Shards of Odin

MTX circa 1996, photo by our friend Mark Akiyama

My erstwhile “feature” called Song for Odin (wherein I posted a video of a song and wrote a little essay commenting on it) is still erstwhile. I did it weekly, each Wednesday, fairly regularly for around three years. Then it went all intermittent, and then basically ran out of gas and ceased. It’s possible it may go back to being intermittent at some point, but I’d advise not holding your breath.

Another thing I used to do is to compile the entries every so often, including the videos, links, and text so they could be searched for and found if necessary. That’s what I’m doing now. There have been ten Song for Odin posts since the last such collation was posted in August of 2021, they are arrayed below.

I’ve preserved all the links and notes pretty much as they were, meaning that some of the links will be obsolete (e.g., “dibs” links, buy links to now out of print or sold out editions, etc.) If there’s anything you want, check with Sounds Rad. New iterations of these releases come out all the time.

Details about how and why I started doing this can be found in the intro to the first installment; and the Odin conceit is explained, somewhat, in the intro to the second. The subsequent installments may be found here: three; four; five; six; seven; eight; nine; ten; eleven; twelve; thirteen; fourteen; fifteen; sixteen; seventeen; eighteen; nineteen; twenty; twenty-one; twenty-two; twenty-three; twenty-four; twenty-five; twenty-six; twenty-seven; twenty-eight; twenty-nine; thirty; thirty-one; thirty-two.

This all comprises 192 entries, covering 133 different songs. The Songs for Odin playlist is here.

Table of contents: New Girlfriend / You Today / Don’t Go Breaking My Heart / Alternative Is Here to Stay! / Here She Comes / We Hate All the Same Things / I Fell for You / Spider-Man / How’d the Date End? / She’s Coming (Over Tonight)

One final note: I apologize for how ugly and clunky this will appear to anyone who tries to read it. I used to put quite a bit of effort into making these posts pretty and aesthetically arresting. But Medium destroyed a good deal of its functionality last year. Aesthetics flew out the window, and the display is now cramped and claustrophic, very hard on the eyes. What was once beautiful is now basically garbage, a tale as old as time. But you work with what you got and this is what I’ve got at the moment. Garbage ftw.

But now:

1 “New Girlfriend”

Still wigglin…: Another Wodnesdæg has rolled around, bringing with it either [a] a Song for Odin; or [b] some lame excuse (in lieu of a Song for Odin.) This week we’re in, I suppose you’d say, “luck,” as I’ve come up with a post rather than an evasion.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been ladling out tracks from the MTX Shards vol. 3 in this space lately. So here’s that record, on 180 gram sea glass vinyl, playing the re-mastered “New Girlfriend”:

As before it’s video of the vinyl spinning, with the re-mastered digital audio as the soundtrack, but you get the idea. Sounds nice this way, but of course it’s only that much better out in the room all analog and everything. And as you can see, it looks beautiful.

The update on Shards vol. 3 is that all the de luxe “dibs” copies have gone. The standard-weight “street” edition releases Sept. 10. As of now, you can order the CD version along with a commemorative shirt.

Most people reading this, if there are any, probably know that “New Girlfriend” was the b-side of the “Alternative Is Here to Stay” single that came out on Lookout Records in 1995. It is one of those “throw-away” tunes that, for one reason or another, had a good bit of unexpected staying power. A lot of people like it, a lot. It’s probably the third most-covered MTX song (after “Even Hitler…” and “You Today”), at least among those I’ve seen. I like to think it’s because it’s rather catchy, sort of funny, and ever-so-slightly risqué (rather than for some allegedly darker reason.) But it could just be that it’s pretty easy to figure out and play.

And no, as I’m often asked, it’s not “autobiographical” — it’s not about anyone in particular, nor does it describe any literal, actual situation from my own life. (Very few of my songs do, as a matter of fact.) It’s a song about bitterness, I suppose, as much at the narrator’s expense as anything, though not necessarily entirely so, human foibles being what they are. I think it treats of a common sentiment, which is why there’s humor to be found there.

Anyway, it has been a Song for Odin twice before — here and here — and I find I don’t have a lot to add to what I wrote then.

Here’s a snip:

It is notable for being the first recording where I was allowed to have the guitars as loud as I wanted them. I think Kevin allowed it because he didn’t like the song very much, knew it was destined to be a throwaway B side anyway, and wanted to see if bumping them up would stop my continual belly-aching. (It didn’t, but I did like it: I remember hearing the playback and dancing around the control room, if you can believe that, raising my hands skyward and saying something like “yeah that’s good.” All things I rarely, if ever, do.)

There was lots of energy in that studio, partly owing to the fact that it was a new version of the band just getting going. I took it mostly for granted at the time, but that’s a “vibe” you can’t buy or contrive. And I still love the guitar.

Thanks to our man Klode for the thumbnail.

That’s about all, then. More to come sooner, or later. We’ll see.

notes:

— Shards vol. 3 on discogs.

— the Shards vol. 1 story; the Shards vol. 2 story.

playlist of Shards vol. 3 songs posted so far.

original post on minds.com

2 “You Today”

Scattered everywhere out on the floor today…

done by our man Klode

I’ve been slacking on the Song for Odin front lately, as you may or may not have noticed. Though I’m sure nobody misses it all that much, or at all, when it is skipped, the self-imposed obligation does weigh on me, even when the lapse is unavoidable. I did it religiously each week for the better part of three years, for no earthy reason, really, except maybe to draw attention to the songs in order to promote this or that release. An earthly reason if ever there were one, I suppose. And reason enough to wind up the machine once more, since Shards vol. 3 is now out, officially, and the deluxe “dibs” copies should be arriving basically now.

That’s all by way of introducing: “You Today” live at the Rivoli in Toronto, October 5, 1997.

This is how we used to do it back then, beginning as a solo song with the band kicking in on “you said goodbye…” (If you want to see how this looked and sounded, sort of, in a great big huge stadium, check out this song’s previous Song for Odin appearance — “minor secrets” here.)

But this song is arguably better suited as a quietly strummed solo lament. Like a fair few other acoustic tunes, the recording was thrown together as a quick addition to add some filler, in this case, as a third bonus song for the CD of the “Alternative Is Here to Stay” single. “Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend” was like that too, recorded as a solo tune because there wasn’t time or resources to develop it as a full band arrangement. In each case, it was probably better they stayed solo-acoustic. Ultimately the point of a recording is to get the song across and I doubt layering either of these with guitars and drums would have helped. It sure makes sequencing an album easier to have at least a few tracks available that don’t sound like all the other tracks. Diversity is our strength, or would have been had we had a bit more of it: but you go to war with the sonic diversity you have. Counterpoint: if my so-called recording career has taught me anything, it’s this: people hate sonic diversity, they just hate it. Find a single sound and stick with it with rigid consistency, you’ll move more units and people will like and respect you more, or at all.

All that said, this is a song people love, the most-covered after “…Hitler…” — hm, noticing a pattern here. All that stuff I said about people hating sonic diversity isn’t wrong, but people also seem to like simple songs, readily understood and easy to play. Shoulda done more of those maybe, too.

At any rate, “You Today,” in all its thrown-together but painstakingly re-mastered glory, may be found on Shards vol. 3 as I said. Have fun with it. (Currently, the only way to get the vinyl release for those who are not “dibs” subscribers is to find the retail version in a real or virtual shop — Amazon, for example. At some point, the third pressing will materialize. Sounds Rad currently does have the CD in stock, if you’re into that sort of thing. Plus it’s on all those streaming services if you want to put it on in the background without paying it too much attention or money while you do your taxes or the dishes.)

To conclude, I will be back some other Wednesday with another Song for Odin, quite possibly. Till then, I’m sure you have my warmest regards.

notes:

studio recording, remastered for Shards vol. 3.

playlist of songs posted from this Toronto show so far:

Shards vol. 3 on discogs.

— Shards vol. 3 vinyl at Amazon:

— the Shards vol. 1 story; the Shards vol. 2 story.

playlist of Shards vol. 3 songs posted so far.

original post on minds

3 “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”

Baby, you’re not that kind… I don’t know if you ever heard that line and thought “double entendre,” but I always have, since I was a kid, though now I suspect it’s inadvertent. The primary meaning (“baby, you’re not the kind to get restless”) makes sense, while the alternate one (“baby, you’re not kind enough to do me the honor of getting restless like a truly kind person might do”) is nonsensical or at least surreal/twisted. On the other hand, it would match the rest of the lyrics. Also, “tried” and “kind” don’t rhyme.

But anyway, as you may have gathered, I’m dusting off the old Song for Odin machine to present the MTX Shards vol. 3 180 gram “sea glass” vinyl record playing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”. (Cell phone video of the disc with the re-mastered audio tapped in — that’s how we roll here at Song for Odin.)

And yes, if you don’t already know, this is a cover of the Elton John / Kiki Dee song, with the late Kim Shattuck playing Kiki to my Elton. It’s been two years since she passed away, which I find hard to believe in the way that such things always have of seeming not to have happened so long ago but then turning out to have happened precisely that long ago when you check. She’s still very much missed.

You can read about this recording and the way it all came about in a previous write-up from a couple years back.

I find I still can’t bring myself to share the punchline of the story about how that final scream was recorded. Sorry. Our neo-Puritanism and censoriousness and Age of Intolerance and all that. There’s no particular, specific rule against typing it out that I can see, but what rules are stated are vague and change without notice anyway and it’s just not worth the hassle that might ensue if a robot or an Al Gore-ithm happened to get its wire tripped and lurch into attack mode. I don’t need the aggravation. As in any totalitarian society, the self-censorship rather than the specific prohibitions is where the action is. At least we still have the right to remain silent, which is the only way around it all as far as I can see.

If you see me in a bar or at a show or out on the street sometime, you can ask me to tell you in person. And if I can ascertain to my satisfaction that you’re not wearing a wire, I may well tell you.

As for the song, it’s a weird one that I’ve not coincidentally always loved. Quoting myself, from that previous write-up:

It’s a song I’d always wanted to do, since I was a kid, though I’m not quite sure why. I think it’s the half-unfinished-seeming lyrics that fire off in the general direction of the topic but don’t seem to have been thought out too carefully, creating inadvertently interesting questions. What does “I couldn’t [break your heart] if I tried” mean exactly? Why does she knock on his door in order to inform him that she has given him her key? The result, probably not intended, is a script in which two romantic partners … trade misfired clichés with one another, convincing no one but reaching the no doubt delusional conclusion that no one’s going to go breaking anybody’s heart. Maybe that’s the essence of the romantic relationship, and maybe that’s what was intended, but I kind of doubt Bernie Taupin was that “meta.” But maybe he was.

I still doubt it, but you never know. Either way, the song will always live in my heart, largely because of all the mystery and ambiguity, and also of course because I recorded it that one time.

Thumbnail by our man Klode.

And that’ll do it, I reckon. See you next time.

notes:

— Kim Shattuck “obit” post (scroll down).

— the Shards vol. 1 story; the Shards vol. 2 story; playlist of Shards vol. 3 songs posted so far.

original post on minds.com

4“Alternative Is Here to Stay!”

Something more than number 1, 2, 3, and 4: Hail Wodnesdæg, Hail Odin, hail Song for Odin, hail you, hail me… hail yeah. Not a whole lot of time for a thoughtful essay no one’s gonna read today, but nevertheless I’m sliding in here to continue the project of posting, one by one, the songs from MTX Shards vol. 3 with Klode Maloon thumbnail and a bit of typing.

Today it’s “Alternative Is Here to Stay!” As you may know, Sounds Rad already re-released this track on a seven inch, but it’s still a shard, a shard-defining shard in a way. It sounds great here, and, I think, subtly different in this context — it was mastered anew to fit the program and of course cut again. These things matter.

This de luxe “dibs” pressing is now sold out — the standard-weight “street” edition is, they say out on the street. Find one if you can. The CD version, along with commemorative shirt, can be acquired now.

And, at some point there will be a third pressing on a different color for Sounds Rad use. Watch this space.

Anyway, this has been a Song for Odin twice before (here and here) — continuing the running commentary on “enduring obsolescence” of which the present text is a quintessential example.

About the recording’s arcane origins, I quote from the write-up for “Unpack You Adjectives”:

This was one of five songs we recorded, self-funded, at Sound and Vision soon after we started playing with Joel ca. 1994. We hadn’t been getting much love from the Lookout regime at the time (nor from the public, to be honest, two things which may not be as unrelated to each other as I might have supposed at the time.) I figured the only thing to do was to strike out on my own and put out a last record as a kind of final “fuck you” to the universe. (So many of my projects over the years were done in that spirit, it’s funny now that I come to think of it.) We’d done it before. It’d be just like starting over, I imagine I must have told myself. The songs were “Alternative Is Here to Stay”, “New Girlfriend,” “You Today,” “Unpack Your Adjectives”, and “Semi-OK”, and it would have made a pretty decent soon-forgotten but latterly collectible e.p. had it happened that way.

But when Green Day hit it big and all the disgruntled, neglected Lookout bands suddenly had more options, the label did some inhouse outreach to try to keep the roster onboard, which is why Larry flew to our show with Sicko in Seattle to be all nice to us and everything. I had introduced “Alternative…” from the stage as a new song we were going to be putting out as a single, and Larry talked me into doing it on Lookout, which, as you know, happened. There would be more fuck yous to the universe to come, but this one was thus strangled in its crib, and we went on to do some good, notable stuff thereafter…

That’s all I have in me at the moment. I hope it’s worth the zero dollars you have to pay for it, like everything else these days. Song for Odin will return, I’m sure. Till then, I wish you well.

notes:

— the Shards vol. 1 story; the Shards vol. 2 story; playlist of Shards vol. 3 songs posted so far; Shards vol. 3 on discogs

original post on minds.com

5 “Here She Comes”

Infinite Nymph in It: Hello. Yeah, it’s been a while. Not much, how ‘bout you? I’m not sure why I called. I guess I really just wanted to play you the test pressing of the forthcoming Sounds Radical re-issue of the 1997 Mr T Experience album Revenge Is Sweet and So Are You.

So here ya go, the fairly well-known lead-off track, soundly and beautifully re-mastered by Justin Perkins and scratched into lacquer by Michael Fanos at Well Made Music:

Well, I think it’s sound and beautiful. And it scratched out just great.

Of course it’s not the actual vinyl test pressing playing through your laptop speakers, that would be impossible: the video is me holding a phone above the spinning record and the audio is the digital master pasted in and then fed through whatever YouTube does to it in their processing process. That’s how the sausage must be made, my friends. Still sounds nice, but trust me, it sounded even better in the room.

The actual RISASAY release is still a ways away due to all the usual delays (Taylor Swift, Adele, global pestilence, etc.) but as the test pressings do exist, it seemed worth noting and, sort of, teasing. At this point we’re looking at a June release date, but stay tuned for updates on that because lots can go awry in vinyl production these days. I believe you can still get on the “dibs” list for the deluxe first press if you haven’t signed up yet.

If you’ve been following the saga of me and my tape archive, you may recall that most of the multi-track master reels for this release are not extant, making any thought of a comprehensive remix a non-starter. That’s one answer to the frequent question: “why choose to re-issue this one now instead of some other one?” With RISASAY all we have to work with is the existing stereo mix, and there’s basically nothing to do with it but master it, making it a comparative “easy one.”

However, there are issues with this tape, chiefly severe compression applied to the printed mix as it stands (and subsequently escalated even further in the original 1997 mastering process — a function of the 1990s “loudness wars” you may have heard about.) While many people do like the squashed effect — and it does play out as an effect in a certain way, especially on the guitars — you do, sort of by definition, lose dynamics and detail. Plus, sixteen tracks in a row of unvarying loudness can be fatiguing, or at least, I have found it so.

(I’ll include links below to previous write-ups on these matters, for those who are interested.)

Justin did a subtle and delicately-balanced job with this material in the present master. My ears can definitely discern more detail. In fact, I’m hearing things I never knew (or had forgotten) were on there. We spent lots of time and effort “layering” the guitars and it’s kind of cool to be able to discern some of the layers and more “texture.” It sounds more open, more “real,” and less claustrophobic than what I’m used to. I think you’re gonna dig it, and maybe enjoy the familiar sounds presented with new “staging.” I know I do.

As for the song, I’ve written it up before (here and here) and now I’m going to quote from the first such entry:

“Here She Comes” is one of those songs where the Tin Pan Alley / Noel Coward approach to the lyrics actually clicks; the preposterous, yet (or hence) excellent, rhymes work almost in spite of themselves. Plus, I’ll always love “je ne sais quoi like you wouldn’t believe.” And that ayes/eyes nos/nose stuff… well, ya gotta amuse yourself first and foremost, if you wanna dance alone. Maybe folks don’t dig it because of that stuff, maybe it’s just because it’s “peppy” or whatever, but they do seem to dig it.

This was slated as the lead-off track for Revenge Is Sweet… from the beginning, and though my original plan to give it a “new wave” Attractions-ish tinge with a subtle Farfisa stab and drone on the 7th during the intro parts and bridge never materialized it came out pretty much as intended otherwise. (Way over-compressed, though, something I’d really like to change if a re-issue ever materializes.)

But production and technical details that you fret about so much in the moment tend to fall away over time (unless they’re notably great or memorably terrible) leaving only the song, somehow, in the end. A solid song can transcend just about any error of judgment, or lousy drum track, or sacrifice of dynamics for loudness, or terrible vocalist.

You just gotta give it twenty years or so. This, at least, I have learned.

We did what we could with what we had, in 1997 and now again in 2022.

And this is, I suppose, the return of Song for Odin, at least for this week. We’ll see about next. Till then, there’s an icy wind blowing the stars around and I’d really love to play you more songs from the MTX archives at one-week intervals but let’s not get carried away with the exuberance of the moment. Don’t ask for promises and I won’t have to lie. It’s a start, that’s all. (Thanks to our man Klode for the thumbnail.)

notes:

My Stupid Revenge (a post-mortem I wrote a couple years back)

— Tape Hunt Notes: https://drankf.medium.com/tape-hunt-notes-215fd58e6641

Revenge Is Show Business and So Are You (some notes on RISASAY and Show Business Is My Life)

— England Dan and John Ford Coley — “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight”:

original post on minds.com

6 “We Hate All the Same Things”

Please don’t kill me, Stephen Sondheim: Well now, it’s Wodnesdæg and here I am not skipping Song for Odin just like I didn’t skip it last week. To one’s surprise.

Anyhow, what we’ve got here is “We Hate All the Same Things” live at the Cactus Club, San Jose, December 16, 1995, the only live version of this song I’ve yet seen on video.

I wasn’t sure if we’d ever played it live, but we did it at least this once. And if that doesn’t sound like a reason to do it as a “Song for Odin” I don’t know what does sound like a reason to do it as…

I hadn’t seen this video before Erik Heemsoth sent it to me a couple of weeks ago — thanks man — but I remember this show pretty well because it was with our old friends the Guttersluts, a kind of reunion, and that was enough to make it stick in the mind. Also on the bill were Soda and the Puds. Flier here:

We are our usual, slightly-awkward selves in this set, which was largely songs from the new yet not-quite-officially-released-in-the-US album (Love Is Dead). Very few if any in the audience would have heard them yet, and I announced them rather apologetically. We had no idea these songs were going to end up being “special”.

This one, though, is from the previous year’s …and the Women Who Love Them e.p. It was a year during which I was just starting to get a whole lot better at songwriting, and this song, amid all those Love Is Dead songs, is something of an illustration. It has a lot going for it and is almost “there” but arguably not quite quite there.

From my old reassessing-the-catalog notes on this record:

“We Hate All the Same Things” isn’t as tightly written as it could be, but I find it still works pretty well. Chords/structure/sentiments are just a bit inadvertently 30s-ish, like a lot of the stuff that followed it.

All true. It’s got a strong conceit and quite an effective structure. The melody against the chords works great, thoroughly conventional yet veering into slightly unexpected “voicing” at strategic moments. A lot of people like it a lot, and find it “relatable,” and I like it a lot too. It’s a cool little song that does a lot of the things that I like songs to do, mine or otherwise. It’s not all that easy to come up with new angles on the “my gal is red hot” theme, new ways to cast the familiar love song, and this is one such, and that’s worth something, maybe even a lot.

But, man, those verses. I mean, the lyrics mostly don’t rhyme with each other. Rather they pretend to rhyme. I didn’t realize at the time that that’s just not good enough, though I was perhaps starting to suspect it. I was still under the sway of near-rhyme propagandists, who purveyed a seductively convenient ideology. But, yanno, nobody else’s songs rhymed all that well either, no one was paying that much attention anyway, it’s the feeling, it’s the energy that’s important, we’re young, we’re free, we don’t think about it too much we just do it, etc. etc. — all the things you tell yourself to justify what is, in the end, just laziness. I could have made a bit more of an effort and turned something pretty good into something much, much better, maybe even something great.

It’s not the not rhyming in itself that’s most important, though. It’s more that consistently poor rhyming is a sign that you’re not planning things with very much attention. To be sure, sometimes sloppy, random, scattershot, basically-okay stuff winds up clicking into something of transcendent greatness. But it leaves a whole lot to chance when that’s your standard operating procedure. You might as well try as hard as you can rather than just letting it spill out and hoping for the best. You waste songs that way.

Little known fact: as a songwriter, your main goal is not something as petty and pedestrian as expressing your true feelings or whatever. Rather, it is this: to do your best not to anger Stephen Sondheim. Or, more accurately, to engineer your songs in such a way that Stephen Sondheim (God rest his soul) wouldn’t want to hunt you down and kill you if he found out about you and tried to parse your lyrics. I was figuring that out, albeit quite late in the game.

The Love Is Dead songs, for all their flaws, are better-composed, because they are more deliberately composed. Part of that better composition is stitching the whole thing together with lines that actually fit the rhyme scheme rather than almost kind of fitting it. In other words, better lyrics result from better composition (and not the other way around.)

As it stands, those “We Hate…” lines, while quite good in themselves in isolation, are like placeholders that never got replaced. (Which remains my method, if you’re curious about that.) They’re not quite doing their job. If “We Hate All the Same Things” had been “saved” for Love Is Dead, as could well have happened, it would have been better, because I would have made it better, and those verses would have sung and swung like the rest of the song. As I could have done a year earlier but just… didn’t. I stumbled on good ones every now and then but I was mostly just spilling stuff out and hoping it looked good on the canvas, and congratulating myself when it randomly did. (One thing that did land great here is the Sound-of-Music-invoking bridge… who would have thought?)

There’s a lesson in there. The moral of Pierre is “care.”

Paige made this shirt for me an age ago

All that said, “pretty good” isn’t bad, and is actually quite a tough standard to meet continually over time. I still like the song a lot, despite everything I’ve said above. It is unique. And it pointed the way to better things.

That’s all I got. Ciao, as they say.

notes:

studio recording (remastered Sounds Rad re-issue version)

— Sondheim on rhyme:

— Stephen Sondheim — Finishing the Hat

original post on minds.com

7 “I Fell for You”

On the Loose and the Tight: Well, another Wodnesdæg has rolled around, so here I am doing another entry in the Song for Odin follies, meaning posting a live video and typing up some typing about it. I realize it’s a silly thing to do, like most things but probably more so. Nevertheless it feels slightly worse to skip it than not, so let’s go.

What we’ve got here is “I Fell for You” live from the Cactus Club in San Jose in December of 1995. It’s from the same show as last week’s “We Hate All the Same Things” video, and this is a sort of follow-up to that post.

This is a counter-example to last week’s item, which I criticized for the lazy fake-rhymes in the verses, suggesting that such sloppiness often implicates more than just the choice of words at the ends of a couple of lines. Each composition has its pros and cons, but one actually does some things the other merely pretends to do, and is objectively better in that regard.

Where “We Hate All the Same Things” is compositionally loose, a bit sloppy, not quite all the way baked, and arguably less then totally finished, “I Fell for You” is tight, neat, seared, and consummated. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how it could be much tighter. And as I intimated previously, while rhyming stitches it all together, the rhymes themselves couldn’t do it without a cogent underlying pattern, of which they are an integral part rather than a superficial overlay. To paraphrase Sondheim and to extend this sewing metaphor to annoying lengths, sloppy seams on this pattern wouldn’t destroy the garment, but they would weaken it considerably. For me, every element here slides precisely and firmly into place, such that it’s difficult to imagine it being any other way, like it was always there somehow. It’s built to last. And that’s pretty cool. I wish they could all be tight like that.

Actually, though, I don’t, quite. Looseness has its place too. And in some ways effective looseness is more impressive since it’s such an elusive balance to strike. Nothing in this life of ours is neatly nailed-down, a reality that art must by necessity reflect. Leaving things unsaid, or ambiguous, or up for dispute, or cultivating a deliberate confusion that seems to point beyond itself — that’s worthwhile too. Loose ends lend verisimilitude. But if there are rhymes on those ends, it’s still better if they actually rhyme like they look like they’re trying to.

And all that said, looseness, a natural state of affairs, happens all by itself anyway; you’ve got to exert some order if you want to stand a chance of being intelligible, and in that regard the odds are stacked against you. If you’re going for tight, then, you should really go for it, or not even bother. Failed tightness is far worse than casual looseness. Genuine tightness tends to be considerably better than either; or at least, it’s a pretty good stunt that most of us can’t manage all that often. What I’m saying is, master the tightness as well as you can, and the looseness will most likely take care of itself whether you will it or not.

Ideally, I suppose, you want the “stitches” to do their work so well and masquerade so effectively as natural and conversational that you don’t even notice they’re there. They hide in plain sight. I wouldn’t say “I Fell for You” quite meets this ideal — it’s at least one clunky line away from being in the running — but it may be that it’s the closest I’ve come.

Thus my feelings in re: the loose and the tight, a subject to which I will probably return if I keep this up.

Anyhow, all that “songcraft” stuff aside and back to the video: what seems to be happening in the beginning there is an ad-hoc, mid-set “drummer’s veto.” No idea what song was suddenly scratched, or for what reason, but the ensuing on-stage awkwardness and confusion about what the heck we were doing is very… us. Saying “it’s the song about a girl” cleared up absolutely nothing. Show business was our life.

But, whatever: that old Junior sure sounds great, doesn’t it?

notes:

studio recording (remastered Mtx forever version):

— “We Hate all the Same Things” studio recording, Sounds Rad remastered version.

—the flier for this show

original post on minds.com

8 “Spider-Man”

Regularly-scheduled topicality: Hail to you, O internet, it is Wodnesdæg and here’s what I’m doing for Song for Odin.

That’s the Shards vol. iii de luxe sea glass disc taken by phone on video with the digital re-master of the MTX “Spider-Man” cover as sound-track.

This is mostly just to complete the playlist for this album on the old YouTube channel. I don’t have tons to say about it now, other than: despite the usual, arguably deficient aspects of the unreconstructed mix, that guitar sounds pretty darn good.

Also, it seems they release a big-budget very very important Spider-Man film every few months or so (there’s probably one out now, I shouldn’t wonder, and another scheduled for the Summer as well, they seem to come in dozens.) So this track is repeatedly “topical”, sort of. Regularly-scheduled topicality. We had no idea at the time.

Also also, it’s quite a good arrangement. And I’d guess what makes it work, what keeps it from being a mere throw-away like many nostalgic semi-ironic covers of the pop culture of one’s youth, is — well, the fact that the song, as a composition, is great in itself, that’s the main thing. But in addition, it’s the sincerity with which it was conceived, organized, and executed. You need genuine appreciation of what makes a song great in order to do a proper cover of it, and you rarely get there through the irony and mockery in which such covers tend to be suffused. On some level at least, you gotta mean it.

Though it may surprise you, this wasn’t our main failing in this area. Our problem was more likely to be just dashing it off without much thought or attention. But here a great deal of thought went into trying to turn the dark jazzy film noir ish pastiche of that original cartoon theme song recording into rock and roll, with rudimentary guitar noises meant to evoke the spirit of those brass stabs without copying them. (Copying them would have sounded terrible.) And, as I said, they sound pretty good from this perspective, thirty (by way of sixty) years later.

I wrote about the song qua song, the ironic punk rock cover as a “genre,” and even about the scheduled topicality in this song’s previous Song for Odin write-up (here — over three years ago, jeez.) This bit still rings true:

For the sake of mining your childhood pop culture memories for material to make use of in this way, you could do far worse than to schedule your formative years to have occurred in the late sixties to early seventies like I did. Most pop culture commercial productions prominently included songs, real ones, and even the silliest and flimsiest of such programs often had music composed (and played) by people of immense talent. These guys knew what they were doing, song-wise, and growing up with this stuff in my head was, I fancy, a kind of inadvertent subliminal education in compositional and melodic structures. (Granted, this is stuff no one seems to care about any more — just add it to the list.)

For good or ill, that’s all I got. The playlist for the Shards vol. iii album on my YouTube should be complete and correctly sequenced now, if you ever want to listen that way. You’ll probably be happier with the vinyl record (the only real version) though. As far as I am aware, that’s something you still have to hunt out in wild at an online or meatspace store (Amazon link here.) There will be a third pressing/edition in an additional wild color at some point, but I can’t tell you when.

Thumbnail by our man Klode, as usual.

See ya.

notes:

— the Shards vol. 1 story; the Shards vol. 2 story; playlist of Shards vol. 3 songs posted so far; Shards vol. 3 on discogs

original post on minds.com

9 “How’d the Date End?”

Salient among the ruins (and maybe even fluids): Wodnesdæg has rolled around again, and accordingly the creaky old Song for Odin machine is lurching back into motion for at least one more go. Congratulations to it, and thanks for riding.

What we’ve got there, courtesy of our pal Joe (from Treecrusher), is an animation depicting the narrative of “How’d the Date End?”

I don’t have much to add to it other than that it is still a funny story, well-depicted here, and that I dig it. Watch it and find out.

The soundtrack is the second recorded version of the song featuring the final verse left off the recording that appeared on the “Tapin’ Up My Heart” seven inch. Whatever the merits or deficiencies of the bedroom recording, it’s a better story that way anyhow. (The first version is on Sounds Rad’s re-issue of …and the Women Who Love Them; this second one is on the Shards vol. 2 compilation.)

Why there are two different versions of this song is a question I’m often asked. I explained it clearly in the Shards vol. 2 liner notes, but as it seems clear that few if any people have ever read the Shards vol. 2 liner notes, I shall quote myself:

As originally conceived, the … and the Women Who Love Them CD EP was supposed to have six tracks, and the 7" would have two of them, plus an extra song that wasn’t on the CD. The song slated for this slot was “Checkers Speech,” but new drummer Jim was really fond of that track and insisted that it be on the CD. I had to come up with an additional song, and this was it…

At that time we were already way, way over our tiny budget for this project, so the song had to be dashed off really quickly. When it came time to do the vox over the guitar track I realized that I’d missed out a whole chunk of the song (the bit where the narrator describes being picked up where he’d fallen down, read his rights, and brought downtown.) There was no time to correct the error, and we just went with it. The song was included on the 7" but not listed in any way.

I always meant to do a proper version with all the lyrics. This one was recorded in my bedroom, and appeared on the …and the Women Who Love Them “Special Addition” compilation…

We had to use the second version for the digital seven inch when we first uploaded the digitized catalog way back in 2012 because we didn’t have a digital file of the first one at the time, causing more confusion. (It’s still the case, by the way: it is nearly impossible to replace or correct tracks on “the platforms” once they’re up, and what does it matter, really? If anyone cares, both versions are floating around on those obnoxious platforms that everyone likes so much for some reason.)

There’s more on this song in the previous Odin write-up, including some notes on the continuing career of songs built around obsolete cultural references, which this one certainly is.

Quoting: ‘If you deliver well enough on a good conceit, it can happen that you don’t even need the conceit anymore. Which is a mercy, “legacy”-wise.’

It wasn’t something I ever thought about at the time but certain items do manage to remain salient among the ruins and when they do that’s why I suppose.

Anyway, enjoy the video and thanks Joe.

notes:

— the other version of the song (from the Sounds Rad …and the Women Who Love Them re-issue):

Shards vol. 2 playlist on YouTube

— original minds.com post

10 “She’s Coming (Over Tonight)”

Miracles and lucky charms…

Few will recall, and fewer still will care, that I used to do an unsolicited “feature” on the internet called Song for Odin, in which I would post, every Wednesday pretty much on the regular, a video of a song and an essay commenting on it. A very weird thing to do for nothing. But I did for around three years before it ran out of gas.

It’s still out of gas.

But, since the “dibs” order links for the Sounds Radical re-issue of Revenge Is Sweet and So Are You have gone out, and as LK 180 resurrects itself in the re-mastered form of RAD 020, I’m going to try to push the creaky conveyance down the road apiece. Few will recall, and still fewer will care, but, it appears, it is what is going to happen.

So that’s a live video of “She’s Coming (Over Tonight)”, from an October 1997 show at the Euclid Tavern in Cleveland. The record had been released a little over a month previously so the songs were fresh and new and exciting rather than taken for granted as everything is destined to become sooner or later. I still get a sense of that newness and excitement, from performances like this and from the revived master, despite having played it hundreds if not thousands of times in the twenty-five years since the original release.

“She’s Coming…” was the first song posted in what became the Song for Odin “series” way back in November of 2017, 191 entries ago. The write-ups were brief in those days (though I suppose you could say the nonexistent write-ups these days are even briefer.) Anyway, I can think of little further to add at the moment so I will quote from it:

Silly though it may be, I’ve always considered this to be one of my best, most effective songs. Unlike many of the tunes on the Revenge Is Sweet and So Are You album the recording came out pretty much as intended (though probably a bit too fast.)

An assistant engineer at the session commented that it was the most hard rockin’ Bubblegum she’d ever heard, and while I’ve probably heard Bubblegum that’d have made her head spin I took that as a good sign. It’s how it was meant. And the song does exactly what it’s supposed to do.

The bridge “everyone makes fun of me / they do it right in front of me / they don’t think someone shy like me / could get a girl like that to like a guy like me” is one of my favorite lines I ever came up with. Shy like me / guy like me… I still pat myself on the back for that one every so often.

(The reason that last bit works so well is the fact that the rhyming word in the parallel construction of each line is a different part of speech… it really stitches things together and is the best way to do those multi-word Cole Portery lines.)

So there you have it. Miracles and lucky charms made my bubblegum dreams sort of materialize and stand at my door on Tin Pan Alley, if ever so briefly. I’ll take what I can get.

The latest on the deluxe “dibs” version (180 gram white vinyl) is that nearly all 300 copies are gone, and the rest will go soon if they haven’t already during the time I’ve spent typing this sentence. There are other options if you missed out, so check your email. The street date for the street version is August 12. Either way, t’s a cool, pretty lavish package. We tried to do it as well as it could possibly be done, from the sound up. And there’s shirts.

More to come but bye for now.

notes:

studio recording (Mtx forever version)

My Stupid Revenge, a retrospective essay on the Revenge Is Sweet… album I wrote a couple years ago

original post on minds.com

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I am Dr. Frank. I write books and songs. Mtx Forever.

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Frank Portman

Frank Portman

I am Dr. Frank. I write books and songs. Mtx Forever.