It’ll hit all other streaming services the 23rd.
This here is a friendly reminder that I’ve got an album out this Friday, January 6. The World is a Living Organism is its name. It consists of eight originals I wrote in the spring of 2022 plus two covers of traditional tunes I learned at Camp Christopher.
It is as much a concept album as anything I’ve done, even as most of my past LPs have had common themes running through them, such is the nature of recording and quickly releasing one’s every whim in roughly the order they’re written. Some 11 years have gone by since my first proper release, but this album feels fresh and strange, at times funny, often obscure with lyrics that don’t try to make all that much sense, yet beg of their own profundity…it is a continuation of the work I’ve made since Allie and I moved to Worcester, MA, yet also stands alone as a statement of sorts–not a heavy handed prophecy, but a rumination on the collocation of joy and sorrow, pain and healing, present and future. It is a world unto itself, a jack-in-the-box waiting for you to twist its crank until the jingle jangle abruptly halts and the jester flies from its encasement, startling you every single time. On the whole, it is the whoosh of a punch thrown through the air intentionally missing a target, the bang of a drum sewn into an inside jacket pocket, the switch of a mind from psychosis to sanity and back again. It is the will and the won’t of a fever dream one wakes up from only to forget it in tiny increments until the whole memory is gone forever. It is a thought process regarding what the world has come to, and what we might do with ourselves in spite of our ultimate demise. True that I wonder what these songs really mean, honestly. Honestly, I might figure them out sometime years from now.
1. The Path We’re On
2. Lonesome Angel Howl
3. The World Is a Living Organism
4. River Gourd Canyon Stop
5. Come Go With Me (traditional)
6. Listening to Okkervil River Alone in Autumn
7. Rhetorical Wind
8. The Living Organism Speaks
9. When They Ring Them Bells
10. Easy Come Easy Go (traditional)
with reverence to is the name of my new publication, gathering together 24 essays on everything from Cleveland sports, to music and literature, to more personal pieces on life, death, and the American society.
This 112 page first edition is available for $8.99 at the link above.
I will always and forever host free content here on my website, with its decade-plus of writing already in the archive, but I have decided to open up the possibility of growing the work that will presumptively, decades from now appear on rarities bootlegs–shit that at one time I would have handed you on notebook paper or a burned CD. To me, the idea of writing something, performing something, or otherwise putting something together that is special to a situation–not contrived, simply stated and presented in earnest–appeals to me.
Patreon feels like a way for me to offer a look into a process, capturing moments in sound and letters, pounding away like a thunderstorm, never stopping until the clouds roll out. My art, I think, is a lot like a thunderstorm. For me, the rain is pretty constant. And I’d like to better share it all with you in a more personal way.
I will be recording demos of new tunes, rearranging cover songs and new versions of old tracks, while also writing stream of consciousness essays and poems however my fingers happen to drift upon the keys; delivering downloads, sending out merch, and altogether trying to be a professional musician without standing in front of people and feeling so very uncomfortable. For whatever it may seem to some, gigging for me is rarely fun, even if at times rewarding. This is my attempt at a way around it.
If you want to and are able, check out the link in my bio and see what it all adds up to. And while you’re at it, have a beautiful weekend.
I started to write this piece before Game 4, just to give myself some perspective when I knew that Cleveland will be trying to close out a series against New York either in a game 4 or 5.
The fabled Yankees. The 250 million dollar payroll against the measly 54 million. A big market team against Cleveland. This was David and Goliath. It wasn’t biblical, but christ if I couldn’t stop myself from thinking it was at least a mirror to the world we live in. Goliath winning would be a reflection of a cold Capitalism, spending money to make money to such a degree that you can count the dollars stolen, and likewise double an opponent’s home run total, have a guy break the AL single-season Home Run Record, split 2 games at home, and still come on over to Cleveland to try and reassert a perceived dominance, all while polluting our minds with their grandiosity, their gross bat flipping mid-game, their bastardized version of what baseball never was and not at least what it could be. A Goliath like New York losing, with their utterly useless fanbase (who would dare boo a man in a 3-day slump after he just hit 62 regular season Home Runs; or throw bottles at opposing outfielders when their own team has just walked it off mid-season) and an ownership who are perpetually hellbent on spending and spending and demanding wins, clean shaven faces, and a presumed Yankee Pride…them winning would be like a day out of step with my entire personal outlook on life right now. I thoroughly believe in David. So much it makes me cry when he wins. Because it isn’t every day that he does.
I don’t cry when the winners win. I sit back with a general distaste in my mouth, knowing full well that those who rule the world — in sports, in theatre, in government — are not the truth we cling to in times of trouble. Every day I wake up and I am nearly certain we as a People have little chance to win a life as we’ve never known it: a time for peace and reflection, loving an extended family, and trying to live right in a world all wrong. Most days do not allow it. Yet I still wake up every day. I open my eyes. I read the news to make sure the world hasn’t ended, get up, make coffee, smoke a cigarette, and basically reset for another in a long line of days. I have trouble doing it sometimes. I think we all do. But when David wins, it’s worth it.
David and Goliath is an interesting story. In no small part because David does not beat Goliath with Goliath’s own weapons of strength. While Goliath tries to pulverize David, David simply sits back, fires a stone, and stands up in victory for himself, the everyman, the blessed Sisyphus, the down and out, the ridiculed, the Never-Won-Before. David does what he has to to survive, to triumph, to stand victorious before every perceived foe and claim, “By God, I really did it didn’t I? Well did you have any doubt?” Even in all my fatalism, in my pessimism, in my complete succumbing to the notion that We will never Win, I still hold out hope for that stone to find its mark.
And here I am, a man alone in a house, watching baseball, the Guardians, that David of a Baseball Team, lose to those fabled Yankees.
Well, It’s the bottom of the 8th. But it’s 5-1 so let’s be realistic for once.
Yet of course, I don’t want to be realistic. I want the underdog to win, goddamnit. I am so tired of the Mighty. They can mostly — in sports, in society, in government — fuck right off, with their big man boasting, their bat flips mid-game, their machismo. The Guardians wanted to win. The Yankees expected to win. And there is a difference.
For all my idealism, my romanticism, I am, as the whole of the Cleveland Guardian fanbase is, tired of this.
“Who’s Your Daddy,” they chant as the Guardians begin to walk the short step to the bottom of the staircase. Josh Naylor made a fool of himself. But either way, it was just a bunch of weak contact not placed well enough to just run their asses off. Easy outs, loud outs. They’re all outs. And as the audience at home is told the Yankees only hit .182 against Cleveland pitching this series, I fear my point is well made. David once turned those supposed outs into runs. Goliath with their one-two punch and the power behind it showed very well how baseball games are played anymore. Just shit loads of strikeouts, popups, and home runs. What a drag.
Even so, we cannot linger too long on why this sucks, because that is to diminish what the Guardians showed us this year. In a land of teams in dire straights, always losing without the long ball, this team hit and ran and stole and downright tricked everyone into losing to them 96 times out of 169. Remarkable. I mean, we got our home runs, and some big ones too, but in all that was working against them, a small market team proved they could win with those thousand little paper cuts. And even as you might need a shiv in the playoffs when Goliath is playing with knives, the overall look to the game is shifted. I do not at all like and even am 100% against the game the Yankees play. Bronx Bombers? Gross. I want seven singles in a row. Earn it.
Oh well. I am a bitter loser tonight. I watched almost every game this year and while they weren’t always well played games, this team had a heart and a chemistry that I’ve never seen on any team in any professional sport in my lifetime. They were nothing short of miraculous. I am damn proud to be a fan of them. And holy shit. Next year is going to be incredible. Just one pebble thrown. That’s all.
This is just the second step. It isn’t even for me to really be writing this. We have a long way to go, and not the least of our worries is that we’re about to play the Yankees and we struck out like 20 times today.
Work for baseball players is like drawing a storyboard: a series of situations you’ve prepared for yourself, have written down to look back on, to make sure the story is straight, to learn from a scene that maybe won’t land, an arc that lacks pizzazz, or a system of images out of step with themselves. If nothing else, these Cleveland Guardians have a hold on that storyboard; a flair for the dramatic, and a swagger that speaks both to their age and in defiance of it.
The narrative is fairly clear. For 15 innings today we watched a team battle itself as much as the opposing pitcher. These Guardians who struck out the fewest times in baseball this year put up a lot of strikeouts today. But both pitching staffs looked like those on a playoff team and the outs were fast for both sides. Hell the only time either team really should have scored was when the Guards had the bases loaded, nobody out in the 6th. But no runs. No hits. Three left.
Besides the obvious thing — that we just got to watch one of the best games in playoff history — these two games showed us that Cleveland is a team to beat. One that a lot of teams tried and almost succeeded at this year, and one that won a solid 92 games, 28 games in their last at-bat, and are 2-0 in these 2022 playoffs. For everything that this team could have been at the start of the season, 2-0 through the first round of the playoffs looks pretty spectacular.
Being young is like firewater: it either enlivens you or puts you to sleep. So as Oscar Gonzalez, who could have easily made the team out of Spring Training and either way became one of 17 players to make their major league debut this year, proceeds to hit the game winning home run to advance past the Wildcard Series, it is at least impressive and at most, storybook. Forgo all written strategy. Just find a way to win.
15 innings. We should lend a small gesture to Cory Kluber, whose presence as the opposing pitcher in this Holy Grail of Walk Off Homers is the most beautiful and the most sad thing that could happen. Sad because it brings back memories of the ‘16 team and their letting go of a 3-1 World Series lead…beautiful that Corey Kluber almost won that World Series for us Clevelanders, and just about put to rest the 70+ year curse against the Cleveland Baseball Team. He was here to be the unwitting catalyst for a playoff run that is at least interesting and at most transcendent. We see you, old man. You’re one of the best to ever wear a Cleveland uniform. Sorry it had to be you.
As we tip our caps to the past and look clearly at a present that is very very fun, we at least can take stock in something obvious: The Cleveland Guardians will be here for a while.
New York is next. Hell if I know.
It was 2009 and I had just dropped out of college, moved in with my sister to a large house in Asheville, North Carolina. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing and I was a high school honors student suddenly ditching school, working at my local Jersey Mike’s sub shop and beginning to form a body of work. I ate roast beef for 8 months and wrote dozens of songs.
That first year or so of being in Asheville, I don’t think about often. I was in a deep depression, cranking out material, wasting days and nights, and giving into the burgeoning mental illness inside of me that was encroaching, making itself known. But I was creating. There was talent there. I could do this, kinda. I could make music. I might be good at it.
Still, I destroyed some moments in time. I lost friends and I lost love. It would happen again and again but I don’t want to talk about that. At age 19 and living on my own in what amounted to my college experience, it was the work that mattered. It survives, anyway.
I’m telling you straight that I was then and am still quite schooled in the history and currents of pop music, rock and roll. As a child, when I was seven, I saw the Beatles Anthology on TV and became addicted. I swear I didn’t listen to anything but the Beatles until I was 11 or 12, and then it was just the rest of the 60s, those singers and bands I learned about through the Beatles and because of them, especially, at the time, Eric Clapton’s Unplugged. And I know it comes off as cliche for anyone to claim the Beatles as their main interest, focus, and influence, but I don’t need to tell you that those 6 years from ‘63 to ‘69 by John Paul George and Ringo cannot be matched and from my own age 7-10, it was all that mattered. The sheer output; the quality outstanding; the contradicting musical forms within a singular work of art…it’s astounding. But this is worn territory. I wouldn’t so much grow out of it all as grow past it.
When I was into my teens, the whole world of contemporary indie music – mostly indie folk as it were – came into my senses. I lived at the library from the moment I could read, but those high school years were crucial. I would get 20 CDs at a time, go home, listen to all of them and discern which ones I liked, which ones I despised, and which ones stuck, and rip them and burn them onto blanks I kept in a binder. Those albums that stuck with me have outstayed their reproduced form in my mind. The idea that a love for music can live on post-physical media is how I sometimes judge an album’s worth…are the only things that matter to me displayed somehow? I like songs, sure, but it’s the arc of With the Beatles that pleased me in my first CD purchase post-cassette collection. What would I continue to remember? Who would I feel like I could emulate and hold stock? It wasn’t the Beatles. But it was a lot of other artists, whose voices weren’t the strongest, their words a bit more lyrical.
But Asheville…I was 19, already a 2-time college drop out, making and eating really delicious sandwiches every day, and coming home to play and write music. I was the right age to dive in head first. I wrote constantly. Songs, poems, longform prose. I showed nobody. Five years later would see me not only grow comfortable with other people listening to me sing my songs, bare my soul as it happens, release my every whim and just guess someone might hear it sometime. But back then I was almost secretive about it. I wasn’t as good as the Beatles yet. Who. could ever be? Still, I fully believed I could at least be a throwback to a past’s modernity, with nostalgia and hubris intertwined to feed the basin of a presumed society’s stomach, its pulse racing, its senses dulled, my pulse racing, but my senses enriched, enthralled. I would at some point realize I could own that concept; when I was 19 in Asheville, I was simply building a body of work. Yet the understanding would gain as much ground as it could against the sleek intoxication of a passion hung right.
It was in this house in Asheville living with my sister and 4-6 others depending on the month, that I would begin to experiment. With words, with music, with substances. Smoking weed was a given in the late-’00 mindset of a college-age dropout: If you have no job and no family to consider, smoking as much pot as possible is just about the next best thing to happiness. Even as I did that to excess, it was psilocybin that caught my attention.
And this is where my point comes to land. I remember that night I first participated in that sacrament . I remember feeling the universe all around me, inside of me. I was everywhere and nowhere. But I was a lightning rod, I was sure of it. I would one day make music and literature and art like nothing to ever come before it. I was hearing life as a piece of music for the first time. For the first time, all my dreams came around and centered in front of me. I could do this. I am this. I strummed the major E chord until the stars came out.
Now, I don’t know if that night was the very first time I put on The Stage Names by Okkervil River, and I don’t think it was, but it was the first time I really heard “Unless It’s Kicks”. That was the song, man. It was like nothing I’d ever heard and everything I’d ever liked. It rocked harder with an acoustic guitar than so many others who have failed to rock at all. It was suddenly and grippingly my anthem, and as I sat there on my chair in my very blue bedroom, listening intently to that whole LP, staring at a poster of a young Eric Clapton playing a Gibson Les Paul coming out of the picture and playing next to me, my entire future spread out before my eyes, and I could see myself with a cult following, at least a couple people dedicated to hearing my truth, and a few hundred songs I could be proud of. Hell, Will Sheff could do it. I could sing like him. Swagger begets a good performance. I understood.
In response to a purely and ethically gauged output of real words set to rock and roll diction, I became positive Will Sheff was the genius of our time. I could work toward his work. I could do a version of what he was doing. It wouldn’t matter if my voice wasn’t perfect. It just mattered that I was writing words and melodies that coincided. Just like everyone always who does it the right way. I don’t know why but even after 10+ years of heavy research, it took Will Sheff to show me what can pass as perfect in an imperfect world.
That night in those conditions, surrounded in blue, haunted by the imprint of Eric Clapton and an 11 year old me only wanting to play “Layla,” feeling far too tall for the ceiling, Okkervil River became my one and only. Every day for the next 13 years, I have loved this band; Will Sheff, the pied piper of Indie Rock sleaze, the nerdy kid with glasses too big for his face who is secretly an expert in everything cool. Will Sheff the man and his music in turn laughably tossed off and intricately designed. Lyrics that tell one thousand stories per four minutes, an aesthetic both perfectly asymmetrical and highly intelligent. When a song screams that everything is a lie and won’t someone somewhere just fucking believe it with him here singing this song to you, about you, for you, please for christ’s sake just listen, it is almost too much to take in, but you must. Will Sheff and Okkervil River were playing rock and roll like it was meant to be. Quietly brilliant rock and roll. There was a confidence there that seemed almost unearned. A simple understanding. We can just do whatever we want. It’s easy. “Look,” he said. “I did it.”
Will Sheff became my hero. I don’t ever look forward to something more than when it’s something he’s doing. It’s just always so goddamn what I want to hear. He has grown out of rock and roll into a harmony somewhere between Antarctica’s desolation and California’s native sun. Incredible lyrics always. Melodies that rise and recede like the tides.
All this fandom is nothing without mentioning the new record, and I’m listening to it as I type this and it is still exactly what I want to hear, what I want to make. This time when it isn’t so much rock as roll. Words that could mean anything you want. Melodies that hook you still. It’s what gives this mess some grace.
As my first spin of Nothing Special, the new one, wraps up, it is only clear that Will Sheff has proven my point. Music exists beyond the lie. And this music? like everything he has ever made, it stands alone atop a binder built by passing generations, influencing a nerd with big glasses to reap the benefits of a local public library, memorizing the liner notes, taking in perfection, and remembering it post-CD collection. Still, I want to own every Will Sheff record. And do you know what? He deserves it.
It is very clear that the youngest team in major league baseball this year gives absolutely no shits.
From the start, the Cleveland Guardians were an odd bunch. Rookies. More rookies. Just hit the ball. Don’t strike out. That was the idea. Be young. Run. Hit singles and more singles and don’t strike out. Just hit singles. Line drive singles. Pop up singles. Bloop singles. Infield singles. Bunt singles. Go first to third on a single. Force errors. Just put the damn ball in play and see what happens.
Turns out good things can happen. Really good things.
This year’s Cleveland Guardians is like no other Cleveland team of my lifetime. It seemed from the beginning of the season that someone said to them, Fucking Run and Run Hard Always, and for whatever reason they agreed and did. All season long. I mean, why not run hard to first base on a routine play? Isn’t that the job? To show up and play? To give it your all? To buy into the credo of old that if you hit the fucking ball somewhere and just run your ass off, sometimes it’ll land and you’ll be standing on first base before your opponent realizes they didn’t make the play.
This Cleveland team is extraordinary for this reason. And you can talk about the odds of them making the playoffs at the beginning of the season and everyone seeming to think it didn’t look good. I disagreed even then, let that be known. We should for sure recall that this team was hitting grand slams in April. Lots of them. But they were either putting up 8, 9 runs a game, or getting shut out. Youth entails growing pains we know. But they got good. I mean very very good. They constantly strung hits together. They rallied late. They won almost 30 games in their last at bat and just kept winning. It didn’t make sense in April and it doesn’t make that much sense now. Unless you look at the big picture. The team as a whole. Because after the kind of season we’ve just witnessed, it’s just life: odds are so closely scrutinized, every statistic so carefully recorded, that one can forget that playing a game is just playing a game. If you play to win, if you play as a team, you just might end up doing it most of the time. And the Guardians? They’ve been doing it. They’ve been doing it all year.
To me, it’s the epitome of what this season is that Steven Kwan – a guy who should win rookie of the year honors – hit a grand slam today. The kid who went the first 116 pitches of his big league career before swinging and missing put a well-earned exclamation mark on an historic first act. It is absurd that he should hit a grand slam. But fitting when you look at what this team has become. A guy who owns one of the lowest hard hit ball percentage in baseball is hitting almost .300 and has downright led this team to a pennant. He is 25 years old. There is Jose Ramirez – of course he is the leader of this team and his 100some odd RBIs speak for themselves – but Kwan is the heartbeat of this offense. Kwan-Rosario-Ramirez- Naylor-Gonzalez-Gimenez suddenly looks like a first six in a lineup that could succeed in postseason baseball. It is very very strange. No one expected it. No one but themselves.
This world after all is a strange place to live. And we all know that, or at least the thinking people do. We wake up some days and however you define life is in a right shambles for god’s sake. We are evolving before our eyes and we are not up to the task. But the proverbial underdog is fucking pissed even as it looks like it might not matter. Fuck, the Russian government is up for War. Italy is choosing a Fascist to lead them. The Queen of England is dead and either way Britain is also under far right control. Women in every corner of the globe are screaming that they are human and can make their own goddamn choices better than the common misogynist who for some reason rules the world…about what to wear, about what to do with their bodies, about who to be. All the while, the US is clinging to a semblance of righteousness but fascism is rampant here too and we are not as Good as we claim to be, and there very much is still a pandemic, whatever the President whispers.
All in all, we seem royally fucked. As a species, I mean. Many are hellbent on their personal, political, and business dealings regardless as to what they mean for the greater good. The greater good is not an issue. These people couldn’t care less.
But that really does lead me back to the Cleveland Guardians and the most beautiful sport in the world. The Guardians were very much not supposed to win this year. They were rebuilding. Not giving a shit somehow made it make sense that to be young and passionate can win you some ball games. The underdog is the most beautiful thing. And it is always beautiful when a group of young people don’t give a shit and they do it loud enough that anyone who’s paying attention can hear them clearly. One must believe in youth. And not just on a baseball diamond.
There are, of course, no victims in baseball. There are losers, but losing can so often be as beautiful as winning. When shit stops being important and you’re focused and ballsy, the tremendous part of the life we have that’s worth living is just as powerful as those bastards who are destroying everything for their own gain. These Guardians are men, after all. Men are not the future of this plane of existence. They are causing the pain. But when what you destroy are simply the odds, not giving a shit – playing hard, trying to make something happen regardless of what it looks like – ends up being the formula by which the game is over and done. The odds, I’d like to think, are very much in the favor of the people everyone counts out.
In the end, the problems of humankind leave us with grim possibilities. I can sit here and hope for the best, but the fact remains that most of the ways to destroy life are in the hands of the oppressor. Russia and its threat of the Bomb hangs over our every day. Radically fundamentalist men are in a last ditch effort to assert their dominance and for some reason they’re allowed to. Earth is getting considerably warmer. We can only drink stolen water; live on stolen land; live by stolen principles of power and greed. People must give a shit in order to stop it. But to give no shits is to hold another’s power hostage. When all you’re doing is hitting the ball and running hard always, the ways in which winning once looked impossible start to come around.
Get up. Just hit the ball. A thousand little paper cuts will at some point bleed the sucker dry. Fists of fury, friends. Rope-a-dope. Give ‘em all you got.
I’m not going to give a history lesson. I don’t know enough quantifiably to give you a run down of where rock and roll came from, where it went on its advent, and what happened when white people intervened. I am not schooled enough, versed enough, smart enough, wise enough, to give you a feed on why rock and roll ever happened and what has happened to it over the years. I am lost without confusion that Rock and Roll was born with Louis Jordan, was perfected by Little Richard and Chuck Berry, whitenized by Elvis and folkified by the Everly Brothers. Whatever one can really say about American Music History, it is to say that with Swing brought clubs and not just listening halls. People were there to dance. And that was that.
People don’t dance to rock and roll anymore. Maybe they never really did. We bob our heads, the rock crowd. We shimmy. We do not shake. Sometimes we bash into each other. I am of a generation of indie folk entrepreneurs and 60s rock evangelists. I want Belle and Sebastian when I’m looking for it. I bleed Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley, Crooked Fingers, but the Replacements, Big Star, and for some reason, still, The Beatles…these are markers far into my world of music that stand as the Rock and Roll I grew up with, yet still along with the whole history of rock music I came to know.
You could surely say that rock and roll is more the feeling than the contents, the context not the sum of the parts. Good music at all is bound to make you feel more than the individual pieces of a whole played out. There is nothing stopping an acoustic guitar from rolling across a chord progression and leaving you rocking in your chair. I believe it was Keith Richards who claimed that rock and roll isn’t about the rock so much as the roll, the ways in which instrumentation combines with the cadence of the vocal line that takes you ever forward through the composition. True that no one player can make a song roll on, even as singular musicians can trick you into thinking so.
But again, this is more the feeling of it all. There is, in my opinion, more that kicks into gear with a Faces song, acoustic instruments them all, than with AC/DC going through the motions. Rock music without the Roll was undoubtedly born in the mid-70s, when arenas meant more to a band than a club; when full-throttle indifference to subtlety caught up in intricate lines soloing on and on forever, technique the last building block of the post-post modern age of song. I am so bored by most of what tries to pass itself off as Rock and Roll that I default to what is so often referred to as Folk, and which carries more of the spirit of Leadbelly than Led Zeppelin.
Is it just that I Don’t Understand? I think I do. And history shows us that rock music withdrew from the spirit of rock and roll. Eric Clapton singing about cocaine, and to speak of Jagger and Co. is to mention but a slip up of amassing a brand of machismo, even if Exile on Main Street is probably the best rock and roll album ever made. The whole thing was sex and drugs to begin with. It is written in history. But do I continue to buy it from 80 year old men? Probably not. But should I really even care when they once defined the whole of it?
So what is Rock and Roll – and I capitalize it well. What is it that is still so fresh when found? I point you to mid-to-late ‘00s Okkervil River in that respect. Here was true Rock and Roll and not just Rock Music. Folk with a punkish hue, as it’s been stated. That was Rock and Roll. Rock and Roll if nothing else is for outsiders, corrupted by the age of sublimation and thievery; of a poor man’s hail mary to boot.
But it is also a representation of systemic racism. Rock and Roll is no question also Black music. It was born from the fields of the antebellum south. Twisted through time into Jazz, Swing, Jump, Boogie Woogie, Blues, Folk, Traditional, Hillbilly, Race Records, R & fucking B. You’ll find music through the past century morphing with integration, appropriation, and the British Invasion, Europe as a whole being influenced by the Americas; Reggae, Ska, etc. You’ll find, of course, that most of the United States’s past, present, and future is built on the lie of whitehood and the abomination of slavery, the hate of bigotry, and the cover up of it all. More music has been stolen and repurposed than ever existed in the first place. So what the fuck?
What the fuck is Rock and Roll?
And why the fuck would I capitalize it sometimes and not others? What contexts will reign if I am talking about the true 1950s, raggamuffin gaze of some men and some guitars, or a piano and a drum with a strong Backbeat, a will for the listener to engage, and a whole world asking why this? why now? What lies at the heart of the willing forlorn? What bridges the gap of the absurd?
I should take a step back. I may have lost course somewhere here so far. Because I think I have a point. There is something intrinsic to Rock and Roll, when it’s not just Rock, when it’s not just Pop. Inside all of us is a will to bob our heads. When there’s something about the music that knows when it’s Rock and Roll, I can feel it. So how do we define it?
Maybe the point is that it can’t be defined. One looks merely to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and notice the vast majority of its recent inductees having been non-rock and roll. Simply not Rock and Roll. I don’t care who you are, LL Cool J is not rock and roll just as much as he’s mostly just a Pop star in a hard man’s body. His soul was always to sell records. And you could say this is perhaps the most of what rock and roll was in its youth and on to its contagion. Hits were hits only when they sold. There have only ever been so many Velvet Undergrounds who defied popular music, sold 5000 copies, and inspired all 5000 purchasers to start a band. LL Cool J is no Lou Reed. And that can not be argued.
But for however many Reed, Cale and Cos there are, there are more Bon Jovis; more Mariah Careys; less turbulent youth in revolt than young adults looking to find some truth. No one has ever picked up a Hall and Oates record looking for their lives to be changed, even as Hall and Oates has made some damn good songs. And Alex Chilton, I’m sure, rolls in his grave each time a BTS song tops the charts, when the good Alex Chilton died penniless and mostly unknown, in no Rock Hall, dying literally because he didn’t have the money to see a fucking doctor. This is where my Rock and Roll has gotten to over the years. And you know what? It isn’t getting any better.
The Strokes are one thing. But I’ll be damned if the fucking Black Keys keep churning out the same goddamn rock and roll as anyone with a guitar and a few lessons in Blues music could pick up given a good BB King record and a Gibson Les Paul. I know of a few bands who yearn for the pentatonic scale like a bastard on wheels out to steal the meat from a beggar’s dinner plate. Dan Auerbach might be a genius. But probably not, and not like those ever-present Strokes who change key all over the place and still manage to make what Rock and Roll should sound like in this, the early 21st century. I’ll remember Gold on the Ceiling just as often as All I Want For Christmas is You. And that is no compliment of character.
But what the fuck am I even talking about? What. The. Fuck. Is. Rock. And. Roll.
Rock and Roll is a slap in the face of the bad in society. It is a pattern of rebellion stripped back to the basics of musical simplicity, and is an offer of entrepreneurship of the soul.
Without really knowing what the fuck is rock and roll, one can at least describe how it can never die.
This song was included on the 2020 album of the same name. The rest of the album was compiled of rerecorded tunes from past albums. The title track presented here is the only song I wrote in the entirety of 2020, which is a bizarre hiccup in my ten-plus year recording career. 2020 was a bizarre year, of course. In fact, all years are bizarre. This song seeks to make sense of things and it takes about 13 minutes to do so. Hope you enjoy it.
(snippet from a thought process)
“Yea, you know, i wrote it that way, as a ‘white supremacist’ with a gun because that’s the way I felt it, that’s the way that presented itself when I wrote it. The Buffalo shooting had just happened, the song fell out that night, or the day after, and that was that. It was a white supremacist with a gun, just like so many times before, cops included, cops especially. And then, you know, I write the song and five days later a school full of children is shot up again, and the song I wrote is missing something. And goddamnit for the world we live in that a song about gun violence would nullify itself not a week after it was written because something even more heinous happened. Fucking terrible, man. There’s just nothing more terrible than a kid who just turned 18 goes out and buys an automatic weapon, no questions asked, all the bullets he wants, and then everyone’s surprised when he goes out and kills as many helpless people as possible. Premeditated slaughter of the most innocent among us. And you know what, we shouldn’t be surprised. The human condition is to be mostly insane, and when that insanity is coupled with an ingrown dedication to violence, there is nothing we can do. Except, you know what, and this is the truth: ban guns. It’s so easy, we did it once, we can do it again. A well regulated militia is not made up of 18 year olds with a death wish. Hear that. A well regulated militia is not just random people with guns. It is, and this is true, the National fucking Guard. State militias. It’s so simple it’s gross. But I think about Chris Rock’s bullet control bit, 50 grand per bullet, and I can’t help but agree. You want a killing machine? You want a photo opp with your big dick replacement automatic rifle? No bullets for you. I can tell by your haircut you’re on a budget.”
Wishing there spirit
Like a cold of valet
Sent to drive your car nearer
To the heavens at bay
Will the wonton won stupor
At the shadow ballet
Meet the shortened board super
And be shunted away
I know the born shooter
I’ve seen him, i say
They’re the futures sworn boosters
Taking 50 and hang
Up the governance responsibility
What are you doing if not richer by the week
Take your pictures
Of the crowds and see us stomping
Fix you sutures of the proud
Boys worship hunting
Man the greatest prey
Speak high and be a gun display
Your lying waits for no man
Collective in your show, man
So many i can’t help but think at all
That you see shots as new fans
Carnage the mirrored of the stand
You fascist won’t you break down
You’re such a drag at face frowns
I’m livid at the choice
You fucking rejoice
And all the while my founding fathers
Are read just like the bible
Not literally, but both with eyes to blind
If you really loved your jesus
You’d be first names with his kind
And peak at won’t you did it
And speak like i’m an idit
Just to bend your collective ear for a moment, I have to say that I’m very excited about where my music and art has been going in the last year or so. With a Bachelor’s degree in English now in my rearview mirror, a very enjoyable job at my local indie bookstore, shopping a feature length script and finishing up another, and continuing to write music and prose, I feel like I’m firing on all cylinders.
On top of the production, I also, for pretty much the first time, have nice looking physical versions of my latest album releases. Plus, I put a single out last week that will be reviewed in the very near future on a blog out of Eastern Europe (you can hear it here: http://thesupposedso.bandcamp.com).
My website is up as well (you’re on it) where you can find my evergrowing body of work. But check out the link below if you feel like purchasing a CD. I also have a CD/Cassette bundle option if you want to proudly display Allie’s cover art in its various forms.
If you dig it at all, tell a person who doesn’t know me.
And stay up, kids. Try and be well in spite of these dark times. Try and make someone’s day better at least. https://thesupposedso.bandcamp.com/merch
This is not a mental illness problem.
This is a white supremacist with a gun problem.
Anyone telling you different is wrong (2x)
I have a very serious mental illness
Fuck i never thought of killin at all
Maybe myself but i’m bigger than that shit
Maybe myself knows a little more than kid
I’ve been a wreck caught diddled and swarmed, kid
I’ve been a casualty of mentally armed, kid
I have never held a gun, won’t ever
Could be a crime to be saddened forever
I’ve never worn a belt of bullets, no
I’ve never thought of harming anyone, nope
I am sick and tired of your arms
I am so sick and tired of the storm
This is not a mental illness problem
I’ve know so many mentally ill who were victimized by em
Just another number triggered by storms
But no gun fired to tell me i’m wrong
This is a mental illness problem
This is a white supremacist with a gun problem
This is a Right supremacist with a gun problem
Anyone telling you different is wrong
Too many people and too little thinking
Too many steeples with no one underneath praying, really
Too many people dogmatic and horned
Too many guns cocked simple and sworn
This is not a problem of what and why
This is a problem of how and it’s plain to see
You can get a gun quite easily
You can trigger victims, cocked and be cried, see
This is not a mental illness problem
I am mentally ill and i ain’t got that problem
Hell, anyone with a gun is mentally ill
But not the kid that is a victim, still.
This is a white supremacist with a gun problem
This is a white supremacist with a gun problem
This is white supremacy
This is no feeling for no peace
This is a white supremacist with a gun problem
This is a white supremacist with a gun problem
Cops too, brother
A lot is wrapped up in this album’s existence, not least of which is that it was recorded, yes, alone in a basement, with no other instruments to caffeinate the compositions, and with just one take to do, simple chords and melody to bring home the sentiment. The current and following reality of what was going on in my life before, during, and after recording this album is enough to fill up many volumes of text, music perhaps, and words always; enough fodder to confuse the deepest skeptic. 40 releases of self conscious personal growth and a thousand apologies. My history is an evolving trick of the mind, and I’m up for the challenge, this old stuff included. I really dig this collection.Six songs and a common thread throughout. I rewrite Imagine, for christ sake. Play it loud.