Friday, 27 February 2009


I'm not a religious person. I don't think I could ever be, really. And while I couldn't say I believe in God either, I struggle to budge from my agnostic viewpoint into either full-fledged atheism or any sort of real belief, despite having thought about it until the point of exhaustion at times. Even though I can't say that I can wholly relate to the subject matter, there's something about mewithoutYou's 'Carousels' that makes it one of the most profound and powerful songs I've ever heard. It gives me shivers every time I hear it. It was the song that made me fall in love with mewithoutYou in the first place. Everything about it is overwhelming: right from the wonderfully atmospheric descending guitar line in the intro that leads its way into a deep groove, the song completely immerses me emotionally from start to finish. This serves as a great platform for Aaron Weiss' performance, which is one of the most passionate and inspiring lyrical and vocal performances I've ever heard. The opening stanza, to me, is one of the most poetic and beautiful ways of saying "I believe in God" that I've ever read:

on a bus ride into town
i wondered out loud,
"why am i going to town?"
as i looked around
at the billboards and the stores
i thought, "why do i look around?"
and i kissed the filthy ground
at the first dry spot i found
and i didn't have to wonder
why i was laying down.

Weiss' lyricism continues to be consistently astounding from there onwards. The song touches on loneliness, doubt and confusion, but, most importantly, the profound faith in God that keeps the narrator anchored despite everything. Sometimes I feel like I am "lost in sinai" myself, and listening to this song, I can't help but wonder. I can't really explain why this song is as powerful for me as it is. Whether you're a devout catholic or decidedly anti-religious, all I ask is that you listen and discover what it means to you for yourself.

if i didn't have You as my guide i'd still wander lost in sinai
or down by the tracks watching trains go by to remind me:
there are places that aren't here.
i had a well but all the water left
so i'll ask your forgiveness with every breath
if there was no way into God,
i would never have laid in this grave of a body for so long.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Ten Grand - This Is the Way to Rule (2003)

I was lucky to find this one for only £3 a couple of months back - thank God for Anarchy Records. Once upon a time there was an awesome midwest emo band called The Vidablue who, at some stage in their career, got approached by some douche from Phish who desperately wanted to nick their name. And so The Vidablue became Ten Grand - allegedly an allusion to the sum that they were paid by said hippy to change their name - and went on to make even more badass music that those jam-band wannabes could only dream of creating. Ten Grand are an emo band in the original sense, but their heavy post-punk influence sets them apart from their peers and gives them a much more diverse appeal, making them a good starting point in the genre for fans of indie-rock and post-hardcore. The racket they make is tight and explosive, filled with satisfying post-hardcore riffing and instrumental grooves, fronted by a singer who has a pretty unique and unhinged style that works perfectly with the music.

The urgency of Ten Grand's music is immediately obvious from the opening song 'Hands Off the Merch'. The first minute builds up tension brilliantly, the initial burst of chiming guitars giving away to the continuous thumping of a bass drum - until finally the drums hit their stride and the song explodes into action, vocalist Matt Davis shakily proclaiming "Who's a wreck? I'm a wreck." Then after just two intense minutes it's over, but the rest of the album doesn't lapse in quality for a second. Touches of backup melody in songs like 'Wedding Song for Steve and Angie' and 'Now You Got What I Got' add an interesting dynamic to the record, making it seem much less obviously emo and potentially more approachable for those who aren't necessarily familiar with the genre. 'Fuck You Guyses Teams', one of the record's highlights, has a really tight groove to it that is surprisingly catchy, to the extent that to my ears it could almost be a Bloc Party song. The band has a great ear for dynamics, often bursting from a steady groove into a more intense one to keep the listener hooked. 'This Isn't Heaven, This Sucks' is a perfect example of a song that, while lacking a refrain, manages to be consistently gripping through the explosive riffing and the rapid but fluid changes between sections, building in tension towards a climax at the end of the song. 'Get Out of My Dojo' includes a steadily building rhythmic assault that shows the band's taut interplay at its best, recalling the progressive leanings of other emo bands like Gospel and Kidcrash. Ten Grand specialise in songwriting over experimentalism, though, and this much is evident in the frankly amazing album closer 'Now You Got What I Got'. Fulfilling the "emotional" part of "emotional hardcore" by all means, it tumbles chaotically towards an intense and emotionally exhausting coda, wringing as much feeling as possible out of the song through the soaring tremolo guitars and Davis' ambiguous but nevertheless very affecting repetition of "it's like an accident that we keep on knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting" until the song collapses in on itself.

Never has an album title been more accurate. It should go without saying how tragic it is that Matt Davis passed away following the release of this album, especially as the band could have potentially been very big news indeed had they carried on down the same path. As it is, we're left with this brilliant Southern Records-released memento of one of the best emo/post-hardcore/whatever bands ever to exist. If anyone ever knew the way to rule, it was Ten Grand.

$i feel like a veteran$ i forgot how to leave. $i feel like j. gosh$ i will not go back to school, $i i feel just like bill buckner$ i forgot i need it, $and everyone that you forgot$ i forgot how to need it. for all the time i keep waiting, the times you kept saying go, you're done twisting arms. backed up and down, a new ratio, for who's laughing now, who's winning now? i hide my jokes inside the kitchen broom so you can start practicing for the rest of your life, they wrote you in to stay down, we mean it, stay down, you can't move, the wait is so hard, but you blew it all.
i recall saying you'll never forget this again for the rest of your life. $what's the word on the street?$
somehow i recall...
$it's probably nothing, baby$
i'll never have the time to explain, i don't think i'll find the time to explain, i know i won't ever want to have to explain, let's give up on verbs and nouns, because sometimes you mean it, but everybody's got too many words, and sometimes you mean it but everybody's got too many words, just shut up once for me, please shut up once for me, just shut up once for me, just shut up for once in your life, while they were talking to you, i kept on driving in and ran down every thought, who's waiting now, you've got to dig yourself out, you have to dig yourself out, you have to dig yourself out.

-Ten Grand; 'This Isn't Heaven, This Sucks'

Ten Grand - This Is the Way to Rule

(Check out how good they were live!)

Ten Grand

Friday, 13 February 2009

The Van Pelt - Sultans of Sentiment (1997)

Something about this one typifies 1990s indie-rock for me perfectly. The title of the album kind of hints at its prevailing mood: The Van Pelt are one of those bands that, a lot of the time, ooze that lovely kind of bittersweet sentimentality that seems to be practically unique to '90s American indie-rock bands; bridging the slow, tempered grooves and spoken word approach of Slint with the nostalgic beauty of American Football, sometimes cutting their teeth in a bit of off-kilter distorted riffing. The guitar playing on this album is great, mostly revolving around intertwining clean guitar lines that never show off more than they need to but always complement the rhythm section perfectly. Frontman Chris Leo makes this band pretty special: most of the time he employs a spoken word delivery, going from cool and collected to very impassioned at the climaxes of songs. His wordy and literate lyrics are sometimes ponderous and whimsical, sometimes political, and sometimes, well, downright sentimental, but always great. The album finishes on a really high point with 'Do the Lovers Still Meet at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial?', a brooding ballad that, over the same three chords, conjures up beautifully bittersweet images: ghost towns of lost youth, empty bottles and empty dancefloors, and the times that we wish we could take back. Sure, its melancholy brand of romanticism might be almost cloying to some, but it's the kind of stuff that I eat up every time. Sultans of Sentiment, though destined to always remain on the margins, is an indie-rock gem that should not be overlooked.

let's make a list so we can feel like we're accomplishing something, so we can feel like we're working together. let's sit in a circle adding to the list as we move around the room one by one, as you make a suggestion begin sternly - you take no shit - to give credence to your semi-constructive argument. tomorrow we'll wonder where this generation gets their priorities from. tomorrow my heart will skip a beat as it does every morning nine months of the year. it has to do with this list. before the bells even ring. before the hair is even combed. will the approach ever change or will it begin as i've said and end with a lighthearted twist to prove we're all adults? it has to do with this list, which we'll put in our pockets to throw away at a later date. it has to do with this list, which makes me feel more uncomfortable than i've ever felt, more apple pie than i've ever been. we are not housewives, executives, or entrepreneurs. we are teachers by trade, complainers by role.
-The Van Pelt; 'Let's Make a List'

The Van Pelt - Sultans of Sentiment

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

John Frusciante - The Empyrean (2009)

A preface: this entry is, in some respects, going to be pretty personal and, inevitably, pretty long. Most people I know who are really passionate about music have at least one artist for whom their appreciation is so deep-seated and whose music has contributed so much to their personal growth that a careless criticism directed at the artist can feel almost like a personal insult. No matter how strange it can seem to an outsider, I almost feel bad for those who don't understand an appreciation that deep, because they're missing out on something really beautiful: being able to develop, over time, a personal relationship and an incredible emotional connection with a piece of art. For me, that artist is John Frusciante. His solo works have stayed with me long since my early teenage obsession with the Chili Peppers faded. He was the artist that initially motivated me to pick up guitar. Also, importantly, discovering his solo output back then felt like a revelation: it was the first time it really registered with me just how much personal depth and power music could really have, far beyond simple catchy choruses or stoic experimentations. I connected with that depth, and to this day he's been a creative role model for me. His solo records have, at numerous points in my life, provided warmth and consolation even when little else has been able to. Five years after a large amount of my favourite material of his was released, it only makes sense to gather my thoughts on his most recent release, The Empyrean.

Critically evaluating a record like this is difficult for me, since my predisposition to Frusciante's work means that it doesn't feel natural to listen to it with my critical faculty, I'm always so emotionally immersed in it all. As a fully-fledged concept album, it's certainly his most cohesive effort to date by nature. Sonically it's his most impressive effort yet next to Shadows Collide With People, his outstanding 2oo4 synthpop record. There's all sorts of interesting things going on: string quartets, choirs, analogue synthesizers, and lots of strange treatments and effects on the instruments and vocals that really contribute to the texture of the album, giving it a dark psychedelic quality and ensuring that more and more details are picked up on with repeated listening. There are some criticisms that could be levelled at it: it has been remarked by many that the opening 9-minute instrumental 'Before the Beginning', while providing a wonderfully atmospheric introduction to the record, sounds awkwardly similar to Funkadelic's classic psychedelic guitar solo 'Maggot Brain'. As one will inevitably find in the work of a prolific songwriter who writes what are, harmonically, quite simple songs, it does sometimes sound like he's almost recycling melodies. Actually, there's one decidedly deliberate instance of this in the album itself, with the songs 'Enough of Me' and 'One More of Me', but I will address the significance of this later. The second part of Dark/Light can drag on a bit - as interesting as the clash of the raw drum machine with the very orchestrated choir is, it starts grating a couple of minutes into the repetition of the chord sequence, sounding like a half-cooked idea from To Record Only Water For Ten Days. Though as an album this is one of Frusciante's most thought-out and accomplished efforts yet, the songs themselves sometimes don't quite stand up on their own next to his best efforts from the rest of his catalogue (ironically, one of the best songs on the album is a Tim Buckley cover), but they do work in the context of the rest of the album. That's an important thing to bear in mind when listening to this: it is an album that needs to be experienced as a whole to have its proper effect. Another thing about the album is that it's very, very serious in tone. People familiar with Frusciante's work will have no problem with this, as his work has always dealt heavily with spiritual, almost religious concepts, but it does require that the listener is prepared to take it at face value when listening, otherwise the lyrics can come across as quite pompous and bizarre. I mean, it's a concept album of sorts - it's inevitable that it might come across as pretentious to some.

The concept behind The Empyrean, however, is certainly not a bloated Mars Volta-style one (you know, the type involving characters with funny names and foetuses and Ouija boards and all that crap). It is a highly personal "story" that only John Frusciante himself could have written. As far as life stories go, his is pretty intense: joining a band at the age of 18 that goes on become the biggest rock band in the world, facing extreme disillusionment, depression and loss, sinking into several years of heroin-fueled down-and-out hell, only to come out the other side as someone much more enlightened, successful and creative. He's had bigger ups and downs than most of us could dream of having in a lifetime. Essentially, The Empyrean is the bringing together and clarification of themes that have always been present in his work, presenting us with a coherent explanation of his beautiful perspective on life and spirituality. It's all left deliberately open to interpretation, but from John's perspective, there are only two "characters", so to speak, involved in the album: one person who experiences life's ups and downs and goes through a turbulent process of enormous personal growth, eventually coming out at peace with himself and the rest of the world, and the "creative force, which constantly creates and perpetuates existence", which he goes through a process of slowly becoming in harmony with. Anyone unfamiliar with Frusciante's music reading this right now will most likely think he's a rambling pothead. Upon reading his writings and listening to his music, it actually all makes a surprising amount of sense - his approach to spirituality is optimistic, level-headed and philosophical. The album echoes the Zen mantra "this too shall pass" - any given moment in one's life is ephemeral, something that will inevitably give way to the next moment. As such, life inherently contains cycles: it's not an emotional plateau, it constantly ebbs back and forth between good and bad experiences and the most important thing to remember is that the so-called bad experiences are just as important as the good experiences because the ugly gives meaning to the beautiful and provides us with the drive to be creative, which, in Frusciante's mind, is the most important act in life: contributing to your reality. One particular point he makes on his blog really struck me, even more than the rest of it, kind of summing up the album's message:

"Trying and giving up go hand in hand. But it’s trying that deserves the attention of our will. Giving up is just breathing out. Breathing in is the one we need to remember to do. Breathing out naturally follows. The important thing is just to keep breathing. To try and then just go through all that happens, including not trying. And so we hold our breath sometimes. These things aren’t problems. They are just living."

I would go on to explain the concept further but I can't do anywhere near as good a job as Frusciante himself. It just happens that his blog provides a really interesting, eloquent and detailed explanation of the philosophy behind the album, and, if you are at all interested in finding out more about the lyrical message of this album, I recommend you take a look through it at It's worth it.

The first song on the album that really grabbed me was the cover of Tim Buckley's 'Song to the Siren' - while arguably not an improvement on the original, Frusciante's own arrangement is still spellbinding - beautiful warm synthesisers and a wonderfully tranquil atmosphere backing one of the most heartbreaking love songs ever penned. Two of the three epics on the album ('Unreachable' and 'Central') are particularly stunning, building to brilliantly compelling conclusions, using all sorts of sonic manipulation to provide incredible atmospheres, with Frusciante's trademark guitar playing here being some of the most expressive instrumental work he's ever done. 'Enough of Me' and 'One More of Me' make a very interesting pairing, lyrically representing different points in life and different perspectives - one being despairing, the other full of a renewed sense of energy and purpose. The effect of the way he sings in an unusually low register in the latter is particularly startling, as are the strange screams halfway through and the strings, but it makes for a brilliant listen. Musically, it makes sense that they sound very very similar because, as two sides of the same coin, they sync up (severely trippy stuff!). It kind of embodies the album's concept of life's cycles, of trying and giving up and trying again, over and over in a harmonious process. My personal favourite on the album is, however, its closer: 'After the Ending'. I don't know what it is about it - I guess a combination of the haunting atmosphere, the incredible melodies and, most of all, the lyrics - but it has left me emotionally exhausted and stunned after every listen. The first time I heard it I was walking down the street listening on my iPod and for a minute during the last few moments of the song I was almost stopped in my tracks, momentarily feeling a little dizzy and intoxicated by it all, just about snapped back into reality by the startling ending. The next time I listened I had a lump in my throat. By the third listen through, while reading the lyric sheet on a night when I felt pretty low, I was bawling. Not a lot of songs make me do that. It has already taken its place as one of my favourite songs, perhaps even my favourite song, by my favourite artist. Which says a lot.

As an album, The Empyrean isn't without its little flaws, but it has such an emotional impact on me that criticism seems to miss the point. Like some of Frusciante's other work, it's one of those rare albums that I can listen to at times where things aren't going as hoped and I feel a little lost as to where my life is headed - it takes you outside of your current reality and gives you a vital bit of perspective that helps you rationalise even the worst of times, and for that I think it's an incredibly valuable record. I'm throwing in two of my favourite Frusciante albums, Shadows Collide With People and The Will To Death, to give a little perspective on why I love Frusciante as much as I do. Hopefully they might even have an impact on someone else. Who knows. All I know is that this music is immeasurably important to me.

pain runs through life
pleasures' other side
fear, some say, gives us such long lives
leads us where we drive
time will soon be born
it is starting at the dawn
and the world is moving towards
things like opposites and wars
and one knows to hear birds sing
there was nothing until the beginning
and the water from my eyes
is because i care who dies
although death is transforming
there is nothing after the ending
[everything is eternal - nothingness does not exist - no thing has ever become nothing - and nothing has never become something - what is has always been and will always be]
-John Frusciante; 'After The Ending'

John Frusciante - The Empyrean
John Frusciante - The Will To Death
John Frusciante - Shadows Collide With People

I Hate Myself/Twelve Hour Turn - Split LP (1998)

Here's a quick fix of mid-90s emo. Both bands bring a solid side on this split LP - the majority of I Hate Myself's side revolves around slow-burning, Slint-worshipping pessimism, the first and third songs both building to great conclusions with melodic but bleak guitar playing. What makes I Hate Myself so great is that, well, as you would expect with a band name like that, they don't take themselves entirely seriously, delivering their songs with a bucketload of self-deprecating irony, yet their lyrics, while consciously silly and melodramatic, are also very sincere and poignant. A great example is album highlight 'Song For All The Young Casanovas And Casanovettes': musically it is much in the same vein as their classic song 'Drama In The Emergency Room' (which is on their '2 Songs' release and which I highly recommend you check out). This song is dedicated to those out there that won't be celebrating Valentine's Day either: lyrically kind of ridiculous but very funny and very true, it's a brilliant 5-minute long cautionary whine about loving and losing that picks up intensity until it collapses in on itself in a cathartic final section.

Twelve Hour Turn, meanwhile, were an excellent post-hardcore-laced emo band from Florida. Think interweaving instrumental melodies, dynamic buildups, and the occasional discordant and loud section with desperate rasping vocals and tight grooves, similar to bands like Ten Grand or Maximillian Colby. They bring five quality songs to the table on their side. Good stuff.

I suggest you only ever tell lies, because once you tell the truth they'll break your heart. Don't ever look them in the eyes, because those eyes are gonna rip your heart apart. I recommend you keep your distance, because once you get too close you'll lose control. Don't ever fall in love; just stay buried in your lonely hole. Take it from experience: desperate acts are ridiculous. Don't ever tell the truth, because the ones you love will do the same to you. If they lose your hand and drop you and you fall, you'll have to pretend it meant nothing at all. You know sometimes the saddest laugh the loudest.

-I Hate Myself; 'Song For All The Young Casanovas And Casanovettes'

I Hate Myself/Twelve Hour Turn - Split LP

Friday, 6 February 2009

Say Anything - ...Is A Real Boy (2004)

And the record begins with a song of rebellion...

This was the album, along with Set Your Goals' "Mutiny!", that was largely responsible for being the catalyst of my belated love affair with Pop Punk. It has several gateway qualities that make it perfectly approachable for someone who would normally flinch at the mention of Pop Punk: musically, it's very varied and bursting with awesome ideas, be it the Weezer-esque pop of 'Every Man Has a Molly', the splashes of synth on 'Yellow Cat (Slash) Red Cat', the shuffle of 'Alive With the Glory of Love' or the quasi-hardcore of 'Belt' and 'An Orgy of Critics'. Every song bears enough toe-tapping hooks to embed themselves in your brain from the first listen, but the album contains a lot of depth for such an unapologetically 'pop' album. The thing is, it's Max Bernis' lyrics that really make ...Is A Real Boy such a classic: bursting with wit, humour and painfully relatable verses, the words to these thirteen songs present us with a glimpse into the labyrinthine mess that is the young male psyche - if you've heard the album Alopecia by Why?, I could easily draw a lot of parallels between the two records in terms of lyrical content.

Well, okay, maybe not the average male psyche. Bernis has a history of serious mental problems: anxiety issues, bipolar disorder, drug abuse: the whole shebang. The very intro to the record makes this clear to us immediately: a recording of a conversation he held with his producer reveals the following admission: "I have to record the spoken word introduction to the record. It's only a few lines, but I'm having anxiety about it." Bernis initially intended the record to be a preposterously ambitious concept album complete with script and characters, with the focus being on "the artistic struggle, the fact that every creative person has this sick ambition to affect some sort of change in society with their art, to be more than just a guy in a band or a poet or a sculptor." However, the pressure of recording the album saw Bernis buckle, having a nervous breakdown and ending up spending weeks in an institution. ...Is A Real Boy is the band's second attempt at the album, this time with no over-ambitious script or narration: just a bunch of magnificent songs filled with poignant and often bitter ruminations that can sometimes get uncomfortably honest, touching on themes like artistry, people and their frustrating character flaws, drugs, and sex. Lots and lots of sex. If Rivers Cuomo was less happy-go-lucky and a hell of a lot more neurotic, this would be the album that he'd write.

Okay, let's get the sex part of it out of the way first, because this is Bernis we're talking about and this is something that preoccupies him a hell of a lot. One thing I love about Max Bernis is that, unlike many other songwriters, he doesn't try to give off the impression that he's any more enlightened or morally likeable than the next person. On the contrary, he's all too willing to expose his dirty flaws and ugly but sometimes scarily familiar thought patterns. 'Spidersong' is probably the most obvious example here: addressing (probably trying to seduce) a woman, it hints at a guilty conscience, the narrator very aware that he only wants sex while also aware that, meanwhile, she seeks affection. He treats it like a twisted game, manipulating her to his own ends, only to lazily declare that his heart's not in it, going in a few verses from this:

no more promises
i have made them before

and broken them

give me the go ahead

and i'll undress myself for you

if you're at all interested

to this:

i am cool
too cool to call you

far too stoned
to leave my bed

i'll write this song
to win your kiss
but stay asleep instead

The song 'Every Man Has a Molly', one of the most instantly accessible songs on the album, a neurotic anthem that deals with an ex-girlfriend of his that broke up with him "over the revealing nature of the songs". It addresses the clash between his love life and his self-image as an artist, sarcastically pointing out the attention-seeking nature of the songwriter: "Molly Connolly ruined my life/I thought the world should know". The song has one of the most awesome lines in the album: "You god damn kids had best be gracious with the merch money you spend/Because for you I won’t ever have rough sex with Molly Connolly again". I mean, come on, that's funny stuff.
'Woe' similarly deals with the artistry/sex issue. Its opening lines sort of sum up the album: "All the words in my mouth/that the scene deemed unworthy of letting out/banded together to form a makeshift militia/and burrowed bloodily through my tongue and my teeth". These words are messy, unpleasant and certainly not all smiles and sunshine. One verse deals with his guilt and frustration with the fact that he is used for sex "most likely because of [his] band". The line "I can't get laid in this town without these pointy fucking shoes/my feet are so black and blue and so are you" is kind of a comment on the ridiculous way that people go all out to try and impress the opposite sex, night after night. The final half of this song is a more general expression of his frustration with the hypocrisy of his surroudings, and his desire to escape and surpass his environment which bogs him down. The last line, "I'm still the optimist, though it is hard/when all you want to be is in a dream" gets me every time.
Other songs obviously deal with this theme too: 'The Writhing South' is a rumination on lust, while 'Alive With the Glory of Love' appears at first to be a perfectly catchy love song but reveals itself to actually be a much darker story about a couple in love and "screw[ing] away the day" while in hiding during the holocaust.
'The Futile', an especially strong track, is a full-on doom-and-gloom fit of nihilism. Max states his mantra ("Eat, sleep, fuck and flee; in four words that's me") lamenting the futility of everyday life while declaring:

love! i shall not love
yet i’ll still sing about it

hope it covers the ocean in slime

the drama and drool

i’m leaking the blood of a fool

But just when you thought that Bernis had a totally fucked up perspective on sexuality and love, he goes ahead and writes a song like 'I Want to Know Your Plans', which is pretty simply just a really sweet, honest and gently humorous love song with no fancy trimmings or catches.

Some songs are, essentially, calling out various aspects of society on their bullshit. 'Belt', for example, is a rebellious statement about the music industry and an expression of Bernis' frustration with modern society. Meanwhile, 'Admit It!!!', the album closer, is a brilliant and very funny rant about hipster culture and the self-righteousness and hypocrisy that goes with it, ending the record on a rousing high note with the declaration "I'm proud of my life and the things that I have done/Proud of myself and the loner I've become/You're free to whine, it will not get you far/I do just fine, my car and my guitar".

My favourite track on the album is definitely 'Yellow Cat (Slash) Red Cat'. Over some really gorgeous pop production, Max writes a pretty much perfect set of lyrics that deal with the inevitability, predictability and unpreventable nature of various characters' personal flaws, essentially saying that these problems are a part of some people and are often so deep-seated that trying to change them is useless. The imagery is all fantastic and, brilliantly, can be taken either literally or metaphorically without changing the message of the song in any way. All of these characters have their own little repetitious flaws, from sexual dependancy to chronic laziness and tragic artistry, and the narrator feels that he can't do anything to change them, even seeing himself in these characters he's conjured. The final build of musical intensity accompanies a double-verse one-two punch that really hits close to home and sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it:

i watch my neighbor’s son play
with his shotgun in the street

i think i’ll blaze all day
and marvel

at the mass of food i eat
it’s strange, i’m skinny when i’m standing

but i’m buddha when i sit

and if i’m truly so enlightened

why’d i waste your time on it?

as i look back at countless crossroads

and the middle where i stay

right up the beaten path to boredom

where the fakest fucks get laid

by the faux-finest finds
it’s been that way
god damn you, how you stay

with every scummy, crummy hour

of the scummy, crummy day.

these are my friends

this is who they have been for always

these are my days

this is how they stay

One word of warning: ...Is A Real Boy is an incredible album, one that I end up finding myself listening to quite a lot in periods of cynicism and frustration, but you won't find much in the way of enlightening Zen in it. Max Bernis' mind is full of ugly knots and dark corners - this album is simply a brilliant exploration of those knots, and one that might find you doing a similar bit of introspection. But do go ahead and give it a listen, because it's a real ear-opener that gets better with every listen and every read through the lyric sheet. I consider it a damn near perfect record.

Say Anything - ...Is A Real Boy