Monday, January 17, 2011

Interim Phase 2: Battles and Bands

I was in a couple of bands in college, hastily concocted for the purpose of participating in the annual Battle of the Aforementioned, put on by the college radio station, KUMM (University of Minnesota, Morris being my alma mater). Which charmingly billed itself as the only radio station that put KUMM in your ear. The first band, the Stanley's House of Doors Band, was not very imaginatively named for the large, dilapidated, and mystifyingly over-endowed with doors rental house that all of we members lived in.

Indeed this band took first place at that year's Battle of the Bands with a set of covers and originals, a few of the latter bearing lyrics written by me. This band also later prompted one of those small world moments when I was sitting smoking a cigarette on the steps of my brother's apartment in Minneapolis and some friend of one of his fellow tenants looked strangely at me and then said "Stanley's House of Doors Band!"

The next year two of the members of that band had moved on to brighter lights and I joined my roommate in forming a new band. (We now lived in a rental trailer-home lot some enterprising slum lord had erected on the edge of town, a truly dismal little hovel up on cinder blocks, it's grim semiotics fully ameliorated by the fact that my rent there was $110 a month in 1993-1994, plus propane for the gas heater. We put heavy plastic over every window come winter and proceeded to smoke, heavily and unrepentantly, until my girlfriend (the one that came after the one I get into below) refused flatly to visit me at home any more. My roommate gave them up later in the winter. Not too long prior the school had finally banned smoking in the last few holdout spots indoors and one of the other former Stanley's Etc. bandmates, who was working maintenance crews in the summer, brought me one of the giant, silver, wall mounted ashtrays that had been stripped from the walls, a button beside the bifurcated tray to open its halves out and dump the accumulated butts into the bullet-shaped reservoir below. This I bolted to the side of the slight deck and staircase set against the side (and only) door and proceeded to smoke outside in the midst of a genuinely heinous winter on the prairie, so as to be a better influence). The name of the band was Crackspine, its genre was Hardcore, and I gamely endeavored to write hardcore lyrics in the spirit of the thing. I had a wretched case of bronchitis during the Battle of the Bands and we did not win.

Somewhere before or in and along this thing I wrote a series of connected, vaguely narrative songs called The Masks, so named for their extraordinarily clich├ęd central metaphor. These were inspired by a break-up, naturally, the same one that spawned the last two of the Journal Songs. In retrospect that relationship was fairly misbegotten and I was lucky to be out of it and would probably have been better off if it's total duration had been shortened by about two thirds but of course it was my first serious college relationship so I was unclear on these realities at the time.

Such as they are, then, these songs. Some were nearly lost, I dug out of the inexorably decaying disk-based data archives a rough rip from analog (VHS, to be precise) of that long ago triumphant Battle, which had been missing for a couple years now, and was in quite literally the last place I had to look. Which allowed me to transcribe a few that I'd lost all written record of. Whatever the lyrics may represent in themselves, this was the first time I really intentionally set myself to serially writing verse to be sung, and I suppose I never really stopped.

You can read an explanation of the origin of these lyrics here
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