Monday, November 28, 2016
The plan was to record another twelve songs and then pick the best ten from a pool of twenty. We wanted to up our game and give ourselves the opportunity to experiment and explore new terrain. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite end up happening.
The songs were there though. A massive pile of them had been demoed. In fact, they had been rapidly accumulating since May of 2015. The bulk of Daydreaming had been written by then, and the songs kept coming.
Having three songwriters can be a good thing. There’s the variety of styles and strengths, the healthy competition, and the undying flow of material. Three songwriters can also be trouble. Too much material to choose from, a lack of outlet, and conflicting artistic direction. Songs sit around and tempers flare. Side projects happen. Songs from the central pool vanish and reappear elsewhere. Those things happened and now you have a version of what was supposed to be our second album. Before I move on to discuss the new compilation, let me first gush a little bit about my former band mates.
When Murder Shoes coalesced, it was really, and truly beautiful. A functioning musical democracy is an unusual thing. We all brought songs in but in the end, it was down to Elliot and Tim’s expertise in arranging that made things happen in a timely and pain free manner. A hot steaming lump of riffage could be rendered into a rare gem quickly by the Elliot and Tim rock tumbler. Chris could always be counted on to pull out some evocative expressions from his guitar and I’ll definitely miss his pool of hits to work on. Tess, perhaps my twin in stubborn pride, has an undeniably amazing voice. It was a pleasure to see her write and sing melodies with ease even though our brand of rock was not as she once stated, her forte.
Chris and Tess did a lot of the behind the scenes emailing and connecting, the communications that lead to great shows and having a place to practice and we wouldn’t have gotten very far without their determination. Thank you.
Now, the album.
Eight of the songs on Fall come from a session we did with Ali Jaafar at Ecstattic studios.
Greater Expectations came from an idea to merge the casual swing of third album era Velvet Underground with the sweaty groove of CCR. Kind of like Girls Named Benji, but less manic. It was a great opener at shows, and it was damn good fun to play.
Burning Cedars was meant to be a sort of palette cleanser of sorts between rockers. A breezy Smiths meets Velocity Girl calm before another storm. That said, you’ll notice that the wind picks up audibly at the end of the middle eight, a swirling black cloud of impending doom complete with temperature shift. (Let me just say that having just written that, I’m a little over weather metaphors, but my original line was going to be something like Burning Cedars is like a gentle back massage between stabbings. Pick your favorite, I guess).
Tape Organ started life as an acoustic Pixies kind of number and then took a sharp left turn back in time to something more of a doo wop r&b and country flavor. It recalls the cigarettes and whiskey of Patsy Cline and also the starry-eyed wonder of The Flamingos “I Only Have Eyes For You”. It’s a throwback and gentle nod to the earliest sounds of Murder Shoes. A tip of the hat to those who enjoyed songs like “Jenny Says” and “Every Heart has a Fool” (available on the expanded version of our debut release Cash On Fire).
Mirror Sky is a track that sort of epitomizes what we do best. Combine one part come-hither sensual vocals with equal parts dread, melancholia, restlessness, Western vistas, and who gives a damn steel-toe swagger. A shit-kicker for the indie rockers.
Hands. Sometimes known as Show Me Your Hands or Give Me Your Hands. At the end of the day, Hands. Rather than try to explain the merits or story behind Hands, I’d rather the song speak for itself, though I will say that this song was a trump card in the previously alluded to plan to try new things out. Had the second album been finished, we knew this was would have made the cut. I wish we could have finished that damn second record.
Missle Siren is a baffler. A really weird cousin to Mirror Sky, Missle Siren is a demented take on what we do best. The really unusual two part chorus always sends me some place not of this earth. It’s off in the best possible way. What the hell is going on? The faucet is running, the toast is burning, and the cats are loose. This one always makes me grin. Love it.
Far Away is the third part of the Mirror Sky/Missle Siren trilogy. As the title suggests, it’s the extended desire of wanting be someone or somewhere else. Like the other two songs, it’s epic in scope, encompassing icy cliffs of reverb, moss covered fortresses, and ship destroying waves. Spooky perhaps, there’s a lot of wandering sprits around this one. Crushed souls and dreams on a journey elsewhere.
Cities was another stab at something different, another exploration. To date, we hadn’t written anything that was dance floor bait and the time was right to try it out. Cities was a joy live as you could be loud as hell and broadcast a dub like groove at the same time. Stray notes, dischord, melancholia, and good times. This one would have made the second album cut too.
Two more songs on Fall come from the Daydreaming sessions we did with Knol Tate.
They were cut from Daydreaming at the last possible second. The vinyl version of Daydreaming has lyrics to both Cash On Fire and Leave It Love. Those who have been following our progress will note that Cash On Fire was our very first single. We decided to record another version of it that would feature Elliot and Tim, and as it happened, it couldn’t be more different than the original. The song is now a panoramic expanse. A lusty beckoning call in the middle of nowhere or an angry spirit sweeping through gutted buildings and burned out motor vehicles. Both maybe?
Leave It Love is a curious thing. Originally brought to us by Tim, our mysterious fourth songwriter, Leave It Love was transformed from a very chill Hank Williams deal into an exercise in rowdy roughneck punky-tonk We can be mellow, sure. We’ve done it many times, but it’s possibly a set-up, one to catch you unawares for a song like Leave It Love and its hot pint of backwash to the face. It’s a soundtrack to fists swinging, car chases, narrow escapes and reckless dancing, the sort that results in decapitation. We only ended up playing this a few times live. Bummer, but now you get to have it.
So that’s the Fall. Not officially our second record but parts of it. If you’d like to know what else might have made the cut, you’ll have to check out our new groups. Songs like “Equator”, “True Love”, “My Fist Is On Your List” “Last Date”, and “Hand Painted Dinosaurs” amongst MANY others, were all in that second album pile. Keep tabs on Witch Watch and Damn Wesley if you’d like to hear and know more about those missing puzzle pieces.
For now the Murder Shoes Fall album is available via bandcamp, but soon it’ll be on itunes and all that jazz.
(The front cover art comes from my book Enough Astronaut Blood To Last The Winter. Available from better indie book stores, Fantagraphics Books, and amazon.)