This installment activates what will be an intermittent series of lyrical deconstructions. What makes a song worthwhile, worth writing? When we inspect the riggings, the dialectic develops. What makes the story inside a song worth paying money for? That it got into the stuff that binds us, summed it up, revealed a new layer, or reverberated with primal sparks unknown. Outside the selfish part, how does the skillful songwriter provoke chills, elevated moods or poignant sadness from the idle, receptive listener? In this day and age, when every angle has been scoured for hits and Grammys, at a time when the eyeless mind of algorithms can scan the entire code of history’s collected musical works as a means to “write” catchy auto-tuned hooks from within the defective hologram of artificial intelligence, why bother? Because the data cannot undermine what is truly human. How does a musician establish presence or form a group unless they’re going to top everything that led up to this? When does music dodge contrivance, then uplift beyond repetition and the vanity of its creator to transcend all space and time with its depth and meaning? In the sonic alchemy, what makes “Dust in the Wind,” trap, jazz and death metal resonate from Georgia to Japan and Kyrgyzstan?
There exists a blueprint grafted to an intention, driven to interpret the culture, and carve out a musical niche. The good ones elicit gut reactions, wandering thoughts, a momentary pleasantry on days when they are in short supply. I have roughly 20 fully formed, original songs prepared for a concept album or two; it’s all based on a substrate of alt-rock/pop blended with techno/electronica. This refined set hatched out of a little running side project that began in my 30s, building itself in the background through a series of creative bursts. The main priority and guiding rule for every song in the batch was to avoid personalizing the material, instead gathering the meaning from the outside world, as if I were a detached receiver/processor. Metaphor, as opposed to experience, though the latter inevitably seeps in. I’ve noticed how various filmmakers such as Werner Herzog operate on a similar level of separation. The care devoted to minimizing my own presence or id from the soundscape is a way of serving as a shielded conduit, to let the music come through from somewhere else, and descend upon the listener filtered by a neurological process unpolluted by emotion. This mode just might be a meticulous gimmick. Maybe I’ve eaten my own static to think otherwise. Skimming the surface of the Earth for lyrical input we are afforded a twisted opportunity to seek the lie that gets to a higher truth, the way fiction can sometimes supersede fact in carrying the core meaning of a thing.
We see examples in nature that aim to conjoin the concrete with the esoteric. The disconnected, observational flair of a song should likewise consolidate and organize it all, and make the zeitgeist something compact, tasty and musical. I think we can more clearly see the shifts in culture if we don’t get in the way of it. It is convenient to be absolved from delving into the songwriter’s psyche. Isolated from the self and yonder, there is something loftier to tune into. Afterward, tell them what I/we/they saw, and send it through the audience feedback loop via the music-oriented logic processing devices seated in the active subconscious.
All LDP lyrics are pulled from complete (or near-done) scores for future EPs or albums under the Lights in Satellites moniker. It’d be nice to see some of these get to the finish line in the studio in the next year or two. When you make a song materialize from smoke and ether, and tether it to a tune, you sort-of become the “boss” of that song. Although the drum tracks, basslines and primary melodies are already settled, anyone collaborating on these songs would be given the leeway to independently deduce the guitar, bass and electronic/keyboard sound pathway that waits beyond what’s been pre-scored against the lyrics; I would set a foundation but also rely on hive-minded interdependency to build out the rest of this sonic house.
Revolution, as in hard revolution? Not so constructive, often reductive and flawed. Frequently over-romanticized. No thanks. Don’t want one. The aggressive, edgy charm it connotes lays false bedrock on a treasured and deeply cool pop-culture notion: “Rather than offer concession or treaty, I would prefer all of creation burn if I could rule over the ashes.” So the object was to write a song about “safety” among those who ironically would gladly destroy the other. That is the root premise for the lyrics and composition of “Sanctuary?”
The subtext focuses on a loud and impulsive sub-population co-opted by paper tigers who suffer a shortage of power in the follow-through, but they’re no doubt “angry at something.” There is a perceived alien supremacy hanging over their heads that they would like to lay low. They’ll go to their deaths having never seen any actual revolution, but in cinematic fashion they’re coming like a herd of wild buffalo chased by killer bees. There is a mirage-like notion that the righteous horde is always, perpetually “one town away.” It is discomfiting that they might break down your door in the night.
We’re better off when we solve things without pretending it requires revolution, upending civility and sowing chaos. There’s a flaky balm of delusional certainty that maybe needs to be in place for a revolution to succeed, and slakes the inner wimp lurking within the revolutionary, as with any ordinary person. In so doing they are forcing bluffs to be called, perhaps accompanied by the roll-out of vigorous Socratic method designed to take desolate conspiracy theories to task, and a thorny flushing out of sociopaths. Things get dangerous, and can end badly. There’s a frantic glamorizing of revolution as neutrality is cast aside, leading to mania and tipping points, often by those who have no concept about just how scary it is for humankind to rejoin the primitive ways of the jungle.
Songs are never perfect, and purposely go lacking intellectual rigor. It seems as good a medium as any to attempt a deconstruction of the perpetually-unfulfilled, Don Quixote-like quest to instill utopian world orders. To add structure, the song ties itself into a future state, a dystopian maze run akin to “Logan’s Run” as a metaphor of choices, etc., which serves as an arrow through the target/base subject of the tune. In so doing, I think the song stabilizes its ability to deliver horror in the abstract. So that’s the whole vibe and alchemy in the process.
Some people love the idea of a revolution as a public relations tool instead of entering the lion’s den of political intrigue. It gets applied differently across the ages and conditions, which blend and customize the act of revolution. We can feel the energy of those who are restless with revolt, and long for further battle, but must pause to ask:
How can things be solved through violent revolution?
Revolution, they say…a revolution, and it’s one town away
It’s just one town away… Revolution, they say
it’s a broken ankh
and a drop of blood,
between them stands
a shaft of wheat.
Pixelated text on corrupted code
out of time in a hypnotic mode,
it’s the advance guard of non-negotiable future shock,
defiance made ya look good…
You look good, hell yeah
and then the MO-mennnnt’s…gone.
Ice and knives in the eye, drown in a malcontent’s roar
wipe away the innuendo, drop a bomb at the door;
Blue Zone alarm’s going off—NOW—it’s blinking, blinking, blinking…
They didn’t see three vaulting o’er the wall,
unfazed and fell into a clearing
silence in fearing hidden lasers and dead-stares
splitting memetic hairs
bending peculiarities, upon peculiARRRrrr-i-tieeees
sunset resistance beg no charities
across all distance without a witness forced a plea for relief…
And soooo—Revolution—they sayyy
a revolution, one town away,
it’s just one town awayyyy…
A BLOODY REVOLUTION! They say…
Revolution, and it’s one town away.
Chalk the outline on the asphalt…vapor trail conjures a crime spree
and pushed us due west, sustaining shots to the chest
ashen and stumbling,
jammed drones crumbling
over an empty place,
infrared scanners and mace,
special ops co-opted, droogs sifted, and lifted through the night
eeeeooo-yooooo-yoooooooooooooooo…Revolution! They say…
A bloody revolution, and it’s one town away…
It’s just one town away.
Let’s face it—we live in an increasingly unstable, fractious society. You can cut the political tension with a knife. There also seems to be very thin lines of order between categories of people—race, religion and class warfare destabilize relations, make headlines and get amplified through activist movements. It is undeniable that something unhealthy is brewing. Our world is in a pressure cooker and at some point a seal on the lid is going to blow. An incubator for revolution boils inside. Pragmatism and moral high ground can be lost, and when that happens, it opens the door for disorder. It certainly isn’t a bad idea to have some basic survival skills under your belt just in case the heat reaches your doorstep. It goes back to the essential: Everything man-made, including our social constructs, can and will fail you. Survival without those things is not fun.
Planes crash, dams burst, nuclear power plants melt down, gas pipe-lines blow, power grids go dark, and foul weather strikes; the crisis list goes on and on. The talent for survival prepares us for the unavoidable times when the man-made utilities and luxuries we depend on fail us. Getting jacked by roving mobs is also on the agenda. Knowledge is always with you no matter where you are or where you go. Knowledge doesn’t require a power source or telephone service. It isn’t dependent on fuel or batteries. It’s there when you need it—regardless of the circumstances. As past catastrophic revolutions and failed revolutions have shown, supply lines gets severed, cars run out of gas on the highway, fires ravage, bridges collapse and innocent people are forced to navigate the aftermath. We live in a crazy world. You must prepare for and expect the craziness. Thinking “it will never happen to me” isn’t a positive affirmation, it’s merely a gullible optimism that ignores the realm of sanity.
The song “Sanctuary?” was born on the reflection of revolution, but obviously not forged from the fires of it; in this environment, authenticity can suffer from a deficiency of axiomatic wisdom. In the absence of my own “living source” material, perhaps Thomas Paine—whom historians portrayed as a man of integrity, agitation, and courageous conviction pining dearly for revolt—said it best from his hands-on experience during a life spent generally being a bad-ass dissenter. His pamphlet The American Crisis (1776) is a classic of political rhetoric. Most arresting are its stirring opening lines:
“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in times of crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”