The Model Citizen
October 19, 2017
All day long we hear him cry, he says that he was framed….
When we start a new project it’s like staring at a blank wall, paintbrush in hand.
You can’t quite believe you are going to end up-some time, somewhere-with a fully painted upstairs. But you gotta start somewhere.
Jay had been on me for five years at least. Sending tapes in the mail, actual cassettes recorded in his home in Hanover, Germany. Then reluctant concessions to the binary technologies, emailed wav files of song snippets.
C’mon man, he would message in the middle of the night. You guys need a new record—you hear anything here?
Kimm would show up to practice with a riff or two. I kept the usual journal full of lyrics and song titles, scribbled down in those odd moments of inspiration that strike in traffic jams or upon awaking from feverish dreams.
But somehow, it just never seemed like the right time to lay down a new album.
Truthfully, you ask yourself, why?
If our most notable achievement has been to just continue playing, well, you can’t really blame the people who come to see us for wanting to hear those songs.
Oh, you know. That first EP, Fear of Life, that’s the stuff we are known for.
And you have to be goddamn grateful that you can travel around and have a handful of people know some songs you wrote alone in your bedroom, a whole lifetime removed from the creaky old guy who’s onstage tonight.
The set list inevitably reflects that: We hit em 1-2-3!, Fear of Life, Catholic Boy, Manzanar–boom.
You see a 50-year-old man in the crowd come alive, see this former 16-year-old kid somehow awaken by the gleam in his eye. He hands his beer to his frowning wife and pulls up his pants by the belt loops before jumping headlong into the pit. He shows the kids how to open this goddamned thing up! and he’s singing along with the lyrics I have honestly forgotten and mumble, winging it. The song ends and he raises his arms triumphantly, lets out a whoo! towards the ceiling. He looks expectantly to the stage for the next song:
Got a Gun? Maybe fuckin’ Separate Peace! Love that one!
Now, this one here, here comes a new one, I’ll say, just recorded last year……,and the light goes out.
He tucks his shirt back in and grabs his beer, swallows it down and guides the wife outside for a smoke.
You’ve lost the momentum started by 35-year-old songs and the people catch their breath, make their way to the bar for a refill. Or – worst of all-peer down, faces illuminated by the tell-tale glow of cellular phone and check their Facebook messages while you stumble through a new one.
Yeah, every veteran band knows this routine. Do you stick to the safety of the crowd favorites, or feed the creative soul and throw out some new stuff?
Some artists refuse to play the songs the crowd loves *cough* Paul Weller *cough* for fear of living in that past, no matter how glorious.
In Bob Mould’s awesome The Descent:
I didn’t want to play the song
That gave people so much hope
I turned my back and turned away
Here’s the rope that made me choke
But earlier this year, finally, it was back to work.
We had an unusually rainy winter, perfect for getting together on the weekends and woodshedding some ideas. And then you have fuckin Mike Love as Commander -in -Chief now, so some of that teen indignation is resurrected, embers from yesterday’s campfire brought back to glowing red by the breeze.
Jay set a hard date-Superbowl Sunday!- to come out and start pre-production, so we started working backwards. Set a recording date, brought out all the tapes and notes.