This past week I’ve picked up the Listening Project series (pt.1 – pt. 2 – pt. 3 – pt. 4 – pt. 5 – pt. 6); to mark MFR’s fifth birthday in September 2009 (!), I’ve been listening to every release in order, making notes as I go. It may be for the best that some time has passed between these more recent releases and listening back to them.
MFR028 – Drive-By Honky – Double Live Platinum
- The opportunity to re-release Double Live Platinum just kind of popped up in conversation between Cory and Dan Jenkins of DBH/Ideal Cleaners… I don’t really know much else about how it happened, except I suspect-slash-hope that the MFR re-release was part of the inspiration for Dan to do the excellent thebandbrokeup.com
- When we started working on this release, the only DBH I had was Thrift Americana, so I was happy to hear the tuffer riffs of Double Live Platinum pointing toward Ideal Cleaners’ sound
- “The Divine Butcher” (AKA “Loser by miles”) – Just sayin’!
MFR029 – Sally Ride – There is Something and not nothing
- First off, I’m incredibly proud of Matt for doing this record with me and for his drumming, and of the songs themselves
- The earliest seeds for not nothing were a couple of ideas (like the verse riff and chorus chords/melody/lyrics for “Heart Stops Beating”) that had hanging around for years (since 2003 or ’04), coupled with some Five Star Crush demos I wrote with Matt while the relationship with Joel was strained (and/or he was in Georgia), and we were working on new material separately by design. As I became attached to my vision for some of the songs, and it looked less and less likely that they would make it as 5*C songs (or that 5*C would make new songs at all), it came clear that I had a record on my hands
- The theme is the cross-pollination of existential crisis and questions of the meaning of meaning with my take on 80s dance music, sort of Depeche Mode stuff. At one point I wanted to produce physical CDs through CafePress, and the inside cover was to contain these quotes, which provide some context for the record. I had thought I’d put them on the release page, but it doesn’t look like I did.
“Science questions the common assumptions which seem to be true to everyone, to the layman as well as to the average scholar. Then the genius comes and asks for the basis of these accepted assumptions; when they are proved not to be true, an earthquake in science occurs out of the depth. Such earthquakes occurred when Copernicus asked if our sense-impressions could be the ground of astronomy, and when Einstein questioned whether there is an absolute point from which the observer could look at the motions of things. An earthquake occurred when Marx questioned the existence of an intellectual and moral history independent of its economic and social basis. It occurred in the most eruptive way when the first philosophers questioned what everybody had taken for granted from times immemorial — being itself.
“When they became conscious of the astonishing fact, underlying all facts, that there is something and not nothing, an unsurpassable depth of thought was reached.”
— Paul Tillich, from “The Shaking of the Foundations”
Chapter 7, The Depth of Existence
“Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, 0 Lord.”
— Psalm 130:1
- A rubbing of the front door and sanctuary door handles at St. Peter’s provided the main cover image. I thought it looked kind of metal with the upside-down cross, but it’s actually the sign of Saint Peter (who, according to the story, was crucified upside-down because he insisted he wasn’t fit to die in the same manner as Jesus)
- I have the first acoustic demos for “Deft” and “Can U Feel It?” somewhere in the studio. “Deft” was written in one sitting, music and lyrics (which is unusual for me), and I did the demo right then. It even has a vocal drum fill in the bridge. Co-writing credit to Joel on “Can U Feel It?” It was a jam we played once at practice, and always stuck with me; I eventually had to do *something* with the idea. The verse of “Yr Right” is a twisted-up inversion of something much poppier Danny played once at practice, too.
- Unintentionally (except for the bridge), “Deft” bears a resemblance to one of my favorite songs, U2’s “Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me Kill Me.” It’s not the same or anything, just working with a similar palette of chords and intervals.
- This ended up being a pretty fully-realized album – it is, and does, what I meant it to be and do – with some of my most fully-realized songs as well (“Deft,” “Out,” “The Biggest Choice You Make,” “Seven”)
- Really fun to play bass all over this record, and it’s the first album I’ve done a lot of bass. Thanks again, Jill, for letting me borrow your bass! (The line on “Yr Right” is what reminded me to mention how enjoyable bass playing is.)
- Also the first time I’ve used a lot of vocal effects; echo, and distortion. Vocal echo is a Joel thing, and distortion is more Drew. Which reminds me; Matt and I cut the drums for “There is Something and not nothing” at the same time we recorded the base drum and rhythm guitar tracks for Mars Lights’ Sides 1, 2, and 3.
- “The Biggest Choice You Make” was a song I wrote top-to-bottom for Five Star Crush, and just couldn’t ever get the band interested enough in to work on. “Miami” was another where I took an instrumental jam from practice, finished it, and tried to bring it back in with no luck. If I could choose, they’d have been 5*C and not Sally Ride songs, but that doesn’t diminish how I feel about “There is Something and not nothing”
- “Turning the Wheel” is one of the four seals of dharma songs on the record – one song for each seal – the others being “Heart Stops Beating,” “Seven,” and… (thinking…)
- Listening to “Can U Feel It?” reminds me how much this album deals in so many ways with the loss of faith, but also the persistence of something almost deeper than faith… something like the animating spirit of faith, if that’s a thing. It’s a bleak hopefulness, but it’s not nothing.
MFR030 – White Air – White Air
- I don’t remember quite how Greg’s first record as White Air came to MFR. Maybe Cory recommended me to him for mastering, and in the course of doing that the MFR release format came up
- This was a tricky mastering job, but it came out nicely. As you can tell from listening, the songs are all over in terms of instrumentation and intensity of the performances, so it just took a while to nudge everything into the same sonic space. “Endure” was a bear
- Love the demented children’s choir backing vocals
- I think I had a big hand in determining the track listing, so if it doesn’t work for you, please send blame this direction
- “Terrible Truth” was the first rough mix Greg sent to me to check out when we were first talking about collaborating, and I dug it immediately. When I got the whole record, it took a few listens to adjust to it all – the funk of “Am I Getting Through To You,” the weirdo-Neil Young-ness of “Making Out Like A Bandit” – which is one of the points of the record, I think
- “You’re happier than happy should be / You’re too happy to be happy here with me” is a great line
MFR031 – Songwriter Power Rangers on KZUM
- SWPR was a show series Cory helped curate for a year or two, and these tunes are from a live radio session the four artists performed on KZUM to promote the shows. (The whole Hardy Holm “Alive in Lincoln” show is available on the release post – the interviews are pretty funny)
- I’m honored – truly, that’s the right word – to have the great Manny Coon (what a songwriter!), Ember Schrag (what a performer, and contributor to the Lincoln scene!), and Lori Allison (what emotional resonance, and Millions member to boot!) on MFR
- Thanks to Hardy for hosting the show, and extra thanks to Cory for making sure we got a board recording from the studio
- I think this was one of Cory’s first performances with his (then-) new guitar
- We cobbled the cover together from several different SWPR show posters
- Seriously; Manny. “Your Momma Called.” Damn!
MFR032 – Panda Face – Panda Face
- Brandon’s music came to MFR via Greg/White Air (they’re both in Strawberry Burns) fully formed; I didn’t even master this (or his second album, either). It’s exactly as we received it
- Oh – I did add the blue background to the cover, at Brandon’s request
- Panda Face reminds me most of the BLANE stuff, but I’ve never asked Brandon about the development between the two projects, or why these songs called for a new name
- My key to the Panda Face aesthetic is the gulf-sized contrast between the computer-based instrument sounds and production and the very human vocals
- Listening back, I’m getting more and more into this. Maybe I’m slow, or maybe it’s aged better than I expected, or maybe I was overwhelmed a little at first. I’m upping the rating in iTunes song-by-song as I go along