Stray Songs

By Nathan Payne | pablosmoglives | 14 Nov 2019


I recently joined Distrokid and have been uploading my material to their database for distribution.  While doing so, I noticed that several of the albums have bonus tracks.  I listened to them, and decided to give them their own album, since I haven't released anything in a year.

I've decided to call the album Stray Songs, and the album is as much of a collection of homeless anomalies as the title suggests.  I did break the ice on the freeware recording program I downloaded this spring, since I had to cut the dead air out of 3 tracks, and since I figured out how to start a new project maybe I'll get around to making the recordings that have been waiting in the wings.  Any new recording will depend as much or more on the quality of the drum samples I come across, as much as my access to recording software.  I have my doubts about this program, but maybe it will work.

In any case, I thought I'd break down the album song-by-song, since it's basically a homeless shelter for songs, held together by nothing.  The only common thread shared by these tracks is that none of them fit into any of the official albums, for whatever reason.  They are all sitting on the bench side-by-side, drinking soup and bumming menthol cigarettes from each other in varying states of disarray.  They are a motley bunch; some of them are bad, some are good.  Some of them are obviously stupid -- retarded degenerates beyond love or hope or salvation.  A couple of them might even be beautiful, or could have been, if things had turned out differently for them.  As it is, they're sitting here.  A faint scent of urine and cough syrup hangs in the air, but at least it's warm.

 

Track 1:  Death is Not a Part of Life

"Death is Not a Part of Life" is an out-take from the Holy Smokes record, recorded in early 2013.  It opens this album because in fact I like this track.  It simply didn't fit in the context of the real album.  It isn't my favorite song lyrically (I don't hate it), but I love the tune, and the title.  I am a firm disbeliever in the idea that "death is a part of life."  Death is not a part of life; it's the opposite of life.  It's death!

I did my best with the recording, as I always do.  It came out alright, but the already-long Holy Smokes was overbooked and "Death is Not a Part of Life" got stuck in the waiting room.  Suspecting that the next flight was never going to come, she became a stowaway and has been in hiding ever since.  So it goes.

 

Track 2:  Tomato Jane

"Tomato Jane" is an openly-stupid, ridiculous song about a drunken rhinoceros of a woman who is lacking in charm and basic cleanliness.  I wrote the song while walking down Sunset Blvd., back and forth to work at the Chateau Marmont, from my trashy hotel in Hollywood.  The Chateau Marmont was my first job in L.A., which unfortunately didn't last long due to lay-offs, but I did deliver an envelope to Joe Strummer's room (he wasn't there), and a wet-haired Björk in a bathrobe handed me a Victorian one-piece underwear thing for dry-cleaning once, among other notable events.  It's a stupid song.  Too stupid and obnoxious to ride with the regular passengers, "Tomato Jane" has been relegated to the cargo hold since her unfortunate, absurd inception.  She sees kindness as a weakness, so don't give her anything, or you'll live to regret it. 

If you're lucky.

 

Track 3:  Stalin in a Cowboy Hat

Written during the Bush years and recorded sometime between 2011-2013, "Stalin in a Cowboy Hat" is really just a short poem set to music I couldn't remember.  The original music was more of a guitar part, something interesting.  This is just an E chord.  I couldn't remember the music, and the sentiment was dated, so I just threw something down to get it out of my face, since I like the line "my hands are my animals" very much.

 

Tracks 4 & 5:  Live in Jerome

Tracks 4 & 5 were recorded in October 2014 at the Spirit Room in Jerome, Arizona, at the very beginning of the Arizona chapter of The Wild Bores.  The Arizona chapter was the original chapter of the band in its current form, may it rest in peace.  Verde Valley luminary Dave Rentz plays Djembe.  I loved those people, and that place, and probably still do.

The songs, "The Heart I Know By Heart" and "Crown of Spiders," found their footing on the Rural Mortis album in 2015, though both songs had been recorded before.  "Crown of Spiders" originally appears on the 2007 album Vampire Cats, a collection of songs which I love, but which is extremely lacking in production quality.  An easy-listening version of "The Heart I Know By Heart" appears on Your Arms Inside Me from 2014.  

 

Track 6:  I Don't Care About You

A song that eventually ended up on the Slow-Burning Fun album, this demo of "I Don't Care About You" was recorded on a cassette tape in Chicago in the late 90's.  It used to be a live standard, but I haven't played it in years.  I used to be amazed on a regular basis how quickly a song could go from the front of the line to the back, until finally it is replaced completely, no longer in line at all.  It doesn't amaze me anymore.

 

Track 7:  LOL all the way to Hell

One of those songs that's an obvious afterthought, "LOL all the way to Hell" is the arsenic slipped in the love letter, the lead poisoning you get from a sweet-smelling goodbye note.  It's the invisible kiss of death, dipped in stupidity for added indifference.  There's no other place for it on Your Arms Inside Me, so it ends up sliding in under the door at the last minute, just when you thought it was safe to feel righteous about yourself.  Stupid, but meaningful.

 

Track 8:  Idiots 4 Love

"Idiots 4 Love" isn't even meaningful.  Moronic and pointless from inception to realization, "Idiots 4 Love" was written for no reason at all, other than to write it.  Like "Stalin in a Cowboy Hat," I recorded it just to get it out of the way, so I could safely lose all track of the song in my mind forever.  Overly wordy, "Idiots 4 Love" is full of lines that have too many syllables, but which, ridiculously, also need every syllable.  So it exists in the junkyard, where it was born.  "Baby turn off your shields, we'll run like idiots through the fields, idiots, baby, idiots, 4 love," are lines that still make me laugh.  Their asinine charm has not faded over time.

 

Track 9:  Valet Girl

The first song I wrote when I moved to L.A. in 2001, "Valet Girl" is a silly play on the phrase "valley girl."   I always liked the song, but it's a stylistic anomaly, and would never have worked on California Death Trip, for example, or All The Diamonds You Can Eat.  Which was the only kind of album I could have made at the time (apparently).  "Valet Girl" is a beautiful song, or wants to be.  But the recording doesn't quite work.  The elements are all there, but they don't coalesce into a unified force; they miss the most important feature in a song of its type:  the ability to fly.  It's supposed to sound like a free, floaty, Southern-California thing, but for whatever reason, its wings are clipped, and it is grounded.  You can tell that I tried though.

 

Track 10:  All The Pretty Horses

The bonus track from All The Diamonds You Can Eat, "All The Pretty Horses" is the perfect end to that album, and an imperfect end to this one.  Of course, our hair is dirty, and it's time for another menthol cigarette, and we don't really care.  This is a lot better than the street.

Thanks for listening!

 

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Nathan Payne
Nathan Payne

I am a songwriter and bandleader who travels the world in search of the golden ticket. http://www.pablosmoglives.com


pablosmoglives
pablosmoglives

Replacing my blog at http://pablosmoglives.wordpress.com

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