Right now, I'm absolutely overwhelmed. I've been like this before. There is so much to do, that it paralyzes me, and I can do absolutely nothing. I've got a clear picture of what needs to be done: promote and release NMWG's sophomore album, finish the audio for Wildlifeless, start the audio for Days of Being Wrinkle Free, do another edit pass on Tim Nm, work on an MOC DVD release, etc., etc. TMINM/12 Bros. recordings. Ha! Yet, I sit down in front of the computer so intimidated by it all that I end up just playing Conquer Club (used to be TipTop, but now on to CC). It's a sad and depressing cycle. It's joyless.
Now it's getting to the end of the year, and I look back and it doesn't feel like I've accomplished much. I'm sure I could dig around and show how I've at least made progress on things, but it seems like a lost year to me. I still can't believe I sat on NMWG's album all year. That's not only sad, but a real let down to people that depend on me. Just when they really settled in to a local touring routine and are selling CD's like never before, I can't even get the new product out the door.
Add to this that I'm in a new job and don't have any vacation time around the holidays for the first time in a long time, and I basically feel trapped. I need to get away and clear my head for a while. If I could get over some of these hurdles, things would really turn around. Once the NMWG album hits the streets, I know it's going to take off, and that'll be a real boon for the label (though it's probably too late for it to make a big dent and take 2006 into the realms of profit, unfortunately, though 2007 should be good). Wildlifeless is going to make a big splash on the festivals and Matter of Chance will really be on the map in 2007. Wrinkle Free and Tim Nm, though I don't think they have a big market, would be sentimental and artistic achievements for me at least.
There's a lot of fun ahead. I have fun just thinking about making White Bread and Filmic. It makes me happy. Thinking about those films seems more like thinking back on a good experience than anything else. Sierra Maestra seems like the right film at the right time. If all goes to plan, we'll finally take Brock on the big cross-country road trip to Boston next Fall. That should be a trip to rival the Winter 04/05 trip where so many adventures in filmmaking and music were hatched. To get to all that, I have to get through my current drudgery.
Man, I feel like if I start one new paragraph I could start ten of them. It's all empty complaining, though. I actually updated the MOC and 727 web sites last night. More work tonight. I might be getting on a roll or sorts.
Two songs in two days. What a treat!
Popularity is the highest rated (and really the only) song from the Schoolyard EP.
This was a rare song where I played a part in the musical development of the song. My part? Basically, I told Joshua to create a Pedro the Lion riff. He nailed it while maintaining his originality. It's more of a long, lumbering riff than was typical of earlier Moon Is No More songs. The length of the riff allowed for the words to wander a bit more than normal, instead of having to be crammed in tight.
As with all of the post-trilogy songs, I spent a little more time thinking about lyrical structure. To me, the words flow better, the rhymes make more sense, and there's a nice sense of inventiveness. Of note is the tone of the song. There's something happy and dark going on at the same time. It creates a beautiful balance and makes this quite different from some of our other songs.
Popularity never gets old.
I know it's been a long time since I last checked in. Things have been pretty busy with travel and other things. I'm posting this from the Refresh 06 conference in Orlando, FL.
We finally come to the first song that Joshua and I wrote together, Come and Gone. I know this story has been told before (and probably better), but anyway... I believe it was the summer of 1999. Joshua was really starting to dabble with creating and recording songs. I was staying with him for the summer, spending most of my days alone as he went off to work. I must have been running my mouth about something, saying that I could write a song in short order. Joshua made the challenge and I took him up on it.
The next day he went off to work and I went off to write. By the time he got home I had Come and Gone. He whipped together some guitar chords for it in short order and wham! Instant song.
And somehow it has stood the test of time and remains one of my favorites. It is 90 seconds of bliss. The combo of our dueling (not dualing) vocals makes up for my lack of ability. The lyrics manage to be interesting as a love song by taking a fresh look at things and presenting some different angles.
As a matter of chance, it just happened to fit perfectly into the Jeffrey L. Allen concept. It conveys this sense of on-again/off-again struggling relationship perfectly. In fact, we didn't do a thing to it, lyrically or musically to get it to fit. The final recording that we had made of this remains one of my favorite polished recordings we've done.
I thought I'd get one in for Joshua before I hit the road to Louisiana.
Implode, in a word, rocks. JAG would say that it "kicks rocks." There is no doubt that this song rocks harder than any other in the Moon Is No More catalog. That alone has to qualify it for the top 10, right?
Joshua created an amazingly catchy bit o' guitar that travels up and down the neck. Meanwhile, you get to hear me sing, "Im-plode innnn-side / de-bris hiiiide." I think I sing the word "debris" kind of funny. Only Angie can explain it. The lyrics are not the finest, but they make do. There's something very earnest and urgent about them. Some combination of the words and the delivery just make me feel uncomfortable in a good way.
This is a pretty short song, but perfectly so. It doesn't overstay its welcome. It knocks on your door, blows you away, and then it's gone as quick as it came.
Matter of Chance director-extraordinaire Brock H. Brown is the featured director for October on Independent Film Channel's Media Lab Uploaded program for the month of October. Starting this evening and running in repeats throughout the month, look for an interview with Brock, a Matter of Chance short film, and other material. Set your Tivo's!
I'm mogging again today so excuse the initial formatting.
Originally when I made my list of 53 and ranked them this was much
lower, probably somewhere around 22. It made the leap over a lot of
good songs, and that's saying something. All it took was a couple of
listens to Joshua acoustic demo and I was hooked again.
This song is the conclusion of 12 Brothers. It provides the resolution
with great emotional impact. When Joshua sings "and now I know / now I
know / that we can be broth-er-er-ers," I don't know that there's a
more powerful single line. I get chills just thinking about it and
every time I hear it.
I love the acoustic sound that Joshua has going in the demo. My
preference would probably be to keep it like that. On the flip side
this is a song that just hasn't been played much so I'm not sure how
it would even sound with a full band. Certainly, though, if we go with
a few acoustic songs to provide variety and clarity of tone (and I
strongly suggest we do that) then this would be a prime candidate.
The only thing that bugs me still is the metaphors. "you want a ship /
to weather the storm" and "you want a ballot / to carry reform." I
think they're both good metaphors but the whole album has a metaphor
related to business so that feels more natural. In the past I had
worked up some alternatives but I'm not sure that we ever fully tested
And I have to say that Joshua deserves credit for this song even more
than usual since he wrote the music without any input from me, not
even a melody. He also tweaked the lyrics to his liking.
9. Such Things To Such People
I'm mobile blogging number 9. I'm not sure how Joshua feels about this song but it was always one of my favorites. I always felt it was under
utilized in our repitoire.
The music is simple in an easy-to-like kind of way. The chorus gets powerful. The vocals have a unique feel to them (maybe Mellencamp-esque? Not sure).
The lyrics have this certain duality to them. There probably isn't
another Moon Is No More song that accurately nails the "everyone is
good, everyone is bad" theme that's so prevalent in Sans Hands. It
sounds personal because the uses the first person, so you really start
to feel for this guy. Then you realize how self-righteous he is and
you feel like turning on him. Yet at the same time you can't shake the
I recall that the one time we allowed Skippy to be part of the band we
played this song a number of times. He added a very interesting second
guitar to the mix. I remember really liking it but also having a hard
time singing to it. It threw off my rhythm. But I guess that's normal
when you don't play guitar with any rhythm.
Here's another song that went through radical changes. From the start, though, this proved to be our most popular song.
I believe this was the fifth song that we wrote as The Moon Is No More. It was probably the first that we really struggled with. So much so, that I believe we moved on to the next song before we were truly satisfied with it. I can remember sitting in Joshua and Angie's bedroom/music room rewriting and rewriting, trying to come up with something that would work. Joshua deserves a lot of credit for polishing up some of the lyrics, more so on this song than probably any other. He always had a knack for a catchty chorus and that's what propels this song to its heights of popularity. Who can resist the brotherly dual-vocal of "we can make / we can make amends / we will be / the best of false friends / the best of false friends"?
In the end we took a variety of lyrics and fit them all in together. It has some of the original mid-tempo verses, the killer chorus, the stream of consciousness stuff, plus, my favorite, the old school part. It became a trademark that whenever we played this song we'd get to that part and I say, "Play the old school part; the way you used to do it." It's funny, because kept getting added, but never trimmed. Some of the later verses could probably be cleaned up a bit. The only thing I can remember cutting was the opening spoken word of "Oh, Billy!" Joshua felt that was a little over the top.
And who can forget Angie's classic interpretation of the chorus: "we can bake / we can bake some bread."
In a way, this song is more like the later songs in it's sheer length (sometimes clocking in at 7 minutes, usually 9, once it was 11) and jam-ness. There is a bit of variety in the music, with four or five distinct parts. That's one of the things that sets this song apart. That's why cleaning things up and trimming it down is kind of a toss up. Yeah, it can get tighter, but maybe it works purely because it's different.
One thing that I've noted from people's reactions to this song, beyond their love of the chorus, is their true connection to the lyrics and the message. Usually it's women that comment on how true the concept of "making amends" with "false friends" is. Every single one of them is like, "That's me. I've done that." I'm proud that it rings true. It is true.
Sorry about the delay in getting this post out there. I've been too busy with business propositions lately to finish this off. I'm sure my two readers were waiting with baited breath, Johnny Most style. Anyway, another short post before we get to the top 10. When we get there I'm thinking about doing those songs up proper, including full lyric posting and MP3 recordings.
These songs are on "The Fuzzy Edge." OK. I don't even know what that means. I knew I shouldn't have named the batches of songs. These songs aren't really "Dangling Off The Ledge," though, because starting with this batch of songs we have very strong contenders that have a good chance of making it all the way. I'm declaring now that when we get to the final 10 I'm going to stop naming the batches.
15. An Automobile's Mass Of Steel, Plastic, & Rubber
Unfortunately for Joshua's sensibilities, this is the highest that a Leonard Gardner song is going to make it on my list. At least he cracked the top 15. I really do enjoy this song. It's a slow little ditty. Unlike most of our slow ditties, however, the lyrics seemed to flow off the tongue. And that despite the fact that the lyrics are not written in traditional form. I've been trying to think of a band or song with which to compare the lyrical style. I'm struggling. It's a bit of a disassociated stream of consciousness about equality through the story of cars crashing. Another one based on a true story. One night I had witnessed the aftermath of a car crash. This one involved only a car and a deer. The deer was killed on impact. But the deer didn't have opposable thumbs so no one cared much. This is normal. Driving by we noticed in the middle of the intersection a large object with a car hovering nearby. People were standing over the object and here's what it was: a dead deer illuminated by the headlights of the care that had recently taken its life. Good for the headlights. We went inside the nearby movie theater and told someone to call whomever is supposed to be called in the event of a dead deer in the middle of an intersection with people standing over it and a car hovering nearby. When we finally went back out to the intersection we found the animal had been pulled over to the curb. A trail of thick red blood followed it and it seemed as though the car had been pulled right along with the deer: it was in the same hovering position, spotlight on death. I took a picture for fun. I said this to a friend as my eye peeped through the viewer and my small mass of flesh, bone, and muscle compressed the button: "We're an unusually rare breed."
Some of what I just wrote is true. Some of it may not be.
Memory can be like that. This is normal.
14. An Homo Sapien's Mass Of Flesh, Bone, & Muscle
This could be the song that has evolved the most over time. It started out as a funky acoustic punk song; turned into a raucous punk rock song; turned into a peppy and fuzzy Neutral Milk-ish song; turned into a dark, dank wasteland of post-modern, post-grunge, pure Pig, rock. And you know what? It stinks. But inside there somewhere it's still a great song. It appeals to the masses. Sure, the references to homo sapien make it ripe for being made fun of, but it's tough, it can handle it. Sure, it's short, and the lyrics don't vary much, but the message is good and in the right form it's undeniably entertaining. There's no doubt this song needs to go back to it's "fun" roots. There was a time when we were trying to make the albums be something that perhaps they were not. Jeffrey L. Allen had to be dark. How it could be any other way? But you know what, there is another way. The songs need to be the songs; they need to be who they are. No more and no less. To try to alter them to fit some grand vision just doesn't fly.
13. Pity Versus Sympathy
This is like the anti-Homo Sapien. It evolved, but for the better. When Joshua came out to Massachusetts to put the "finishing" touches on recording the lyrics for Jeffrey L. Allen I spent a lot of time preparing my vocals. This basically meant that to and from work each day I would sing along with the sing along CD that Joshua had made for me. One thing that struck me about this song is that it was lacking punch emotionally. What should be a desperate man just sounded blah. Just like that, while driving South on 495, it struck me. "I lost." That was the whole theme of this song, loss. We needed to accentuate that and drive it home, much as I was at the time driving to my home. The punchy part was going to get a makeover to add these chanted "I lost" statements. There were also some new lyrics: "i think i / can accept this / can accept this / except i cannot." I give Joshua credit for hearing me out and allowing the changes. I thought for sure he would fight them. We ended up recording the vocals the way I wanted, though I think it took about 4 hours to record vocals for this one song. Joshua was big on getting the entire performance in one take instead of having to piece together the best bits from various takes. You can only imagine. Again to Joshua's credit, this song probably suffers the least from the electronic drums that became the norm on Jeffrey L. Allen. Joshua spent a lot of time getting the drums just right. The variations in the hard part are beautiful and interesting and allowed for another of my suggestions, which was to leave the first chorus devoid of lyrics. In a way this ends up making the song because it allows the emotion to build, rather than confronting you with it right near the start of the song. Then when it hits you in the second chorus, and you're not expecting it, you feel it deeper.
12. An Ambitious Attempt At Failure Before One's Birth
This is a tough song to talk about. I can say that it started as a poem called Walking Backwards. It features some beautiful lyrics such as "angie / is the most / beautiful girl / in the world." Seriously, I dare you to click on the Lyrics link. Also, there's nothing like unknowingly singing a song about suicide to someone to just lost a friend to suicide. Shoot me now.
11. Last Resort, Part I
Beautiful song about divorce. A great message nicely represented by the lyrics. One of the few songs where we lived up to our ambient noise pact. This features our young cousins in the background playing and fighting. A neat note on the lyrical development of this song: every chorus originally was "when all else fails / try avoidance / when all else fails / try avoidance." (Yes, you now know the origin of the blog name.) Of course, we were also using this chorus in Part II of this song and over time I grew tired of it. It was boring and quickly became my least favorite part of the song. Then I thought of a great alternate line to mix in there so we turned the first chorus into: "we've tried tried and tried again / but all this failure leaves us spent / when all else fails / try avoidance." The remaining two choruses were unchanged and still repetitive. But in time, after having played the song with the new alternate chorus many times I liked it so much that I knew I needed another. So chorus two became: "but time time and time again / we fought our best without a win / when all else fails / try avoidance." Great! But this posed a problem. Now the absolute climax of the song, the final chorus, was the least interesting of the lot. I knew we needed something but it took a long time to finally pin it down. When I did, it was perfect: "but once twice and three times now / we tried our best to keep our vow / when all else fails / try avoidance." That line sums up the whole song better than anything and hits the absolute height of emotion for me. It still gets to me when I listen back. Perhaps for that line alone this song reaches number 11. So that's the story of how the chorus went from being the worst part of the song to the best.
Up next is the top 10. One ... by ... one.
Saturday was the big studio shoot for Wildlifeless. At the end of June we survived an arduous trip to San Diego to shoot the exteriors. Saturday was the interiors that begin the story.
The Set - The interiors called for a very large canvas wall tent. These tents are pretty expensive, and a real tent would not have allowed us the manueverability we needed considering cranes and other filmmaking aparatus. So, the decision was made long ago to build our own tent set. It would be basicaly a 10' x 15' tent with three sides. When we built the smaller tents and tent facade for the exteriors, I used lightweight 2 x 2's. For the big tent, stability was key to support such large sections, so 2 x 4's were used. Heavy, wet, raw 2 x 4's. I precut the materials on Friday morning. Friday night we were supposed to have access to the studio to construct the set for a number of hours, enough time to get the job done. Well, when we arrived we found out that we had about a third the time we thought we would have. Beyond that, our drilling technique wasn't working so good. It was a fight to drive each screw. A half day prior to the shoot and we were already massively behind the eight ball. I was beside myself about the whole ordeal. I'm pretty sure it was tough to be around me at the time. I was fuming over the lack of cooperation from the school personnel, and the general lack of professionalism on their part. As it turned out, a lot depends on who you talk to. Saturday morning we arrived early and not much later, a much more helpful faculty member was there to assist us. It was a completely different experience from the night before. With better tools and techniques at hand, we got the whole set built (assembly and attaching canvas) in around an hour. Getting the thing in upright and supported was another matter. We used most of the C-stands and all of the sandbags in the studio to get it mostly stable. Beyond that there was the dressing: arranging of props, attaching of bamboo, faking a projection surface, etc. Tons of work, but well worth it. It looked great, and like a million bucks on tape. However, it was complex enough that we didn't get our first shot until around 2pm. Four hours behind schedule. Yikes!
The Shots - Before Brock conceived the storyboards for this film, I pumped him up with the following admonition: "Forget about limitations. We'll get a dolly. We'll get a crane. We'll figure it out. We'll make it happen. The sky is the limit." And eschew limitations he did. This film has more crazy camerawork than you can shake a stick at. Light years more than anything we have done prior, or anything I have seen in the local scene. Better still, every shot is in the interests of the story. That didn't make them any easier to pull off. We had crane shots coming up from toe to head, sweeping through the entire set, swooping around the characters, along with the simpler push-ins. Brock conceived of them, and we did our best to execute. They are some of the most beautiful shots we've ever done. If we have any issue, it will be that they are just too pretty compared to the exterior shots, which suffered somewhat from being my first time out with the new camera.
I really could go on and on about the how the day went, but I'll leave the rest to Brock. Just ten or so more pick up shots and we'll have our images.
I'm not entirely satisfied with what I did with those eight weeks. As it goes with time's of unemployment (voluntary or otherwise), there is some level of stress and unceratinty. Without knowing when or where your going to be working next, you never end up taking full advantage of the time you have. There is also the factor of dwindling funds in the bank account that makes unemployment very different than other periods of "vacation."
The first week or two I was going like gangbusters on Tim Nm, CPA. After a year and half, I actually pulled out the stack of tapes, captured, screened, and rough edited nearly the entire film. Darn, I'm just now realizing that I never got the audition scene shot, which goes to prove my point. Getting everything set for the Wildlifeless studio shoot would have been nearly impossible were I employed, as well. Other than that, I am aware I worked on a lot of things, but finished very little.
Well, time to get to bed, get to work, and get on with things. Let's hope this is the last job I have in Phoenix.
I'm going to do a short post tonight for the sake of time and dramatic effect.
These songs are "Dangling Off The Ledge." Why? Because they're so close to inclusion but ultimately they probably won't make the jump.
20. Three Fingers
This song is based on a true story that I heard at work. The events described in the song actually occurred at the Big E in West Springfield, Massachusetts. No lie. In short the story is that this no-legged, one-armed cripple with three fingers was sitting on the ground, probably watching the parade go by, when someone stepped on his fingers. I mean, what are the odds, given how few he had? Fortunately this moment of irony has now been forever preserved in Three Fingers. Musically I'd say it's quite a departure from most Moon Is No More Songs. Originally recorded on accoustic and this seems like the type of song that should stay that way, what with it's gentle plucking and all. Lyrically, I always felt the rhymes and flow of the words, though simplistic, worked well. A sampling from the chorus-y part of the song: "he didn't look appealing / looked like he was kneeling / seemed like he was feeling / sad for what he's missing." The nice thing about this song is that it doesn't take itself too seriously, yet it stops short of being goofy. Originally we had an incorrect line: "he didn't have arms / didn't do much harm / missing a finger and a thumb / just a cripple though not dumb." I believe it was Bam! Bam! Emily Brown that pointed out the fact that he would obviously be missing a finger and thumb if he had no arms. The line was easily changed to "he had just one arm."
19. Pitying Bowls Of Saucy Lovelessness
Wow! I never thought I would live to see the day that this song would rank so high on a Moon Is No More list. Unfortunately, there was no denying the energy that this song brought to the table when we played it live at the final Moon Is No More show at the Zeitgeist Gallery. The guitar hook and driving drums were unstoppable. Because of the style of the song my lack of vocal talents are minimized. I'm basically talking really fast with a slight funny accent. The lyrics come from a short story I had written and I'll reprint them in their entirety here since they're so short. The song consists of me speaking these lyrics at varying speeds three times. "you've reached equality and that can't be good for your head to be giant apples of wisdom does harm like rational mosquitoes that comment on your sweet refined blood your pitying bowls of saucy lovelessness." Yo! Yao! Far out!
18. A Good Conscience Is One You Have Yet To Find
A happy little song about compulsive dishonesty. The bottom line is we play this song very well. We always have. It's a short, easy to like grungey pop song that features gourds. How can you not like that? And I even get to play the gourds, marking one of my very few moments on an instrument (if you can call it that). I sing it decent, in a raging, rasping kind of way. We developed a great way to record it: the song starts with acoustic guitars and no bass and then all of a sudden jumps into electric and bass and drums and then finishes back where it started. It's just solid, not much more to say. Plus, how many songs do you know have the phrase "ad naseum?" I almost titled this A Good Conscience Is One You've Yet To Find and then realized that I hate to have contractions in my song titles so I went with A Good Conscience Is One You Have Yet To Find. And that little story is a explanation enough why song titles should be short. And that's the ideal segue to talk about...
I could easily be convinved to move this song higher, if only because I think the 12 Brothers EP is solid every which way around. This is one of the weaker ones of the bunch, though so here we have it at 17. As Joshua tended to do with 12 Brothers, he nailed the music. The anti-chorus slowdown is a perfect fit for Investment. A lot of research went into the lyrics for this song to ensure that the investment terminology was just right. When we talk about cattle options and whether we're selling or buying it has to be accurate. I mean, I work at an investment company. If I can't get that right I'd be in big trouble. Fortunately, Consultant Maikowski provided some insights into the world of option trading. It's actually a very interesting methodology but you have to really get it down before jumping in and I'd say it requires a bit more time than normal stock trading, though you can hedge your bets and decrease your risk quite a bit. But I'm getting off topic. Of course, this song is about brother number 12 getting back into the business world in the Southwest, after sneaking back over the border from Mexico. He gets an entry level position at an investment bank. "here's your cube and welcome to our firm / you can make it here if you can just grin and bear it / though the ladder climbing's slow here / so your shoes had better wear." That's a great verse in my opinion, not for emotional impact, but for pure flow and word usage. It's actually one of my all-time favorites. Of course, #12 has some bright ideas and he's willing to share. "senor this offer's window's getting narrow / so you need to sign up quick / if you dream of spending millions / then i suggest you listen to my picks / and i'll be right here to help you understand the risks" Another great verse. Joshua may have tampered with the ending to this one for the better so he deserves some credit. Then we get to the chorus. "cattle options / expire in seven years / you can sell them / in two thousand eleven." What can I say? It was 2004 when I wrote it so the numbers worked. Seven was the key figure we had to go with (for obviously reasons if you know the story) so our timeline got set in stone. Then we break into a little more Spanish just to prove we're in the Southwest (but I think it works). "mijo you've made some wise decisions / and now we'll be sure to make it through this famine / you've earned your new promotion / more money and more power in the balance / more money and more power in the balance." First, this verse is easily the weakest in this song but it's not terrible. It just needs a little polishing. Mainly this is what drags the song down to this spot on the list, it's incompleteness. I do like how we use the word "balance," which is the title of a later track. It adds to the symmetry. Then we go two more rounds with the chorus and altered chorus. "cattle options /expire in seven years / you can sell them / in two thousand eleven / cattle options / expired this year / if you ignored the warning / you'll go hungry i fear." Again, the altered chorus needs more polishing. OK, I've offically written far too much about this song.
16. Room 203, Part I
A simple easy-listening song. This was the fourth Moon Is No More song written and it holds up well. The last recording we ever did of this song came out very well with a full band. The story is about William Donovan Junior being taken to the hospital after the incident at Leonard Gardner's house. He sits in his hospital bed and pesters and nags Jeffrey L. Allen for sympathy by recounting various stories. This song has it all. Hospital references written before Pedro The Lion's Priests and Paramedics. References to suicide. The use of Biblical "times." A great "saved a boy from the wash" line. Probably best of all: Angie "plays" the pillow while I sing "you're so shallow / filled with sorrow / i'm a pillow / i'm a pillow." Any song featuring a pillow as an instrument gets an automatic bye into my top 20.
Next up we'll be discussing "The Fuzzy Edge" songs, 15-11.
As we get higher on this list we get into some very murky territory. It becomes even harder to differentiate rank at this level. That's why I'm calling this batch "Sitting On The Fence." In all reality, it is quite possible that half of these songs could jump much higher and end up in the final cut. For now, they're probably out.
Between posts I found my Moon Is No More MP3 CD and have had a chance to give a lot of more obscure songs a listen. This has definitely helped revise the list, though there weren't many changes to the songs from the previous posts. Last Resort, Part IV was not what we thought and it moved down to 39.
Let's get to it.
30. The Gradual Progression Of Loss, Part I
As was mentioned, I found the Moon Is No More MP3 CD. As I mentioned in my original post regarding this song, if my memory was jogged this had the potential to move. With the additional information provided therein I did feel the need to bump this song up a few spots. Somehow we made the song with no melody work. That alone has to be worth at least two places on this list. The full band rendition featured a great mid-song change from brushed bongos to full drums that works really well. The lyrics make for an interesting bit of poetry (their original intention) but a less-interesting song. On the other hand, the lyric file for this song contains one of my favorite notations under MUSIC: "Chan style: C". Hopefully you know what that means.
29. On Account Of The Abuse
This is a slow jam that Joshua really seems to love. For me, it's OK. There's definitely something trippy about it and we've only played once to my knowledge. That makes it kind of hard to judge. It has some good potential, though. The lyrics are off the wall and feel somewhat disconnected throughout. "I am ill."
28. Ghetto Gap Gay Guy
4G's. In our original recording this song was far too repetitive. However, it had a nice alternate part near the end. If this were mixed together a little more effectively we might have something.
27. Last Resort, Part II
When I originally wrote the lyrics for Last Resort, Part I and Part II I always thought I would like Part II better. It seemed to snap better. Alas, it was not to be. Part II eventually turned into a nondescript punk-pop song that lacks pop. It still has a nice flow but it's lost some of it's effect over time. It isn't as re-listenable as most of the other songs. In this song we see the reuse of the "when all else fails / try avoidance" line which kept popping up in my lyrics. I thought the harder rock song would deliver a better delivery on that chorus punch, however it turns out that Part I's slow, but more heartfelt, delivery tops it.
Stands for Guaranteed Overnight Delivery, which is a delivery company. I really have no right to say I have anything to do with this song. It was recorded long before The Moon Is No More was a twinkle in anyone's eyes by Joshua and J. Michael Palermo, Part IV. It did not get mixed, however, until The Moon Is No More was in full force. I threw in some "perhaps / perhaps / perhaps" vocals that you can barely hear. This song has staying power, but it's frailty lies in the fact that it's a throw away song at 40 some odd seconds. On the flip side, everyone seems to love it. It's an easy song to grasp. That means that it could go as far North as 1 or as far South as 53. Instead, I've placed it firmly in the middle of this list.
25. Allowing Oneself To Neglect Responsibility
Another song that was originally just a poem. This song features cool callback vocals between myself and Joshua, followed by a cool little jam. I always liked this one.
24. It's The Children That Are Hurt The Most, Part I
I can just see Joshua getting scared as he reads that title. Don't worry, we're talking Part I here, not Part II. I wish I could remember the original title of this song, back when it was written 2 years pre-The Moon Is No More. This was my follow-up to Come & Gone. The original intention when writing the lyrics was for this to be a slow little ditty, probably conjuring up images of Sparklehorse. It even features a Sparklehorse line, "the flowers of evil," from Gasoline Horseys. When it came time to put this to music we just ripped on through it like a cowboy rock song. Joshua did a lot of good work on the music and official recording intended for Jeffrey L. Allen. He made it very palatable and interesting. It features a bass, guitar, and drum mini-solos. And that's saying something because solos were not something we did very often. The final version always had a little hard hitting country feel to me, in a good way. Maybe this should be higher.
23. La Fin, Part II
When I first made my list this one was quite a few spots lower, bordering on the 30s. After listening back to it I had to make a move on it. In fact, given time, this could move even higher. All I really need to say about this is that Joshua sings it in French. Maybe The Arcade Fire are having too heavy an influence on me, but that sounds like a darn good idea to me. In a later version he sang French while I spoke English all at the same time. That does not sound like as good an idea. But with Joshua in French it had a great melody and simple acoustic guitars. That's the way this song should forever stay. "c'est normal / c'est normal." When we were slated for three-discs this was going to be the final song. On a side note, was this some sort of weird precursor to Tim Nm, CPA and Days Of Being Wrinkle Free? I'll let the reader be the judge.
22. Quality Over Quantity
Here we go. The first song written specifically for The Moon Is No More. To call it a song might be an overstatement, given that it's mostly spoken word. It's possible I'm ranking this too high on a purely nostalgia basis. In a way, though, this is a historically important song because it set the tone for what The Moon Is No More was going to be about. We were not simply going to deliver "normal" music. We were going to do what felt right for us and make music along the lines of what we would like to listen to, even if no one else would want to listen to it. With time this song matured and Joshua did a lot of fine work revising the music. My favorite versions featured dueling vocals and a Karate style guitar/bass.
21. Standard Issue
Lyrically, this was written during a boring Arizona summer-time (again, pre-The Moon Is No More) with references to various objects around Joshua's house. Musically, this was part of the William Donovan Junior creative burst that took place on the Cape. Later it came to include either bongos or brushed drums with a creepy violin layered on top, courtesy of yours truly, with the help of the Hooper borrowed violin which we kept for like 3 years. One concern I would have for this song would be if I could recreate the violin solo. It was probably about 6 strokes long but, not being classically trained in violin, I'm not sure exactly what string or where my finger placement was. I wonder if we ever wrote that one down. I could easily see this slipping into the "Dangling Off The Ledge" songs.
One song has appeared and one has disappeared. I'll let you figure out which.
Time for the second edition of the 53 Best Moon Is No More Songs, in honor of Joshua's planned TMINM super-album. This batch of songs, from 40-31, have almost no shot at making this super-album. We still have a few that don't have music as well as some pretty poor work, but also a surprising song or two that Joshua may disagree with. We'll see how it all shakes out.
One thing to note is that this batch contains at least one representation from each of the "releases" that we had crafted. Even Jeffrey L. Allen gets into the mix in here towards the end.
40. A Thick, Wet Snow On A Cold January Morning - This was to be the second to last song of the three original albums. I like snow and this is the only song that includes snow in it, so maybe it gets an artificial boost. In my mind the lyrics were never really finished; they had never been refined. Maybe it gets another boost because I feel the refinements would have made this a really solid song. It's more coherent then most of the songs that I was writing at this point. It's also to be noted for being the second "cold morning" song (more on the first later). I must have had a thing for cold mornings.
39. Last Resort, Part IV - I think Joshua had told me that this song was really good and that I just needed to give it another listen to. Well, I found my CD of Moon Is No More MP3s and I could not for the life of me find a recording of this song. That just confirms my suspicions that it was bogus all along. Therefore this makes a move right down the list.
38. Monday, Part I - Here is the introductory song to the Schoolyard. It really has nothing to do with the characters of the story, but it sets our schoolyard theme of literally being in a schoolyard. It tells the tale of heading back to school on a Monday. In fact, that's the best part and the only reason it ranks this high. The chorus had such a good ring: "summer ends on / a sunday / and school begins on / a monday." Angie later informed me that real school children start school on Tuesdays. That really ruined things for me. Tuesday just doesn't work.
37. Accident - Still no music, though the melody is still floating around in my head, a slow dirge. The lyrics are actually pretty good, but they get extremely clumsy in the final verse. This is a setup song, in a way, to give reason for the protagonists' initial anti-gun stance. Sad, sad stuff.
36. Memorial - This song, intended to be the final song on the Schoolyard, provides a nice wrap-up to the EP. It recounts a memorial service held for the victims of the Schoolyard incident narrated by the deceased protagonist. Walking through some of the lyrics here are some highlights: 1) A Cleary lyric sighting within the first verse. This was more like a tribute than a rip-off (but that's what I always tell myself). "as i watch the sun rise / through another person's eyes." 2) Maybe it gets a little too cutesy with the listing of student names: "billy, kim, and timothy," then later "dawn marie and little joe / jane and jim and chris." 3) A nice comment on infamy: "through all of this despite my fame / there was no mention of my name / apparently there was no bearing." 4) And just to remind us that he's actually dead, and perhaps to confuse us as to his level of remorsefulness, we sum it up with this comment: "it was the most beautiful service / but i am not conscious / of any of this." Still never put music to this.
35. Transfer - Another song with that never received music, though I have memories of trying to craft a Pedro the Lion-esque guitar riff for this with Joshua. In my mind this is a really great lyrical compliment to Popularity. It follows a similar pattern: it starts happy-go-lucky but then quickly turns more sinister. This case is marked by slightly darker shades towards the end as the transfer student gains more and more power amongst the school's elite until a friend informs our protagonist (if you can call him that) regarding his girlfriend: "i heard he drove her home / he's taking over her." All in all in does a decent job of avoiding the typical Schoolyard goofiness, it sets a clear tone and feeling, and it has a nice story arc unto itself. I always enjoyed the chorus, too: "fooling around with us / will make you better off / you'll be productive in / the non-school product."
34. A Root Of All Sorts Of Injurious Things - This song always grated my bleeding ears. The music was only ever so-so and phrase "money money money money money money money money" gets repeated far too often. It's only saving grace is "sister had her needs / so overdosed on speed / failed first with codeine / but the doctors were so mean."
33. A Common Path To A Common Problem - It was tough for me to rank this so low. It had such promise but even at its best it would never be more than a decent, faceless and emotionless pop rock song. There is nothing about it that ever stood out. Joshua came up with great guitar bit for this but it was never a perfect fit. This song has always stood flawed. Too many times we would find a really good guitar part for the first verse of a song, then just reuse it for all subsequent verses, regardless of whether the lyrics worked or not. Too often we were reluctant to change the lyrics of a song, though I'm not sure why. Maybe Joshua can shed some light on that. In any case, it's opening verse, "through the jetway / and onto the plane / daddy can't save / from beyond the grave," was a great setup for An Ambitious Attempt At Failure which was originally slated to come too songs later. It's downhill from there. This song also features a repeated "fail miserably / be happy" section towards the end, a phrase we reused far too much. Believe me, there are no two phrases that work poorer when put to music than those twins.
32. Sunsets - This was originally a Bad Larry song called Anti-Global Rotation (I think). The Moon Is No More stole it to serve as the atmospheric centerpiece for 12 Brothers. It's a jam song, which would have been a tough thing to record in real life. The original recording features some great guitar work by Joshua, some decent bass work by Carl, considering he had never played bass before, some strange ambient sounds by Angie, some truly horrid yet moving drums by myself. On top of all that was layered some half spoken word / half sung lyrics that were actually part of a short story I wrote during a convention break entitled "A Quite Inconsequential War-Time Tale." This just would have never worked on tape.
31. A Telephone Conversation On A Cold September Morning - Here is the first song from the 10 track Jeffrey L. Allen concept, the concept that Joshua and I have been kicking around what seems like half a decade now. Oh, wait, it has been half a decade! In any case, you can imagine how hard it is for me to put this song on here. It started as an undoubtedly acoustic affair and then somehow morphed into an electronic track a la The Postal Service or The Headphones. In actuality by doing so Joshua made this song into so much more than the sum of its parts. I was never built to sing this song, we could never find the necessary female vocalist to complete it, and it just gets too boring towards the end. However, it still remains interesting to this day and may just be a few tweaks away from being resurrected. That's why they say it's "living on a prayer." You just never know.
Join us next time for the middle batch of songs, the ones I've termed the "Sitting On The Fence" songs, 30-21.
How do you rank songs? It's virtually an unexplainable process, at least for me. It's extremely arbitrary. I could break things down and rank each song in a number of categories such as Music, Lyrics, Melody, Popularity, etc. However, each category would in itself be arbitrary so I'm going to save myself and the reader the time involved in such a pursuit. Instead, I'm going to go with my gut. In fact, I haven't even listened to most of these songs in a long time. In some cases it's probably been years since I've heard the song. That's OK. This is all about feeling the flow. I reserve the right to change my mind at a later time. When I'm done I'll post a Google Spreadsheet that will serve as the living, breathing list if we decide to pursue this project.
So, with all that having been said, let's get to the songs.
The "No Chance" Songs - 53-41
These songs have a less than .01% chance, in my opinion, of being included on the super-album. There is not one song on this list for which proper music has been written. That's a good indicator that it's going to rank low on my list. Perhaps there are some good lyrics in this bunch, but more than likely not. For the most part these songs didn't have music written for them because the lyrics were so bad to begin with.
You might notice that there are exactly zero Jeffrey L. Allen/12 Brothers songs on this list. It's worth mentioning. Jeffrey L. Allen was the first album we wrote and while it was immature at times it was also the most straightforward as far as likeability and it probably exhausted most of my creative juices, where towards the end of the writing process of the original 39 I was spent mentally. 12 Brothers is just solid all around. Enough said.
In future posts I will rank songs on a one by one basis, as opposed to merely as a group. However, in this case, because these songs stand no chance it just didn't make sense to spend the time on that. So here they are in order of when they were written:
Room 203, Part II - I always enjoyed in the book how Jeffrey L. Allen ends up in the same hospital room that William Donovan Junior is in towards the beginning. This song is probably more about my enjoyment of that thought than about anything having to do with good music. The chorus, while it has a decent ring to it, is way too preachy: "make your life mean something / make a difference / accomplish something / of some importance."
Last Resort, Part III - This is tough, because technically without Part III how can you have a Part IV? The lyrics are poor at best, though it does have a standout line involving "retnal repitition." Thinking back, I feel a lot of the later songs that I wrote for This Is Normal hinged on a single phrase or line that I enjoyed. The rest of the burden of the song was simply hung up by that tiny nail. Most of these songs collapse from the weight.
Morality - The lyrics have no real structure. They are simply intended to comment on the moral of the whole story. The music was intended to be Radioheadesque, Kid A variety. The lyrics feature the classic "Who's to say?" line which was a real hit that summer and eventually morphed into "Who-Ta-Swane" and "Who-Ta-Sweeny." I think Skippy may have had something to do with the line "the imperfections of humanity are beautiful."
The Gradual Progression Of Loss, Part II - Actually, we may have come up with music for this, or maybe what I'm thinking of was just a variation for Part I. In any case, Part I doesn't rank to high on my list so a song with the exact same lyrics and no music can't rank higher. What arrogance to think that I could have two songs with the exact same lyrics and somehow make that fly.
The End, Part I - Worst. Song. Ever. This song feels more like a baseball game recap of the whole story than like a song in its own right. Terrible. Let's move on before I get depressed.
A Study Of Human Possibilities Through Household Decoration - Many a time we tried to start writing the music for this song and dumped out after the decent opening line: "oh angel eyes / make sense through signs." All discernable melody vanishes after that.
Moment And Moment II - Terrible lyrics. I remember one time I started feeling cocky and decided that I was going to write the guitar part for this song all by myself. There's probably even a recording of this, considering that we recorded everything. I was left greatly humbled and have scarcely touched a guitar since.
Driving Faster Than One Should On A Wet Road In A Thick Midnight Fog - What can I say? It has the longest song title of any song I've ever written. Really, that's all I can say.
Allowing Oneself Time For Reversible Reflection - At one time I thought this song had promise. It didn't and doesn't. I believe this may have started as a poem. I don't believe the poem was any better than the song.
Girlfriend - Now we get to the Schoolyard material. Looking back I realize that I overvalued most of the lyrics from this 9 song EP (is a 9 song EP even possible?). There were a few standouts, but more like this song. I was going for a Neutral Milk Hotel style fast, crunchy, pop song on this. I failed miserably. What exactly does it mean to "lick my lids?" I have no idea, but it sounded like a Neutrally bodily reference. And that's probably the high point of the song.
Protest - A nice anti-violence protest song. Too bad it's so goofy (which seemed to be a Schoolyard trait) and lacks any thing that could be called a melody.
Betrayal - I'm running out of self-depricating things to say at this point. This is a throw-in song to move the story along.
Monday, Part II - Starts goofy, then gets far too gruesome for my tastes. Much like all of these songs, this stands no chance of inclusion.
There you have it. Songs 53-41 that have no chance of appearing on the Moon Is No More super-album. Thank you for wasting 15 minutes with me. In our next article we'll discuss the "Living On a Prayer" songs, numbers 40-31.
It was a chronological retelling of the intertwining stories of Jeffrey L. Allen, William Donovan Junior, and Leonard Gardner. It was much like the script for a stageplay, with character names next to the lyrics. There was even a narrator. There was a title page, too. A guide to the whole lot. It specified three albums, an album for each of the characters. The project as a whole was entitled "This Is Normal."
jeffrey l. allen
1.01 quality over quantity
1.02 a homo sapien's mass of flesh, bone and muscle
1.03 pity versus sympathy
1.04 room 203, part i
1.05 the substance of nothing
1.06 a good conscience is one you have yet to find
1.07 a telephone conversation on a cold september morning
1.08 such things to such people
1.10 the gradual progression of loss, part i
1.12 it's the children that are hurt the most, part i
1.13 last resort, part i
william donovan junior
2.01 last resort, part ii
2.02 the root of all sorts of injurious things
2.03 standard issue
2.05 three fingers
2.06 ghetto gap gay guy
2.07 come and gone
2.08 pitying bowls of saucy lovelessness
2.09 a common path to a common problem
2.10 room 203, part ii
2.11 an ambitious attempt at failure before one's birth
2.12 it's the children that are hurt the most, part ii
2.13 last resort, part iii
3.02 heaven express
3.03 the gradual progression of loss, part ii
3.04 the end, part i
3.05 a study of human possibilities through household decoration
3.06 moment and moment ii
3.07 driving faster than one should on a wet road in a thick midnight
3.08 allowing oneself time for reversible reflection
3.09 an automobile's mass of steel, plastic and rubber
3.10 last resort, part iv
3.11 on account of the abuse
3.12 a thick, wet snow on a cold january morning
3.13 la fin, part ii
I have no idea how long this process took. I have imagined that it went quite quickly, like a week or two at the most. Jeremy can educate me there. Nevertheless, it couldn't have taken all that long, since the "lyrics" were not really written with song structure in mind, just sort of spilled worth from the pages of Sans Hands.
Before we ever sat down to write music, we did some planning. One Sunday at Olive Garden, we sketched out some logos on a napkin and wrote a big list of everything we would need to make this project a reality. That included instruments, software, equipment, and people. There was a timeline for releasing the triple album. Just over a year to get the whole thing done.
Electric Guitar & Amp (Eric/Mustang)
Drum Loops (Beazy)
Xylophone/Fisher Price Piano
Sound Forge 4.5
Logic Audio Platinum 9
Jeremy (Vox, Violin, Live Drums, Ambient Noise)
Josh (Vox, Guitar, Live Drums)
Graham (Vox, Bass)
Bryan (The Beaz) (Drum Loops, Noise)
This was followed by a trip to Toys 'R' Us to procure assorted toy instruments. Overall, it seems the original vision was more of a ambient/loop oriented music. This would change, along with many other things on the list, especially people.
Each Wednesday and many Mondays and Fridays, Jeremy would come over. He'd take a page off the stack, tell me what the emotional context of the song was, how he envisioned it stylistically. Sometimes this was straight-up punk music, sometimes weird pop, or funeral dirges. I'd play around on the guitar until I hit on something that felt right. He'd try to sing along. I'd suggest alterations to the lyrics to fit more of a verse/chorus structure. When we had something, we'd turn on the mic and record it. It was just Jeremy and I in front of the desk, recording into the computer mic. The date on our first recording is July 8, 2001. From the start, we recorded nearly everything we did.
On the original papers, we'd jot down lyric and structure changes. I'd write down some guitar notes, either quick tablature or just chords and capo position. When we brought in Carl as a bass player, he'd jot down his version of bass tabs on the back of the sheets of paper.
Sometimes it wouldn't work quite that way. I might have hit on something on the guitar that was good, but not right for the current sheet of paper. In that case, Jeremy might fumble through the stack until he found lyrics that did fit. So, although we tried to wade through it all chronologically, we jumped around from time to time, and those were often our finer moments.
The first few recordings have both me and Jeremy on vocals. It didn't take long before Jeremy was the sole vocalist.
On July 9, 2001, we were back at it, recording 1.03. It's a slow, mournful song about death and war veterans. It features Angie's music boxes in the background, a staple of that song to this day. 1.04 is a slow, more jazz-influenced song about a stay in the hospital. It started with Jeremy drumming on the desk, and towards the end Angie can be heard drumming on a pillow, to complement the lyric "I am a pillow/you're so shallow."
On July 10, 2001, we recorded our first multi-track song. It's was 1.01, the beginning of it all. I recorded three acoustic guitar loops, Jeremy hit the snare drum and hi-hat. We both recorded some vocals. The drum loop and guitar loops didn't really match. Not at all. We did it anyway. To us, it's a classic.
On July 13, 2001, we wrote and record 1.05, The Substance of Nothing. In a later form, this would become the most requested, quoted, and sung TMINM song. This was a poppy modern rock song in its original variation.
We got together four more times that July, and finally on August 1st. By that time, we had worked our way through the whole first album and onto a couple tracks from album two. All by ourselves, all acoustic. We had something to work with, and it was time to bring in the rest of the band.
August 2, 2001 marked the first full band practice/recording session for the band. Angie played drums, Graham played bass, I played guitar, and Jeremy sang. We made out way through four of the aforementioned songs during this session. Angie is no drummer, and Graham had only recently picked up the bass, so it's rough, yet has a charming garage-band quality to it. Jeremy took up plugging mic in through a distorted guitar amp for a unique effect we would use extensively later on.
That weekend, we went to our grandparents house on Cape Cod, and brought along the acoustic guitar and the stack of papers. That's how it was that in one creative burst on a lazy afternoon on Cape Cod that we wrote the music for 2.02 through 2.06. Not only was this five whole songs, but an amazing variety of styles. 2.02 was a Rolling Stones-esque riff rocker about money, 2.03 was a creepy night music meditation on common objects, 2.04 is chilling and frantic account of murder in a style somewhat reminiscent of REM, 2.05 was more playful, like Pedro the Lion at the carnival, 2.06 was an chimey, ethereal meditation on family with a Fisher Price Littlye Tykes intro. When we got back home on Monday, the 6th, we recorded these up acoustic, along with cleaned-up versions of some early songs.
The next major recording session happened over a month later. What happened in the intervening time was most interesting. We had a number of sessions to try out other performers. We found Graham to be not as committed to practicing as we would have liked. We tried out our friend T.J. on bass, but weren't feeling that. We brought in Eric Liversage (AKA Skippy from Cleary) as a second guitar, but were dissatisfied with his lack of timing and penchant for punk rock. The upside was the inclusion of our brother Carl to play bass. Carl had never played bass before. He may, in fact, have purchased his instrument and amp specifically to join the band. The other big find was one Vinnie "The Fish" Brovaco. He came over one night to play second guitar, which he did magnificently. However, the night ended with a conversation that went something like:
Josh: Wow, you're really good on the guitar.
Vinnie: Thanks, you guys are really good, too.
Josh: What we really need is a drummer.
Vinnie: You need a drummer. I can drum. I'm your drummer.
I'm drumming, look.
Vinnie sat down and started to drum along to our songs. He caught all the changes, and really brought something new to our music. To us, he was the best drummer we had ever heard. It was only much later that we found out that Vin had never drummed before.
Now, we must talk about Vin (also know at times as Rocko Brovaco) for a minute. We were all in our late teens or early twenties. Vin, on the other hand, was probably already over 40, and a devotee to prog rock bands of the 1970's. He was going through a divorce at the time. Maybe that in some way motivated him to come play us, as an escape. For whatever reason, he did, and he stuck with it. He was a faithful practice partner. It was a quite a juxtaposition to have him there with all of us young guys playing this weird music, that we didn't fully appreciate at the time.
By the time we next turned on the mic on September 5, 2001, it was to record a full band multi-track demo of 1.01. We weren't really set up to record multi-track properly at the time, and certainly not configured to record drums, but we managed somehow.
For the next six months, we were there, at least once a week, and often twice, playing as a band, recording often. We got really good at the core early songs, and eventually worked our way through the rest of the second album as a band and occassionally jammed on songs from the third album. Along the way, Vin got better at the drums, Carl got a lot better at the bass. By the end, we could pretty quickly tear through a new song, with Carl inventing original basslines that weren't mere copies of the guitar line, and Vin always coming up with accurate emotional interpretations on the drums. The last recording of this band configuration was January 18, 2002. It was 2.11, a song about suicide and happiness, with a poppy guitar picked part, a loopy bassline, and stomped out drum beat. It is wonderfully reminiscent of The Velvet Underground, and perhaps our shining moment as a band.
May 2002 brought tradegy. I was laid off from my job, and slipped into a funk for the rest of the year. Depression, illness, my life was a mess. The job market was as tough as it had ever been. Most days I'd sleep until 4 or 5 pm, get up and toss a couple resumes out through Monster and get no response. Then we'd go out to eat, watch some television, and I'd play some online game until 1 or 2 am. Rinse and repeat.
In late Novemeber, I got a call from an old co-worker in Phoenix with a job offer. It was an offer I couldn't refuse, not after six months of unemployment. Somehow through it all I had managed to get Cleary's album done and ready to release. That was how Cleary's CD release show became the first and perhaps the last TMINM show.
It was November 29, 2002. TMINM opened the show, with Carl on bongos and Micah on second guitar. Even in the local art gallery, we went for it in dramatic fashion. We started the show with the lights down and with 1.11, G.O.D., paying. This track is a 45 second industrial style track crafted out of very old guitar and organ samples that pre-dated TMINM. Just as that track ended, the lights came on, and we kicked into 1.09, Implode, a grinding metal-riff-rocker and kick in the face. Jeremy was the consumate front-man, putting on a show that involved a lot of attitude, a little dancing, and smashing of bell-sticks. Random Kate was next. Cleary headlined, but since Skippy bailed out, I was forced to play his songs solo. Sad.
That might have been it for the band. I think most people would have called it quits, having been split up by a couple thousand of miles. Yet, for some reason, we continued to collaborate. I started from scratch, and began recording all of the instruments for our first album. In September or October of 2003 I brought the laptop and some gear out to Mass. and Jeremy recorded all of his remaining vocal parts. Now I had all the tracks necessary and went to work, mixing and re-mixing, but never finalizing and releasing anything.
For my mega-vacation of two weeks spannign December 2004 through January 2005, I got crazy and booked two shows for TMINM. The idea was to get out to Mass. and assemble a band, targeting Carl and Micah, practice up and play the shows. It was a crazy idea. To top it off, we went with two completely different setlists for the two shows, so we had somewhere over twenty songs to learn in a couple days. Meanwhile, we shot a music video for Random Kate, shot a feature film starring Jeremy, and attempted to document our crazy band project. We even had an EPK to promote the shows to the press that I forgot about.
The end result was one poor show and one very memorable show. I've only watched back the first show at AS220 once. At the time I was surprised that we weren't as bad as I remembered. I thought we were really bad. We weren't. We were just really boring, which is just as bad, if not worse. It was a low point for the band, I think.
Two nights later, we played in Cambridge at the Zeitgeist Gallery. The place was packed, the crowd was friendly, we were engaging, and the songs were our newer songs, that were written mostly after the band had gotten together, and they were just plain better songs. It was a memorable show. I collapsed at one point from shear rock power.
Now that show may indeed be the end of the band. Since then I haven't so much as touched the tracks for the first album. I handed them over to Brock at one point, and he gave a positive review, but maybe he was overly optimistic? He gave good points to the thematic and storytelling aspect of the album, but as much as admitted that there was something unique and different about the music, and not necessarily in a good way. More in the way of 'this doesn't sound like normal music.'
OK, so having laid out the history of the band, I want to talk about the future. To me, the band is not dead. In a way it continues since Jeremy and I continue to collaborate on musical projects, including Schoolyard and Twelve Brothers. Jeremy has no problem churning out albums or mini-albums worth of narrative lyrics. It's me that has the problem getting the music to a state that is fit for public consumption. So, let me put it out there and get some feedback.
What we have recorded, the first album, has never sounded quite right. This is owing in part, to the low-budget, lo-fi manner of recording. Everything involved was crappy, from the guitars and amps, the mics and preamps, and even the software used to sequence it, and the lame effects used to punch it up. If it were up to me, I'd re-record the whole album.
But that's just the start of it. I think we have a more fundamental roadblock. Most bands write a vast quantity of songs to create a single album. They may write thirty or forty songs, work through them, and pick the ten or twelve best for their album. This is the way Micah got to his excellent album that should be out early next year (maybe just in time for his return next year). TMINM, on the other hand, started with 39 songs, and pretty much is ending up with 39 songs. It's as though it doesn't matter to use that some of the songs are subpar (and a number are), because we need them for the narrative construct of the album to work. It would be like a film with a missing reel. I think this may be a fatal flaw. We might be better off to reset ourselves and look at ourselves as a band, not a band based on a book. If we had the freedom to toss out tracks (like 1.07, which became 1.04, which has never been solid, and is downright annoying at this point), we surely do have a goodly album's quantity of good or great songs.
The other flaw is that once I got in to actually record songs, I took them in directions that may not be true to the music or best serve the songs. I tried to retain those unique qualities of the original recordings of Jeremy and me at a desk. Yet, Homo Sapien went from a garage/surf punk song to a dark-pseudo metal piece of trash. The aforementioned Telephone Conversation went from a folky song to a loop-based, keyboard song. Pity Versus Sympathy got too dramatic. Come and Gone got too poppy. And again none of them sound like real music, because I just don't know what I'm doing on the recording and mixing end.
But consider the songs we're getting hung up on. They are the first songs we ever wrote together. There are so many better songs we wrote later on in the process, and with more people involved. This original batch of songs are very generic. Often the bassline just follows the guitar part, there isn't a lot of variety within songs with the guitar parts, and simple things like congruence of bass and drum parts isn't even there at times. The songs we wrote later on were more interesting in every way imaginable, yet we may never get to them.
So, I have a couple of proposals for discussion.
1. We have to throw out the idea of three albums. While we do have three albums worth of songs, we do not have three albums worth of good songs. We need to pick and choose from the completed songs only the songs worth releasing, and go from there. Also, there's no way I can afford to release three albums that won't sell. One album is bad enough.
2. We need to get back to the essence of the songs. Every song does not need the full double-guitar, bass, and drums treatment. Some will be much better with simpler instrumentation, such as our original desk demos. In fact, we have to ready to release an original demo or two if they stand up.
3. We need to ensure some basic quality of instrumentation in all the songs. If the bassline and guitar match each other, we need to throw some diversity in there. Keep one or the other, and write a new part to fill in.
4. Real drums. The album suffers so much from the drum machine drums. We need Micah on this. His drumming at our live shows was amazing, and not to be matched by any drum machine in the world.
5. Seek professional help. I need to take a course, get some help, or something, to get the mix and effects on the tracks to resemble other commercially-released music. Normal music.
6. Re-record. Many of the tracks simply could stand to be re-recorded. If we are going to record new drums, and new bass and/or guitar parts, then we might as well re-record everything, you know.
Listen, we worked too hard and did so much, we can't just let this die. We need to release one album before we die. One big TMINM album that will be a testament to everything this band meant and did. I may need some help with this. I may need some independent evaluations of our songs (Brock and Gabe) to see what really is worth releasing and what is not.
Does that give us something to think about? More to come...
Hey, it's that time of year again. I get a CD in the mail with all of Rebecca Kinkead's latest works of art, and update her web site. This time around she's working in a style unlike anything she has done before. Her solo exhibition at the Clark Gallery runs through September.
SubJazz are my new local heroes. Matter of Chance will owe them in a big way. We should check them out Saturday, September 2nd.
Today, I decided to rearrange the sequences. I'm not sure how they came to be the way they were in the first place, but the new sequence will be: Vision, Research, Casting, Crew, Location, Theater, and Shoot.
Basically, you've got an accelerometer in your shoe and it's wirelessly transmitting data to your iPod for viewing on the screen, voice feedback through the ears, and later syncing with the the Nike+ website.
I know that doesn't sound like much, but trust me, it's worth it. I just recently completed the Utica 15K Boilermaker in record time. Record time for me, not for the Boilermaker. 1:23:46 was the time (5:57 better than last year). In any case, I need to do a lot more training next time and get that number way down. Nike + iPod will help.
Of course this meant that I had to run out and buy an iPod Nano (1 GB) because that's the only iPod that the Sport Kit will work with. I passed it off as buying it for Molly. Now hopefully she won't fight me over it when I want to go for a run. The other purchase they try to get you to make is that of the too expensive Nike + shoes that have a compartment under the left insole specifically designed to hold the sensor. Don't be fooled! You don't need the shoes for this to work. I'm using a key pocket attached to the bottom of my laces (which looks like this only less dorky). Nice and secure and by all accounts just as accurate as having it under your fat foot.
I finally received the Sport Kit via FedEx today. It was amazingly easy to set up. Plug in the wireless receiver to the bottom of the iPod and instantly you have a Nike + iPod menu to choose your workout, adjust your settings, or view your workout history right on your iPod. I took it out to the track and calibrated it at 400 meters. It was extremely accurate on my subsequent 3 mile run. It was a great run for me. The female voice feedback was actually very encouraging and peppy. It was almost like she really wanted me to reach my goal. At any time you can get the voice feedback to tell you your total time, total distance, and current pace by clicking the center button. That was all great, but that's only half the fun.
Next you take your iPod home and sync it up. iTunes prompts you to upload your running data automatically to the Nike + website. This site is a thing of beauty. Check it out if you don't believe me. You can view the site without having to sign up for an account. It's all Flash, if you're into that sort of thing. All your data is there, presented to you in gorgeous charts and graphs. You can set goals, challenge virtual runners, check out your records, and view your full running history. Nice!
Here's where I'm at:
1 run for a total of 3.03 miles with an average pace of 7'41" per mile. My fastest 1 mile is 7'35".
Hopefully I can bump those numbers up (or down as the case may be) shortly.
When all else fails try ... running.
The next big thing is taping the auditions. Are you guys ready for this?
Above are two stills from Scene 1, one each from the narrative and interview sections of the scene. I'll try to post two stills from each scene as I get them processed.
In this scene, Tim watches his favorite film, taking notes, and playing along to various scenes. It was a fun scene to shoot. We basically turned off all the lights, then brought up a few lamps and as many candles as we could find around the room. The television provided the rest of the light. Fortunately, Jeremy is as obsessed with the film in question as Tim is, so he was able to work the remote, blasting back and forth to various scenes in the film as we shot. Then, Tim discusses what inspires him about film, and his ideas for a new kind of film.
Lady in the Water is the latest film from M. Night Shayamalan, the auteur who exploded onto the scene so brilliantly he's become doomed to a level of scrutiny beyond anyone I can think of in film history. Worse yet, since he works by choice exclusively in the Suspense/Thriller genre, he is to a degree flexing the same filmmaking muscle's each time out, lending to a tendancy of not only comparing the merit of each film, but an internal comparison against his other works. That, Manoj, is the critical baggage you must drag through the airport of cinema.
Lady in the Water presents, from its opening credits on, a modern day fairly tale. One that takes ordinary people (a stuttering apartment building superintendant played by Paul Giamatti, for one) in an ordinary location (the aforementioned apartment building, with a cast of iconic characters) and traces their reaction to the extraordinary around and within. Even though the this is an ancient Eastern tale, the characters in it have names like narfs and scrunts (really) and so on. It's a tall tale, but is it a good one? When your stretching this far, you have to be very careful.
The film succeeds where Night is most comfortable, peering around corners but not quite, talking about things without mentioning them directly. This is the classic tension that he employs so well, and it's present in this film, though with fewer moments overall where you're likely to jump out of your seat. Where the film fails is the extent to which Night allows us to peak around the corners, what is allowed to walk around the corners, and the detail to which the mythology is laid out. If the Village prematurely revealed and then allowed too extended a view of its monsters, then Lady in the Water invites them over for tea and scones and proceeds to talk them to death, every last secret.
Night wants to make believers out of all of us. Yet, I'm not sure if he wants us to actually buy into this tale, or if he wants to prove to himself that he can make us buy in. There is so much self-referentialism at work here, I'm left feeling that perhaps this was more of an exercise than anything else. He even gives himself a major role in the film. He's not bad, but the whole thing is... yicky. In the end, he did make me believe one thing: Somewhere in Lady in the Water is a very good suspense film, once you strip off the goofy creature names, keep them further out of view, take out the clever self-referencing, and the bloated cameo. Keep these elements in and you are left with Night's most unrealized film to date, and left scratching your head.
Yet, it's not nearly as bad as the critics make it out to be. When they decry the film as final proof of Night's fraud, it strikes of bitterness, and perhaps rightfully so. The only non-beastly bad guy in the film is a film critic, soulless and petty. Sadly, while the critics' scenes provide an inside joke or two to filmmakers, they also provide the most direct break from the suspension of disbelief this film so hopelessly clings to. Well, Night certainly got his, but the critics may have the last laugh when it comes to this film and potentially all of his future efforts.