Day 3C: DC Red Tape, Round Three
The East subdivision gives us…
#9 Rites of Spring, “All There Is”
#12 Russ Ballard, “Rene Didn’t Do It”
“It’s more than love and it’s less than love
It’s what I give to you
It’s more than love and it’s less than love
It’s what I give to you
All there is is in the knowing
That this never has to end
All there is to know”
“Rene didn’t do it,
He was here with me
We came from his place,
We drank and we watched TV
Why don’t you guys just leave him alone?
What has he done to you?
I know sometimes he don’t do what he oughta,
I know Sergeant Jones has been seen with your daughter…”
My breaking of the rules in an earlier battle means I’m repeating myself here; Ballard’s ability to take what sounds like normal everyday speech and make it into song lyrics wows me. Put up against Rites of Spring (did you ever wonder why emo lyrics are so simple? Because Rites of Spring invented the damn genre!), it becomes even more obvious. Ballard takes this one by a comfortable margin.
#11 Nyodene D, “This Is What We Must Do”
#15 John Trubee, “A Blind Man’s Penis”
“We must emerge from the underground.
We must greet the day with gunfire.
We must embrace the night with explosions.
We must overthrow this pig society.
We must make things a little less comfortable.”
“Let’s make love under the stars and watch for UFOs.
If little baby martians come out of the UFOs, we’ll fuck them, yeah yeah yeah.
The zebra spills his plastinia on Bemis
And the Jellson’s fingers ooze electric marbles.
Ramona’s titties died in hell
And the Nazis want to kill, to kill everyone.”
[note: the original lyrics were changed by Ramsey Kearney when he recorded it; he replaced “fuck” with “love”. I changed it back to Trubee’s original lyrics, as documented in Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story.]
This is one helluva matchup, and I note the irony here. D’s “We must make things a little less comfortable” is not the last line of the verse, so it’s not an obvious punchline as it should be, but it is, nevertheless, a punchline, the only one in a track that is otherwise serious as a heart attack. That gives us at least a slight point of commonality to work with against John Trubee’s monumental joke-rock classic, which is a track that is nothing but one massive punchline. And once again—I find the path the RNG fed to “A Blind Man’s Penis” very interesting, in retrospect—we find ourselves in a matchup where a band who are seriously talking about ways to change the system comes up against “A Blind Man’s Penis”, which actually did so. The last time this happened, in Round One, Trubee skated through with no resistance. That’s not happening here; this may be an early Nyodene D track, but it is still more accomplished, better presented, and more passionate. Also, in a lyric-to-lyric matchup, Trubee’s “I was just writing down the most outrageous things I could think of” conceit, which works so well with Ramsey Kearney’s deadpan delivery, makes it falter; it doesn’t work nearly as well on the printed page. Still, I can’t bear the thought of losing it, any more than I can bear the thought of losing “This Is What We Must Do.” And thus, for the first time in a very long while, we bring out the worst weapon to be found in this entire competition: George Washington. Since D is the song on top above, he gets heads…and the quarter comes up tails. John Trubee goes into the hopper, and Nyodene D goes to the showers.
In the Midwest subdivision, we have…
#16 Dropkick Murphys, “Finnegan’s Wake”
#12 Caustic Christ, “Bloodsucking Fiends”
“One mornin’ Tim was rather full
His head felt heavy which made him shake
He fell from a ladder and broke his skull
So they carried him home, his corpse to wake
They rolled him up in a nice clean sheet
They laid him out upon the bed
A bottle of whiskey at his feet
And a barrel of porter at his head”
“mind-numbing routine schedule keeps us content
with living hand to mouth and barely making rent
when people say they love their job they’re usually lying
fighting to survive but so quickly they’re dying”
Do you even need to ask? Caustic Christ in a landslide.
#14 S. L. Makita, “I Wish I Knew I Could Have Been This Happy Back in 1992”
#15 John Lee Hooker, “Madman’s Blues”
[at least one song is an instrumental, so no lyric-to-lyric matchup possible.]
“Madman’s Blues” is from 1961, by seven years the oldest song left in the competition. And man, people who bitch and moan about how violent music is today? “Gonna take you down by the riverside, hang you up baby by your neck, I got the madman blues.” That was over fifty years ago. I first discovered John Lee Hooker in 1986; my friend R. J. Thomas played me back-to-back pieces from John Lee Hooker Plays and Sings the Blues, “Hey Baby” (on more recent pressings, the song is now called “Baby, You Look Good to Me”) and “Madman’s Blues”, and the attraction was instant and has been there ever since. And because of that, this probably should have been a walkover…but over the holiday (I’m writing this on July 5, 2013), I was listening to “I Wish I Knew…” in my wife’s car, which as I have mentioned a few times has much better speakers than mine, and I noticed the sample of the door slamming shut at the end of the song for the first time. You remember back in Round One how I called this song “the sound of moving on”? Talk about a way to punctuate that! It made this into a much closer race than I had originally thought it was going to be. And Makita has a history, in this competition, of blowing through matchups with songs that have been in my collection much longer than this (released in 2009, on Sigmoid Removal with Warm Machine), taking down a Die Kreuzen track from 1984 in Round One and a Mission of Burma song from 1982 in Round Two. Here, though, it feels a little bit more like heresy to even be considering this, and yet I can’t help doing so. (The fact that this paragraph just crossed the 300-word mark makes that kind of obvious.) This turned out to be one of Round Three’s ten toughest matchups. Certainly never saw that coming. In the end, I’m still handing it to Baby Lee, but this was a way, way closer matchup than I thought it was going to be; both of these pieces are sterling.
Wow, I uploaded this two years ago? I don’t even remember doing so!
In the West subdivision, we have…
#15 Tex and the Horseheads, “Oh Mother”
#5 Dead Kennedys, “Dog Bite”
“Oh Mother, can you hear your children crying?
Crying for a love that walked away?
And oh Mother, why do I feel like dying?
Say something to take away the pain.”
On my leg
S’posed to beg
Daily to the filling station
This is one of those places where I realize yeah, I probably should have stuck with a DKs song written by Jello (“Dog Bite” was written by bassist Klaus Fluoride). The quality difference, lyrically, between these two tracks is pretty huge, and Tex takes this one in a walkover.
#11 Michelle Branch, “Washing Machine”
#15 Gomorrahizer, “Spit Cup”
“Flowing like water in a crimson melody
The orange plastic sunshine, the truth so hard to see
The rain of your existence is falling down on me
And the soap suds spread like a disease form my washing machine”
“Nitro is sleeping, I think he’s dead
Nitro is sleeping with regurgitated tobacco on his head
Why don’t you step inside? Slime in your eyes,
this spit cup of mine you’ll never be able to find”
I don’t care that “Washing Machine” was written by two fourteen-year-old girls (Branch co-wrote it with her then-best-friend, with whom she had a falling-out later in life), neither of whom had anything other than sterling reputations. The tang of psychedelia is all over those lyrics. It’s one of the reasons that’s always been one of my favorite songs from Broken Bracelet (The other, “Stewart’s Coat”, is a cover and was thus ineligible). And when it comes right down to it, whether licit or illicit substances were involved or not, you gotta be impressed that a pair of teenagers can come up with lyrics that manage to be both that weird and that catchy. And I probably should have gone with “Slashed from Groin to Sternum” (which may be Gomorrahizer’s only piece of non-joke-rock) here, because in a lyric-to-lyric matchup, which I should mention that on selection day I hadn’t realized I was going to do yet, “Spit Cup” was kind of destined to fall form the beginning…and thus Michelle Branch heads for the hopper, and Gomorrahizer head for the dugout.
Finally, in the South subdivision, we have…
#8 Shiro Sagisu, “On the Precipice of Defeat”
#4 Bloodhag, “Michael Moorcock”
[at least one song is an instrumental, so no lyric-to-lyric matchup possible.]
I’ve let this one go for quite a while; I’m coming back to it after finishing up Day 3G. Each of these tracks has a wealth of things to recommend it going into the hopper, but if I’m honest with myself, there’s been no back-and-forth here at all; “On the Precipice of Defeat” wins this matchup every time. I figured it had a pretty good chance to run deep when I picked it on selection day, but I’m not sure I expected it to go this far. Nothing, however, has even come close to taking it down. It is a stunning piece of work, and it deserves the chance to go all the way; thus, Bloodhag head for the bleachers, and Sagisu heads for the hopper.
#6 Charlotte Gainsbourg, “Greenwich Mean Time”
#2 The Zombies, “A Rose for Emily”
“Crooked eye, crooked tooth
Crooked mind, bending back the truth
Crooked road in a crooked town
Looking down at the crumbs on the ground
We’re all fine, we’re all fine
We fit together like nickels on a dime
We’re so good, we’re so nice
We talk that mumbo jumbo Greenwich Mean Time”
“Her roses are fading now
She keeps her pride somehow
That’s all she has protecting her from pain
And as the years go by
She will grow old and die
The roses in her garden fade away
Not one left for her grave
Not a rose for Emily.”
It never once occurred to me that “Greenwich Mean Time” would run into any resistance on its way to the final ninety-six, and honestly, in the first two rounds it really didn’t. But “A Rose for Emily” has grown into one of the competition’s real titans here, and lyrically it stands up to Gainsbourg’s track; it’s better if you’re not a fan of impressionist lyrics. And since I’m supposed to be going strictly on the lyrics in this round for matchups where both tracks have lyrics, I should probably send The Zombies into the hopper without even a thought…but that’s a very tough decision to make. “Greenwich Mean Time” has been one of the favorites here since the get-go. This would be as big an upset as Conet Project toppling The Ramones, maybe even bigger. And when it comes right down to it, as much as I love “A Rose for Emily”, I just can’t do it—it heads for the sidelines, and Charlotte Gainsbourg is on her way into the hopper.
The second half of the 1-to-3 division will be sending the following songs into the hopper…
Russ Ballard, “Rene Didn’t Do It”
Michelle Branch, “Washing Machine”
Caustic Christ, “Bloodsucking Fiends”
Charlotte Gainsbourg, “Greenwich Mean Time”
John Lee Hooker, “Madman’s Blues”
Shiro Sagisu, “On the Precipice of Defeat”
Tex and the Horseheads, “Oh Mother”
John Trubee, “A Blind Man’s Penis”