‘The Closing of the Day’
How to open an album … Put the most crushing piece of prose you can imagine first and let it fester. The prose in question I had absolutely nothing to do with beyond correctly outsourcing it. I am an internet punisher. If you have an email address or some kind of social profile in an imaginary social network, I will send you unsolicited emails or messages about shit you have done or things that jag my lobe. I had, however, almost given up on this kind of pursuit after numerous failed unresponsive correspondence with members of Rollins Band and Cameron Daddo’s wife during the analog wave. Unfortunately for humanity and privacy, my lunacy was rewarded when a few years back Marc Ribot agreed to contribute to the song ‘Heartache’ off our self-titled debut. This sent me on a bit of a manic tangent, fully believing anything might be possible. I swung wildly in the direction of Greg Sage from the Wipers and some other individuals to be mentioned later.
The first person I pestered, though, was Don Walker. Cold Chisel held a significant and at times ominous place in the living room of my mind, next to the fireplace, crouched like Bob from Twin Peaks. I remember camping trips to the south of Tasmania, where the late-night sessions of adults would erupt into campfire threats and a wellspring of profanity framed by half-sung Chisel choruses and lilo-mangling air guitar. Occasionally the rocks around the fire would explode and Darwinism would have its way with a mulleted fuckwit while the middle eight in ‘Flame Trees’ sat perfectly and untarnished above the deteriorating night. Walker’s spectre loomed over much of my childhood. There’s an image of Don clad in a balaclava looking like one of Nolan’s Ned Kellys, while the remainder of Cold Chisel attempt to muster enough sobriety to make eye contact with the camera. That steely reserve is a pretty tight metaphor for how I look at creation. The long and low road without deviation. The thousand-yard stare.
The romantic notion that there is some kind of long-term relationship between the famously talented and Lyngcoln of Tasmania is feverishly devoid of truth. I am just a pest with an internet connection. I have had a couple of opportunities to talk with Don since his contribution and he is an immensely generous and lovely bloke. And most of all, patient with the nervous ramblings of a halfwit who can’t hack that famous glare that breaches the fourth wall of any press photo the man has ever taken.
I wish I could relax, but considering even this verbose outburst, maybe it’s best I try to act normal and keen it formal.
‘Water Runs Cold’
This song happened fast. Basically wedged around a trip to the supermarket. We punched out the guitar and drums and figured it was a bit too close to ‘Cacophonous Vibes’ … the second song we wrote. Alex [Lyngcoln] and I went to the market to do the shopping and it rattled around my head the whole time. Some scraps of lyrics I had that were way too literal clicked into place like a VHS tape and as soon as I got home I punched out the whole thing in 10 minutes. I tried to re-record the vocals but there was a brutal intensity to the first take that couldn’t be replicated or replaced. I can’t sing, so the noises emanating from my head have to have character … and this take at least has that. This song has all the repetition and simplicity I love in other people’s songs, that I rarely achieve myself. In that manner it is probably one of the more effective things I have written.
‘On Your Summons’
This was an early success and another fast composition. One of those songs where you end up running to a guitar and recording the whole thing in one go on your phone. It has the most fucked chorus I have ever had to sing in any band. I play this song a lot and I yell so hard that sometimes everything goes black and then there’s rushes of colour, sulphur and then it’s like my brain is breathing. It happens every single time we play the song and is probably the singular reason why I had to take six months off from singing. An incredible strain on both air supply and waste retention.
‘Diminishing Returns’ is a total non-song that bloomed like a potato. It’s effectively three bits that hardly inspire circle pits, but the voices really provide a glue that makes this song one of my favourites. A great example of allowing something to remain nonlinear but really simple. The Cro-Magnon part at the end was recorded in a separate session and the guitar ramblings were intended for Neil Young … no shit. I had the audacity to try and get Shaky to play on this record. It was a legitimate attempt … Tim Brennan of Tym Guitars in Brisbane hosted Harmony at one of his excellent in-stores at his shop in the Fortitude Valley. I mentioned to him during a half-hour rant that I wanted to contact Neil Young. Instead of scoffing at my delusions of grandeur he accommodated me by offering to pass on my request to Neil’s guitar tech, whom he had helped out in typically spectacular fashion the previous time Neil was in Australia.
So I headed back to the hotel and crafted this email request on my phone for hours. I largely cut and pasted my Marc Ribot email, figuring that it had been an effective blindside in the past. I finally completed the thing and then sent it off to Tym and he forwarded it to his friend. I had one more look before putting the phone down and scrolled down to realise I had left the sentence “If Marc is interested in any way by the song attached please contact me at…” I called Tim in a cold sweat but because he is the hardest-working individual in Australia. He had already sent it. Oh how we laughed. Crushed by my own idiocy.
‘Pulse’ is the portal to the other side. It’s a song about death on an album about death and the first part of a trilogy about death. Just guitar and vocals. The song can’t sustain any more weight from additional participants.
Part of two of the trip, ‘Cold Storage’ is as close to a conceptual song as we are likely to produce. Beyond this, we are devoid of concept. My original mixes of this song were a little hot. I reckon I lost a couple of dB mixing this song initially until I decided to pull everything back a little so that it wouldn’t prompt a skip ahead. It’s still the most intense couple of minutes we’ve come up with in an overstated way. Erica Dunn, Quinn Veldhuis, Amanda Roff and myself spent a whole night recording endless monotone harmonies for this song. Building them one note at a time over the course of hours. Even Quinn’s husband Nik and I provided some warbling hypnotoad action down low to fill out the frequencies that started to make the girls dry retch. The Slayer moment is the halfway point in the record … Carpetbombing’s Berlin Wall and a true moment of white light from the mouths of infinity.
The woefully named final part of the trilogy renders one of my favourite moments on the record. I was stuffing around writing the guitar intro and recording it as I went, when I played a chord that set loose a couple of frequencies that rattled a bunch of things in the room. The most audible of these was a set of hi-hats that you can hear at the 1:33 mark. The song is about spectres and that frequency anomaly seemed apt at the time. I have an active imagination and have weirded myself out to the point of leaving the house and sitting in the car on a couple of occasions.
Fucking David Lynch is somehow aware of this aberration in my mental stability and has programmed several visually fucked and crippling sequences that somehow creep into my quiet moments. From every single scene of Bob in Twin Peaks to whatever the fuck was behind the café in Mulholland Drive to even the bloke’s face describing whatever was behind the café in Mulholland Drive … it’s all imminent paralysis for me. I met Ray Wise (Laura Palmer’s dad) at LAX on holiday and somehow stopped pissing myself for long enough to get a photo with him. He didn’t smile at all right up until the moment the photo was taken and then a maniacal grin cut up his face for that split second before he resumed surly perfection. In the photo I am trying to smile but it looks like a proof-of-life photo.
So this song is about that, or the bits of that that I can address publicly I guess. My excellent wife and Harmony drummer Alex provides her first-ever recorded vocal part with the spoken-word outro. We always enjoy a collective chortle when stage guys try to stick a vocal mic back at the kit … she’s not a singer, but this she did very well.
Without wanting to sound like imperialist aristocrats, we were in Paris on holidays … Anyway, we were riding on the underground trains there and they make a pretty radical sound when they hit a certain speed around slight corners. Once again it’s about vibration and frequency, which are recurring undertones on this record. It only happened a couple of times but I caught it on my phone once successfully and then had the girls sing the same note to heighten the irritation and clash. It doesn’t really qualify as a song but it still has a better chorus than most Whitlams songs.
‘Cut Myself Clean’
‘Cut Myself Clean’ is a song about blood dreams. Sometimes after a really sweet concussion or blow to the head, I attain access to a championship round of dreams that scream so vividly that it feels like all I am doing the next morning is taking dictation. Regardless of their illogical, subconsciously elastic trip, there’s always a point of mundane procedure that has to be adhered to in real time. I have had dreams where I have physically flown to buy tickets to a concert and the flight and how I achieve the flight is almost scientifically possible in every tangible way and the experience is detailed and as real as waking life … and then so, subsequently, is the lining up and waiting for tickets … the back of the dude in front of me’s head, the mind-numbing, innocuous conversations of the two people behind me, the unclaimed flatulence, the line anxiety, the sunburn, the financial stress … all crystallised and real. The problem is that the flying comprises five minutes of the dream and the lining up is a real time marathon until I wake.
Similarly, this particular dream involved bleeding for an hour until I flooded the neighbourhood. That part was fun. There were cars and people floating by and waves of blood, but that only lasted for an hour of sleep time. Everything got out of hand pretty rapidly. The next six hours were spent cleaning up the mess after the council cracked the shits. I woke up and felt like I had been at work for six hours … without pay. This song has one heck of a killer bass part courtesy of Jon Chapple. He walks this thing all over Melbourne.
Big Ivan is a hydrogen bomb dropped by the former USSR in the 1960s during a ramp-up in Cold War hostility with the US. The 60-megaton bomb was the largest manmade explosion in history and had to be parachuted to detonation so that the release plane could fly 50 kilometres away from the detonation site in the Arctic Sea over an archipelago. Upon detonation the release plane plummeted a kilometre in the air due to the bomb’s shockwave. The bomb was dropped from a height of 10 kilometres and it created a mushroom cloud that was 64 kilometres high. It destroyed buildings several hundreds of kilometres away and shockwaves were felt in Norway and Finland. The seismic shock still registered on its third pass around the earth and despite being detonated 2km above the ground, the explosion registered 8.1 on the Richter Scale. By comparison the Hiroshima bomb delivered a 1- kiloton payload … Big Ivan was a pretty substantial not-so-veiled threat.
I reckon my generation were the first to live free of the nuclear spectre and Cold War. My childhood was spent largely living in fear of Death throwing bowling balls at me because of something that happened in bowling alleys called AIDS, instead of being bombed to smithereens. My early childhood was sheltered enough that by the time I started to glean any notion that some countries didn’t get along, Gorbachev’s reforms of the mid-to-late ’80s led to a stepping down of aggression and the eventual dissolution of an economically exhausted USSR. For those heads even five years older than me, The Cold War was a pretty tense deal and it must have been a harsh scene to live under the threat of mutually assured destruction. ‘Big Ivan’ features a bunch of skull-crushing vocal work from the girls. Sometimes on stage I forget where I am listening to them sing as one. It’s taken four solid years to get to this stage, but they have hit a whole other level that the fucks in the moat stand no chance of ripping off. There’s too much work involved and fucks, by nature, are lazy and have probably moved onto the next trend.
‘Do Me a Favour’
A first glimpse of light after pretty heavy proceedings, ‘Do Me a Favour’ is as uplifting as Harmony probably gets. It’s essentially a musical tribute to sheep. Well, one in particular. Shrek the sheep strayed from his flock, avoided capture and lived in a cave in New Zealand for a six years. By the time his farmer found him, his fleece almost outgrew his legs. For an animal widely panned for conformity, Shrek is about as radical as you can get. Even against every genetic urge, he had the presence of mind to decide to reject the status quo and build his own reality. That has to be admired and that is probably why the whole country fell in love with him. When he was finally shorn, it was televised nationally and his 30kg of fleece would have been enough to make 30 men’s suits. He even met with Prime Minister Helen Clark.
This was the first song written for Carpetbombing and we released the 7” of this song 12 months ago, which seems insane. My vocal take is first go and once again it’s shit but high on vibe and therefore irreplaceable … unless of course you boot me and get someone who can actually sing and isn’t a grumpy dickhead as a replacement. This song and ‘Cold Storage’ both had ridiculous and elaborate guitar intros that were eventually shelved to save Eddie Van Halen’s liver from toxic shock.
‘Prayer for War’
Hippity Hop. This song was just a drunken punt that worked well as backing to my urbane rapz. In preparation I cut up some drums and tried to find a method of delivery. On the road to mediocrity I passed through several embarrassing junctions trying to pin down a sound. In the end I abandoned affectation and went with plain old Lyngcoln communication style. When I rant at your head this is pretty much what you’ll hear. Unimpassioned, monotone and sleep-inducing. Flat Rap or Mope Hop. Patent pending. I can’t talk about cred or Dandenong and punching out some misogyny would lead to band castration … So I reverted to bombs again. Trusty old tried-and-true bomb talk. Sits pretty over the voice/guitar sparring session. The flashpoint is a triangle rigged up to a delay pedal. I probably could have backed a little treble off it as it sounds like dental work going too deep.
This song is a 1:25, like the one before it. It was meant to be a love song to my wife but she wholeheartedly rejected it because she thinks it sounds miserable. She’s right … a song about some dude stuck in traffic, crying at the lights, is not much of a tribute to anything other than civil engineering. It is by no means a measure of our relationship and I regret even bringing it up. Our neighbour almost burnt down her house to burn down ours after we recorded this. Alex got a rare opportunity to punish the drums and did so with utmost abandon. This song marks the end of our relationship with that neighbour.
The last song written for Carpetbombing and the first nominated to be left off. We toyed with excluding this song for months and then upon deleting all of my superfluous guitar solos and intros we found a whole other five minutes of space for it. To celebrate I overdubbed a superfluous guitar solo on the outro of the song to overcompensate. As well as being the last song recorded for the record, it is also a departure from our standard operating procedure of writing and recording. On this song Alex and Jon (drums and bass) played together instead of Alex and myself. This effectively gave me a rhythm section to write my parts over the top of, which I never got around to and just ended up putting down what I would have played with Alex anyway. During the recording of the first take, Alex’s grandmother walks in the room and starts cheering not realising we were recording. You can hear that and that became how we decided to use this take.
This was the second song written for Carpetbombing, wedged between ‘Do Me a Favour’ and ‘On Your Summons’. It was the first time I employed this vocal sound, which became the template for the rest of the record. It’s essentially two mics, with one direct into the apparatus and the second one detouring through an echo pedal into an amp. Things are shitting themselves everywhere and it’s a fine line between hot and out of control. The sound is pretty harsh and messy, but we are hardly concerned about popularity as one of the most sceneless bands in Melbourne. In fact, one of the bands who would come closest to being compatriots on the fringes are Spinning Rooms and this vocal technique was concocted by singer Pete Dickinson.
Originally published in February 2014 on the now passed away website Mess + Noise just when the second Harmony album was being released. So that’s back to back Harmony just to prove how much I love them. Once again like yesterday’s post it’s Tom Lyngcoln singer-songwriter-guitarist talking about each of the tracks. The rest of Harmony’s line-up is drummer Alex Lyngcoln, bassist Jon Chapple and trio singers of Amanda Roff, Quinn Veldhuis and the new member joining is Erica Dunn.
The opening song spoken word is written & performed by Don Walker which lifted straight from his book Shots and that’s a very small sample what it’s like reading the whole thing, it’s all very much like that and I did write a tiny blog post about his book a month or two ago, link here if you wanna look?
Love to know who else out there digs Carpetbombing album by Harmony!