It takes a long time for my projects to coalesce, from the time the first song is written for any given recording, to the actual release. In this case, I think “FedEx Overnight Conversions” was written in college, meaning perhaps spring 2003 (at least, not earlier – it could be later). The most recent, “Assassination Love Mission,” was finished last summer, 2005. The other three are from the winter 2004-05, after launching MFR, releasing nickel the autumn before, and moving to Minnesota.
To compare, Sally Ride was almost four years from “A Come-On” to the release of Don’t Let Them Take Us ALIVE!.
The Ska Rat songs are shorter and quirkier than nickel‘s, on purpose. Looking back, all of them deal with the places where the world and its big ideas crash with my life. Recording-wise, there’s the addition of organ sounds (which mostly replace guitar leads), and a general increase in production quality and my performances in the studio; Be A Ska Rat is my first project that might tentatively be described as “tight” in the strict sense.
“I Don’t Even Know How Right This Sounds” – If you downloaded the live version from Furious Instance, you know this song is about aesthetic insecurity and quantum physics (there’s the crash). The art-process-part comes first, then the bridge adds the “observer effect” – collapsing probability waves into single actualized moments through acts of will. This song picks up from “Open Columns” – the off-beat chord rhythms, western-ish bridge – even the key of D-major.
“Corrupting The Youth” – Like Socrates (who is now 2-for-2 on Ska Rat songs/name-checks) with the youth of Athens, traversing the city and talking about what is seen is a great education. I’d do it from the bus, instead of on foot though. “It’s every man for himself” is an observation; is it also a criticism, or a proscription? The bass didn’t come through very well, but I love the crazy keyboard-mashes.
“FedEx Overnight Conversions” – What if I woke up one morning a conservative, Pentecostal, fundamentalist Christian? And then ran into a nice, progressive, granola girl, on whom I wished I could make a good impression? I’d write this song about it. FedEx implies suddenness; this conversion is like receiving an unexpected package. The other four songs use a “rock organ” keyboard tone, but this features a rotary sound (think Steppenwolf – though here it’s buried in the mix).
“Asassination Love Mission” – Sometimes there are inner struggles so severe they’re like warfare. There are things about body chemicals (from our evolved human nature? our brains? ingested?) that I try to put to death in myself for a cause of higher love. The “Come on and show me…” parts in the two verses are lifted, melody and words, from the Clash’s “Clash City Rockers.” I don’t understand why it fit, but it just did; when I was writing the melody, I came to that part and just sang it, very intuitive. The riffy ending-part with drums sort of point the way toward a future echoes thing, Poor devil.
“J. Cougar Mellensong” – Between JC and Tom Petty, this song probably should have been written years ago. But it wasn’t, so I tuned it down (to sing in the higher octave) and wrote it faster. I tried to make it under two minutes, but the guitar-ring took it over the line, and I liked the organ fuzz at the end. It’s kind of weird structurally in that is has a couple verses and a couple bridges, but no real “chorus”. This song is very fun to play, but gets out of control easily and sounds bad. Maybe if you’ve heard the Ska Rat one, if I play it live it will strike your memory and you won’t mind so much.