Weekend Recap: A Farewell to Bad News

THE SHORT VERSION:  I had almost no time to really do anything productive this weekend, and yet:

  • Played five minutes of Bloodborne, hated it, am never playing another ‘Souls game ever again.
  • Finished Greg Sestero’s The Disaster Artist; kinda makes me want to hate-watch The Room again, which doesn’t necessarily make it a successful memoir?  It’s OK.
  • Recorded two new music things yesterday, one of which I think came from a dream (it’s not bad, but my recording isn’t great), the other of which is an idea I’ve been thinking about for around 13 years (and have already recorded twice – once in 2001, and again somewhere between 2003-2006), and which I’m VERY VERY EXCITED ABOUT and want everyone to hear, even though it’s not done yet.


Long-time readers of the site may have noticed that I’m not really writing very much about games these days.  There are several reasons for this.  The most obvious is that I’ve been super-focused on writing music, and so that’s taken up a great deal of my available brain-space.  There’s also not a whole hell of a lot going on right now in terms of new games that have caught my interest – I mean, there’s a few indie titles that I was enjoying and want to eventually get back to (especially Ori and the Blind Forest), but, again, any and all free time is being focused on music right now.

But there’s also shit like this, which literally makes me nauseous.  It is mind-boggling to me that we’ve gotten to the point where there’s a convenient and commonly-known name for this activity (“swatting”), and yet somehow the idea that someone wanted to make it even worse is just sickening.  The videogame community at large has been a toxic cesspool for years, and anyone who’s been on the internet since last August is probably sick to death of crap like Gamergate and whatnot, but this sort of “prank” is going to get somebody killed soon, and it makes me want to have nothing to do with a hobby I’ve loved since I was 6 years old.  I’ve thought about getting into streaming, but the idea that a SWAT team could storm my apartment and hold shotguns to my 2-year-old’s face because some bored teenager thought it would be hilarious makes my blood boil.

So given how angry and upset I am over the state of gaming culture, you can probably imagine why I was not really in the mood for something like Bloodborne.  I did give it an earnest go.  I created a character, made my way down the steps of that darkened house, came across a creature, realized I didn’t have any weapons but decided to attack anyway, had a pretty good run at the beastie before getting destroyed, woke up in the courtyard of a weird ghostly manor, resurrected back to the house, saw the beastie, and before I could even press a button I was suddenly killed, and then as I waited 45 seconds for the game to finish taking me back to that ghost manor, I realized that life is too short to be needlessly frustrated by something that I’m not even really sure I’m going to enjoy.

What I have been enjoying lately is making music.  I’ve recorded more music over the last 2 months than in the previous 8 years combined.  I’m reconnecting with a part of myself that I’d more or less put on the shelf after my last band broke up in 2007, and it’s a wonderful, empowering feeling.  I’m really excited by the stuff I’m recording now, whether it’s brand-new or something 20 years old that I’m re-purposing.  Even though I’ve still got a long way to go before this album is finished, I’m feeling as energized and motivated as I ever have before.  Shit, I’ve even got 6 potential album covers ready to go and I don’t even have any song titles yet.

really want to share this stuff with you all; it’s killing me that I have to keep it hidden away.  (As a matter of fact, right this very minute I’m listening to a thing I recorded late last night and it’s all I can do to keep myself from attaching it to this post.) It’s for the best, of course – anything you could hear right now is still very early and unfinished, and I’d rather you hear what you’re meant to hear, and there’s some cool stuff that’s going to happen when this thing is finally ready to go which I can’t talk about just yet.  But I’m in a really good place as far as music is concerned, and that’s putting the rest of my life in a really good place, and I feel like I’m becoming a whole person again, and that’s maybe the best news of all.

The Thousand Autumns

I finished David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet this morning.  I’m still sort of swimming in feelings after that ending – my god, that ending – but I’m too impatient to wait until the coffee kicks in to write something real and meaningful.  So some quick bullet-pointed reactions are as follows:

  • Nobody on this earth writes more satisfying endings than David Mitchell.
  • It’s very interesting to read this book after Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas, both of which span multitudes of time and space and narrative points of view.  JdZ is much more self-contained, confining the vast majority of its story to one specific place and over the span of just a few years; and yet, upon completing it, it feels no less epic in scope.
  • His writing patterns are interesting in that he starts out drawing these meticulously well-developed characters and putting them in very detailed places, and then he sorta just lets them do their thing, and one’s attention may start to wander as one tries to figure out just where on earth everything is going even as the writing remains engaging, and then there’s an inevitable HOLY SHIT moment when everything suddenly ties itself together and you realize that you’ve been taken on an incredible journey.
  • Why did it take me so long to start this one?  I liked Cloud Atlas very much, and Bone Clocks has become one of my all-time favorites… and I’d bought JdZ right away when it first came out but couldn’t bring myself to start.  Perhaps my disinterest in historical fiction was stronger than my affection for his writing, but I shan’t make the same mistake again.  If he writes it, I’m reading it.

I am trying to figure out what to read next.  I’ve been making excellent progress on my backlog; JdZ is a tough act to follow, so perhaps I should go with something short and ridiculous like Greg Sestero’s The Disaster Artist… or maybe I should start reading one of the 5 Philip K. Dick books on that list.  Or maybe Rachel Kushner’s The Flame Throwers?  Not really feeling up for more Murakami, which is something I never thought I’d ever say; 1Q84 was a huge, huge disappointment.  If you have any ideas, let me know.

Weekend Recap: Noodling Around

MUSIC:  If we’re judging the new album’s progress solely by how much I’m uploading to my Google Drive folder every week, then obviously I’ve slowed down rather considerably since February.  But I’m still working / thinking / contemplating / scribbling down lyrics whenever they pop into my head, nearly every day.

My beta listeners might disagree with my analysis, but as of right now, out of the 20-odd demos I’ve uploaded, I’ve narrowed my attentions down to 10 of them.  One of those 10 is a brand-new thing I recorded the other night, which I was tempted to upload and share immediately after I bounced it to mp3, even though I probably shouldn’t.  I really like it, but I also am fully aware that it’s a nearly 5-minute-long guitar noodle, similar to the looping stuff I was doing about 15 years ago; and if it were to actually make the cut and appear on the album, I’d be doing some drastic edits in order make it a bit less self-indulgent.   (Ironically, this is why I’m tempted to post the original version in all its noodle-tastic glory, given that it’s almost certainly not remaining in its current form.)

I’ve also reached the inevitable crippling self-doubt phase, which is what happens when I listen to these demos too many times and end up either (a) hating them or (b) getting too attached to their rough-draft imperfections and wanting to keep them as is.  That second part is also why it’s hard to make second drafts out of these things sometimes; even though it’s a relatively minor thing to simply cut/paste sections over a few measures to insert some extra time for a verse or whatever, I’ve gotten so used to how these things already sound that even though the adjustment makes the song better, I don’t like it as much.

I might need to take some time away from the demos and simply listen to this stuff in my head for a while.

I also might go ahead and post this new thing anyway, or at least a little snippet of it.

BOOKS:  I realize I haven’t talked about what I’m reading in a while; I’ve been slowly going through David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet for the last few weeks; last night I started Part 3.  I was always apprehensive about starting it (which is why it’s been in my backlog for as long as it’s been), given that I’m not particularly drawn towards historical fiction, especially in an era that I have absolutely no prior knowledge of (in this book’s case, the Dutch/Japanese trade of the very late 1700s).  But Mitchell is still a hell of a writer, and I suspect that his reasons for setting this book in this very specific period and place will make sense, and in any event it’s very cool to see characters from his other books show up in this one.

FILM:  I don’t usually talk about movies in this blog, if only because I simply don’t have the time to consume film the way I used to.  But I did want to take a few minutes to talk about Interstellar, which the wife and I finally saw over the weekend.  I’ve been a devout Christopher Nolan fan ever since Memento exploded my brain – that’s one of the few films I’ve bothered to see in a theater twice – and I’ve enjoyed everything he’s made ever since, despite their varied flaws.  (My biggest problem with Inception, besides the fact that it gave me a panic attack when I saw it in the theater, is that there’s no character development in any line of dialogue; everything’s flat and expository and it’s a credit to his actors that you feel anything at all towards them; a similar line of attack could be levied towards the Batman films, too.)  In any case, I’d heard mixed things towards “Interstellar” but I knew I had to see it for myself anyway, and so I did, and I absolutely loved it.  It’s not without its flaws (though I wouldn’t dream of taking issue with its science; it’s out of my depth anyway, and whether or not it’s 100% scientifically accurate is somewhat besides the point, I think) and I saw certain twists coming, but I still gasped at their reveal, and I can’t help but admit that Matthew McConaughey (an actor I’m not terribly fond of) was really, really, really good.

Side note:  in the wake of the Marvin Gaye/Robin Thicke lawsuit and the troubling precedent it could set, I can’t help but think that Philip Glass could sue the pants off of Hans Zimmer for essentially ripping off Glass’s soundtrack for Koyaanisqatsi.  Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the “Interstellar” soundtrack immensely; it just sounded somewhat familiar to me, and then I listened to it on Spotify and realized why.

GAMES:  Lots to talk about.

1.  I finished The Order: 1886.  I stand by my earlier faint praise, though now that it’s all over I can see why people would be disappointed:

  • The game’s premise is still very intriguing – the Knights of the Round Table are quasi-immortal knights currently engaged in a war with vampires – but nothing particularly interesting is done with that premise.
  • For all the game’s cinematic aspirations, it doesn’t stick the landing at all.
  • Any game, film or book that contains a scene between adversaries that has a variation of the line “We’re not so different, you and I” is now getting docked a full point in my arbitrary and non-existent rating system.
  • The combat system never really evolves.  You mostly fight human soldiers, usually head on although there are some stealth sequences here and there; maybe three or four times you fight some beasties, who have a much different attack pattern; and then I think there are two “boss” fights against these monsters which are mostly QTE-enhanced.  I don’t hate QTEs as much as most people, but I don’t necessarily like them all that much either; I don’t mind them here, but that’s also because they don’t pop up all that often.  (That said, the very last shot in the game has a QTE prompt in the dead center of the screen, which robs the moment of whatever gravitas it was aiming for.)
  • The “hidden collectible” aspect of the game is dumb and underdeveloped and a waste of time.

But:  it is absolutely gorgeous, and it’s relatively bug-free (which is very impressive in today’s AAA space), and I think a sequel could be something truly special, if it’s done right.

2.  During this weekend’s 2K sale on Steam, I ended up buying both Civilization Beyond Earth and Sid Meier’s Starships.  I keep forgetting that I need to be in certain moods in order to really get into Civ games, and I was not in those moods this weekend.

3.  On a whim, I decided to get back into Shadow of Mordor, which I’d put aside a few months back.  Decided to start over, from the very beginning, to remember how to play it properly.  Lo and behold, I’m enjoying it about a thousand times more than I did the first time; I don’t know what happened to my brain between then and now, but something about it finally clicked, and now I’m really enjoying it.  I’m also much better at it this time around, for whatever reason; the first time I was getting my ass kicked left and right, but in this second go-round I’m holding my own much better.

4.  My almost-2-year-old son is infatuated with the Lego Movie – and given that I enjoy it as well, I don’t mind him watching it over and over again.  So I decided that this would be as good a time as any to replay the game again, if only so that he could control Emmet directly.  The game is still buggy as hell, but whatever – if Henry wants Emmet to jump, Emmet jumps, and he gets quite a kick out of it.  (Also, my dog Lily is an expert-level photobomber.)

press x for ethics in game journalism
press x for ethics in game journalism

Weekend Recap: Order out of Chaos

The Game:  The Order: 1886
Current Status:  3-4 hours in, halfway through Chapter 9 (out of 16)

The conventional wisdom on The Order: 1886, as far as I can tell, is the following:

  • for a $60 game, it’s far too short and has no lasting value beyond the initial campaign
  • for a third-person cover shooter, it hardly reinvents the wheel, and the combat is bland and uninspired
  • it’s absolutely gorgeous, though the decision to force black bars on the top and bottom of the screen (to enhance the cinematic widescreen effect) means you see less of the world than you’d like
  • but still, holy shit, the game is gorgeous
  • there’s not much to do beyond shooting, and while there are lots of nooks and crannies off the very narrow path, there’s not as much hidden secret stuff as you’d expect, and the stuff that’s there isn’t particularly interesting or provides any tangible benefit to the player
  • given that Nikola Tesla is basically the game’s version of James Bond’s Q, you’d expect the weaponry to be a bit more diverse than it actually is
  • in any event, the weaponry you encounter in the world is not adequately explained (which is to say it’s not immediately apparent why you’d pick up one weapon as opposed to another when given the choice)
  • also:  lots and lots of QTEs, which are dumb

I can’t really argue with any of that; and yet I’m still finding myself enjoying the game quite a lot.

I think what we’ve got here is essentially an incredibly polished first draft.  The game’s world feels rich and deep, and the characters are acted quite remarkably well, even if the script is somewhat lacking in urgency and certain elements of the plot feel somewhat under-developed.  Perhaps it’s because I’m a sucker for finely delivered British accents that I’m allowing myself to gloss over the story’s shortcomings.

As to whether the game is worth $60 – well, I’m renting it, so I’m not feeling shortchanged.  But I think there’s something to be said about a game’s length in proportion to its intrinsic value.  Not all games need to be 100 hours long in order for me to feel like I got my money’s worth.  I loved Dragon Age Inquisition but there’s a fair amount of padding in that game, and once I finished the main story I lost any and all desire to finish my considerable amount of sidequests.  Meanwhile, I’ve played the considerably shorter Portal and Portal 2 more times than I can count, and I enjoy them every time I do.  Length isn’t the issue; it’s making sure that every moment feels as though it matters.

To that point, I don’t feel like my time is being wasted in The Order: 1886.  It’s not without some considerable problems, but I’m having more fun than I thought I would.  Maybe it’s the graphics whore in me, too – but goddamn, this game is spectacular to behold, even despite the fact that a lot of it is dark and dreary.  I would love to see Dishonored 2 run this well.  (It also reminds me a fair amount of last year’s ill-fated Thief reboot, for whatever that’s worth; games inspired by London in the late 1800s are apparently a thing now, but when they’re done well it’s quite breathtaking.)

Invisible Ink

I’m in something of a holding pattern right now with respect to the new album; well, maybe “holding pattern” isn’t the correct phrase.  What’s the best way to say “I’m starting to work on lyrics and I’m incredibly intimidated because I’m not as good a writer as I’d like to be and I really want these lyrics to matter“?  There’s one song in particular – it’s been one of the stronger songs right from the beginning – and I think I’ve come up with a chorus for it, but now I need to find a verse.

As I said the other day, writing lyrics is really, really difficult for me.  It’s particularly difficult this time around, though, because I’m not just writing one song; I’m writing an album, mostly from scratch, and while I’d hesitate to call it a “concept album” (because ugh) there’s definitely a thing that spurred this whole project on, and that thing is where all of this music is coming from.

I’ve never been a lyrics-oriented listener.  With a few notable exceptions, when I sit down with an album I almost never pay attention to the words; I’ll listen to the voice, but I’m almost always focused on everything else.  And when I was in my songwriting heyday (1993-1999, back when I was in bands and thinking about music 24/7), I almost always wrote lyrics only because I needed something to sing, rather than because I had something I needed to say.  I dearly wish I could simply be abstract the way Beck and Stephen Malkmus are, but I can’t (and believe me, I’ve tried, and it’s awful).  More often than not, I’m painfully and awkwardly sincere, and to my eyes and ears the words I come up with are cliched and lack any poetry.

I’m trying my best, is all I can say.  In the absence of a lyric-writing partner, that’s about all I can do.  And I’m hoping that with a little creative focus, the words can come a bit easier.

In the meantime, I’m also trying to keep myself distracted, because nothing impedes lyric creativity more effectively than me staring at a blank page for hours at a time.  So I’m getting back into my gaming backlog.

As I mentioned earlier this week, I bought a bunch of indie games; now I’m starting to play them.

I remain frustrated by the Xbox One’s apparent inability to download stuff while in a powered-down state, which was a feature I heartily enjoyed on the 360 and which I still enjoy on the PS4.  It means that I had to leave it powered on all night in order to finish downloading Ori and the Blind Forest, which I’m hoping to get my hands on this evening.  (It doesn’t help matters much that my apartment’s internet is spotty at best, which makes a 7GB download take that much longer.)

I am currently mostly enjoying Never Alone, which is absolutely gorgeous and fascinating and charming and adorable, but marred very occasionally by frustrating controls and unclear platforming puzzles.  Be that as it may, when it works, it’s wonderful.

I’m a little frustrated with Pneuma: Breath of Life; like I said the other day, its over-the-top self-awareness can get exasperating, and not all of its puzzles are fun to solve; it doesn’t do the greatest job of teaching you its rules, and while I certainly don’t need my hand held at all times, I’d appreciate some sort of guidance, however opaque it might be.  Still, though, Achievements!

I was tempted to buy Hotline Miami 2, but then I remembered that I’d never gotten terribly far in the first one on the PC, and that I’d maybe want to replay the first one to make sure I’d even be interested in the sequel, and you know what?  I don’t really like that game.  The controls make no sense to me at all, and one-hit-kills make the learning process incredibly frustrating.  It’s got style out the wazoo, but as a game it makes a rough first impression.

I’m also dabbling in Munin on the PC, which is a puzzle game I bought during the most recent Steam sale.  I forget why it was on my wishlist, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless; it’s a 2D platformer where you progress through each level by rotating each area on the screen in order to move; it has some sort of mythical Nordic art style, and it’s rather beautiful.

New Album Progress Report

MUSIC:  So:  I’ve been busy.  audioThe attached .jpg represents almost everything I’ve uploaded for my beta listeners since I started this recording project in late-January; there’s still a few more sketches on my hard drive that I haven’t uploaded yet, mostly because there’s not much to them.

I’m working on a bunch of things at once; I’m writing brand-new stuff, and also revisiting some much older stuff that’s never been properly recorded, and I’m also now starting to examine everything as a whole, and am beginning the process of separating the keepers from the b-sides.  And at some point I need to start working on lyrics.

All things considered, this is as productive and prolific as I’ve been in years.  For the longest time – like, the last 20 years – I was too complacent and lazy to ever get my ass in gear.  I’ve always wanted to record an album, but couldn’t be bothered to actually write anything, or let myself get into a songwriting routine – I was focused on other things, or just simply too unmotivated to get off the couch.  Hell, I have a hard time even calling “Untrue Songs” a real solo album – it was recorded over the course of 8 years and I wasn’t ever sure if any of it was going to see the light of day at all, and basically I put it out because I wanted my newborn son to know what all the instruments in the office sounded like.

For whatever reason, though, this time is different.  This time I’m genuinely excited to get home and start working.  Even on nights where I say to myself, “you know what, it’s been a long day, let’s take it easy tonight and switch off”, I still end up going into the studio and start tinkering with something.

So even if I technically failed the RPM Challenge, the overall experience has been nothing short of a fantastic success; I’m making music again, and I’m as happy about it as I’ve ever been.  I don’t necessarily have a timeline for finishing this thing, but believe me when I say that I’m as excited to get this new stuff out into the world as anything else I’ve worked on, possibly ever.

GAMES:  Because I’ve been so music-focused lately, games have obviously taken a bit of a back seat.  Obviously, given the current release calendar, I haven’t necessarily been missing all that much.  I treated myself to a bunch of well-regarded indie games last week but haven’t really given myself any time to play them:

  • I did the opening tutorial for Helldivers, and I think that’ll be a lot of fun in co-op.
  • I did the first 3 levels in Pneuma: Breath of Life; it’s an interesting (and beautiful) 1st person puzzler that’s trying just a little bit too hard to be self-aware and meta, taking inspiration from something like Stanley Parable as an obvious example.  It also offers up achievement points like CRAZY; even though that’s a thing I’m not really paying attention to anymore, I couldn’t help but point out that finishing the first 3 levels gave me a whopping 300 points.
  • I played about 30 minutes of the very stylish noir adventure White Night, but can’t offer any insightful commentary beyond its graphics.
  • I bought Never Alone but haven’t yet fired it up.
  • I downloaded OlliOlli2 because it’s free for PS+ members, but I must admit I was afraid to get started on it, because the first one was so fiendishly difficult.  And yet, for whatever reason, I’ve figured this one out, and even though I’ll never be a Jedi master at it, I can get all 5 stars on the early levels, and I’m enjoying it immensely.  It could be simply that there’s no narrative to get lost in; all I have to focus on is level geometry and the proper timing of button presses, and after a while it’s very easy to zone out.

I did end up renting The Order 1886, though it hasn’t arrived yet; I also rented the DmC HD remake, if only because I really like that game and would like to see how it could look even better than it did on my aging PC.

Side note – I am still kinda curious about those upcoming Steam Machines, and if I can get one with great specs for a relatively reasonable price, I very well might buy one and have it replace my PC.

BOOKS:  I finished Charlie Huston’s Skinner this morning.  I liked it, I think?  I don’t know.  It moves quickly, and some of the action set pieces are pretty exciting, but for an action-spy-techno thriller I never felt any danger, and the main characters are impossible to relate to (given their very plot-necessary personality quirks).  Now I’m finally reading David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which I’ve been meaning to get to (and yet was very intimidated by, for reason I can’t explain).

Keeping The Past Alive

In today’s edition of Three Things, I’m going to get the easy stuff out of the way first.

GAMES:  Finished the GTA V campaign (again).  Now I remember the finale’s “choice” that I mentioned I’d forgotten in last week’s entry; in the heat of the moment I chickened out and did what I did on the 360 (the “suicide mission”) for two very specific reasons:  (1) I don’t want to have to play this goddamned game again, and (2) I recall hearing that in these re-releases, there was going to be an L.A. Noire-ish mission for Michael to do, and I wanted to keep my options available if that was indeed the case.  Haven’t yet encountered it, and it may not in fact be in place just yet.  After that, I decided to give Shadow of Mordor another try, but it needed an 8GB download first, and I wasn’t about to wait that long.

BOOKS:  Finished J.M. Ledgard’s “Submergence”, which is admittedly very beautifully written, but I don’t understand why it exists.  Its two main characters meet in a hotel and fall in love and then go in wildly different directions, never meeting again, and it’s totally unclear to me what their parallel stories had to do with each other – especially since the book is not told in chronological order, meaning that their affair is interspersed with current action throughout, and there’s no discernible rhyme or reason that I can make out.  It’s a quick read, so it has that going for it.  I’m now reading Charlie Huston’s “Skinner”, which I’m enjoying even though it’s unnecessarily difficult to figure out who is talking in any given scene, given that every character talks in short bursts, and nobody is properly identified, and because this is a spy novel, it’s impossible to know who knows what – which is to say, in a conversation that’s almost entirely devoid of verbs, either person could be speaking at any given time.  It’s deliberately disorienting and it’s almost annoying.

MUSIC:  It’s March 1, which means the RPM Challenge is over.  Did I complete the Challenge’s objectives?  No, though of the 15+ things I recorded, I did bounce 11 of them to mp3, and I’m quite happy with 4 of them.  I’ve also figured out how to trick my Mac into recording guitars and MIDI stuff at the same time, which means I now have a much bigger arsenal to work with.  I always kinda knew in the back of my head that this project wouldn’t really kick into the next gear until I could figure that part out, and now that I’ve figured it out, I can continue writing brand-new stuff while also expanding some of this new material into fully-fledged songs.  This is exciting.

Even if I’m no longer carrying this burden of melancholic nostalgia around with me, I’m still working with it as a source of inspiration, and as such I’m still going through my old notebooks, looking for who knows what.

This brings us to this entry’s title, because poor archiving – in any medium – is a big deal.

I’ve always been a lousy lyric writer.  In my high school band, I wrote tons of lyrics, but I never paid attention to how good they were; it just mattered that I had something to sing.  In the bands I was in during college, though, I suddenly became very aware of how terrible they were, being that I was surrounded by English majors, one of whom was not at all shy in letting me know that my stuff wasn’t very good.  Eventually I got to the point where I simply made them up during shows; I knew that nobody was able to hear the singing anyway during a performance because, at least in my experience, nobody wants to turn their amps down on stage.  (I also had a terrible time memorizing my own lyrics – which is odd, considering that I never had trouble memorizing lines for plays; it also should be noted that the band I was in at that particular time was more interested in jamming than in songwriting, and we were especially interested in playing at very loud volumes, and in any event none of us were clear-headed enough to notice whether or not I was singing actual English words.)

Point being:  the other day I started thinking about one of these new songs, and a random lyric couplet suddenly popped into my head.  As I said, my lyrics are mostly forgettable, but every now and then I come up with something that’s not terrible, and so in this case I immediately started wondering if there was more at the source.  I started going through my old notebooks and diaries and discovered that even though I referred to it (“Farewell”) on numerous occasions as one of that band’s better songs, I never actually wrote a chart for it, or a formal set of lyrics.  I found the relevant couplet, but the only other relevant bits were these sketches, neither of which ring any bells.

Farewell 2 Farewell 1

My only other option was to go through my gigantic box of rehearsal cassettes and hope that I had a recording of it somewhere.  Sadly, I don’t.  This song – however great it might’ve been – is gone, forever.

Going through my old cassette tapes, I did find another gem; one of this band’s last gigs was a very strange 3-hour show at a dimly-lit East Village dive, and someone recorded it for us; and within that gigantic mess of noise was, as I recall it, a pretty amazing cover of “Starla” by Smashing Pumpkins.  I found that tape, and found that jam, and was able to convert it to mp3.  Sadly, my memory of it is much different from what it actually turned out to be, even if I found myself able to air-guitar along to it perfectly after not hearing it for almost 15 years; in its 10+ minutes, there’s a very beautiful quiet section that maybe isn’t quite as orgasmically incredible as I remember, but there’s also a whole bunch of nonsense at the end (most of which I am largely responsible for – at the climactic chord change, I stomped on my distortion pedal and walloped a D chord that inadvertently broke at least 2 guitar strings, resulting in a ridiculous cacophony, and instead of dealing with it I ended up going with it, playing louder, which – hearing it now – was perhaps not the greatest idea).

Not everything from that era needs to be saved, of course, but the sad truth is that those tapes are all I’ve got left of that era; while the bands I was in from 1995-2000 taped nearly every rehearsal, we only ever made perhaps 3 or 4 formal recordings, and we never took the time to convert those cassette tapes into something more permanent.  I can’t speak for the other guys, but I always assumed I’d have a cassette player handy if I ever wanted to hear that stuff again; it’s alarming how quickly tapes died out once iPods appeared on the scene.

Even more frightening is that everything else I recorded on my own between 2000 and 2014 only exists in my Macbook’s iTunes.  Between dead technologies and crashing hard drives (and my stepbrother accidentally taping over a solo show that contained the only decent recording of maybe the best songs I ever wrote), I’ve lost all of the original files, and if my Mac dies, that’s it.  It might not matter to anybody else, but it matters to me, and for all my obsessive documentation I never actually backed up the stuff that matters.   (This is why, when I finally release this album, I’ll most likely put the demos and sketches up too, just so that they’ll exist.)

%d bloggers like this: