ever forget it.”

This song has 80 talents and I’m an 80 talent girl. Why would I waste my energy on 10 talent songs? I thought a lot about this 80 talent business as I was writing this. Doubt has a way of creeping in when you are being too much. Am I using the right musical terminology? What if that keyboard isn’t really a keyboard but some weird guitar effect? Why would anyone want to read all of this? Am I even pointing out anything new to anyone? I mean, shit, sf59 fans listen to this stuff on high end stereos and vinyl. I’m over here streaming my mid-quality mp3 over Bluetooth into my hearing impaired ears. All this is probably old news to everybody.

That fear is the side effect of being too much. It happens when you know that you’re extra in a world that is satisfied with the mundane. But there’s always an audience out there for those willing to be too much. Just like this gloriously excessive song has a home in my heart, so too will all your glorious excesses of character find a home somewhere. Just put it out there and watch where it goes.

So, am I ready to let go of this song yet? Hmmmm. I already feel like doing it again, honey.