I released my first solo album three months after disbanding my college band, Smokey Junglefrog. I was 21-years-old.
The record was called “Always Almost There.” It was recorded in the weeks following my graduation from Syracuse University, and engineered by my friend Steve Feldman (who engineered the first Queens of the Stone Age record). It’s a pretty good record; a fair snapshot of a kid who has no idea where to go, or what to do.
I performed the release party backed by a band called The Bedouins. They were well-intentioned, but under-rehearsed. The performance bordered on a train wreck. Afterwords, my former band mate (and frequent nemesis) said to me, “Nobody said it would be easy.”
The comment pissed me off, primarily because it presumed I thought it would be easy (which I didn’t). It stuck in me for weeks and months to come. I channeled it into a song called “Shut Up! (These Little Voices).” It’s not my best song, and never made it onto tape (though my friend Joe claims it as his favorite), though I did play it live a bunch of times.
I stand before you with an open chest
Bleeding out loud I’m doing my best
But the storm blows unreasoned
In this tempest’s high season
The trolls hide below the bridge softly
Shouting out treason
I give you my secrets
You take them and walk out on me
As I stood in Times Square this morning watching folks pass by, I imagined that they too had their voices of treason. These days, there are two phrases on repeat in my mental playlist:
“You’re an idiot.”
“I give up.”
Personal pronouns and the psychology therein notwithstanding, these are, of course, telling phrases. There is very little that I can do, for now, to silence this inner monologue of doubt. Performing works. Nothing beats kneeling in front of the drum set strumming my guitar furiously. And running helps. Of course, not surprisingly, it is music that most successfully drowns out these voices in my head. Currently, it’s U2’s “How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” that helps me to feel strong and capable again.
You were pretty as a picture
It was all there to see
Then your face caught up
With your psychology
With a mouth full of teeth
You ate all your friends
And you broke every heart
Thinking every heart mends
I release my fifth full-length studio album, “Love & Other Indoor Games,” this Tuesday night at The Canal Room. Again, I will be backed up by a terrific band, Dough. We expect to avoid the train wreck.
The album title is lifted from Judy Blume’s “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?” I chose it because, well, every song relates to loving, or wanting to be loved. And because the “Other Indoor Games” somehow buffered me from hipster criticism, my own, and the real thing. Love’s not cool, so I softened the blow with cynicism.
It’s become abundantly clear in the last few weeks, though, that “Other Indoor Games” are bullshit. Hearts break, and hearts mend, but it’s important stuff. It’s big stuff. It’s not a game, played unwittingly or otherwise. It’s the real thing. It’s even better than the real thing.
Love is all that matters. Anyone who tells you any differently, Your Highness, is selling something.