MTX SHARDS VOLUME 2, notes

This be the cover art

Yesterday was the release day for MTX Shards Volume 2. This 2nd volume of the Shards compilation completes the extant MTX digital catalog, volume 1 and 2 containing all the released tracks that were “orphaned” when we re-configured the catalog to reflect the actual records leaving off the bonus tracks, cover songs, and other detritus that had gradually built up on CDs over the years. (Theres’s more detail on this situation here.)

It is on all the digital services, but the best place to go is of course Sounds Radical. They’ve got a cool commemorative pin set to go along with it.

As with Volume 1, I posted song by song virtual “liner” notes on the internet yesterday, and here they are aggregated.

(As before the discussions on each item were fun and interesting. One thing that came out of it is, I’m no longer as certain as I was that that session during which “Don’t Go Away Go Go Girl” and the songs that would become the Gun Crazy 7" was at Dancing Dog. I’m now thinking it may have been at Smooth Papa’s… Also, I’m pretty sure that Smooth Papa’s and Sergays Recording Emporium were the same place, but I can’t quite remember which was first. Anyone who knows, let me know. I have no idea why that would matter to anyone, but somehow it seems to. I can check next time I trip over the tape.)

1. We Are the Future People of Tomorrow

This was part of the big batch of songs in consideration for the album that became Love Is Dead. Kevin Army placed it on a lower tier of priority, arguing (correctly I’m sure) that we’d already recently done one rock culture lampoon (“Alternative Is Here to Stay…”) and already had the self-referential rock-commentary song slot filled filled (with “Dumb Little Band.”) Also it gradually became clear that it didn’t quite fit in with the overall theme and “vibe” we were developing. So we held it in reserve and ended up recording this version a couple of years later very quickly and dirtily mid-tour at Fish Tracks in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for the Joe King-produced comp More Bounce to the Ounce.

Though the target is pseudo-political punk sloganeering in particular, as originally conceived it was more of a sort of folk-song, a la Donovan or someone like that, and I still play it that sometimes way when I do it solo. But I’m quite fond of this arguably rather heavy-handed, anthemic realization of it, and it certainly is apt. To my amazement, not everybody who hears it is able to grasp that it’s meant as a parody. (Then again, maybe I’m too easily amazed.) I’ve been criticized for the incoherent “message” and improper quotation (what, you mean Marx didn’t say “all they want is opium in their masses, which sucks”?); as well as praised for my insightful commentary (“good to hear you guys doing a political song.. fuckin’ genocide, that’s so true, man.”) For the record, the original, correct line in verse two is “we fight oppressionism for the revolutioning” but I flubbed it in the studio saying merely “revolution” and we just went with it. As you do.

2. Is There Something I Should Know?

As with most of the non-album covers we recorded this track exists solely because the people who were putting out the Duran Duran covers album gave us $200. I believe this, “Crash,” and “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah” were all stacked into the same session, at Roof Brothers in Oakland, ca. 1996. I have always been fond of the breakdown-outro just because it’s so incongruous. Also because it doesn’t have those weird, nonsense lyrics on it getting in the way of the rock and roll. But those lyrics, man: they’re non-grammatical to the point where it was actually quite challenging to get them to come out of my mouth. Some guy on allmusic says the lyrics “”deal with a difficult romantic relationship in rather obtuse terms.” Boy, I’ll say. Obtuseness like that doesn’t come easy, or cheap. Kevin Army said “I can’t believe you made this sound like one of your songs,” a comment which cut both ways I’m sure.

3. T-Shirt Commercial

This Jon von song should have been on Milk Milk Lemonade but the band was not too keen, and if I recall correctly Alex simply folded his petulant drummer arms and refused to play it. A strange hill to die on, but our career was full of such strange hills. After that line-up broke down and up following the ’92 Euro-tour, Jon secretly recorded it anyway with some pals and it appeared under the name Mystery Experience on Lookout’s Can of Pork compilation. This was perhaps a strange kiss-off, conceptually, since it remained an advertisement for the merchandise of a band he was no longer in, but then again, we never sold that much merch in those days. At any rate, I am glad to have it aboard.

4. Vive la France

As I’ve explained before, probably, this fractured-French version of “God Bless America” was simply the original recording with a new vocal track. The idea was to respond to requests for compilation tracks with no budget (which was most of them) with some variation of this song, new lyrics being plugged in each time. I envisioned doing this dozens of times, all the major languages, Elvish, Klingon, sound effects, children meowing, maybe a computer-generated robot voice, etc. None of this happened, but “Vive la France” did happen, on the Can of Pork compilation. Lots of people seem to like it, and I get a surprising number of requests to add it to set lists. Must be that je ne sais quoi.

5. How’d the Date End?

As originally conceived, the … and the Women Who Love Them CD EP was supposed to have six tracks, and the 7" would have two of them, plus an extra song that wasn’t on the CD. The song slated for this slot was “Checkers Speech,” but Jim was really fond of that track and insisted that it be on the CD. I had to come up with an additional track, and this was it. (Kevin Army managed to veto the other contender, “A Gal and a Half” which was a half-baked ragtime-type love song about a fat girl. A good call, I understand that now.)

At that time we were already way, way over our tiny budget for this project, so the song had to be dashed off really quickly. When it came time to do the vox over the guitar track I realized that I’d missed out a whole chunk of the song (the bit where the narrator describes being picked up where he’d fallen down, read his rights, and brought downtown.) There was no time to correct the error, and we just went with it. The song was included on the 7" but not listed in any way.

I always meant to do a proper version with all the lyrics. This one was recorded in my bedroom, and appeared on the Women Who Love Them “Special Addition” compilation. (Note: the current digital catalog has this version and not the original on the “Tapin’ Up My Heart” digital “7 inch” because we didn’t have a digital file of this song at hand when we put those songs up. It was meant to be a place-holder till we got a file of the original one, but that never wound up happening. If anyone would like to rip it for me, I can try to substitute it. People do complain about stuff like this, to my slight surprise.)

6. Time for Your Medicine

There are three schools of thought on drum solos: (a) they’re a terrible idea; (b) they’re a really, really terrible idea; © they’re a really, really, really terrible idea but it was the only way we could get the drummer to agree to play the song. Well there’s a fourth school, actually: (d) they’re hilarious. I’m gonna go with (d) here. Nonetheless, this is one of Jon von’s better tunes, though I’m not sure this slap-dash arrangement and recording does it justice, quite. I love the main riff. This is from that 1988 Greg Freeman demo. I seem to recall that we may have recorded the song a second time with Kevin at some point but the details are lost in the shadows of time as they cast themselves imperfectly upon my memory’s barren wastes.

7. Hello Kitty Menendez

This song is hard to explain to those who need an explanation, which I am occasionally asked to provide by younger people. So many dead references, including the main gag and entire justification for the song’s existence. Well, these things happen. This appeared on the 13 Soda Punx compilation on Top Drawer Records and I believe it’s the final song we recorded with Alex. The guitar solo still amuses me, as does “doctors and dentistes.”

8. Crash

This cover of the Primitives’ song was recorded for a compilation called Before You Were Punk. I never got where they were coming from with that title and concept, as the album consists of covers of mostly ’80s post punk pop songs. It should have been After You Were Punk, but Before You Subsequently Went Back to Being Punk Again (Basically Because Green Day and Offspring)… but maybe that was too long to fit on the CD cover. It’s a great song, though I’m not sure we added all that much value to what was already there. There are people who know of the band chiefly from this track. I know this because I’ve heard the words “oh you’re the guys who do that Primitives cover” from more than one mouth. This appeared on the …and the Women Who Love Them “Special Addition” CD compiliation.

9. Don’t Go Away Go Go Girl

This was recorded for a four-song Banana Splits covers comp called Banana Pad Riot, which also featured tracks from the Young Fresh Fellows, the Vindictives, and Boris the Sprinkler. Nice little record. We also put it on the end of the Our Bodies Our Selves CD as an unlisted track and unexpected ending to “God Bless America”, coming after eight minutes of silence (because that’s the kind of stuff we used to do back then.) I always loved this song, and Aaron’s Joey Levine-esque backup vox on our version still charm me. Though the record didn’t come out till 1995, the track was recorded at Dancing Dog in Emeryville ca. 1992 in the same session as “Swallow Everything,” “More than Toast”, “Together Tonight,” and “Not Guilty.”

10. Another Yesterday (demo)

A song from the Love Is Dead overflow that we wound up recording for real for the subsequent Revenge Is Sweet and so Are You album. It was a song the band liked so we did it, but if that hadn’t been the case I’m sure it would have ended up on the solo album. I’d had big production ambitions for it that never got to happen, which is maybe a good thing, maybe not. In those days, as perhaps now as well, I really had to expend a lot of effort if I wanted not to “over-write” and this is an example having tried that hard. This appeared on the …and the Women Who Love Them “Special Addition” CD compiliation.

11. Gilman Street
This version was from a demo we recorded at Greg Freeman’s Lowdown Studios mid-1988. The lyrics aren’t 100% together, but I still like it a bit better than the one that eventually ended up on Rough Trade’s Big Black Bugs 12" in 1989. I want to try to dig out this tape and see what else is on it. I remember it having a whole lot of songs on it, including at least a few of the ones that wound up being on the Making Things with Light album. I’ve got bins and bins of tapes in my little apartment — I’m basically tripping over them — and I’m sure one of them is this. This track first appeared in public as a CD bonus track on Lookout’s 1996 re-issue of the Night Shift album.

Anyway, as many have had occasion to point out recently, it is perhaps just a bit ironic that I of all people was the guy who happened to write the “Gilman anthem.” It could have been a lot more sycophantic and triumphalist and mythopoeic in other hands. Sorry about that, Punk History.

12. I Ain’t Gonna Be History

We knew this great old Maniacs song from the Live at Vortex LP and this not-all-the-way-baked attempt to cover it is an out-take from the Night Shift sessions at Hyde Street Studios. It was included as a bonus track on the Lookout CD re-issue of that album. Too many songs done too fast, we were young and inexperienced.

13. Look Back and Crack

We could never make this song work in the studio, but for some reason we tried several times. This was the final try, an out-take from the first batch of songs we recorded with Kevin Army in 1989 that became half of Making Things with Light the following year. We’d also tried to do it for Big Black Bugs, and I think there was an earlier attempt as well. I remember it working better live, but maybe I’m kidding myself. Anyhow, a shard is a shard, as the saying goes.

14. God Bless Lawrence Livermore

This was never intended for release. I just did the alternate lyrics to “God Bless America” during a vocal take to amuse Kevin Army. (That’s what gave me the idea to do a bunch of different versions, though we only ended up doing one in the event.) Kevin was amused enough to make me do a full track of it, and I think he may have even inserted it subliminally into the “God Bless America” mix. Good times. We put all three on the Big Black Bugs re-issue compilation CD. It may not be much, but it is a “shard.”

15. Told You Once

This was one of over a hundred songs on Fat Wreck Chords’s Short Music for Short People compilation. It was meant to be songs that were thirty seconds or under I think. Ours clocked in at ten seconds, which I’d hoped would be the shortest but in fact “Short Attention Span” by the Fizzy Bangers beat it by a couple of seconds. Oh well. The recording was one of those backline-in-the-tudio deals where the bands would shuffle in, do their song, and shuffle out. Engineer Ryan Greene and I really didn’t see eye to eye on… anything, really. He was very unhappy with my funky but classic 1957 Les Paul Junior, and kept trying to get me to use this metal-looking guitar he had instead (which I didn’t — I have my principles.) Admittedly, it was hard to tune. Basically, there was a lot of conflict packed into those ten seconds, which may well be the best way to record a song that goes “fuck the fucked up fucking fucks…”

16. King Dork (Forward ’til Death version)

This was an out-take from the Revenge Is Sweet sessions, left unfinished because we had just run out of time and we already had too many songs to deal with. We assumed we’d come back to it some time, finish it up, and use it for something. That finishing up didn’t wind up happening till five years later (2001 ish) when Kevin Army and I attempted to do so for its inclusion on the …and the Women Who Loved Them “Special Addition” compilation CD. In the meantime, this version, which was basically just a rough mix not really meant for release, had found its way on to the Lookout Records compilation Forward ’til Death. It’s the first version many people heard of this song and some folks seem to prefer it. In other words, it is, if nothing else, a “shard,” and it seems a fitting final track. Had I but known how important this song and its conceit was to become in my later life, I might have taken more care with the whole thing. Then again, I might not have.