March 3, 2011
by Ric Albano
How unseemly for one to tell his own story. Is it propaganda or just frustration that no one other has come come forth to say it before, in this expanding swath of time since I unleashed on the world my own heart and soul. Let’s look first, at what is not there – half of “the original six”. Most notably Welcome Home, a song which contains probably my most complex chord progression. This was a direct ode to my newborn sons and was also the very first professional recording I made.
Coming out of the last century, was the darkness of nothingness and the distance one feels from the art that you wonder every really existed. But then there was technology, and a new hope to resurrect what was once so prominent in my pass-time. It could not be resurrected, but there was some there there. And so it proceeded, if for no other reason but to just see if it could be done. It could, but can it be done again? It was, but much more labored and much less satisfactory. So what to do now? Enter 33.
Crimson, White, & Indigo was a painful, uncomfortable song that I struggled for years to write, but yet it HAD to be written. The struggle to find the right lyric is summed in the very first line, “Need I be a hero man to admire what true heroes have done?”. In other words; “who the hell am I to write about this, what have I ever done?” It takes a lot of energy to say something positive and not sound corny. Sister Josephine was my first grade teacher, of whom I have no direct memory, a blacked out part of my life that I feel gypped out of. It is a non-linear, philosophic journey leading to the Rubicon, which is really the ultimate “imaginary line”. Sometimes you need to untwist your own pretzel logic to see things clearly and so here is this instrumental tribute to moments of action, leaving your comfort zone and actually doing.
But from here we enter the muddle middle of the modern material. There is a Princess who never materialized and the Escape which never took place. And then there is the Hunter, the original poet warrior who ultimately turned his gun on himself. It is at once a scold and a tribute to the “counterculture” hero of an era gone by, from whom I proudly plagiarized posthumously; “Relax, this won’t hurt…” Which brings us to the end of the beginning (which was really the end of the end in the real world), Can’t Get My Mojo Risin’, a screed in frustration and resolve to endeavor in a different direction. But before we do, let’s go back to the fantastic year of 2005…
What can I say? This was my dream to the point where I coined a whole new genre called “Renaissance Rock”, trying to make it accessible at first glance, levels of complexity upon further listens. Animated by a flame of original energy, redemption surely awaited me, but many illusions were shattered with this as the gleeful hope devolved into bitter frustration. And then there is the music, and there is nothing more beautiful, and true beauty lies in the contrast. Resting near the far end on the back of a dusty bookshelf in this dusty, one-room academy of infamy, I plotted my return to shores long deserted. The wisdom that forces you out from under the dark comfort of naivete into the cold light of exposure, into confrontation with inconvenient truths, this rationale that rips you like a band-aid from this dopey carousel of automated ignorance onto the vector of progress.
And so that brings us to Good Friday. Practicing the art of serfdom in his bureaucratic patch, our hero faces the day of infinite judgment. It is always at the forefront of his mind, almost like he is “unstuck in time.” Proof of my existence is in the box of alms I lay at her feet and there were times when she mocked my commitment, and ridiculed my faithfulness, and belittled my intellect, until the cumulus clouds invaded the serene blue of mid-afternoon sky and it was finally evident that something, somewhere disapproved of our actions. The stupendous squeeze of guilt, like that of a crime never committed, vacuums all air from my lungs. In the appended coda comes the resurrection and reflection, with the bass line representing the infinite the “aging” piano progresses upwards towards inaudibility, and the free-form square wave being all the little variations of life, usually in harmony but still sticking out as milestones. Every single time I hear this song it is an exhilarating yet exhausting experience. So let’s move on to some lighter satire.
Perfect Light mocks the pretension of one acting “independent” or “rebellious”, when in reality they are riding along in the safe bandwagon of their benefactors and peers. A cynical look at elitism, celebrity, and inflated self-importance. Then comes the reverse-chronological show tune. The protagonist’s name is Steven J .Bryrinmeister, never mentioned in song but revealed in the defunct song “The Cove, the Cave and the Self-Imposed Exile of Steven J. Bryrinmeister”, which is really useless trivia but so is the fact that this same tune once had lyrics annotating the first Star Wars movie. What is not useless is the fact that I would then come home at night and occasionally hear refreshing remarks from my 6-year-old son Jacob (Rooski), who seemed to make much more profound statements then those “grown-ups” I’d hear during the day. I had a new song! I would simply juxtapose statements from both the pathetic, bogey-man believing bureaucrats and the intuitive, brilliant 6-year-old – verbatim. It was also a good place to end “side one” of album one (although there were no actual “sides” to a CD).
While the first “side” touched on many real world events, the second would be reserved purely for the philosophical realm. To start, like a lazy balloon floating above its razor sharp rocky edges, all is exposed and vulnerable to be broken. Calculus is the inexact science of our memories. You will see this land and recognize the sheer oddness that constructs the beauty; the exoticism yet familiarity, the pureness of morality, yet gluttony of indulgence. A place that can only exist in this pristine form within the cracks in between the contemporary aesthetics and can only be viewed from the wide end of time’s cone, when one can pivot in infinite directions and arrive at the same exact destination. And your scope will expand more rapidly than your Achievement. And you will see shattered the long scroll of ingrained uncertainty. And you’ll subliminally construct the tower of your corruption. And you will allow it to crumble to the ground in the end. It picks and plucks the eternal strings of my soul.
Is it possible that my everlasting zest to be cool, I have indeed been made into a bumbling fool? With no known qualities siphoned from my soul, from those strangest of times, baggage from journeys unfinished, exams from courses long ago avoided, fermented harvest from plantations long deserted. Peace contains tiny bursts of euphoria, each one demystifying the previous one until all magic completely vacates the atmosphere. It is a bit of “cum-bay-a” mockery. A song which must truly be listened to with two distinct sets of ears. Imaginary Lines was originally going to be a “concept album”, with this being the concept of “One” built on ludicrous, un-scientific “lines”, which we draw around people in order to group them into nice, convenient categories in the social playground. But things change and the “concept” soon crumbled along with much of my confidence. Was the joke on me this time?
Subtle on the surface, inferno in the soul, I simplified everything. It was a complete reversal of the ambitious effort I made the year before. It led me down some interesting paths and begged some interesting questions. Why not compose a clever riddle? Why not waste a few fish in a quiet sojourn from the drilling “rush” of the previous two tracks? This was all easy enough if one knew how to “borrow” the right elements, a little from here, a little from there. And then, of course, there is always Johnny Cash from whom to borrow. He had always had a place in my consciousness, even when I was beyond the great beyond that lines the sky. Then again, there is a real artistic price to all this “borrowing”, so back to the real world I went.
There was still so much here to explore and 2006 had a wealth of subjects to examine. A world of pathetic party girls, leaching siblings, arrogant atheists, and bitter legacies. It wasn’t a really bad heart to this second album, there’s just not much poetry on which to inflate it. It is just rock n roll (call it my Marshall Crenshaw moment) and a good guitarist and good drummer really saved the day for me there. But, of course, I could not stay there for very long.
Blind belief in the latest cause celeb with no notion of how absurd some tenets of this “faith” may be. Absurd notions taken as truth in the mechanical, marching rhythm of group think. It is really a New Religion and its high priest is an idiot. But, then again, sometimes so am I. Like when I go out on a very long limb only to be ignored, or when I masquerade as Sinclair Soul in a shameless scene of senseless suspicion. I also tend to over-indulge my creative aspirations, like my feudal attempt to construct an ocean “suite” only to find that the whole is much weaker than the sum of its parts, which now survive as this song, that song, and the other song. Living the dream, coining the lucid themes – if only. But now there is one final look at death and resurrection.
And unlike the previous junkets down this path (Ashes/The Phoenix, Good Friday/Coda), death her is real and permanent. First, a song about wasting life away, only to realize in panicked regret at the end. Then the closing masterpiece, Long Way Home about what lies beyond. A nearly religious reflection on life’s journey (that priceless jewel confined by its peripheral fuel), this was always supposed to be where it all ends. A sweeter dimension to it that perfectly encapsulates the winding down of a long and adventurous journey.