Thursday, September 24, 2009

Song notes for The Cheese Stands Alone

UPDATE 10 November 2012: links now point to Bandcamp versions of album/songs. Tried to update other, dead links.

So, the previous post had the link to the webpage with the songs (and there it is again!), though I think everyone who's interested has either already gotten it or asked me for a CD. For previous albums I made a page with short factoids about each song. So here's the equivalent.

We Have Won The Toss (And We Elect To Rock), written 2009: The lead singer of the Sand Rubies said this (or something close enough that I mistook it for this) during one of their continual reunion shows in the late 90s. I've been carrying it around since then as a great song title. And here it is, with obvious apologies to the MC5 (filtered through the PUSA).

When I Think of You, written 1991: Or maybe 1992? A bit of an odd one for me, at least at the time, as the lyrics always struck me as ambivalent (and I suppose I should know). I had a version of this pretty much ready to go for Do Not Tip, but decided against it. Frankly, I'm not 100% convinced this is a better version...

Desdemona, written 1992: I knew someone who had "Ophelia" as her online nickname, which got me thinking about writing a song about Ophelia and Hamlet from the point of view of a friend of Ophelia's, maybe trying to warn her about things. But that theme didn't stick, and eventually "Hey Ophelia" scanned better as "Desdemona". And here we are. It was one of the first songs I recorded on the Mac, using the built-in microphone. So the sound quality is a bit odd, but in the end I liked it enough to keep it. (Wait, Desdemona is asteroid 666? And it's the name of an Eddie Murphy song? Oy. At least it looks like I beat Eddie to it.)

Another X, Another Y, written 1991: I don't remember a lot, but luckily I have an email where I talk about it. :) I wrote it while waiting to take the GREs, apparently. Jury Rig played this one, I don't remember playing it with Science Diet, though? I wrote a new verse relatively recently so that I could ditch the initial verse, which didn't fit the overall gimmicky theme. I never did really figure out what to do with the instrumental bit, hence the lame keyboardy solo.

Another Sunrise, written 1991: Lots of '91-'92 era songs this time out! I wrote this one in Japan, thinking about my girlfriend back home. I'd have to go find a pay phone at odd hours to call her when neither of us were working. She was a flautist, so I stuck the flute on in tribute.

My Vampire Love, written 2004: I was inspired by some fiction I was reading. _Not_ Twilight, of course, since this rather predates that. Again, I had a version ready for Do Not Tip, but I really couldn't quite hit the notes on it so I shelved it. Garageband doesn't have the same synthesized instruments available as the last program I used, so instead of harpsichord/cello this one has clav/flute-- sort of trading Bach for Stevie Wonder.

The Song In My Head, written 2009: Kind of Leonard Coheny, though not on purpose. This was in the running to be the final song for a while, before Gedankenband happened.

Westerberg St., written 1993?: What I do remember was it being a hot summer in Tucson and wanting to write lyrics about somewhere snowy and cold. That, plus the similarity of the music to a song by The Replacements, led me to Minneapolis as the setting (and the song title).

The Better Part of Valerie, written 2008: Again, not about any actual Valeries. This was on the Cheese Course "EP" I posted last year, though in a shorter form. As a result of actual feedback from people, I added another couple of verses and choruses. Is it better? It's definitely longer.

Patapsco Patuxent, written 2008: I just kind of started writing this. I could say I tried to get myself into some mindset, but I didn't really. Just tried to imagine a late 18th-century version of me. I couldn't resist the double-meaninged place names.

Beneath The Milky Way, written 1988: Started off depressing, according to my N-year-old notes. But it's been not-depressing for so long, I can't remember that. Totally inspired by the song by The Church, though it doesn't sound much like it (to my ears). One of my favorites to play in college, though not nearly angsty/indie to play with Dr. Lüst.

Storm Green, written 2008: Though maybe Jennifer wrote the words in 2007? I should let her write the relevant bit here, but for my part I'll say that I puzzled over the music for some time before hitting on the idea of going all techno on it, which certainly was not what she was expecting. It probably would have been better with her singing but so it goes. I'd also prepared an alternate set of lyrics in case she vetoed this treatment, but those live on for another day...

Last Night I Dreamt I Could Fly, written 1993: I actually was inspired by a dream for this one, and it was a dream that I could fly. My friend Tracey from high school was teaching me in the dream, and it was really rather amazing. Other than that, though, the song is made up. :) I was pretty happy with an old 4-track of this, but could never quite recreate what I liked in this version, alas.

Hubris, written 1990: This was an explicit attempt to write a song that wasn't about women. I think this is the last of the old Dr. Lüst songs of mine to be committed to silicon, other than the super-gimmicky ones like the Battle of the Bands Theme. Anyway, the band really didn't like this one from what I remember, though later friends liked it much better. I like the version here quite a bit.

It's All A Test, written 2007: I was clearly feeling somewhat put upon. The high-pitched accompaniment started as a goof, but I liked it enough to keep it. If I had to guess, I'd imagine this will be the least-liked song on the album. Oh, the "stupid as the night" line was a phrase my father used to say, though he had no idea where he got it. Or if it was "stupid as the knight".

Love Or Limerance, written 2008: Hey, it's my favorite song on the album! Was poking around on Wikipedia and ran across the concept of limerance, which totally stuck in my mind. It wasn't long before the chorus formed and then that stuck in my mind for weeks, before I finally wrote the rest of the song. Then the whole song stuck in my head before I recorded it first as a demo, then for the album. Now it's occasionally not in my head.

As Happy As You Make Me, written 1989: I never quite got around to playing this one in any of the bands I've been in. It would work OK in a band setting, I think, but I played it solo acoustic for so long that it never really occurred to me. My girlfriend at the time I wrote it called this "The Spider Song" since my fingers moving on the frets reminded her of a spider moving. Not that you can see that here, but this is the place to immortalize that. :)

Gedankenband, written 2009: They've been with me every step of the way for all of these albums, so I thought I'd write them a song. I wrote much of it on a flight home from Seattle, which is where the Bumbershoot mention came from. It also owes a whole freaking lot to "World Tour '88" by the Young Fresh Fellows, but maybe we can just keep that between us, eh?

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Cheese Stands Alone

I've posted a gzipped tar file of the album, which is running about 80 Meg, here (Safari only?! Not working in Firefox 4 c. 2011). I've also put individual songs and notes about them here, the whole thing as a gzipped tarfile here, the cover "art" here.  I figured I'd just include some of the extra, random bits on this page.

Andy Rivkin: guitars and vocals. Also such engineering and producing as was done.

The Gedankenband:
Günther van Günther: lead guitar, umlauts.
Eddy Diffusion: drums, percussion
Katie 80: bass, backing vocals on "It's All A Test", church organ
Ophelia Synecdoche: flute, keyboards

Thanks to the Büttklënch crew for being willing to take time from their busy touring schedule to help out. Thanks also to the Itascatown Philharmonic for their work on "As Happy As You Make Me".

UPDATE, 10 November 2012: In anticipation of offering the album via Bandcamp, I've disabled the links to the music. 

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sweet Hudson

I've been going back and forth on this, but finally decided to just post it. This song, Sweet Hudson, has been in the works for a while. I started writing parts when a friend of mine died in a car crash in 1995, wrote most of it after the events of September 11th, and rewrote some words after my father's death. I tried recording it between the last two of those events, but was pretty unhappy with the results so didn't touch it for a while.

Last night, given the date, I thought I'd try again. It's still not right, and I'm obviously fumbling with the melody. And as has been the theme lately, the arrangement is more sparse than it really should be. But in the spirit of doing something to mark the day in imperfect but hopefully not-too-maudlin fashion, here it is:

Sweet Hudson

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Sunday Cover

Messing around with Garageband, thought I'd put something up here. I banged this out without actually practicing, counting on knowing the song already. Or maybe that's just me rationalizing. ;)

So here you go-- ELO's Sweet Talkin Woman, just me and my guitar, one take.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Crunchy Granola Girl (Four-Track Version)

Another old one, this graced ("graced") Do Not Tip Or Rock in its more recent form. But as with Joan of Arc, I recorded Crunchy Granola Girl first on my old four-track.

Unusually, I actually gathered up and played a bunch of instruments on this one: Jen's drums, Barbara's bass, and a couple of guitars. I recorded it in the front room at Camilla House (Jennifer's room at the time). It was kind of a hassle to record and overdub each track in turn, but having real instruments (and the random timing and tuning issues they carry) does give a certain something that all-synthesized stuff doesn't.

Anyhow, the song was written about Flagstaff and its denizens during the summer of 1995. The heroine isn't real, though perhaps she's a composite. :)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Love Or Limerance

I'm still vaguely on track to get the new collection ready by my birthday. My current favorite song on the new album is this one, "Love or Limerance". This is a first take with just me and my guitar, which I used as a starting point for the final, more orchestrated version.

For better or worse, this one has been a total earworm for me. So, be warned. The final version is better, though. :)

As for what "limerance" means, you're already on the internet so I'll just let you look it up yourself...

Friday, July 24, 2009

We Didn't Start The Science

Commemorations of Apollo 11's historic visit to the Moon occurred this week, with the astronauts' safe return occurring 40 years ago today. So it seems like a propitious time to post the geekiest song I've yet written: We Didn't Start The Science.

I don't make that claim lightly. I have written or had a hand in quite a few surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly) geeky songs: OBAFGKM, The Astronomers Song, U Can't Solve This... But I really can't think of one more extreme than this recounting of space history from 1969-1999. This version was recorded for a CD I made for a friend going down to Antarctica with ANSMET, though I rerecorded a version late last year. That version's got a more involved arrangement (such as it is), this is just me and two guitars, recorded in parallel (and with the flubbed lyrics). Science Diet actually played this at the Barn Party at least once, where it got a good reaction (at least the parts people that were intelligible).

Please don't sue me, Mr. Joel.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dear Kate Bush (Instrumental)

I've been thinking about this one for a while, but I don't think I'm particularly close with it. The lyrics are taken from/inspired by Kate Bush songs, as is no doubt expected. And I do have a set of lyrics ready, but I really can't sing them, so this is an instrumental-only version. The music isn't quite what I want, but it's closer to right than the singing would be.

But I figured I'd put this up. I don't know if I'll actually get it right in time for the "album release" (I've got an unfortunate history of sticking songs on albums and almost immediately regretting them). While perhaps plodding, at least this version is not obviously embarrassing. :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Joan of Arc (Four Track version)

I used to have a four-track recorder. It used normal cassettes, using the stereo tracks of both sides as the four tracks. It was plenty sophisticated for what I was doing and/or wanted to do. When I bought it I tried to do complicated things: I'd add real drums and bass (borrowed from Jen and Barbara, respectively), mix stuff down.

By 1996 I was much more lazy and much more willing to just record some acoustic guitars and vocals and call it a day. That's the treatment I gave "Joan of Arc". It was a new one at the time, sort-of inspired by a trip to France and a leftover song idea about being a famous figure's boyfriend before she was famous.

I've always had a soft spot for this song, and indeed this treatment of it. I rerecorded it for In-jokes, though didn't quite get the same je ne sais qua I felt with this version...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Another X, Another Y (demo)


I've been doing some recording on my own for a while as a hobby. I've also been distributing collections to friends when I get "an album's worth" done. I'm hoping to get the next collection out to coincide with my 40th birthday in September, provisionally called The Cheese Stands Alone.

But with the whole 21st century thing going on, and the decline of the album format, and the rise of the intarwebs, I figured I'd also start a blog for fun. I'm not sure what I'll post here, or the frequency. And I'm not sure if I'll restrict myself to originals (probably) or if I'll post older stuff (probably).

The first song I'll include here is "Another X, Another Y". It's a bit goofy (as usual), and perhaps a bit contrived, but I always liked it. This version still needs some work, but I'm planning on including it on Cheese. Most of the song is synthesized, save the voice and guitars.