Challenger
Give People What They Want In Lethal Doses LP/CD
Released by Jade Tree, Feb. 2004

Input The Output
That seven year itch became
a life-long twitch and now I'm
agoraphobic to the bone
Anxiety pipe bomb of worthless steel and fading charm
Don't try to act like you don't know
A secret meeting time? Set the date, force field eyes
Apology: revoked
Gonna sleep sound on my own
Get away from your time zone
Flightless intention all the way away
Anakastic existence. Love? It's just an added expense and
this operation must downsize. Make a ripple and run.
Cut off fingers one by one and
Input the output of the storm

Notes:
"7 Year Itch" is a reference to a Marilyn Monroe movie in which some guy who has been married for seven years is tortured by thoughts of infidelity when Monroe moves into the apartment upstairs. "Life long twitch" is a reference to the long-term effects of compulsive behavior. The song dispenses with romantic love completely by the end as not financially profitable. In the end chorus, we're all encouraged to yell and break things.

Death Museum
Whitewash the walls
Of the shopping malls
Until they gleam gleam gleam
Like a death museum
Mount and display
The ones who got in the way
Of the bulldozer’s path
A war memorial to the enemies of math
To the ones who refuse
To disco dance on the crematorium steps
When we awake
From this deep, dark sleep
Will we crawl crawl crawl
From our self-made mausoleum

Notes:
Second verse imagines former Fort Thunder resident Mat Brinkman stuffed and mounted in a trophy display case in the living room of some yuppie bohemian living on Eagle Street in 2056, in a hallucination had while drinking Robitussin in late 1996. Chorus is left over unused words from "the installment plan." Four tracks of guitar solo by Dave Laney.

Blackouts
Things between us stay right here
We broke the lamps
We punched in holes to the walls
Got stitched up
Forgot it all
Can I kick it
Can I kick it
Can I kick it again?
I bet that we could take it further as a team
Light’s off. Grid’s down.
I hope you make it home
Can I kick it
Can I kick it
Can I kick it or will the walls fall down
Feels like someone’s waiting by the door
I want to slip this ring on you
So we can be eternally
Conjoined in a fairytale end
When we cut each other’s throats
At least it’s hand on hand on hand

Notes:
Ashley Smith describes being in Manhattan during the blackout of 2003: "I'm pretty apocalypse-focused anyway. So when the grid went down, I thought, "this is it. The end of everything. I'm going to lose my mind. I better get a drink." The entire population of 10 million seems to have had this same reaction to the apparent collapse of industrial civilization, and great partying reportedly ensued. I take these anecdotal accounts as a hopeful sign: let's keep them in mind as a blueprint for how to behave when industrial civilization really does collapse.

Dave scoffed at me when I told him we couldn't use the song title because it was already the name of a Les Savy Fav song. "What are they going to do, sue us?" he said. True.

Unemployment
I’ve got holes in my pockets and
It gives me a headache
I clench my fists, try to will them both away
Can I get a cigarette? I need a new habit
My old ones just don’t seem to cut it anymore
Why raise your expectations
Just so that you can get let down
There’s millions of us around now
Scoping the ground now
Looking for a ticket out
We’re so sad and self-satisfied
when we’re talking amongst ourselves
About the way things ought to be
But the reality is we’ve got too much time on our hands
To handle the amount of time our hands are dangling by our sides
You and me are always going to be
At the bottom of the heap
There will always be some go-getter
Who can do the job better
So climb your ladder, I’ll collect my check
For six more weeks
Hey man, I got a question
Where’s my pension plan?
When does that kick in?
Hey man it’s not about the money
It’s about getting what you deserve

Notes:
My mom told me a story once about trying to get employed as a housecleaner. The woman whose house she was going to clean, upon finding out that she was a musician, refused her the work. "Your hands are too important for cleaning," she said. It's hard times for almost everyone in USA right now, making this a good time for the musicians and artists: here a song strategically calculated to have mass appeal among people with nothing to do all day but sit around and listen to records.

This Is Only A Test
Subject belongs to test group A
So sing me a lullaby of sea songs
Chinatown will wake up alright
Hardly the specimen to resist
An average mistress wears my shoes
Painted faces in my room black and blue
Robbery in Cermak was on the news
We fucked ourselves up in this room
The beaker breaks. End test. End game.
Survival research challenges aim
And the pension we pull fails to pay
All of our pals will laugh and say
You're always looking for somebody to hold you
You're always looking for somebody to trust you
You're always looking for somebody to tell you
That hey, it's alright
If you want to spend the night, it’s alright
Our lonely subject longs too...

Notes:
The line "Survival Research challenges A.I.M" does, in fact, refer to the Bay Area-based arts collective that manufacture giant battling robots versus the fictional Marvel Universe enemies of Captain America, Advanced Idea Mechanics. The line, then, could be read in various ways: literal (how good of a fight would that be), in terms of the battle between truth vs. image (reality vs. fiction), or as a tragic comment on the inadequacy of what we have on this mortal plane compared to our visions of what could be.

Original title "test pattern" meant to continue the theme of song title stealing. (Title taken from Born Against). But who knows, those people may have lawyers.

Brand Loyalty
You’ve gotta have sympathy for the bomb
As it’s falling to the ground
Locks go down
What’s the lifespan of this town?
You’ve lived here all your life and you’re still scared
Congratulations on your phony matrimony
Here’s hoping that you evade the FBI
And I will try not to cry
When you come by to say goodbye forever
We’re never gonna see each other again
Because I’m going underground
You’ve gotta have sympathy for the bomber
The contact’s breaking
In love with her hand grenade
Your vision’s taken backseat to the lessons taught
Your sight is poorer than you thought
You’re great but it’s never going to work out between us
It’s never gonna work out between us
After tonight we’ll never be together again
They’re onto me

Notes:
This song is your basic relational melodrama, occurring in early spring 2003, while John Ashcrofts genius "special registration" is in effect. This adds legal excitement and political commentary to the melodrama, as the Bush government is at this time attempting to corral the citizens of the "axis of evil" countries out of the country in standard totalitarian fashion. Special registration was repealed earlier in 2004, after thousands of deportations.

The main problem with this song is the title. What does it have to do with anything? Where the hell did it come from? Off of a pack of cigarettes is the sad fact: "the brand of loyalty" was the slogan, which seemed like it somehow made sense with the overall theme.

 

 

Sweet Vaccine
Girl, we ain’t got a lot to talk about
But I’m just glad we’re not in the quarantine hut
So let’s get what we can get while the getting’s good
Before these poxes get us boxed and buried in the dirt
I wish I had some different drugs, study drugs
Ritalin or something good for concentrating, motivating
Down at the scientist club, they’re drinking up
They know that there’s no cure. It’s just a matter of time
You can catch up on your homework on your own time
When you come to my home you work for me
I’m yours, you’re mine, that’s the equation
If I can work this out I’ll get a Nobel prize
You’re just an I.O.U.
More work for me to do
You’re just a notch on my belt
A trophy to brag about
I hope I get what you got
I want it on my permanent record
If the vaccine’s sweet then the side effects be damned
How’m I gonna resist it when it’s right here in my hand
I’ll take a placebo if it gets the same results
Stand in front of a jury and be tried as an adult

Notes:
The official story on what this song is about is that there's this scientist who falls in love with this beautiful girl who has some horrible, incurable, bubonic type of plague. He's always been kind of an unambitious guy, but one day in the lab he sees his chance to rise to the occasion, focus his brain, the information before him, and the world-historical moment, and find the cure. If he can do it, he'll get it all: the girl, the adoration of the scientific community, vast wealth, and the assuredness of having done something noble and wonderful for humanity with his life. He gets so caught up in how great and noble his mission is that he spends the last moments before the girl explodes into pustulous blisters staring into a microscope and congratulating himself on his imminent success, and then dies alone and shamed at having squandered even a moment of precious earthly love, a few days later, also of pustulous boils.

The Angry Engineer
We're graveyard-bound
On a hijacked train
We’re sitting down
Standing up and sitting down again
Everyone inside is scared
They're holding hands to handle screams
They're singing aloud
Or reading the paper to tune it out
We're traveling atomic tracks
Through landmine fields of doom
Somehow I made my way
To the engineer’s room
I said: Hit the brakes, stop the train
There’s innocent people back there
He just smiled, shook his head
And put his fist into the air
5-4-3-2-1 ground zero
Throw your hands in the air
If you don’t want to get to where we’re going
Then why did you pay the fare

Notes:
Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, upon witnessing the detonation of the first atomic bomb, was moved to remark, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." I say, if he was so smart he should have thought of that before he helped design it. You can't moralize about technology after the fact. If it exists, it will proliferate: the idea of limiting nuclear arms to a limited set of countries is infeasible and also ethically wrong. The USA certainly doesn't act responsibly enough to ought to be allowed to possess them.

This song, despite coincidentally being about a disgruntled train engineer, is in fact named in acknowledgement of record engineer AJ Mogis, with thanks for his hard work and putting up with the band's behavior.

Crushed City
This city's got a crush on me
The driest romance of the century
An arctic plea to fallen stone
A disconnection notice on the phone
You’re all lined up like you’ve got something to prove
Are you waiting for blood or are you waiting for the truth
I think about I think about a blindfolded fight
Where all the streets will wear the glasses and I'm never right
I'm thinking bad thoughts almost every night
I'm thinking bad thoughts almost every night
Like taking candy from the mouths of babes
Like picking flowers for your lover from another’s grave
Are the buildings collapsing from the weight of sin and
Will I be frozen if I look back at them
I'm thinking bad thoughts almost every night
And I'll think about these things until I get it right

Notes:
A response to X's "I must not think bad thoughts," this song propounds the importance of thinking them in as clear and articulate a fashion as possible at all times.

The Trojan Horse
Should have quit drinking, smoking, popping pills
Or whatever it was that kept you paying your bills
Should have headed for the hills
Should have been paying attention when they marched in
When they marched in someone must have been
Sleeping on the watch
When the soldier at the door smiled at me I caught a glimpse of his teeth
Like the walls of a city
Busted from the inside out
Should have realized that gift is poison, should have read the translation
Looked the present in the mouth
But you gloated you gloated
How you got so loaded
And you still got promoted
And you thought nobody noticed
How you got in charge
But now you’re in charge and it’s your responsibility
You’re in charge and it’s your responsibility
What you gonna do
The barbarians are at the gates
The barbarians are on line two
And no, they will not hold for you
Should have haggled with Hector for a hectare
Instead they broke your neck, your back
You got drawn and quartered and the quarters got halved
Brought the kids and that’s how we taught them math
How to add and subtract, devour and attack
It’s just ashes now.
You’re sucking on the ashes.
Your home’s burned to the ground
We should have voted, rioted, showed dissatisfaction somehow
But it’s too late for that now
I know all the old curses and what’s worse is
I ain’t afraid to go and throw one or two right at you
You better watch your back because back here we’re watching you
With your luck, your luck is coming right back at you

Notes:
A trojan horse is a type of computer virus which is used to sabotage operating systems of large corporations. Virus-makers in the hacker community often target the Microsoft Corporation, which seems to have been singled out for symbolic significance or protest of its monopolistic practices in the software world. But this song, on the other hand, is a recounting of the Greek victory in the Trojan War, which was accomplished using a gigantic statue of a horse. This horse was so big and flashy and spectacular that the Trojans could not resist it. So they pulled it into the gates of Troy, where it hatched open, piñata-style, to reveal all the Greek soldiers within, who swarmed out and conquered the city. Looking back on that historical epoch now, we think to ourselves, those Trojans were a dumb bunch, they should have really seen that one coming, but look at us, my fellow Americans, who are sitting around complacently while an alcoholic frat boy and his ape-faced brother pull a coup d'etat on the presidency and lead us into world war three. When our cities start burning down we'll be equally unprepared.

 


Challenger

When Friends Turn Against You CDep/1-sided 12"
Released by Day After, Oct. 2004

The Indictment
Physician! Physician! Why don’t you heal yourself?
Technicians! Technicians! Tear your tools from their shelves.
Plastic surgery is needed immediately. We’ve got to look our best for the inquest.
Just like Leopold, doing it all for the love of Loeb.
We’ve gotta look our best for the inquest.
Look alive for the autoposy.
Days turned to weeks and minutes to days and then the bandages came off my face and I was
as shocked as anyone to see the brand new me.
No complaints! Who doesn’t like the feeling of skin on scapel?
I’m going to win this lawsuit with the ease of a swimsuit competition.
Here comes the judge!
(Everybody stand up!)
Here comes the judge with the verdict.
Judge: Before the jury presents their verdict is there anything the defendent would like to say to the court?
Defendant: Umm, yes. Well, actually.
The real crime is the time you wasted waiting for the permission this gavel could give
but if you want to live- I mean, really live- you’re going to have to give something of yourself away.
Judge: Let’s hear what a jury of your peers has to say. I think they’ve got your number. I think it’s not your day. Let’s hear what a jury of your peers has to say. Their thumbs are pointing downward. Today is not your day. Let’s hear what a jury of your peers has to say. I think they’ve got your number. Let’s hope they throw away the key.

Notes:
A song about fear of jury duty. I had wanted to do a “People’s Court” style dramatic court room scene in a song for a while. But unfortunately, not much of substance is on trial in this song: just the usual, injured feelings of overly sensitive members of the intelligensia. The last day of our recording, as everyone still was trading off turns at vocal takes to decide who got to do the voice of the judge, engineer Stan Wood felt his grip on sanity begin to weaken just a little.

Crash Course In Crashing
We crushed ourselves,
So the broken bones,
Well that’s on me.
We can tip toe around–
Race without a sound.
From North Carolina to the seven seas.
Cast the sails higher pick up speed.
And we’re going going going ‘till eventually we reach the end.
At 6 degrees can you feel your extremities?
Is the power going off inside of you?
Do you know where you will go to when we’ve broken all your bones?
Well the destination’s out there.
So spin the globe around and put your finger down and we will drive.
We will drive each other crazy.
From North Carolina to the seven seas.
Cast the sails higher pick up speed.
And we’re going going going ‘till eventually we reach the end.
At 6 degrees can you feel your extremities?
Is the power going off inside of you?
Do you know where you will go to when you’re left out in the cold?
Can you feel the frostbite’s kiss?

Notes:

Dave Laney’s North Carolina battle rap; also a song about the statistical likelyhood of car accidents. Although there are two guitarists in this band, there are three guitar tunings on this song. What are we thinking? How are we going to pull that off live?

Victim Of Changes
Wrote your name in cement with a stick. You think it’s going to stick, but they’ll just sandblast it away eventually and you’ll be forgotten, like everyone else. Thick as a brick, dumb as a post. The one who compromises most is the one who never changes. It gets underneath your skin and makes you angry. Very angry. You look pale, so pale, are you not feeling well? Unrecognizable because you haven’t changed at all.


Notes:

The lyrics to this song written ten years ago (or so), as a prediction for the future, which actually did come true. “Wrote your name in cement” references “Al Burian, King Of Punk,” written into wet cement in front of Marc Owens’ apartment, Durham, NC, and still there as far as I know. The more recent experience of writing my name in cement in Chicago and having it obliterated within one hour prompted me to resurrect the song lyrics. “Angry– very angry,” added in 2004 just so I could hear Remis sing it. Song title was lifted from Judas Priest.


The Tree Surgeon

Extend a branch to make amends like trees that grow and know no end.
Like trees that forget that if they spread their branches too far they will kill everything.
You could grow so tall
You could live so long
You could do so well
and suffocate all who are below.
Hey man, you’re stretching out further than you think.
Give me some room! This is my world too and you’re crowding me.
You can’t see the forest for the trees.
You will kill everyone.
What’s it going to be?
Are the rings wrapped so tight you can’t remember what’s inside?
Narcissistic and persistent, ungrateful to the ground.
A lesson learned a thousand times is a lesson you didn’t learn.
Your skin’s as thick as bark but I’m going to leave a mark.
Looks like it’s time to get the hatchet out.

Notes:
The song topic was not lifted from Rush; itís actually a coincedence. And there really is such a job as a tree surgeon. It seems like a good job to have if youíre not a “people person.”

Bombs Over Baghdad
Bam! Pow! While you’re waiting to hear mortar fire, check this out:
The valedictorian is back in town, and he’s missing an arm! “Remember when we danced to
‘Bombs Over Baghdad’ at the high school prom? Well, how ya like me now?”
If Hinkley had a shot in the director’s chair, would he have developed Jodie Foster’s character?
Or just given Bickle better aim?
This is a party! This is a disco! Yeah! You’ve got time for that right now.
You’ve got options, you’ve got futures. You’ve got investments in your day-to-day.
And the world is spinning slowly weighed down by the weight of white men.
You ought to hang your head in shame.
You’ve got sticky fingers from the blood that’s on your hands.
Aren’t you ashamed to let the poor kill the poor in your name?

Notes:
The only time I’ve ever been in a recording situation where it was openly and honestly declared that we needed to get it to sound more like a beer commercial. We really worked on those guitar solos.