I'm writing this on February 17th, a good two weeks before it will get posted and 8 days until the Appleseed's projected arrival. I'm taking Nicole's word for it that he will be late, but the doctors keep saying they don't really want Nicole going much past 40 weeks, so I'm working under the assumption that by the time you read this (week 41!), the Appleseed will be with us. And if he's not, he's probably close.
I've got a lot of wonderful feedback on this series of blog posts. This site has gotten more traffic since I started writing about my wife being pregnant than it's ever gotten. I think it's something of a perfect storm in that people love to read about new parents and babies and people who know me think I'm kind of crazy, so they really want to read about me becoming a parent.
Anyway, I've had people ask me what I'm going to do after the Appleseed arrives, given that this series of posts, "Fruitful," is about the pregnancy. I've had people request that I continue blogging once Nicole and I become parents...as if they could stop me.
And that brings us to Appleseed, which will be the name of the new series of posts I'll be writing about, well, the Appleseed, as he will be known to all of you out there on the internet. I'm going to try to stick to my every week schedule, but let's face facts -- this kid is going to have a say in that. It's entirely possible that I may end up posting "I am about to pass out, so no new post this week" on a regular basis.
I'm probably sleep deprived and covered in poo as you read this. Just so you know.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Monday, February 24, 2014
That's a bit of a fib, as I'm writing this weeks in advance of his due date. But this will be published on February 24th, which is when we were initially told to expect him. We recently found out that was a day off, though, and Nicole will actually hit 40 weeks on February 25th.
Nicole thinks the Appleseed is going to be late and I have a feeling that women just know these things. But from what I understand, they'll induce if she goes much past the 40 week mark, unless the criteria for induction isn't met, which would be a pain for all involved.
Anyway, there's a chance that if you're reading this at some point during the week of the 24th, we're at the hospital. Nicole is most likely being a champ, as she is one of the toughest people I have ever met. I am most likely super calm, as I am crazy calm in high pressure situations, which is odd since I am seldom calm in no pressure situations.
I can't speak for Nicole, but I'm sure I will, at some point, be overcome by an incredible sense of community, by a feeling that I'm a part of the natural order of things. We are the products of thousands of years of evolution. Our son will be the next step, the next act in a story that goes on and on.
The other day I thought about the fact that, once the Appleseed is born, Nicole will be able to talk about what it's like to have a kid. She'll be able to share stories with other women who have had children. That has to be a huge shared bond. I would think that even women who have nothing in common can find a connection in having given birth.
And we'll have a kid, although it's not like that will make us special. There are roughly 250 kids born every minute on this planet. The Appleseed will be one of 250.
But he will special and him being born will be special, at least in our little world. It will mean a lot to our families and friends. He will mean everything to us.
I'm sitting here, thinking I should write more. But what else is there to say? We're going to have a child soon. It's overwhelming.
Monday, February 17, 2014
: a very strong feeling of fear
: something that causes very strong feelings of fear : something that is terrifying
All new parents say they're terrified. I would think it's a pretty standard feeling. It's hyperbole, though, as it's really more being scared. Real terror would prevent you from being able to function.
But there are moments when, for probably no more than one, maybe two seconds, I feel pure terror. Seriously, it's all encompassing and I feel like the world is ending. It's a feeling I've never had before.
Fortunately, it goes away quickly. And, so far, it happens rarely, but I have feeling that will change the closer we get to our son's arrival.
A woman I work with, who just had twins (and already had a daughter), told me that the terror goes away when your kid is born, not because it's any less scary, but because you don't have time to think about it. Once you're in it, you're in it, and you're holding on for dear life. You're not, for example, sitting at your desk at 10 o'clock on a Wednesday, drinking Scotch, listening to Fugazi, and blogging about how scared you are. No, you are doing whatever you can to prevent your wife from completely losing it because she has to feed this kid every 2-3 hours, and thus never sleeps more than two hours at a time, and that's if she's lucky.
There's something very comforting about that. I like the idea that we're going to be thrown in the deep end and forced to swim, because it means I'll no longer be standing at the edge of the pool, waiting for my turn. Sure, I might drown this way, but at least I'll be given the chance to swim. At least I'll actually be able to do something, to take my fate into my own hands.
I will still find time to be terrified, though. I know I will. It's how I work.
Oddly enough, there's a part of me that's also looking forward to the sleep deprivation. There's something
|This is what's in the deep end.|
Anyway, I'm not currently sleep deprived (not much, at least) and I'm not currently in the deep end, which means I have all the time in the world to be terrified. We're at that point (we've been there for a week now, really) where Nicole could go into labor at any time. In fact, I think in one of our classes we learned that 39 weeks was totally fine for birth -- that last week is just extra.
That is terrifying. At any given moment, it could be go time. Any day now, our lives will change completely. It's just out there, hanging over our heads, waiting to envelope us, and we're supposed to just keep on like usual.
It's freaking me out just writing this.
Friday, February 14, 2014
It became fitting that Fugazi released an album of outtakes (and documentary) when they did. The band had already gone their separate ways and were making music together less and less frequently. The writing should have been on the wall.
It's hard to call "Instrument" an actual album, as it's not. It is exactly what it sold itself as: a collection of outtakes. Sadly, most of those outtakes aren't particularly interesting. It actually goes a long way to confirming that the band is the bunch of lo-fi, regular guys that everyone thought they were. "Instrument" is filled with the type of junk that is being recorded in every basement in America. This is Fugazi showing us that they're no different. They record every single thing they think sounds good, too, even if they realize after the fact that it's crap.
The "Apreggiator" demo is interesting given how much they increased the speed for the recorded version. "Afterthought" makes you wonder why Fugazi never dabbled in keyboards more, as it's rather catchy. "Trio's" is darkly atmospheric, more so than anything else the band has recorded, which is probably part of the reason it never materialized on an album. "Turkish Disco" is the first track where I actually wondered why Fugazi never turned it into a complete song. That doesn't happen again until "Little Debbie" which could have fit on any album from "In on the Killtaker" on. "I'm So Tired" begs the question of why Fugazi didn't use more piano parts. "Swingset" has a fantastic verse, but the attempt at a chorus makes it clear why it's an outtake.
In the end, "Instrument" is a collection of songs for only the biggest of Fugazi fans. It's great as a glimpse inside the creative minds, but it doesn't offer much in the way of songs.
Twenty, thirty years from now, when the story of Fugazi is written by smarter people than me, they will probably point at "The Argument" as being their crowning achievement, the culmination of their evolution as a band and the pinnacle of what they could do as a band. That would be hard to argue with.
I point to this: I had a friend who absolutely hated Fugazi, but loved this album. This was Fugazi at a different level. This was a band that produced "Red Medicine" and came through "End Hits" and ended up here.
This was a focused band. The opening lets you know that this is going to be a journey. "Cashout" is all about the vocals and a noise rock chorus that would make no sense coming from anyone else.
The verse on "Full Disclosure" has so much urgency you have no choice but to get swept up in it as it pulls you into a surprisingly poppy chorus, the likes of which would feel right at home on the alternative top 40. Even crazier is the outro that follows the last chorus, like something ripped from 90s radio, as if Fugazi is finally acknowledging all their contemporaries. Of course, they follow that section up with some good old fashion punk rock noise, so it's kind of perfect.
"Epic Problem" is Ian McKaye's vocal stylings at their best. The beauty is that he makes the lyrics a part of the song, a part of the actual structure of the music. It helps that the music is great, with yet another 90s inspired section in the middle. And then we get the break down, which is something out of "Bad Mouth" from "13 Songs." It's damn near perfect.
Remember those things I said before about Guy's guitar style? Welcome to "Life and Limb." It's already a great song, but then you get to the center with this wonderful, quirky guitar solo over straight up pop music. We come back to the moody stuff, of course, but that center section makes the rest even better.
Joe Lally songs have their own feel, and "The Kill" fits right in. It's ethereal, as most Lally sung songs are. The song never explodes, never builds to anything, but it's a constant, mellow groove with a nice change
Let's just get right to it with "Strangelight" -- as interesting as the song is, it's what happens at the 4 minute mark that truly makes it great. I don't even know what that note-y part is being played on (guitar doubled with keyboards?) and the changing piano chords make it sound ominous. It's wonderful.
This could be the Fugazi album with the most mood changing moments in songs. In this case, I'm talking about McKaye's vocals in "Oh," which is mostly sung by Guy. But read back over my comments on the other songs on this album and the shift in tone is a regular theme. Interestingly enough, the shift seems to frequently come at the end, a fitting microcosm of Fugazi's library of work.
"Ex-Spectator" has a wonderful, double drum opening. The verse is sparse and the chorus is full and powerful, driven by McKaye's vocals. What's really interesting about this song is how it almost seems like an answer to "Public Witness Program" from "In on the Killtaker." Both songs seem to be about the dangers of not getting involved, but this song pulls the character forward. The public witness can't stand on the sidelines any longer.
"Nightshop" is probably the clearest use of keyboards we've seen from Fugazi, and they're used to excellent effect. It's amazing how frantic the song gets by the time we get to that section, given how mellow it starts out.
And now for "The Argument," theoretically the last song on the last Fugazi album. It's everything you could hope for from a final song. McKaye has said that the song is about how he will always be against war. But he frames it as being a bigger argument that's generally not made. The song itself would suggest that McKaye is calling out those who get bogged down in the small debates, who never see the forest from the trees: "that some punk could argue some moral abc's/when people are catching what bombers release." It's an argument against the myopic.
It's also the perfect example of the evolution of the band. The vocals are perhaps the pinnacle of what McKaye has managed to do over the years. The song is fairly quiet and pretty, with a quixotic keyboard break. And then it explodes. It explodes in exactly the way you would want a Fugazi song to end, with heavy guitars from McKaye and a dynamic, catchy note-y part from Guy. It's damn near perfect.
And then it's over.
Thursday, February 13, 2014
"Red Medicine" was the first Fugazi album I ever bought when it was released. Up until this point, I'd been playing catch up.
There's a decent argument to be made that this is their best album. It's certainly the first salvo of the band taking their songwriting to the next level.
Right from the start, something is different. There's the energy we're used to. It opens with some crazy noise, but that's not too surprising. But are those...clean guitars? And it's an up tempo song? And is that a guitar solo (loosely defined, sure)?
And it's like Fugazi knows this might seem strange to you and they challenge you right in the song. "I've got a question/how/do you like me?"
We are Fugazi and we've taken it to the next level!
"Bed for the Scraping" is classic Fugazi with new Fugazi twist. Groovestastic bass/drums, Ian McKaye grunting, but the guitar work is sharper and more layered than what we've seen before. This is a new kind of punk rock anthem, but still has all the old school energy.
"Latest Disgrace" says "remember those weird noises at the beginning of this album? That was just a taste." The first half of the song is bizarre, as if the guitars have been tuned differently, and everything besides Guy's voice is muted, particularly the barely there drums by Canty. Oh, and Guy goes falsetto at one point. But then it all collapses into the kind of straight forward rocking we expect of Fugazi, it just has more power now, because it's got new context.
"Birthday Pony" seems like it should sound like an old Fugazi song, but the production has changed it. The palm muting, the big chorus -- this should be "13 Songs" era Fugazi. But the big chorus isn't just big this time around, it's full. There's a texture there that we haven't seen before. And you're beginning to realize that Ian and Guy are pushing each other when it comes to vocals. They're going into uncharted territory.
"Forensic Scene" is an instant classic.
And then we hit the weird stuff.
"Combination Lock" is probably the most "jam" feeling instrumental Fugazi has ever released. It feels like a song they're just jamming on one day. "Fell, Destroyed" could be a June of '44 song. "By You" is a crazy wall of sound with these mellow vocals by Joe Lally. "Version" is yet another instrumental, but this one features a clarinet...oh, and the bass line from another song on the album (which we haven't gotten to yet). It's almost like an undecipherable remix of a song that comes later on the record.
We return to more straight forward, yet no less creative, Fugazi rock with "Target." Yet again, though, there are guitars that are strikingly not distorted, and yet the urgency of the music hasn't lessened at all. There's even the classic Fugazi palm mute a part by itself, then play it full blown with the rest of the band, yet it all feels much bigger. Just listen to the guitars on "Back to Base." We've never heard anything like that on a Fugazi record. It's epic. And "Downed City" is much the same, just more frenetic. It's wonderful.
I love "Long Distance Runner." In a lot of ways, it epitomizes "new" Fugazi. We've got this full, kind of notey, two guitar bit, then some bass/drums action (with appropriate level of guitar noise), and a spectacular level of loud quiet loud. It's also works as the perfect metaphor for the band: they are long distance runners. They are constantly moving forward. They have yet to get stuck because they can't stop. "And if I stop to catch my breath/might catch a piece of death." No two Fugazi albums have sounded the same. No two Fugazi albums will ever sound the same, because they are still running.
I'm convinced that one of the members of Fugazi has synesthesia, because I have synesthesia and the majority of these songs are red to me ("Birthday Pony" and "Do You Like Me" are yellow). I think one of them saw the same thing when it came time to name this album.
"End Hits" deserves the shit that it's gotten from Fugazi fans, but that doesn't stop it from being a great album.
If "Red Medicine" was the beginning of a new era for the band, "End Hits" is them pushing the envelope of that era, pushing and prodding their boundaries, seeing what the limits are. It's as if they were pleasantly surprised by the music they discovered they could make on the last album and now they are cautiously seeing if it actually suits them.
"Break" is the perfect first song for this album. It's got a classic Fugazi groove layered underneath this relaxed, almost jazzy clean guitar part -- and is that piano I hear? It sure is, this time used as an instrument and not as a vehicle for noise (as with the last album). McKaye's vocals in the center, when it's just him and a single guitar, are strange, but still fit the song perfectly.
Follow that up with classic Guy rocker, "Place Position" and you've got the makings of a fantastic new school Fugazi record, albeit one that seems definable. But you'd be getting ahead of yourself.
Joe Lally always seems to sing on the more atmospheric songs and "Recap Modotti" is no exception. We're venturing into stoner rock territory here, which is shocking, given that none of them are stoners. Even the teases of a build up ultimately don't pay off. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not something you'd expect from Fugazi...which is something you should get used to over the course of this album.
And while we're on the subject of weird song arrangements, here comes "No Surprises."
But then, like the parting of rain clouds, we get "Five Corporations," a fantastic example of how new Fugazi
"Caustic Acrostic" is a great song, a modern day Guy-style Fugazi song. You could tell, since Red Medicine, that Guy had gotten away from playing chords. I have to think that was a response to Ian McKaye's style of guitar. It really did make them a better band.
And then things get weird again. "Close Caption" and "Floating Boy" are spacey, atmospheric jams that push the boundaries of traditional song structure. They're glorious little oddities amongst the larger Fugazi library, wonderful experiments by a band that is no longer bound by a static sound.
We bounce back with "Foreman's Dog," which is surprisingly straight forward for this album. It kind of reminds me of something to be found on "Steady Diet." And speaking of straight forward, then we get "Arpeggiator" which is ostensibly just a scale, but somehow Fugazi makes it great.
"Guilford Falls" feels like another new school Guy song, with an initial hook that is made up of picking each string rather than strumming chords. It's also got the classic Fugazi "introduce a new part by having just one guitar play it, then everyone eventually kicks in." Again, it's a complex song with layered guitars and an interesting structure, but it still has some classic Fugazi qualities.
And then we hit "Pink Frosty." It is possible there's no more maligned Fugazi song in their catalog than "Pink Frosty." It's understandable: it's barely a song. It sounds like someone took some drugs and mixed an outtake for the album. It's completely insubstantial, which would be much less of a problem if it weren't more than four minutes long. So we've clearly gone back to the weird portion of this record.
Yes, the last song, "F/D" is bizarre, but it's only bizarre because it appears to be two completely different songs smashed on to the same track. What's really interesting about it is that it's a clear breakdown between an Ian song and a Guy song. The very quiet opening features a straightforward chord progression with McKaye's rhyme-y punk rock vocals and an up tempo drum beat. But there's a break and then the Guy song comes crashing down, full of dramatic guitar and vocals. Yet for the twangy, high end guitar part, buried underneath it is a simple, driving guitar part that is, again, classic McKaye.
After a few seconds of silence when the song ends, we get outtakes from "No Surprises," like a reminder that this album was all about experimentation.
"Red Medicine" was a much more together album, but "End Hits" was a clear bridge to where Fugazi was headed.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Steady Diet of Nothing
"Steady Diet of Nothing" is my least favorite Fugazi album, mostly because there's so little variation to it. The songs all have the same basic feel to them. The dynamics that were building on "Repeater" seemed to take a back seat on this album. The band didn't evolve like I'd expected them to.
Don't get me wrong, "No Exit" has a nice climax, although it's so insubstantial up until that point that almost anything would have felt climatic. "Reclamation" is a stand out, and more of the type of thing I was expecting from them given the songs on "Repeater." But "Nice New Outfit" introduces a rhythmic guitar part that seems to show up in some form or another on multiple songs. Coupled with the similar structure of a lot of the songs, the whole album feels kind of monotone.
There's also a darkness to this album. There was a certain amount of punk rock joy on "13 Songs," and you could actually feel the creative excitement on "Repeater." That seems to have been sapped for "Steady Diet of Nothing." Perhaps it's because of how simple many of the songs seem. I'm listening to "Long Division" right now and I think it's a great song, but it's ostensibly one part over and over again, much the way "No Exit" was just two parts. Everything's at the same tempo, all the songs are fairly simple -- it just all feels the same to me.
Interestingly enough, it's the last song, "KYEO," that stands out from the monotony. Nothing like that opening guitar line appears anywhere else on the album. The rest of the song seems to benefit from it, as even the bass/drums verse seems to have more energy to it than anything else on the record. The duel vocals push the song forward and the alternate chorus elevates the song and the final few "we will not be beaten down" resonate in a way that nothing else on the album has.
In on the Killtaker
If there was a darkness about "Steady Diet of Nothing," "In on the Killtaker" was Fugazi exorcising it.
"Killtaker" alternately features the most aggressive and, up until that point, the most beautiful songs Fugazi had recorded.
If you were unsure what you were going to get after "Steady Diet of Nothing," you knew from the first song, "Facet Squared." Open with some playful guitar noises, lay down a nice bass/drums groove, then explode into a driving, closed fist punch of a song, complete with McKaye's forceful, grunting vocals. This is a Fugazi that will not be ignored, something that was easy to do on the last album. They're not holding back this time around.
Still unsure? Welcome to "Public Witness Program." They're in full on attack mode now, yet the vocals are only getting more and more catchy. The guitar interplay at around the 1:15 mark lets you know that this energy isn't for show; you're going to get Fugazi's all on this record, and nothing less.
Then we get the first wild card: "Returning the Screw." It's quiet and sparse, but McKaye's vocals tell you
I could go on and on about "Smallpox Champion," but it would just be sad because I love the hell out of that song. When they move into the second half of the song, I get goosebumps.
And that's just the first four songs! I haven't even gotten to "Rend It," "Sweet and Low," "Walken's Syndrome," or, perhaps the best song on the album and the best "slow" song Fugazi has ever recorded, "Last Chance for a Slow Dance." This was clearly a band on a mission.
It's interesting to note the titles of the four albums I've talked about so far. "13 Songs" is almost tongue in cheek, like a refusal to actually name the collection of songs from two EPs. In Fugazi's mind, it wasn't even an album at all, but a compilation.
Apparently, "Repeater" wasn't just named after the song, but was a play on the Beatles "Revolver," since a revolver is both a type of gun and a recorded -- the same as a repeater. What better sign is there of a band embracing their creative energies than by dropping an allusion like that?
But the playfulness of the first two albums disappears and we get "Steady Diet of Nothing." Not exactly a shiny, happy album name. And then what comes after that? "In on the Killtaker." It's like depression and aggression, back to back.
This was all a part of the evolution of Fugazi, and evolution that would grow by leaps in bounds on the next two records.