JT sent this message earlier this week. As I thought about a reply, I realized that I wanted to write about these things already but wasn’t sure there was any interest beyond my own self. But when a question is voiced, often other people have the same question, and haven’t vocalized it yet. So JT’s letter raises some things, and my long comment is an initial reply.

“h&s” = howie&scott

From: JT Hills
To: mfr@mrfuriousrecords.com
Subject: A eureka moment?
This is a multi-part message in MIME format.

I was perusing my music library a few minutes ago and stumbled up some
Dave Matthews Band. Now, I know it seems unlikely one can just forget
music one has in a music library on a computer, where iTunes has it all
nicely organized for one, but when one has nearly 4500 songs in said
music library, one can forget about certain tunes listened to less often
than other tunes.

Anyway, I discovered I had a live version of “All Along the Watchtower”
by Dave and his guys, which was an interesting coincidence because I was
just thinking earlier today about how I’d like to hear Jimi Hendrix’s
version of that song. But it also got me to thinking about some
old-school h&s days. I recall when I first met you (and thus, h&s), you
hadn’t yet embarked upon the adventure of original music, and instead
relied on a set of regular covers and then a set of Dave covers for your
shows. It was a rockin’ good time, but unable to equal the days ahead
of new songs and electric guitars. I like listening to h&s not only
because it’s good music, but also because it reminds me of those times
when the songs were live and raw.

I remember when I first heard “Mable” escape your stage, and I was
jarringly introduced to Goldfinger. I remember watching you (with Becca
and Mel along) struggle for words of the cover songs you played the
night you premiered original h&s tunes in Lincoln (nervous, perhaps?).
I remember a long drive to Omaha as the official h&s roadie of the
evening (because I couldn’t find anyone else to take me), and longer
drives to Hastings for dual shows with Rob and his cronies. I remember
seeing another night show in a Lincoln coffeehouse when, two songs
before the end of the set, multiple strings broke on your acoustic
guitar, so you brought out the electric to finish with perhaps the most
powerful h&s moment I ever saw. I remember a few CD release parties,
and I remember hearing “Blues or Astroblue?” live for the first time
with the electric and the drum kit and the looping saxophone over
looping saxophone, and I (with David Morris) couldn’t contain the pure
excitement passed down and handed out throughout the crowd, feasted upon
by those of us groovin’ in the back of the room.

Of course, there are other memories too, but they don’t stick with me as
well as those do. These were the memories that all had a common factor:
the h&s live show. Then this idea came across my eyes almost as if it
were projected from another place: what if there was h&s live tunes to
take home with us? I realize that there are already many (a la Blades
of Vengeance), but that’s not all of h&s. I know you guys first as a
cover band, where everyone gets involved, then as a folk rock band with
songs to think to, and then as a rock band to groove to. Each live
instance of h&s has its own flavor, and I think you captured the
folk-rock h&s well with Blades of Vengeance. But where is the live rock
h&s? Where is the live cover h&s?

The live h&s shows weren’t just musical performances, they were
something to experience, and I miss that experience. I long to hear
your versions of “Mable,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Ants Marching,”
“Creep,” and the always fun “Birdhouse in Your Soul.” I yearn to lose
myself in the raw flavor of rock “Blues or Astroblue?,” “After the
Countdown,” “Houston,” “Thanks For Visiting Me on The Radio” or “Stop

Is it possible for this to happen? Is there any plausibility to it? Or
am I living in a dream world?

Just a few friendly thoughts down Colorado way…


P.S. In a somewhat related (but not really) note, what’s the deal with
the h&s web site? Re-launching?

First Blog in a Long Time

I want to take this opportunity to introduce a possible new MFR artist, even if we don’t release anything for another year.  We don’t have a definite name yet, or a commited drummer (although we know a guy who said he would do it, so as soon as he e-mails me back…).  We have ten songs, and by ten “songs,” I mean three or four that are roughly finished, and about 6 or 7 that are still just kind of ideas. 

We have a guitarist (John), a bassist (Tucci), a keyboardist who’s never technically played keyboards before (Tucci’s sister, Gina), and then me (Cory).  I think I’ll be focusing mostly on vocals, because this is going to be a very atypical project, by which I mean I’ll probably be singing a lot louder and wackier than I ever did in Shacker. 

Before when I was in bands, the point of the band was to create something original, exciting, and beautiful.  Not so much so with this band.  While we definitely want to do something “new” as in “not trite,” we’re not looking to break any ground here.  We’re looking to be a party rock band (kind of like The Remnants, but even more so).  The music is fast and loud, the guitars are distorted and aggressive, and there is literally a kick-ass, thumping, hardcore drum breakdown in almost every song (theoretically).  Before, in my musical efforts, songs were mostly chord-based.  Now, we’re focusing on riffs and accents to make the party get started.

This band’s purpose is to rock.  We, the band, want to flipping blast people’s heads clean off, and get people jumping around and singing along to the chorus.  We want to slack on the overall progression of music, and beef up on the sheer fun-factor.  We want the audience to have a blast, even if they don’t necessarily remember any of the songs we just played, after it’s all said and done.

Yes, we want to have a rowdy rock band, and we want to blow the doors off of any party or club we play.  We count our influences as Modest Mouse, The Faint, Queens of the Stone Age, NIN, and others.  But I’ll be the one doing the singing, so I promise at least some of it will be simple-stupid catchy.

Cory Alan


“Title” / Artist / Album / # of hits

1. “Lunch By Yourself” / Gilby / Furious Instance / 33

2. “Was I In Bon Jovi For A Second?” / howie&scott / Furious Instance / 15

3. “Rose-Colored Glasses” / Beach-Puppy / Creepy Eepy / 11

4. “God Bless The Strokes” / echoes / nickel / 10

5. “He Came To Steal Your Children” / Bike / How Is That Possible / 8
5. “There’s Something To Be Said” / Beach-Puppy / Creepy Eepy / 8
5. “Bad Attitude” / Bike / How Is That Possible / 8


This track, one of my favorites from A Tiger Dancing, is a perfect illustration of a musical quality I’ve tried off and on to nail down and describe; the “meta-song.” First, let’s walk through some of the lyrics and I’ll make some highlights. Then I’ll explain how “It Takes” is a perfect example of a meta-song within a song.

14 creates of records with my name on ’em…
Pick one without looking at it / Put the needle down
Spin it back to the beginning / Now I’m ready
–(hook v1)–

“It Takes” tells a story about Felix’s discovery of hip-hop, with a warped sense of time. His experience is the past, like a memory, but it’s also a fresh experience in itself. The introduction is a beginning to the song; it also tells the beginning of Felix’s love for music. And when he says “Spin it back to the beginning / now I’m ready”, a whole new, full sound jumps in with the “It Takes” vocal hook, a second “beginning” to the song. It’s a beginning (song), and Felix names it as such (meta-song).

–(Verse 1)–
As I listened the words weren’t there anymore
It was just those drums and a little keyboard
I’m staring at the needle and the record’s on the floor and
All that I could do was mouth some more / It said…
–(hook v2)–

Felix’s line “…drums and a little keyboard” names the instruments playing when he drops it; another clue that he’s speaking the song into being as well as telling the story contained in the song. “It said…” leads straight into a second vocal hook, the hook becoming a quotation from Felix’s memory as well as the hook to the song the listener hears. Again, when Felix tells us that about the memory of a song that speaks to him, “It Takes” speaks to us in a parallel voice; memory and moment occuring together.

–(Verse 2)–
Now there was a / I don’t remember but there was a part of this song that did break down
I don’t mean the beat break / No / I mean the beat almost cried,
I thought it had died, I thought it had drowned…

These words fall over a drum breakdown. Are you seeing the pattern, the technique that Felix is using? His words ARE what happens in the song – not just occuring together (like a typical song), but related on another level as well.

–(Verse 2 cont’d)–
I look at the sleeve and the tears well up in my eyes because my name is printed right there
The record’s still spinning / The voices came back
I stare at the cover / Like a mirror / I’m staring back
I was relaxed but this is so intense so I flip over the sleeve and I read the comments
It said ‘I dedicate this record to my brother Andy with the hopes that one day you can better understand me
Til that day here is this one song / I hope you learn from it / others will take it wrong’
And the breakdown was over and I held the sleeve tight / afraid that somebody might’ve seen me cry
I never wrote this song no how’s or why’s / But I guess I can’t say that it told a single lie
And the last little lyric in the last little part was a fire in my heart / That last little part
I live life like a diesel; all pressure, no sparks / So I throw myself out there as a shot in the dark
–(last hook)–

Indeed, A Tiger Dancing lists “Andy” under Felix’s thank-yous. The last two lines above are Felix’s last lines in “It Takes,” as well as in the song he’s remembering; we might even read the phrase “A fire in my heart” as a direct quotation; the punctuation isn’t defined (on purpose? I tend to do that in lyrics…). “It Takes” is a song, and also consciously a meta-song. It is self-referential in a way that is essential to its being itself.

“It Takes” offers a clear picture of song and meta-song at work explicitly; I think it is more often done implicitly (see Radiohead from OK Computer on, Wilco from Summerteeth on, echoes’ nickel EP). Sparked by a piece in the New York Times magazine, an upcoming post will tackle the “meta-song” idea more generally and completely. It will be accessible for anyone willing to follow me down the rabbit-hole, and since this is how I hear and respond to music, it most certainly feels like a valid, if somewhat academic, expression for the [blog].