January 20, 2012

30 Songs #26 - Blunt Instruments: Throw Back a Twelve Pack and Write It All Down, Jack


100% authentic Naranjastani Radblaster, unearthed in Anaheim, 2011.

Yes, you may be cringing now, but that's not just a painfully stupid rhyme, folks—it's the magic formula for "how to name your band." Of course, the catalyst of choice could be any reality-altering controlled substance, but here at the roving My Band Rocks HQ, we have usually chosen alcohol. Why start off the latest "30 Songs" post with this drunken crap, you ask? Aside from it being Friday, you mean? Oh, well that's easy—we have reached our third entry in the "band theme song" sequence, a lyric called "Blunt Instruments" that I shoe-horned into Radblaster's theme song. Because every band needs a theme song—it doesn't matter if we've only rehearsed seven times in almost two years, and have yet to score a gig—some things are simply imperative. My bandmates were somewhat reluctant to acknowledge this critical fact, but they changed their tune after I laid some serious Wisdom on them. Check it out:



Okay, so maybe it's not so convincing, but I Stand By My Point (as I sit down with another beer). That mp3 is a loose, not-ready-for-prime-time demo of "Blunt Instruments," with ugly-shouty vocals courtesy of yours truly. We haven't actually rehearsed this song together as "Blunt Instruments" yet—if you listen closely you can probably hear Adam in the background singing another song entirely—but more about that later. Let me get back to the stupid post title, because it all starts there, sprawled in the wreckage of numerous wasted band-naming sessions. When Adam, Bryn, Kevin and I first formed a band way back in the last century (1996), we played messy surf instrumentals and dirty blues songs and named ourselves The Clap. Naturally, much man-child hilarity ensued from there, complete with stern looks and exasperated eye-rolls from parents and girls that we failed to impress. We let that joke play itself out (it took less than a year, but oh, what a year it was), before Bryn deemed The Clap an "unpoetic" name (and an unlikely gig-getter) and we frantically searched for a new one.


Adam does his 007 impression in 1996, with the original orange Radblaster.

As surely everyone knows, we then named ourselves after Hunter S. Thompson's annoying, anachronistic fax machine, and as the Mojo Wire we spread sub-musical terror across two Southern California counties and (mostly without Kevin) countless backyard keg parties. There was a brief identity crisis around the year 2000, when we conducted several mind-erasing band-naming sessions at the infamous Adam/Bryn/Sean/Owen/Brian/Joe apartment in Isla Vista, but nothing we came up with was any better than the Mojo Wire, and so we carried on for another year. Then some other stuff happened and we played in different awesome bands for a while (Los Sindicate, Honey White, etc.) and let the Mojo Wire wither on the vine as an archaeological curio. I was particularly irresponsible, releasing our domain name (www.themojowire.com) into the ether of nefarious online auctions.

And oh, how I paid for that mistake. At the end of 2008—with Honey White on hiatus and myself deep into a massive novel-writing nostalgia-trip—I made a frightening discovery: another Mojo Wire had formed and was stalking Southern California, fronted by a semi-famous singer who used to front another band in the 1990's. Of course, like anyone else would in this situation, I...uh...totally lost my shit—and my shamelessly dumb little online temper tantrum earned an inbox-full of too-bad-so-sad condescension from said famous person (plus some man-dance threats from her prison-tattooed boyfriend). After screaming like a child, then coming to my senses and realizing I was beaten, I remembered my sweet auntie's best piece of advice when it came to Surviving Shitty Times In The Entertainment Business: "you're the creative person, so come up with something more creative." I meditated on that wisdom for almost two years. Two long years.


Bryn at Wall of Sound in Anaheim, 10/22/11.

Then in March 2010, the stars aligned and Adam, Bryn, Kevin and I re-formed the original band and began playing the rock again. Since we couldn't be the Mojo Wire (and wouldn't be the Clap), a new band-naming session was needed. Now, as Responsible Men Of A Certain Age, we couldn't get hopelessly trashed to generate wisdom, but nevertheless came up with many possible suggestions: Contact Hangover, Electric Hubris, Spastic Melodrama, Bingeworthy (can you tell we were projecting?), Obnoxiousaurus, Towering Cumulus, Dolphin Jail, Moses Cadillac Jackson...you get the idea. All hilarious, all shrugged off or outright rejected for one reason or another. And then—like a brutal ass-kicking from Zeus himself—it came: RADBLASTER. There was another musical entity out there called a Radblaster, but it was merely an mp3 player. We were a BAND, goddamnit, and we would not be denied. Or rather it went something like Bryn saying, "fuck it—the name's good, and I'm sick of this crap. Let's just do it." And so it was that we became Radblaster.

Such an epic tale deserves a song, right? I mean, that's how epics came into being, right? They were sung! Surely we could wring three minutes out of this—and I was just the dude to do it. The lyric for "Blunt Instruments" was actually the fourth or fifth attempt, however—and it had to be cannibalized from other nascent Keir lyrics called "Creative Class Yuppie Blues" (which morphed into "Dilemma By Design"), "Crippling Nostalgia Blues" (which I'm still struggling with), and a lousy chorus for something called "Do Your Business" (i.e. "you can do your business baby, but we're gonna do our thing"). What really drove me to finish it, though, was a great tune of Bryn's (part of his current "Black Keys Riffage" phase) that we rehearsed in early 2011. Unfortunately (for me), he'd already written lyrics for it, calling it "Superconductor." It goes like this:

mp3: Superconductor (original slow riff)

mp3: Superconductor (rehearsal, 2/19/11)


Adam at Wall of Sound in Anaheim, 10/22/11.

I won't say that Fate smiled upon me, but for some reason Bryn soon soured on his lyrics for "Superconductor" and he temporarily shelved the song—and then like a pestilential vulture (or maybe Mitt Romney) I convinced him that the best possible solution would be for me to write a Radblaster theme lyric for his bouncy, bluesy, boozy tune. He wasn't thrilled, but trusting in my skillz, relented with honor and courage. Then I went to work—and it was work in all the worst, frustrating, soul-crushing ways (i.e. an over-serious dude like myself trying to lighten up)—but in the end I beat the bastard and smote its ruin upon the mountain side:

"Blunt Instruments"

Circa nineteen-ninety something
when we rose up from the slime
of spastic melodrama in superlative times,

dumb bingeworthy electric hubris
and contact hangovers galore
always made a lotta noise - but we made more

with Radblaster, yeah Radblaster

Four blunt instruments and then some
are only gonna go so far
but reconnect the Mojo Wire, and here we are:

now with swagger by Los Sindicate
and style by Honey White
fifteen years evaporating overnight

in Radblaster, yeah Radblaster

Certain disaster, sober or plastered
we're Radblaster, we are Radblaster


Elliott and Yeats it ain't—but I did manage to pack in four real band names and four fake ones, including the chorus. And then I crippled the "Superconductor" demo by singing like Bob Dylan's senile evil twin:

mp3: Blunt Instruments (Cranky Old Dylan vocal)

Yikes. However, this version also includes the "blaster" sound, made by the orange toy Star Wars gun that I unearthed in the wilds of Disneylandia (or as the locals call it, "Anaheim"). I'm a sucker for novelty gimmicks in our recordings (examples too numerous to cite here), and I assumed this could be a fun, swingy song that introduces the band—the way "12:15 Blues" did for the Mojo Wire so many years ago. I think I've done that—but of course we haven't actually played it in this form yet, so who knows?

Another open question: could I, Mr. Painfully Serious Man, write a non-serious song? Ever? Well…yes and no, apparently. If you consider stringing together disparate, semi-funny non sequitors into a semi-coherent whole, then yes. If you consider this in competition with Bryn and Adam's greatest hits of hilarity from yesteryear—"Your Mama's a Ho," "This is the Chorus," "Drunken Asshole Bitch Blues," "Margarita," "March of the Idiots," "Broken Nail Blues"—then no. It doesn't even come close to my clever audio-collage from 1999, "Rocked by the Magnum."


Kevin at Wall of Sound in Anaheim, 10/22/11.

Ah, but who cares? It's Friday night in Southern California, my wife is asleep, and I am less than sober. We can get back to being Serious Keir next weekend. Until then, my trigger-happy, em-dash-laced wisdom will surely rattle around in many impressionable brains, right? Right?

Song stats:
Music by Bryn DuBois and Radblaster, January 2011.
Lyrics by Keir DuBois, October 2011.
Appears on the following albums: None (yet…)

3 comments:

  1. Three band names you neglected to mention:

    Excessive Yak
    Indecent Downfall & the Unlucky Hotel
    With Crotch

    Oh, yes. Those must be mentioned. Then mostly forgotten until, someday and after a couple beers, they should be mentioned again.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I forgot about Excessive Yak! Now that, that's criminal. There's a whole string of that ugly crap in my Facebook mailbox. You guys are gross.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yes. That we are.

    ReplyDelete

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