Category: Music

Lyrics of the Month: November 2015 – Geoff Berner

My city has been in a housing crisis
For fifteen years or more,
Middle class families can’t afford to live here,
And there’s a ten thousand dollar fine
For being poor.
They said if we let them build all these condo towers,
The market would pull down the rent,
Now we’ve got the most expensive city
On the whole damn continent.
Our Mayor says he wants Eco Density,
And of course it’s a sin not to be Green,
But when Mayor Happy Planet says Eco Density
What does he really mean?

He means
Sunday, condos
Monday, condos
Tuesday and Wednesday
Condos,
Thursday, Friday,
A few more condos,
Saturday, for a change,
Condos.

What happened to a thousand culture buildings and counting?
They knocked them down to build some condos.
And the social housing on Little Mountain?
Get rid of it!
(We need more condos.)
The Ridge, Richards, the Capital,
That’s a special kind of condos—
The kind of condos that you call
After the thing that you knocked down to make the

Sunday, condos
Monday, condos
Tuesday and Wednesday,
Condos,
Thursday, Friday,
A few more condos Saturday, for a change,
Townhouse condominiums.

What’s the plan for the Georgia Viaduct?
Well, they’re gonna knock it down and build some condos,
And why’s the city four hundred million dollars on the hook? —–They’re fucked!
They paid some guys to build Olympic condos.

And what about the sacred burial site?
Not as sacred as condos,
Till the Musqueam Nation actually put up a fight,
And that’s how you stop the condos.

So what’s going to happen now, for God’s sake?
Are we just going to let them build more condos?
Or could there be a time when we finally put the brakes
On Vancouver’s mad sickness for

Sunday, condos
Monday, condos
Tuesday and Wednesday Condos,
Thursday, Friday,
A few more condos,
Saturday, for a change,
Market artist live/work studios.

Geoff Berner, We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians, Condos

Lyrics of the Month: August 2015 – Incalculable Effects

We were all together in the pouring rain. Solvents being passed around to dull the pain. The air was choked with the dismal smell. The reek of sadness and despair. Minds fucked-up beyond repair. She said she just turned six. She’s got some good jokes for a kid. She’s working hard to avoid a woman bleeding from her teeth. Her life goes on despite the fact her mom sleeps fucked-up on the cement. She flashed a look, an image burnt into my mind. I know that sinking feeling all too fucking well. Shame, frustration setting in. Confusion that burns us inside out. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t know why she can’t wake up.” Her life goes on despite the fact. Her mom lays fucked-up on the cement. It’s an ugly fucking world.

Propagandhi, Supporting Caste, Incalculable Effects

Lyrics of the Month: July 2015 – Drunk on a Bike

It happened so fast
He didn’t have time to think
Or maybe he had too much
a bit too much to drink
When he went riding off
into the bright sunshine
It turned out to be
the lights of a car
Can somebody help me please
Scrape this man up off the road
Can somebody help me please
I cannot do it on my own
As the police
were scraping him off the fender
A friend of his said
that he had been on a bender
and that he had a huge fight
Yeah, he had a fight with his wife
Then he got pissed off
Then rode off on his bike
He was drunk
He was drunk on a bike

-SNFU, The One Voted Most Likely To Succeed, Drunk on a Bike

 

Counter Assault

We stood on the trail from the lake to our campsite, holding hands in fear of our premature deaths. What the fuck is that, I had wondered, an elk? It was a blondish brown patch of fur the size of a beach towel, stomping in the bush. It turned its body around for us to see enough of its shoulder to know that it wasn’t a charming, peaceful elk, but a medium-sized, overly curious grizzly. We backed our way down the path, jingled our keys and bear bells like distracted children at a Christmas pageant, trying to remember the advice from the Bear vs Human pamphlets. We spoke loudly, awkwardly. She recited poetry, I repeated it in booming baritone.

Not to lose the feel of the mountains
while still retaining the prairies
is a difficult thing. What’s lovely
is whatever makes the adrenalin run;
therefore I count terror and fear among
the greatest beauty. The greatest
beauty is to be alive, forgetting nothing
although remembrance hurts
like a foolish act, is a foolish act.

-John Newlove, excerpt from The Double-Headed Snake, The Wascana Poetry Anthology

The fear of death brought the idea of practice into our minds. The more your practice it, the less you fear it. The next week, (although we saw no more quadrupedal omnivores on the trail) we felt stronger, more secure, more confident in grizzly country. But the pressurized can of capiscum in my back pocket, Counter Assault Bear Spray, may have been the source of that confidence. By the tenth time I see a bear, fear will be an afterthought and the Coghlin’s Brand Survival Horn that we bought for a sense of security will be even more of a prank.

After nearly two weeks surrounded by a Matt Goud/Tim Barry/Ken Freeman/Allison Weiss tour, you learn to fear not death, but inaction. Don’t be afraid of dying, be afraid not to live, Tim would say most nights. A wasted life is worse than death. Not in a danceclub/yolo/butt-touch kind of way, but in a I’ve-wasted-enough-time-on-all-the-bullshit kind of way. These mantras ring throughout the art that most closely resonates with me. But ‘wasting’ is what needs to be discovered. What is living?

The greatest
beauty is to be alive, forgetting nothing

I’m reading books about writers. Fiction books. Bohemian authors of San Francisco or Toronto talk about the noble craft and its apparent sexual exploits. Dry literature, to me, but classic to many. It somehow puts the fear in me. Not the fear of death, but the fear of running out of things to say that are worth anything, the fear of writing about writing; writing about extramarital affairs, writing about ‘cultural eras’. So here I am, trying to scare the fear away the only way I know how. With practice.

I dream of quitting my day job to write. Drive across the country occasionally, wash dishes at the pizza place, sit in a grungy library facing a scuffed-up wall and do something as banal as ‘express myself’, being naive enough to think it might change someone’s perspective. But to me, not paying attention to your neighbour is a waste of both your life and theirs. Not living is comforts and distractions. Quitting to pursue a naive selfish dream of typing nonsense onto a dead tree or into a digital void, can seem like a waste. Is a waste.

But it may also be a waste to isolate, to work 11 hours a day even in the vague name of social justice, to sit in a stiflingly humid bachelor apartment overflowing with hats, broken bicycles, interprovincial beer. So which is it?

Not to lose the feel of the mountains
while still retaining the prairies
is a difficult thing…

It becomes a lot easier to fear not death, when it isn’t literally knocking on your fire escape window, asking your deteriorating body if you want a huff. To have the privilege to even make this choice is what eats me alive like a starved grizzly south of the Crow’s Nest Pass. And these words are my only Counter Assault.

Lyrics of the Month: June 2015 – Good Clean Fun

This is the new revolution we’re building a brand new society
It’s about time we find a solution and not watch it slip away
It’s time that we all work together
This little thing we call unity has the power to make it all better
And that is why today
We’ll all be on the streets
Saving the scene from the forces of evil
Side by side, living our dreams
All the positive people
We’ll fight our way through the frustration
Overcome negativity
To us it is not a temptation
Because that is not the way
All that is needed to start this is a healthy dose of positivity
We’ve found our way through all the darkness
And on this brand new day
We’ll all be on the streets
Saving the scene from the forces of evil
Side by side, living our dreams
All the positive people
-Good Clean Fun, On The Streets Saving The Scenes From The Forces Of Evil

Lyrics of the Month: May 2015 – Jenny Lewis

What are you changing?
Who do you think you’re changing?
You can’t change things, we’re all stuck in our ways
It’s like trying to clean the ocean
What do you think you can drain it?
Well it was poison and dry long before you came

But you can wake up younger under the knife
And you can wake up sounder if you get analyzed
And I better wake up
There but for the grace of God, go I

It’s hard to believe your prophets
When they’re asking you to change things
But with their suspect lives we look the other way
Are you really that pure, Sir?
Thought I saw you in Vegas
It was not pretty, but she was

But she will wake up wealthy
And you will wake up 45
And she will wake up with babies
There but for the grace of God, go I

What am I fighting for?
The cops are at the front door
I can’t escape that way, the windows are in flames
And what’s that on your ankle?
You say they’re not coming for you
But house arrest is really just the same

Like when you wake up behind the bar
Trying to remember where you are
Having crushed all the pretty things
There but for the grace of God, go I

But I still believe
And I will rise up with fists
And I will take what’s mine mine mine
There but for the grace of God, go I
There but for the grace of God, go I
There but for the grace of God, go I
There but for the grace of God, go I

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat, Rise Up With Fists!!

James E. Harper: 2 (Lyrics of the Month: April 2015)

“A story has got to have a beginning, a middle, and an end,” James told me over the phone from his care home in his small city in Arkansas. “That’s it. I don’t care if it’s a song, a novel, or just a story you’re telling your friend.” He coached me even though we’d essentially known each other for three minutes.

I met James E. Harper (a.k.a. Poet) nearly four years ago with a friend in downtown San Francisco. James was introducing himself to people on the street, selling his book of poems, three or four roughly photocopied pieces of gold-coloured paper, so he could afford to grab a meal or some hygiene products for his wife. He mentioned that more of his work was available if you searched his name on the internet. In doing so, I couldn’t find any writings, so I transcribed what he sold me and posted it here. He deserves credit for his work. His poems are powerful and real. Read them.

As simple as it sounds, this is the writing advice I’ve needed for months, years perhaps. James’ advice, to simplify and be natural, speaks to why I find his writing to be worth noting. Honesty. No bullshit. I spend hours at the Bernal Heights Library, staring into the eyes of Antonio Banderas encouraging me to read, while I try to sort out the several dozen metaphors I have choking every story. When really, all the story needs is a beginning, middle, and end. I am mid-read of Crash Landing on Iduna by Arthur Tofte, a sci-fi paperback I found in a Wyoming truckstop for $2.99 with incredible cover art. In contrast to my overcomplicated way of thinking, it is the perfect example of oversimplified writing. Now to find the middle.

Comments have been posted regularly to James’ poems on Balls of Rice over the past three years by people who also stopped to chat with James and searched his name upon arriving home. A comment arrived in February stating that James now lived in a care home, and included a contact number.

“When you write something, you want to strike the chord. There’s a tuning fork in all of us, and you want it to feel like you’ve hit that,” he said. “If you haven’t lived it, you can’t write it.”

I told him that I am a writer and that I was in San Francisco to finish a few stories, which were giving me some trouble. “It sounds like you are forcing it. You heard of that song, If It Don’t Fit, Don’t Force It? Well, that’s just it.”

I hadn’t heard of the song. Now it is in my head when I need it most.

Just waiting to hear the end of the story.

If it don’t fit, don’t force it
If it don’t fit, nah, don’t force it
If it don’t fit, don’t force it
Just relax and let it go
Just ’cause that’s how you want it
Doesn’t mean it will be so

I’m givin’ up, I’m leavin’
Yes, I’m ready to be free
The thrill is gone, I’m movin on
‘Cause you’ve stopped pleasin’ me

I can’t stand bein’ handled
I’ve exhausted each excuse
I’ve even stooped to fakin’ it
But tell me what’s the use

You’re tryin’ hard to shame me
‘Cause you wanna make me stay
But all it does is bring to mind
What Mama used to say

I know there’ll be no changin’
We’ve been through all that before
I’m all worn out from talkin’
And now I’m a-headin’ for the door

C’mon stop your complainin’
Someone else will come along
You can start your life all over
Sing her your brand new song

You’re tryin’ hard to shame me
‘Cause you wanna make me stay
But all it does is bring to mind
What Mama used to say

-Kellee Patterson, Turn On The Lights/Be Happy, If It Don’t Fit, Don’t Force It

Lyrics of the Month: March 2015

Bands with managers are going places.
Bands with messy hair and smooth white faces.
But you don’t believe when I say that it won’t be alright.
Vans with 15 passengers are rolling over.
But I trust T. William Walsh and I’m not afraid to die.
But you don’t believe when I say that it won’t be alright.
That it won’t be alright.
Cause it won’t be alright.

David Bazan, Achilles Heel, Bands With Managers

Albums of the Year: 2014

Only Crime – Pursuance

Bane – Don’t Wait Up

Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams

Tim Barry – Lost & Rootless

Close Talker – Flux

Royal Canoe – Today We’re Believers

Lyrics of the Month: December 2014 – Clay Pigeons

I’m going down to the greyhound station
Gonna get a ticket to ride
Gonna find that lady with 2 or 3 kids
And sit down by her side
And ride until the sun comes up and down around me about 2 or 3 times
smoking cigarettes in the last seat trying
to hide my sorrow from the people I meet
And get along with it all
Go down where people say ya’ll
Sing a song with a friend
Change the shape that I’m in
And get back in the game
And start playing again

I’d like to stay but I might have to go to start over again
I might go back down to Texas I might go somewhere that I’ve never been
And get up in the morning and go out at night
And I won’t have to go home
Get used to being alone
Change the words to this song
And start singing again

I’m tired of running round looking for answers to questions that I
already know
I could build me a castle of memories just to have somewhere to go
Count the days and the nights that it takes to get back in the saddle
again
Feed the pigeons some clay
Turn the night into day
Start talking again when I know what to say

I’m going down to the greyhound station
Gonna get a ticket to ride
Gonna find that lady with 2 or 3 kids
And sit down by her side
And Ride until the sun comes up and down around about 2 or 3 times
smoking cigarettes in the last seat
trying to hide my sorrow from the people I meet

And get along with it all
Go down where people say ya’ll
Feed the pigeons some clay
Turn the night into day
Start talking again when I know what to say

-Blaze Foley, Clay Pigeons