52 Card Pickup, Songs # 20 & 21: The Happiness Engine & My Fondest Regrets



I believe I wrote this in the early 90s. I've been trying to record it properly ever since. It sort of sounds like it's about some diabolic combination of Happy Fun Ball and the internet, but at the time I wrote it, the internet wasn't much of a thing yet, at least in my world. Perhaps it was prophetic.



This wistful instrumental originally appeared on All Kinds Of Wrong, my folksy album with Jeromy Barber, in a stripped-down arrangement, but it's probably my favorite of my instrumental compositions and I always wanted to do a bigger production job on it, so here it has piano, bass, and drums. I think of it as a soundtrack to a film that is half spaghetti western, half French existentialism.

52 Card Pickup, Song #17: Once So Splendid



I've decided to call my 2019 song-a-week project 52 Card Pickup, on account of 52 weeks in a year and 52 cards in a deck. I think next January, when it's all done, I will bundle the songs into four 13-track albums called Hearts, Spades, Aces & Clubs. I'm not a big card player, but it just sort of seems to work.

Anyway, this week's song. Who doesn't daydream about inheriting a decayed mansion and its vast weed-choked estate?

Musically, it doesn't get any more David Morrison than this. Minor key, 3/4 time with the occasional spastic Zappa-esque interruption, languorous tempo, tritone substitution, b9s out the wazoo, whole tone keyboard runs, creepy guitar solo... all the salient features of my brand, plus ghosts howling on Joe Newman's synthesizer wind. Joe also mixed & mastered.

I took the cover photo in an art house cinema in Budapest. I went to see an old Hungarian film and the only people in the theater were me and this hunched old dude in a tattered raincoat. That guy was like my spirit animal.

2019 A Song A Week #15: Long Gone



This is another cover, by one of my all-time top musical heroes, the late, great, Syd Barrett. For those of you who are unfamiliar with him, he was the original founding member of Pink Floyd. Fame and large amounts of LSD apparently did not agree with him and he retreated from public life. His two post-Floyd solo albums are absolute masterpieces of utterly unique songwriting.

I've sung this song forever. Carey Bowman of the Coffee Sergeants & I used to do it in our psychedelic supergroup Kangaroo Suicide, which was just him and me & our guitars, playing in bookstores and stuff back in the 80s in Austin.

Joe Newman (The Rudy Schwartz Project) mixed and mastered it and also added some of his usual exquisitely weird sounds. I think he hired a troll to sharpen a sword in a cave during the guitar solo.

2019 A Song A Week #13: Starship Lorenz Do You Copy?



This week's song is an instrumental. I've been fiddling with it off and on for a year or two, but I think it's done now. A nice thing about my song a week project is that it allows me to finish things and move on.

It used to be called Autostatic, but the more I worked on it, the more it sounded like a space voyage to me. I originally composed this by improvising on the organ along with a metronome; I took the good bits and edited them together. Then I played drums along with it, then added bass, then guitar, then sound effects.

If you wonder what those strange noises are towards the end of the song, that's a tone generator powered by a Lorenz attractor, which is an algorithmic function derived from Chaos Theory. The science fiction novel I just finished describes a civilization whose planet is in the orbit of three stars. The problem of predicting the motion of three bodies in space is essentially insoluble; it's a classic example of what chaos theory has demonstrated, that simple systems with few variables produce complexities that cannot be thoroughly described. Thus the beings on that planet live in a constant state of terror, not knowing what conditions will prevail. The afterburners of that book, lingering in my mind, probably influenced how I shaped the final mix today.

So, in my mind, this piece of music evokes a spaceship facing some kind of anomaly that causes them to lose contact, and makes them unable anyway to explain what they are experiencing. There's an opaque, 2001: A Space Oddyssey-like resolution at the end, with the reappearance of the chaotic tones. So I decided to name the starship after Konrad Lorenz, the great mathematician of Chaos Theory.

Of course, it may sound like something completely different to you. I'm cool with that.