Transport Devices

I approached this song as an experiment with the William S. Burroughs/Brion Gysin cut-up technique. I read somewhere that David Bowie had used this technique to come up with lyrics that were enigmatic yet resonant. I was trying to get away from having my songs for the Drogues be so straightforward, and while I failed miserably at that goal, I still ended up with my favorite song of all time. The source material had nothing to do with what the song ended up being about, and it was fascinating to experience how the random phrases combined to become what they wanted to be. Fellow Drogue Mark Smith contributed the killer chorus that really put the thing over the top, especially when we did it live.
News posted—a man of few words
Don’t question—just write this down
Peerage-to-peer—stealing the future
Message encrypted—all meaning gets lost

Thread the needle—unfurl the flag
It’s all sewn up—it’s all sewn up

Alarms went off—during the heyday
Embedded illusions—haunted by truth
Hidden agendas—disclose the identities
A Capitol offense—to tell the truth

Thread the needle—unfurl the flag
It’s all sewn up—it’s all sewn up

Transport devices—they’re body bags

Fix your numbers—skew your percentages
It’s all semantics—there’s no fair trade
Nothing is sacred—handle this quietly
You could be next—got the message?

recorded by The Drogues, released on No Facts That Don’t Fit

The Long Emergency

This song came out of one the last spurts of creativity I enjoyed with the Drogues. I had just finished reading James Howard Kunstler’s The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century and was justifiably freaked out by it. I wanted to paint a picture of a dystopian future where there’s no longer any time to play in a band (or electricity to run guitar amps for that matter). We played this live quite a bit and always got a great response. I used to give a shout-out to Kunstler and I hope at least one person checked out the book because of the song. Who knows?

Scraps of melody
A broken progression
Words written down
Acts of aggression

It’s all we’ve known
Parking lots and electric light
Driving after dark
The city went down without a fight

We’re caught up
We’re caught up

Scraps of melody
A broken progression
There’s no I-IV-V anymore
There’s only war

It’s all we’ve known
It’s all our mothers and our fathers knew
Turn out the light
The parking lot now as quiet as a graveyard

Scraps of melody
A broken progression
Words written down
Acts of aggression

It’s all we’ve known
Parking lots and electric light
Living after dark
Pretending everything is all right

We’re caught up
We’re caught up

unrecorded

National Selection

I demoed this song out for the Drogues in GarageBand and I really liked how it came out. I then learned, once again, the difference between being in a group and just doing your own thing is that sometimes material you think is great might not float everyone’s boat. The lyrics were inspired by the revelation that the government had been spying on American citizens without even bothering to go through the motions of obtaining a FISA warrant. The disclosure that our good friends at AT&T had provided a secret room in the San Francisco switching office to facilitate domestic surveillance was especially egregious. One more civil liberty trumped by the War On Terror. Thanks, AT&T!
You called
And bunkered deep in a building
We sussed you out

You called
And bunkered deep in a building
We put the finger on you

Don’t mind if we listen in
We want to check your connections
Ignore the man behind the curtain
It’s just a natural reaction

Don’t mind if we listen in
Eyes are working overtime
Ignore the man behind the curtain
Trampling the party line

You called
And bunkered deep in a building
We sussed you out

You called
And bunkered deep in a building
We put the finger on you

Don’t mind if we listen in
We want to measure your inflection
Ignore the man behind the curtain
It’s just national selection

Don’t mind if we listen in
Our story’s spinning double time
Ignore the man behind the curtain
Just swallow and repeat the lie

unrecorded

State of the Union

These lyrics speak for themselves—pretty unambiguous. This was the other half of the one-two punch than anchored my performances with the Drogues until the very end. Coupled with Transport Devices, I would usually shout myself hoarse by the end of the set. We recorded a demo version of this song at Dutch Oven Studios in Alameda in preparation for No Facts That Don’t Fit, but somehow the song never got rerecorded once we hit Tiny Telephone. I think I may have been still waffling between “causal” and “cause and effect” as I had acquired the bad habit of mispronouncing “causal” in the heat of the moment. In retrospect, it was the right word all along and I should have just got my act together.
State of the Union, state of emergency
State of denial, feeds the insurgency
State of grace, nothing for you and me
State your case, devoid of reality

I’m not saying there’s no danger out there
You have to watch yourself, you have to ask yourself

I’m just saying there’s a causal connection
You have to watch yourself, you have to ask yourself

I’m not saying that they’re not out to get you
You have to watch yourself, you have to ask yourself

I’m only saying that the shit has been brewing
You have to watch yourself; you have to ask yourself—why

State of the Union, state of emergency
State of denial, destroys a democracy
State of grace, this ain’t no theocracy
State your case, rife with hypocrisy

I’m not saying there’s no danger out there
You have to watch yourself, you have to ask yourself

I’m just saying there’s a causal connection
You have to watch yourself, you have to ask yourself

I’m not saying that they’re not out to get you
You have to watch yourself, you have to ask yourself

I’m only saying that the shit has been brewing
You have to watch yourself; you have to ask yourself—why

recorded by The Drogues, unreleased

Westworld

Westworld is another song we cut at Dutch Oven that got left off of the proper album. I think we realized that we had nailed it and weren’t about to lay it down any better. If I remember correctly, the original idea was to combine the best tracks from the two separate sessions, but we erred on the side of continuity and this live performance favorite got left behind.

Of course the song is about Dick Cheney actually being an evil robot (I know, and water is wet). “The floating head of Nixon” refers to Matt Groening’s series Futurama, which often featured just such an aberration.
There is a country—underneath where you stand
There is a leader—maybe half of a man
They say he’s a robot—but you really can’t tell
His soul’s been backordered—to be FedExed from hell

Parts wear out
He hides out
He hides out until his parts come in

He’s bionic, animatronic
Just like Lincoln—in his Orange County bedroom

He hasn’t been seen—around Georgetown of late
There’s no gin in his tonic—there’s no steak on his plate
He only loves oil—straight up from Kuwait
You know he likes it crude—because he can’t 40 weight

Parts wear out
He hides out
He hides out until his parts come in

He’s bionic, animatronic
Just like Nixon—like the floating head of Nixon

recorded by The Drogues, released on The Bay Bridged, Episode 20

Blowback

Another song that started out being about something completely different—in this case, office politics—and became warped and mutated into another angry screed by the heavy gravity of the mighty gas giant that was the Drogues. Blowback is obviously (maybe too obviously) a reference to the book by Chalmers Johnson.

Stretched to the breaking point—and let go
Redefining what it means—to not know
Your closed-door policies—will not show
Stretched to the breaking point—and let go

Stretched to the breaking point
We’re suffering the blowback

The price of empire—we can’t know
From the frying pan to the fire—and let go
Side effect of our desire—it can’t show
The price of empire—we don’t know

Stretched to the breaking point
We’re suffering the blowback

The world turns—the worm turns
You had your turn—it’s not your turn
The world turns—the worm turns
It’s not your turn—it’s not your turn

We’re suffering the blowback
We’re suffering the blowback

unrecorded

Blank Check Face

Yet another Dutch Oven track that got shit-canned by the democratic process. I had been exclusively listening to the Jam since returning from a trip to the UK. Paul Weller freak Kevin Crouse provided an infectious Mersey beat and I made a concerted effort not to overplay for once. It didn’t help.

For some reason I always thought about Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra when I played this song. It would have made a good revolutionary anthem if we still had such things. But we don’t.
Once more into the stifling heat
’Til it melts away your ghost

Once more into the acid bath
’Til your memory turns to smoke

Once more under the crushing load
’Til we can find ourselves some shade

Once more onto the bloody road
’Til we can fix the mess you made

This is your wake up call
The one you never placed

This is your past due account
This ain’t your blank check face

This is your falling tree
If you can’t hear it, we’ll make it louder

This is your red tide sea
This ain’t your little white powder

Once more into the stifling heat
Once more into the acid bath
Once more under the crushing load
Once more onto the bloody road

recorded by The Drogues, unreleased