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Love and the Lack of It (reposted from Facebook)

I wrote this song back in the spring of 2014 during roughly the same feverishly fecund month that I wrote the bonus tracks for the “Sad Sack” EP as well as “Affected Disaffection,” “Crazy’s Gonna Getcha,” “God’s Gardener,” and several songs for the upcoming JABBERWALRUS double album, “This’ll Be Our Year,” “Fall a Little Bit For Me (Free Fall II),” “Self-Inflected Aerial Nostalgia,” “So It Goes,” “Prison of Honeyed Words,” and “A Beautiful Lie” (the last three of which were co-written with guitarist Tom Briant).


Most of the songs I was writing for the JABBERWALRUS project and what would become BLEACHED BONES were Beatlesque and also an exercise in concision -- forcing my style to fit melodic three minute songs with traditional power pop structures and ample harmonies. I wanted something to break out of that mold a bit, since I’ve always been more of a Faulkner than a Hemingway. I also wanted to create some commentary on the rampant narcissism that I was seeing in my day to day life (as a teacher, I can really see where the social trends are heading at any given moment by observing changes in student behavior from year to year, and I noticed this sort of self-centered behavior that, while always present, seemed more prevalent than ever in the 20+ years I’ve been working with teenagers).


Oddly, I started with the music first instead of my usual lyrics-down method. And the chords were hardly “standard.” As Steve Jankowski said when I brought him the demo and chord charts, “You realize you’ve just written a six minute rock song using almost all jazz chords, right?” I hadn’t realized that. I knew that been aiming for some of the weirder changes I was hearing in the mid-70s David Bowie and Joni Mitchell albums I had been playing to expand my chord changes, but I had no idea that I was writing anything that could be even remotely considered jazz.


As far as the recording of the song goes, I did follow one of my standard production templates of recording my piano to a drum loop and layering my vocals on top of that (if memory serves, I needed about eight vocal tracks for all the backing harmonies). Paul Galiszewski and Tom Briant recorded drums and rhythm guitars (respectively) over the song in the studio, although we had to track them rather than play them together live as I would have preferred: the drums in particular were a creative challenge for Paul, who played them straight through the whole way, which we felt wasn’t satisfying from a levels and textures perspective. The post-verse bits -- the Gm to C bits (“money’s just another way...”) that sound so very Pink Floyd -- didn’t work with the straightforward drums. When I kept saying, “Put some dark side of the moon on the drums there,” Paul didn’t know what I meant. Fortunately, Steve Jankowski can take my references and turn them into musical commands. Paul had to switch from sticks in the majority of the song to mallets for those bits and vary up the rhythm. It worked magic!


Then, of course, came the two-minute or so middle bridge, which at first revs back up into a rock piece before coming to a near halt that required almost just light percussion, cymbals, and colouring from Paul, before the song resumed its original trajectory. By then, Paul had a thorough understanding of where the song was going and what drumming would best suit it.


After about an hour of drumming, Paul had nailed the whole song and he was ready for a long cigarette break. At this point, Tom came in with his guitar parts all written out and began to add acoustic guitar. About two minutes into the song, Steve Jankowski calls for a halt.


“Tom,” he said, “You’re playing these chords in lower formations that are brushing up against all the bass notes in Rand’s piano playing. Since the piano is already recorded, you need to change what you’re doing.”


That’s not an easy task to foist on somebody at the last minute, especially somebody who had spent two weeks charting out what he felt best served the song based on the initial demo I’d provided him which, admittedly, differed significantly from the working piano in the final recording. But Tom is nothing if not flexible in the studio, and reworked everything in a matter of minutes.


At that point, I do believe I added lead vocals in Jankland Recording Studio to supplant my initial home studio recording. Steve has way better microphones than I do, but the home studio is free, so there’s always a balancing act between what I spend to get perfect at Jankland and what I do at home to keep costs manageable.


Once Steve had bounced everything back to me, there was more work to be done at the home studio. Tom had electric guitar parts written that he wanted to add, and rightly so. But he always comes prepared and finishes in a few takes, so he probably only needed about one more hour with this one at my place.


As the song neared completion, there was the bass to be considered. Jacque Jobes hadn’t been available to record this one at Jankland, and his work schedule kept conflicting with my home studio availability as well. I finally had to do the bass myself using my synthesizer. I came up with what I felt was a strong bass line. I sent a bounce to Steve Jankowski, who immediately told me that it was way too busy (a rookie mistake -- I’m always afraid to let the music speak for itself and want to fill too much space) and didn’t allow the song to build. He told me to listen to Paul’s kick drums (I think that’s what it was -- not knowing the first thing about drums, I lose my terminology easily and quickly) and use them as a guide for where to put the bass initially and let it grow as the song goes. So if you listen, in the first verse the bass is strictly quarter notes. The second verse is MOSTLY quarter notes with a few grace notes thrown in. When the final verse comes in at the end, however, the bass goes to eighth and sixteenth notes with a lot more grace notes added.


Finally, we added pads and textures. By we, I mean I did it. There was little need in the first half of the song, but the middle bridge needed more texture and movement, since the band slows down to the point of nearly dropping out, without losing the sense of airiness that gives that middle bridge its intellectual heft and emotional depth (there was a very specific reason for the reference to 1984 in the song -- both the reality of what that year was as well as the Orwellian reference that is so poignant today more than ever before in our country). I forget the exact name of the texture I used, something along the lines of “moon colony” or some such thing. Very spacey. It moves; it’s gated. But it’s actually just a quick chord or arpeggio each measure, so it’s prominent without being intrusive. Coming out of the song I used a synth line to add a new element to propel the song forward along with that insistent bass. I chose a sound very reminiscent of the sort of moog synths utilized by KEITH EMERSON of Emerson, Lake & Palmer in the early 1970s: Futurist while simultaneously retro and nostalgiac at the same time, given the distance of 40 years of anticipation/expectation and what actually came of those forty years.


It’s probably the artistic high point on the BLEACHED BONES album, although I’d wager the JAFFA SUITE is pretty damned close to it. (The low points are, of course, “Crazy’s Gonna Getcha” and the Christmas song.) I rarely perform it live because it’s so damned difficult between the chord changes and the density of the lyrics, but it is one of my favourite original pieces, which is why I chose it as my entry to the NPR NPR Tiny Desk Concert Contest despite having little experience playing it. I wanted to let this song be the face of The Random Hubiak to the public who might encounter me on their page.



That said, here’s the lyrics. If you like the song, please consider purchasing a copy of the single or the album via download at CDBaby or at iTunes, Amazon, or eMusic to help support my songwriting career. Also please feel free to share this blog post or any of the links to help promote me!


LOVE AND THE LACK OF IT


Love and the lack of it. Love and the lack of it. Love and the lack of it.


I am a product of my childhood’s end, The disillusioned disciple of love’s perjured professions, Novice to nostalgia, nursing wounds that will not mend With no salt to cauterize these hemorrhaging confessions, No idol to exalt, no vessel for my projections. I only come to you seeking solace and protection for a little while. Love’s just another place to loser yourself and find yourself Amidst the space to recuse yourself, deny yourself. And if you manage to free yourself, unblind yourself From the shackles of convention and the tentacles of fear And the one-way reflection of narcissism’s mirror... What then?


Love and the lack of it. Love and the lack of it. Love and the lack of it.


The activists are no longer active; they’re all dreaming or asleep, Sleeping the sound sleep of the delusional and self-righteous, Counting slippery stepping stones and obedient little sheep, While wooly little wolves tend the helpless flock And the clergy’s got a Devil’s contract hidden underneath its frock. Money’s just another way to drug yourself, to bind yourself To all the obligations that unplug yourself, unmind yourself Until you cannot see within yourself from behind yourself And the shackles of convention and tentacles of fear And the one-way reflection of narcissism’s mirror... . What then? (Love and the lack of it)


I see the cycles repeating again, but the public memory fades. Everybody’s looking for a short term solution. Everybody’s looking for a quick fix. It feels like 1984 again. We’ll do massive quantities of coke and vote Republican. (Love and the lack of it)


Love and the lack of it. Love and the lack of it. Love and the lack of it.


So if it’s gonna end, I guess it’s been a well-deserved demise, A self-fulfilling prophecy and I’m just a Cassandra Calling from the wilderness, my voice unrecognized. No victory to evince, no power to command you, My sight cannot convince like the mountebanks grandstand you. Took so little to enthrall you, just the power to understand you that you didn’t have. But love’s still here when you can see yourself to find yourself. Yes, you can find the power still to free yourself (remind yourself!). Disillusionment resets yourself (rewind yourself) From the shackles of convention and the tentacles of fear And the one-way reflection of narcissism’s mirror.


Love and the lack of it. Love and the lack of it. Love and the lack of it.