October 31, 2017
I’m Not Blacking Out, I’m Breaking Through
By Scott Taylor
#11: ‘End of Civilization’
Hi! I waited ‘til the last minute again, but here it is. The world is so screwed up I thought an appropriate song of mine to ruminate over this time around would be a pleasant little ditty from 2010’s Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe called ‘End of Civilization’. A bit of a colorful history surrounds this one and in my estimation at present people have lost their minds. So, we’ll see where the vibe takes me. Here goes...
Pick your poison, better make it good; no regrets, understood
Not sure how to start this story. Maybe I’ll think out loud about how badly the misery and desolation I perceive everywhere I look is really beginning to affect me. Ok, it’s not beginning; it’s been growing for some time and gotten worse. I’ll be honest with you, reality has me in serious despair and it’s making me sick. Zombies abound all around. Lately I wanna stand on the sidewalk and just stick my leg out to see how many fuckers I can trip as they blindly stroll with their glassy eyes glued to their mobile devices. All this soul sucking gentrification happening bugs the hell out of me, meanwhile the desperate reality of the homeless situation is spinning out of control. Yuppies seriously need their asses kicked and don’t get me started on dudes with manbuns!
Oh yeah, and can anyone tell me how is it that tattoo parlors are as common as Starbucks now? Also, I wonder how so many people wound up drug-wacked lunatics with backpacks on and sleeping bags draped over their shoulders all day long wandering downtown aimlessly and screaming at garbage cans? As we speak our planet has already irreversibly tipped over the edge in regards to human accelerated climate change. Racism, homophobia and hatred in too many forms continue swelling toward critical mass. Our government is corporate owned, infrastructure is crumbling and people are being consumed by their insatiable consumerism.
Out of frame now, we’re out of touch; we love ourselves way too much
Instant gratification is dulling the senses and destroying the desire to dream. True romance is dead. Selfies are a sickness without a cure. Andy Warhol hit it on the head in 1968 when he said, “In the future everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes.” Mediocrity is lauded and narcissism is an accepted norm whether folks want to admit it or not. People pass around their prefabricated personalities like sloppy seconds in an online orgy. Everyone is supposedly connected now more than ever, yet lost in his or her own world. Or maybe it’s just me? Like in Richard Matheson’s 1954 science fiction horror novel, I Am Legend, maybe I’m the different one, outnumbered by the zombies? What am I to do if I don’t want to fit in with this nonsense? Maybe I’m more alone than anyone else I’m bitching about? There are so many disturbing, unanswerable questions but one thing is for certain: things are a mess.
Self-expression or self-abuse?
What's the point? What's your excuse?
But, I digress. I need to get back on track here and connect this shit with the song I’m supposed to be talking about. Besides, if you’ve continued reading up to this point and not said fuck this! out of disgust or distraction you have to be thinking shut up, old man Taylor and get on with it already! Ok, well a long time ago I came up with a series of cool guitar riffs that I strung together and tried to match up with a manic poem/diatribe I spewed out early one morn following a chemically crazed all-nighter. I called it ‘Playing with a Lighter’. It was a spiel about being at the end of my rope (not unlike this!) I wrote it as I sat calmly and insanely flicking a lighter over and over.
That thing was too crazy and went nowhere so I strip-mined the riffs sometime later, recycling and incorporating them into the songs that eventually became ‘Woke up at Zero’ and the one we’re talking about here. In the context of the original song, the verse riff from ‘Woke up at Zero’ (a groovy song that appeared on our 2013 EP, 3 in D) was the verse and the segment that wound up as the bridge section in ‘End of Civilization’ was actually the chorus in ‘Playing with a Lighter’. Also, the end chorus tag from ‘End of Civilization’ was the conclusion of the song it was robbed from and it actually climaxed in what became the main verse riff to another song that landed on Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe called ‘The Rats Are Leaving the Ship’. Sorry if that all sounds a bit tangled and confusing, the main point is I found better homes for some killer riffs in the songs they needed to live in.
All the stupid things we say will come back to haunt us still; don’t pretend they never will
Now let’s go to the part where the song became an actual song. I was seeking an avenue for expressing my revulsion at reality which was pretty much akin to my earlier ramblings in this piece. From my vantage point I saw a delusional collective unconscious marching rapidly toward self-destruction. Now I know that from time immemorial there have been dudes like me cautioning of the dismal future awaiting us all as a result of our short-sighted false sense of invincibility. Still, you gotta call ‘em like you see ‘em.
Electro-shock birds and bees
One of my favorite films is Mike Judge’s satirical, dystopian 2006 epic, Idiocracy. It presents a very funny, albeit disturbing image of a future drowning in its own stupidity due to generation upon generation of morons breeding more rapidly than intelligent people. In 1729 a fella named Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay titled A Modest Proposal. His dissertation offers up an idea to solve the economic woes in Ireland exacerbated by famine and overpopulation: let poor people sell their kids to rich people as food. In the spirit of Judge’s twisted forecast for tomorrow and Swift’s rather ‘practical’ solution to the social ills of his day I half facetiously suggested my own answer to humanity’s current clusterfuck when I pulled the pin on a little grenade I called ‘Mandatory Sterilization’.
Short people got no reason to live
- Randy Newman (‘Short People,’ 1977)
I thought it was a great title for a song. However, it soon became apparent to me that it may be slightly misunderstood. The rest of the band reasoned that folks would likely interpret the catchy title as a reference to Hitler, the Nazis and ethnic cleansing. Now this was NOT my intention at all. Honestly I hadn’t even thought about it in that way until they brought it up. It really bummed me out because, as I said, I thought it was a catchy phrase. Believe it or not we actually did perform it live once or twice for an audience. Before long I relented, changing the name and altering the lyrics. Seriously though, I have a memory of playing Olympia Artswalk and singing that song before a sea of about a hundred people without it even dawning on me they might be going what the fuck?! For the record, I still think it is pretty hilarious. Oh, well.
This wouldn’t be the only time I’d change a song name out of concern. For example, ‘Strait Jacket for Two’ also from Tell Me When You Can’t Breathe was originally titled ‘Jack Daniels and a Shotgun’ which I previously discussed in issue #3. Then there’s a great tune called ‘Mating Accident’ from 2014's Day 5 that had a real humdinger of a name initially that I won’t even get into here; maybe we’ll take a look at that one another time.
A mass hallucination
When I knew I’d have to come up with something else to call this song I tried to think of a title that fit rhythmically with my melody and still maintained the gist of my original sentiment. I thought to myself, what’s perhaps a more suitable umbrella term that would encompass the multitude of ways our world is imploding? What phrase might best resonate to cement my impressions of society’s giant circle jerk into oblivion? A-ha! The end of civilization, yeah that’s it. In a way it’s a broader, yet more potent and direct statement than the original title even was. Plus, it was certainly much less likely to result in me getting my ass kicked due to misinterpretation. I don’t know how Randy Newman pulls off that kind of thing so successfully, but I applaud him. He is awesome.
It don’t matter, sing along
No matter the title, it’s a catchy, sarcastic song that sticks in your head. It also totally fucking rocks. I love the way it’s sequenced on the record spilling into ‘The Rats Are Leaving the Ship’ which we used to typically perform live back to back in the same manner. ‘End of Civilization’ is yet another song that becomes perpetually more relevant. It’s all unravelling; it’s only a matter of time!
Come to think of it, is this song merely an observation or is it a wish? Hmm…
Thanks for indulging your morbid curiosity and peering inside my weird world. I hope this little ray of sunshine brightened your day! Smell ya later…
We’re rednecks; we don’t know our ass from a hole in the ground
- Randy Newman (‘Rednecks,’ 1974)
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