Thing a Week 43: Under the Pines Not many people know this,…

July 28th, 2011



Thing a Week 43: Under the Pines

Not many people know this, but when Leonard Nimoy did the Bigfoot episode of “In Search Of…” he and the creature hooked up one night and had this crazy fling. These kinds of things never end well, but Bigfoot in particular is a bit of a cad anyway (being mostly wild animal). As you might imagine, Leonard Nimoy came out of the experience somewhat worse for wear.

I’m almost sure that I have stolen this melody from somewhere, or maybe parts of it from lots of places, it sounds very familiar to me. And the bassline – hello? Blue Bayou? At first this was just a “bigfoot broke my heart” song, but I wasn’t getting a lot of traction. It wasn’t until I realized that it was Leonard Nimoy talking that it came together for me. There are just a couple of subtle references to Spock in there, and bigfoot’s name is never mentioned, so if you’re haven’t read this explanation you are either confused, or blissfully unaware that it’s about Bigfoot and Leonard Nimoy. Godspeed.

PRESENT DAY JOCO SAYS: Ah, a classic Thursday desperation song. Never in a million years would I have TRIED to write this song, rather I only would have ALLOWED it to happen in the absence of any other alternative.

Not that it’s so terrible. I actually think this one deserved a better place in JoCo history than it got. I like the melody, it’s simple but pretty solidly built. There are some nice moments in the lyrics, in particular I love the “bag of suet” joke, and I love the entirety of the third verse. In terms of solving the puzzle (describing a love affair between Bigfoot and Leonard Nimoy without mentioning either one) it succeeds very well. Here are the problems:

Arrangement - pfft. Not a lot there. It starts from style parody, which is always a dangerous game, especially when you veer away from the style and just start throwing stuff at the wall without caring if it sticks. The terrible chorus guitar in the choruses and those background vocals just don’t make sense to me, and they’re there only because I didn’t come up with anything else to fill the space. At the end of the day I really just copped a bassline.

Subtlety - almost nobody who hears this song figures out that it’s about Bigfoot and Leonard Nimoy. It’s too clever by half. I can’t imagine what you would think of this song if you didn’t know what it was about. It would just seem bizarre, unfunny, and not very interesting.

Goofballism - obviously I am trapped by this a lot. It’s rare to come across a song that is completely goofy and still emotionally stirring enough to matter to someone. Many would say that’s my wheelhouse, and in fact I just wrote myself a new bio in which I claimed that it was. I frequently try for that combination, and it feels wonderful when I hit it right, but the truth is I fail more often than not. When you write about goofy things, you’re giving all the other songs in the world a head start. I failed to back this one up with much of anything, and I think that’s why it fails to achieve liftoff.

To be clear, I am not anti-goofball. There’s nothing wrong with funny music, I don’t care what you say. I listened to Weird Al’s latest album Alpocalypse and was reminded that while there’s a ton of funny music out there, only a small fraction of it is done really well. Weird Al is the undisputed champion, and he elevates the genre like nobody else because he’s got a great musical brain and has honed the hell out of his craft.

It doesn’t matter what kind of music you’re doing, death metal or novelty songs, it has to be honest and it has to be great.

You can find more info on this song, a store where you can listen to everything, and also other stuff at jonathancoulton.com.

New JoCo Cruise Crazy Performers Announced

July 19th, 2011

We’ve filled out the roster with a few more delightful additions:

Wil Wheaton, Marian Call, and Vi Hart.

I trust this will please you. More announcements about more performers IN THE FUTURE…

Thing a Week 42: Creepy Doll I don’t know what’s going on with…

July 16th, 2011



Thing a Week 42: Creepy Doll

I don’t know what’s going on with this one, I just decided earlier this week that it was time to write a song about a creepy doll. I was thinking about various 70s horror movies that scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. Back then you didn’t need to torture people with chainsaws and drills to make a scary movie, it was enough just to have a doll that kept showing up. Or maybe a clown. I couldn’t keep a straight face though, somewhere in the middle of the song the doll just becomes not so much creepy as annoying. And before you post it in the comments, yes I know that it sounds like Bacteria in the beginning – it’s the same Glock sound and the same key, and kind of the same music. Sue me. We’re on song number 42 here people…

Also, just a little merch plug: I’ve just added T-shirts for “Re: Your Brains” to my CafePress store. The image is the song lyrics typed in memo form decorated with a delightful blood spatter. Buy zombies, buy!

PRESENT DAY JOCO SAYS: Yes, well, victory of course. This has become an important part of the repertoire. I didn’t know it at the time obviously, you never do. As a recording I don’t think it’s super great - I find it too slow, though part of that is because I’ve been playing it a lot faster live. And I wrote beyond my abilities on the guitar. I can imagine it being a lot more awesome when played by someone who can really play. Some nice elements in there I guess, though they sound a little pat to me now. I was already bracing myself for criticism about using the same spooky music box trick I used in Bacteria (and would later use in Still Alive). The reverse thing at the end is cool, but I had a devil of a time getting it to smoothly transition from the forward version to the reversed version.

Song-wise, I think it’s a good one. The chord progression sounds kind of unique to me, it wanders and is spooky, but doesn’t really hit you over the head with the usual spooky music tricks. And it’s funny, but it has enough subtlety to it that it doesn’t get too annoying. I do love the turn when you realize the doll is just kind of irritating. And the twist at the end, while standard in this genre, feels CORRECT anyway. I was thinking about that Stephen King story with the wind-up monkey, and I was thinking of the doll in Trilogy of Terror, and probably a couple other things I can’t remember.

That line about “if you really need that much honey” actually comes from my past. I had a girlfriend in high school whose Dad had a reputation in the family for being something of a type-A personality, and it’s true, he was absolutely nuts about turning lights off, not wasting food, and saving money. For some reason he bought powdered milk, mixed it up, and then served that to his family in equal proportions with regular whole milk - WHY? Nobody knows. He was the kind of guy who would gingerly slide the turn signal arm into place when he turned on the blinker, because he wanted the switch to last a long time. He drove everyone crazy. There was a framed photo somewhere in the house of him posed and smiling in a suit. His son, my girlfriend’s older brother, had taped a little comic-style talk bubble to it that said “Hey! Do you really need that much jelly?” I thought it was a hilarious character assassination, so I stole it for this. 

It’s all the little secrets you have about where things come from that make you feel a little fraudulent sometimes. The audience see a magic trick, but I see a box with a trap door in it that I bought at the magic store. I know that’s how everybody works, because I’ve seen bits of my life in things that my friends have created. It feels good, like a little secret shout out. And then I wonder about this particular reference. Does that family remember that joke as well as I do? And have they heard this song and did they recognize it? 

You can find more info on this song, a store where you can listen to everything, and also other stuff at jonathancoulton.com.

Downtime and Broken Things

July 15th, 2011

Well, that transition was smooth until the fans stopped working and the processors got hot. There was a little downtime last night while my agents conspired to fix it and I slept peacefully, but I think we’re mostly back in business today.

Thank you for your alerts about what was broken and your comments about what has changed. Team JoCo is fixing things as they come to our attention, please let me know in this thread if you’re still having trouble with something and we’ll see what we can do. I have other long term plans for a bunch of stuff around these parts, this is really phase one we’re looking at now, so don’t panic.

In fact, save your panic for 12 noon because that’s when I am throwing the big switch that puts a bunch of new cabins on sale for JoCo Cruise Crazy 2. You may have noticed, we sold out of most kinds of cabins really quickly and have been out of them for weeks. We’ve got another round of cabins for you to decimate, and hope that you will do so. Expect me to report back here later about what I did wrong, or broke, or learned about how to not do things next time.

Whee!

Maintenance Time

July 12th, 2011

Just a heads up for those of you who spend all day refreshing this site to see if anything new happened (nope!): late tonight and tomorrow, some server monkeys are going to do some stuff and move this site over to a new server. While the DNS propagates some things will be read-only – the forums, the wiki, the comments. Don’t panic! Once your corner of the web gets the new info you’ll be back to read-write mode. You might not even notice.

Actually you will, because the site will have a little teensy weensy bit of a visual change, not a redesign mind you (which is long overdue), just a bit of a haircut. And we’re moving to Vanilla V2, which should be nicer looking, more secure, faster, and just different enough to make some of you COMPLETELY FURIOUS. But nothing should be broken and really we’ll all be better off.

Or, this whole thing could come crashing down. We don’t really know. You know what, why don’t you fill up the bathtub with fresh water just in case?