33 And 1/3 Under 45 – Track Twenty-one: Built To Last

33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 And 1/3 Under 45 – Track Twenty-one: Built To Last
33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you. You can find Ryan’s band, Premium Heart, on facebooktwitter, instagram, spotify, bandcamp, or most places you stream music for music, upcoming releases, and shows.

This column was written on July 14th, 2020.

Learn to leap, leap from ledges high and wild
Learn to speak, speak with wisdom like a child
Directly to the heart
Crown yourself the king of clowns or stand way back apart
But never give your love, my friend
Unto a foolish heart

We’ve been staying home for over a hundred days. How about that? And guess what? Everything’s still terrible! But hopefully, everyone’s developed some habits that help keep them going. For me, I’ve been playing a lot of Breath Of The Wild, the Zelda game, and really just losing myself in a lot of different music.

Ok, I get it, I listen to mostly old music. Fine.

For the first couple months of quarantine, I spent a lot of time with the Grateful Dead. I’ve been a Deadhead for years and spent much of my adolescence with them, both as a fan and as part of the extended Dead crew family. They’ve always been a safe place for me to just sink into and turn off all the bad in the world, and hoo boy, did I need it more than ever this time around. I dove deep into every nook and cranny of their catalog this time, from the nasty, explosive psychadelica of ’68 through the jazzy, exploratory 70s, but ended up landing time and time again in the Spring ’90 tour. I’ve always gravitated towards this era of the band, with no small part of the credit going to their keyboardist from 1979-1990, Brent Mydland. Often with lyricist John Perry Barlow, Brent added a level of deep pathos and personal songwriting that’s a real high point for me in the Dead’s massive catalog. From an unreleased demo from Built To Last:

When the police come, you better let ’em in, Gentleman, start your engines
Don’t forget to tell ’em what a sport I’ve been, Gentleman, start your engines
I got a head full of vintage TNT,
They’re gonna blow me up ‘stead of burying me
If you don’t like trouble, better leave me be
Gentleman, start your engines

Like the Devil’s Mustangs, I’ve been riding hell for leather
Put away angry, angry in the dark
Let me tell you, honey,
There’s some mighty stormy weather
Rolling ’round the caverns of my heart

As an aside, because the Dead’s pretty much exclusively a live band, I’m using the last studio Dead album released in 1989, Built To Last, as an outline. All of the songs here are from the Spring ’90 tour, but are still tracks from that album.

The Brent-era is often maligned by Deadheads. He was the new guy, coming off of one of the most celebrated eras of live music for the band and a lot of the studio material suffered from cheesy production and overly catchy songs. It was the 80s, after all. But for me, by the Spring of 1990, I think the band was the best they ever were and this tour was really something special. I love their whole career, but this is the top of the top for me. And Brent was, for the first time, really elevated within the band. He writes and sings four of the nine songs on Built To Last and his songs started popping up more and more throughout the set. And with that, you can feel the pain and heart in every single one of his songs that helped make this tour the best of the best. And helped make me feel a little less isolated in this dark, terrible time.

Well, there ain’t nobody safer than someone who doesn’t care
And it isn’t even lonely, when no one’s ever there
I had a lot of dreams once, but some of them came true
The honey’s sometimes bitter when fortune falls on you

And you know I’ve been a soldier in the armies of the night
And I’ll find a fatal error in what’s otherwise alright

Something shines around you and it seems to my delight
To give you just a little sweetness…
Just a little light

I have always heard that virtue oughta be its own reward,
But it never comes so easy when you’re living by the sword
It’s even harder to be heartless when you look at me that way
You’re as mighty as the flower that will grow the stones away

Even though I’ve been a stranger, full of irony and spite
Holding little but contempt for all things beautiful and bright,
Something shines around you and it seems to my delight

To give me just a little sweetness…
Just a little light

A lot Brent’s (And Barlow’s) songs are pretty introspective and self-loathing, but Built To Last also features one of my favorite political Dead songs, “We Can Run.” The Dead were very rarely political after the 60s, as Jerry Garcia was pretty adamantly against working with a system he found repulsive, but by the late 80s, Brent and Bob Weir (again, both with Barlow), penned a few more explicit stances, which sadly, don’t feel all that dated.

I’m dumping my trash in your backyard
Makin’ certain you don’t notice really isn’t so hard
You’re so busy with your guns and all of your excuses to use them
Well it’s oil for the rich and babies for the poor
They got everyone believin’ that more is more
If a reckoning comes, maybe we’ll know what to do then

We can run, but we can’t hide from it
Of all possible worlds, we only got one, we gotta ride on it
Whatever we’ve done, We’ll never get far from what we leave behind
Baby, we can run, run, run, but we can’t hide
Oh no, we can’t hide

All these possibilities seem to leave no choice
I heard the tongues of billions speak with just one voice
Saying “Just leave all the rest to me. I need it worse than you, you see.”
And then I heard…
The sound of one child crying.

The album’s not all Brent, obviously. Jerry and Bobby still have some great songs on it that really resonated with me this time around, too. As much as I felt like the whole world was falling apart and there was no hope for any of us, Jerry (and his lyricist, Robert Hunter) explain that the only things that are Built To Last are the things that are built to try. If we give up, we’re definitely fucked. If we try, at least we have a shot, albeit a long one.

Built to last while time itself falls tumbling from the walls
Built to last till sunlight fails and darkness moves on all
Built to last while years roll past like cloudscapes in the sky
Show me something built to last
Something built to try

When I was really at my lowest, this tour helped me get lost in a better time. Like the wide open spaces of Breath Of The Wild, having a Dead show to close my eyes and go to helped ground me. The songs from Built To Last don’t ignore the anxieties raging inside us all, but they embrace them and turn them into something beautiful. Tragically, this was the last full scale tour before Brent died in July that year, a heartbreaking reminder that when the show’s over, and it always ends eventually, you still have to learn to better yourself and the world we all share. But until that last song ends, you can close your eyes and let the music take you home.

Ain’t no way the Bogeyman can get you
You can close your eyes, the world is gonna let you
Your daddy’s here and he never will forget you
I will take you home

Long is the road, we must travel on down
Short are the legs that will struggle behind
I wish I knew for sure, just where we were bound
What we will be doin’ and what we’re gonna find

Wherever we go there will be birds to cheer you
Flowers to color in the fields around
Wherever we go, I’ll be right here near you
You can’t get lost when you’re always found

Ain’t no fog that’s thick enough to hide you
Your daddy’s gonna be right here beside you
If your fears should start to get inside you
I will take you home

33 And 1/3 Under 45 – Track Seventeen: The E Street Band In New York City

33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 And 1/3 Under 45 - Track Seventeen: The E Street Band In New York City
33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world.

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you. You can find Ryan’s band, Premium Heart, on facebooktwitter, or instagram for upcoming releases and shows.

The original column was published on December 15th, 2019 and can be found below.

Workin’ in the fields til’ you get your back burned
Workin’ ‘neath the wheel, til’ you get your facts learned
Baby, I got my facts, learned real good right now
Poor man want to be rich, Rich man want to be king
And a king ain’t satisfied til’ he rules everything

Lately, I’ve found a lot of new appreciation for late 90s/early 2000s political critiques. Too often, and I’m guiltier of this than most, we become enamored by deconstructions of post-9/11 American domestic life and foreign policy and forget that there was plenty of division, strife, and protest in our “contemporary” society before the Bush Doctrine ramped it all up to 11. 9/11 was such a glaring and brutal bullet point on the American timeline that it’s easy to forget that a lot of the issues we still argue about were actually worth arguing about before we were shocked into the “modern American” mindset. A few of the things I’ve been thinking of are:

Christopher Priest’s fantastic 1998-2003 run on Black Panther, which serves as a stark critique of Clinton-era foreign policy.

A realization that the Star Wars prequels are secretly good and have a lot of very prescient things to say about America’s soon to start wars in the middle east.

And Bruce Springsteen’s late-90s output, specifically the live record documenting the final leg of his 1999 reunion tour with the East Street Band, Live In New York City.

Well my daddy come on the Ohio works, When he come home from World War Two
Now the yards just scrap and rubble. He said, “Them big boys did what Hitler couldn’t do”
These mills they built the tanks and bombs, that won this country’s wars
We sent our sons to Korea and Vietnam, Now we’re wondering what they were dyin’ for

When I started this column, I did a lot of soul searching on if I should include albums that weren’t just standard studio albums. Compilations don’t quite capture the moment in time and emotional thru-line that I try to focus on. Live albums have a similar problem, in that a set list might be pulling from songs that aren’t relevant to now or songs that are still popular and people want to hear. But in a live setting, older songs can be re-framed, in a new narrative, and given a new context to help us appreciate what they were trying to say all along.

Bruce is someone who I’ve never really listened to and I think it’s a great disservice to what he stands for that I took so long to really listen to his lyrics and realize what he was trying to say. I always knew he was a “blue collar” songwriter but I somehow missed just how much he spoke about so many of the economic issues we constantly talk about in modern political discourse.

From the Monongahela valley to the Mesabi iron range
To the coal mines of Appalachia, the story’s always the same
Seven hundred tons of metal a day, now sir you tell me the world’s changed
Once I made you rich enough, rich enough to forget my name

I mean come on, this is basically the script to an ad about the divide in the Democratic Party about trade deals in the Trump era. But with a bit more… realism and bite.

When I die I don’t want no part of heaven, I would not do heaven’s work well
I pray the devil comes and takes me, to stand in the fiery furnaces of hell

And that kind of aggressive populism, raging against the rich who look down on all of us is present throughout the entire show. Even when they’re dressed up in folksy Americana.

There’s a place out on the edge of town, sir,
Rising above the factories and the fields
Now ever since I ‘as a child I can remember
That mansion on the hill

In the day you can see the children playing
On the road that leads to those gates of hardened steel
Steel gates that completely surround, sir
The mansion on the hill

But that’s not why I’m writing about this specific record. I was originally going to write about Born In The U.S.A.

Born down in a dead man’s town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much
Till you spend half your life just covering up

Born In The U.S.A. was the first Springsteen album I really loved. I put it off because I absolutely can’t stand that every nationalistic xenophobe since Reagan has played it at rallies. But then when I really listened to it, I realized the obvious. That it’s not some beautiful anthem on American exceptionalism

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

It’s a harsh critique of our imperialism at the expense of not only the people we go over to kill, but at the young men and women who are forced to enforce America’s will abroad only to be shunned by the people who sent them over there in the first place. The pro-war hawks are almost always slashing funding, limiting health care, and destroying the VA so they can hold it up as an example of how “government doesn’t work.”

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says “Son if it was up to me”
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said “Son, don’t you understand”

I had a brother at Khe Sanh fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone

The version of “Born In The U.S.A.” we hear here is a somber one, stripped down to a 12-string acoustic guitar, reflecting the severity of the issue we were about to ramp up to 11. Just two years later, we started sending troops to fight the two longest wars in American history, with an economic recession just behind the corner, waiting for the lucky ones to come home to.

The hypocrisy of those in power really brought me to what may be the most powerful song for this whole show, the only song that was new for this tour. In the weeks leading up to this run at Madison Square Garden, Bruce and the E Street Band debuted a new song, “American Skin” in Atlanta and the lyrics leaked online. This song was in response to the Amadou Diallo shooting in the Bronx earlier that year. Springsteen had written political songs throughout his career, clearly, but this one sparked a bit more outrage, especially from the NYPD.

41 shots, and we’ll take that ride
Across this bloody river to the other side
41 shots, they cut through the night
You’re kneeling over his body in the vestibule
Praying for his life

I spend a lot of time thinking about protest and the most effective way to do it. I struggle with it a lot, especially since my life is pretty privileged and most of the things I’ve protested haven’t directly affected me. I constantly hear criticism from the right about how you’re supposed to protest. Our country was founded on protest, but so many people who support the status quo keep themselves distanced enough so they don’t have to confront that they would clearly be loyalists to the British during the American Revolution. Protesting is great and American, but you shouldn’t destroy property. The Boston Tea Party. They wouldn’t have gotten killed if they just listened to the police. The Boston Massacre began as the follow up to a British customs officer when he shot and killed an 11 year old boy during a patriot protest. A week and a half later, a protest turned violent when a British officer stabbed a protester with his bayonet. The rest is history.

41 shots, Lena gets her son ready for school
She says, “On these streets, Charles. You’ve got to understand the rules
If an officer stops you, promise me you’ll always be polite
And that you’ll never ever run away
Promise Mama, you’ll keep your hands in sight”

My point is not to weigh in on specific cases of brutality or not, as I haven’t done the due diligence to discuss this case at length. My point is that if people have and they’re pissed off about it, that’s ok. I’ve seen so many people go so far out of their way to make sure they have no acceptable way to voice that disbelief. Street protests just get in the way of people trying to go to work. Public displays are inappropriate, and god forbid anyone kneels during the anthem. (As an aside, the Department of Defense spent millions of taxpayers dollars making the NFL more “patriotic” and players didn’t stand on the field for the national anthem until 2009). Celebrities are supposed to stay in their lane and entertain us, mindlessly, with no regard for or mention of their personal beliefs. One of the greats, Bruce Springsteen, has a huge reunion tour and comes out with a statement that he thinks is important. And he gets called a “floating fag” by the police and told to go back to singing “American flag songs and all that stuff.” If artists can’t protest through their art, how the fuck are people supposed to protest? If someone with a platform as large as Springsteen is called a dirtbag and told to shut the fuck up, how are regular folk supposed to stand up to an unjust system? That’s the trick, they aren’t. They’re supposed to just sit there and hope that the status quo deigns the downtrodden worthy to receive a blessing from above. If only everyone could be so lucky.

Is it a gun? Is it a knife? Is it a wallet? This is your life
It ain’t no secret, No secret, my friend
You can get killed just for living in your American skin

33 And 1/3 Under 45: Track Eight: Marry Me

33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 And 1/3 Under 45: Track Eight: Marry Me
33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world.

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you. You can find Ryan’s band, Premium Heart, on facebooktwitter, or instagram for upcoming releases and shows.

The original column was published on March 15th, 2019 and can be found below.

I’m not anything at all

I’ve been leaning into some major escapism this month. Sometimes we all just need a break, you know? Mostly this means I’m reading a lot of sci-fi novels, but I almost always keep music on while I read, to really tune out the distractions and get lost in a world that’s got a better sense of morality than the one currently on the other side of my headphones. This time, it’s been a lot of St. Vincent, the musical identity of Annie Clark.

St. Vincent’s an artist I’ve only very recently gotten into, specifically with her 2017 record, Masseduction, after I was given it for a network Secret Santa from Falling In Love Montage‘s Helen. After going backwards through her whole catalog, Masseduction is still my favorite, but recently I’ve been gravitating towards her debut, 2007’s Marry Me. It doesn’t have the bombastic and explosive melodies of her latter work, or the complexity of some of her collaborations, like Love This Giant (with David Byrne) does, but Marry Me has really resonated with me beyond an album hiding in the background of my solitary reading sessions. Now, I don’t mean the album is best listened to passively, as it’s very strong on it’s own and certainly deserves your full attention. What I mean is that, unlike the rest of Annie’s catalog, Marry Me has a simplicity to the structure of the record that lets you forget just how brilliant it is.

While Jesus is saving, I’m spending all my days
In backgrounds and landscapes with the language of saints
While people are spinning like toys on Christmas day,
I’m inside a still life with the other absentee

The album has a lot of themes of the naive idealism of love from someone new to it, something I’m always a big sucker for. The overwhelming feelings you’re controlled by. The agency you give up to the other person, as you lie awake wishing more than anything that they feel the same way. Thinking, no, knowing, that this is the most important thing in the world, until you come up for air and realize it… wasn’t. Until it is again.

But you, you’re a rock with a heart like a socket I can plug into at will
And will you guess, when I come around next, I hope your open sign is blinking still
So marry me, John, I’ll be so good to you
You won’t realize I’m gone, you won’t realize I’m gone
As for me, I would have to agree, I’m as fickle as a paper doll being kicked by the wind
When I touch down again, I’ll be in someone else’s arms
Oh, John, C’mon

But albums about young love are not exactly the hardest thing to find. This album stands out above and beyond for a few reasons. Most importantly, the melodies and instrumentation are very good. It’s the kind of album where I struggle to pick what should’ve been the single.  There’s a lot of really great production, a lot in really unexpected places. There are 17 different musicians present on the record and it shows. Lots of strings, brass, and more help to layer the album, but the real shining star is Annie’s voice. I really love her guitar playing, too, but her voice ranges from choir backups (alongside the additional singers present) to some raw and straight-from-the-heart solo vocals over a simple piano. The record jumps from full string arrangements to the barest melody and back again without ever feeling jarring or out of place. The highs and lows of love are clear, not only in the lyrics, but in every aspect of the record. Her voice, alongside her writing, is so versatile that listening to her debut, you can clearly see why her records went on to be so unique. The dichotomy is here, bouncing between the simplest and most complex aspects of young love, embracing the overwhelming beauty of it all without ever ignoring the darker sides of it.

All of your praying amounts to just one breath,
Please keep your victory, but give me little death, It’s time, you are light,
I guess you are afraid of what everyone is made of,
So take to the streets with apocalypse refrain,
Your devotion has the look of a lunatic’s gaze

It’s these deeper and darker sections, like in “Paris Is Burning” or “The Apocalypse Song” that forced my ears to perk up and focus more on the music, even if it meant reading the same page over and over again. St. Vincent lures you in with simple melodies and catchy hooks, but her lyrics and delivery keep you coming back when the record’s over. Her other albums, specifically Actor, St. Vincent, and Masseduction, stood out as great records immediately, but Marry Me is more subtle and has been exactly what I’ve been looking for this month. The slow burn kind of record that you find yourself starting over more often than you realize, even if it’s just on in the background… at first. But it won’t be for long.

You say “Love is just a bloodmatch
to see who endures lash after lash with panache.”
In the spring, I’ll dust off my lute, stuff my suitcase full of blues,
and stir the dust underneath the thrust of my clicking heels,
C’est la vie, what me worry? I never do

33 And 1/3 Under 45 – Track Seven: Oliver Appropriate

33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 And 1/3 Under 45 - Track Seven: Oliver Appropriate
33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world.

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you. You can find Ryan’s band, Premium Heart, on facebooktwitter, or instagram for upcoming releases and shows.

The original column was published on February 20th, 2019 and can be found below.

New York, release me from my strata

I’m back and so is Say Anything. This time, it’s all about 2019’s Oliver Appropriate, the final record in the era of Say Anything’s catalog kicked off by …Is A Real Boy. I really could write a whole column on every one of their records, but for now, I’ll be fast forwarding to Oliver, which serves as a spiritual sequel to the themes I talked about last time. Just a quick content warning up at the top, this album deals with a lot of sex, sexual identity discussion, and violence against partners.

Quick recap: …Is A Real Boy was all about that entitled and obnoxious mentality that almost always accompanies a suburban punk dude, explored through singer and songwriter Max Bemis’ first person narration. Rage at everyone who won’t give you exactly what you want. Screaming over everyone else because you don’t think anyone’s listening. Stroking your ego just to cover up how little you actually like yourself. Lashing out. Constantly. Really all the time. At everybody. Like this guy:

Wait, that’s me

Definitely not me. I don’t know why that’s there. Weird.

Yeah, Max. That’s who I meant. I swear!

Oliver skips ahead 15 years later to see what that teenage jackass is up to now. It’s a thematic record, so I really recommend listening to it as a whole, even if the plot isn’t the clearest narrative on the first listen. The story opens with the titular Oliver, narrated by Max, an older version of our Boy protagonist. His band’s broken up, which he assumes is a devastating loss to the public, and he’s living his life through an alcohol and pill induced haze. He’s conformed to the standard hetero liberal “ally” lifestyle, despite holding deep resentments for everyone around him.

They fade into the liberal bourgeoisie,
Their hatred now inflamed to stoke your daughter’s screams
And ramble about Trump over Stellas
And headline Coachella

He takes that resentment as some sign of his superiority. He’s miserable because he’s better than everyone and always has been. He only pretends to be one of them to fill some hole in his self worth. His flaws are what define him, but no one’s allowed to see them; Oliver himself barely acknowledges them.

And everything they told me was wrong is still in my heart to turn me on
My ego is built on all my pain. I’m your migraine.

Deep down his struggle with his sexual identity gets covered up in a way that may seem familiar to a lot of people who came of age in the “newly woke” era. Oliver “pretends” to be queer as a joke to hide his insecurities. He kisses men as a goof to show off how “comfortable” he is with his heterosexuality, but never pursues these relationships past the mockery phase. He’s satirically macho to the point that he falls into the same tropes that outward misogynists do. And that struggle with his identity manifests itself, not only in his sexual identity, but in a deep hatred of women, no matter what he pretends to feel.

I somehow became a feminist, when ten years ago I was feeding drinks 
To women I’d laugh at when they’d think amongst my friends
It’s such a lie

After we really get to know Oliver, his whole world changes. His facade slips and he actually lets himself go home with a guy, maybe as a joke, maybe not, but he crosses a line he never did before and starts to really fall for someone after the high of getting his band back together lets him actually show some honesty, played by the drummer and co-writer of the record, Karl Keuhn.

Is it funny when I fuck? Is it funny when I suck?

One night with me is bringing back the memories of that old room where you started fucking the fear
Two broad shoulders and two hands as big as mine, I bet you think, I bet you know the end is near
And maybe it is.
‘Cause people like your father don’t take it lightly when we kiss
So now you either follow, let go, or bury below
But you can’t escape the sinking feelings you don’t outgrow

And Oliver finds himself… himself for the first time. This guy has let him be Oliver. And then… it’s over. This character defining moment to Oliver was just some night. He’s in love with someone else and Oliver was just some fling. We’ve all had these moments that keep us up at night for years, people you can’t get out of your head. And those people probably don’t even know we exist. We end up defining ourselves by something that the person responsible thinks of as negligible, if they think of it at all. But most of us eventually accept and get over it, but how does someone as self absorbed as Oliver take no for an answer? Well, we’ve all met these kind of guys and they usually… don’t. So Oliver goes to his apartment and…

Never earned the key so I’m knocking and now you’re home
My liver tells me so, it demands moonshine to blind the truth
That I was fine before you made me know myself, I wish I could go back
What does he got that I don’t? 
All I know, you’ll never love me

And Oliver murders him, ties them together, and drowns himself in the East River alongside him.

If you should die in your own form, I’ll reinforce that (I’ll convince you)
I’ll slit your throat and leave you gaping, oh, the hardest part of being alone
I’ll leave you torn, I’ll leave you waiting, oh, the hardest part of being alone
You break our beating hearts wide open
You’re the hardest part of being alone
You break our bleeding hearts wide open
You’re the hardest part of being alone
Being alone, Being alone, Is that enough?

It’s a pretty hard turn in the plot, but it’s what makes the whole album work so well. If you’re going to take a cautionary tale of entitled ego and advance it 15 years to now, to the Trump era, to the incel era, you have to follow through with it. We’re in an era where horrible men are being empowered to treat everyone as less deserving. An era where we continue to give the worst of us the loudest voices and the most power, normalizing and amplifying their bigotry and violence. All because they can’t take no for an answer. They can’t even imagine a world where people exist outside of what they can do for them.

It makes me sick and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m as powerless as our character in …Is A Real Boy was and I want to lash out and scream at everyone. But isn’t that the problem? Isn’t that why we’re in this mess to begin with, and if so, why was I so surprised when it happened? It’s because I’m privileged. Absolutely, I am. When Trump won, I couldn’t believe it. But then I heard plenty of people saying “Of course he won, this is the America we’ve always known. You didn’t notice?” Of course Kavanaugh was confirmed. Of course this is the world we live in. Because men don’t learn the right lessons from anything. A cautionary tale becomes an empowering icon.

I wish I could go back to that angst-ridden, entitled, suburban asshole and slap the stupid smirk off his face and tell him to get better faster. Never let yourself be satisfied or complacent. Nobody owes you anything. Yeah, life sucks sometimes, but acting like this hurts people. People like Oliver kill people every day and the majority of us don’t say a goddamn word about it. We deem it inappropriate to even discuss it in an uncivilized way. So maybe a lot of us could benefit from taking a look back at who we used to be and really think “am I that much better now? Am I good enough yet?” I bet a lot of us won’t find a good enough answer. So come up with a better one.

So go ask your Chomsky
What these systems produce
The cracks in commandments
That we can slip through

God, I’m smart and I’m worth hating

33 And 1/3 Under 45 – Track Six: …Is A Real Boy

33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 And 1/3 Under 45 – Track Six: ...Is A Real Boy
33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world.

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you. You can find Ryan’s band, Premium Heart, on facebooktwitter, or instagram for upcoming releases and shows.

The original column was published on February 10th, 2019 and can be found below.

And the record begins with a song of rebellion

Here we go. I’ve been putting off writing this one for a while. I’m going to try to keep the gushing to a minimum here, but Say Anything’s …Is A Real Boy has been called my favorite record more often than not over the last 6 or so years. I could go on about how “Alive With The Glory Of Love” is a perfect song, or how one of the best songs to cover with my high school band was “The Futile,” with it’s intro of SHIT, NOTHING MAKES SENSE. Or even how neither my wife nor I hesitated to say “I Want To Know Your Plans” had to be the first dance at our wedding. So instead of just talking about how flawless it is, I’d rather talk about why I’ve been listening to it a lot lately. I don’t plan on getting into the songs that mean the most to me, but what the record is trying to say as a whole. As an aside, you gotta admit it doesn’t get more precious than this, captured by Flying Machine Network host, Elle Riccardi.

You’re what keeps me believing the world’s not gone dead,
Strength in my bones, put the words in my head.
When they pour out to paper, it’s all for you.
‘Cause that’s what you do. That’s what you do.

So if this record is such an important part of my narrative, why am I writing about it now? This month, I’ll be doing a two part column about Say Anything’s first major release, the aforementioned …Is A Real Boy, and their most recent and allegedly final record, Oliver Appropriate. I’ll save most of the Oliver talk for next time, but the premise is that it’s a concept album that extrapolates the character set up in …Is A Real Boy and follows up on where that character would be 15 years on. So let’s take a look at that guy’s beginnings.

The general idea behind the record is that our narrator, an angst-ridden, entitled, suburban asshole has been cursed that everything he feels and thinks just pours out of his mouth in a dramatic, musical way. Definitely not how I see myself in any way, I swear. But this character isn’t supposed to be our hero. I’ve been thinking a lot about the problematic lead style of storytelling and what it lets us explore. I’m a big fan of following the, I don’t want to say villains, but the characters we aren’t supposed to agree with, to help illustrate the flaws we all have. SeinfeldIt’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and Rick & Morty are prime examples of cautionary tales of letting your pettiness and ego get in the way of being a real human being. We also have characters like Han Solo, who we see develop from problematic asshole to hero in their own right. That growth is what makes them fan favorites. But I’ve also been thinking a whole lot about the role that these characters play when the wrong lessons are learned by the audience. Rick & Morty’s fanbase is one of the most toxic places around and they worship at the feet of a character that’s supposed to be the villain of the series; taking his narcissism as an ideal to strive for instead of seeing the damage he brings to the rest of the cast. People look up to Joker and Harley Quinn, a couple that was literally created to bring domestic abuse and mental illness to the forefront of the already traumatic and messy world of Batman. But does that mean we should abandon work with problematic characters, regardless of authorial intent? Personally, I think it’s more important than ever to showcase the problems these characters work through and help show their motivations and the impact they have. Fiction is a safer place to explore the problems of society, than let people just like our characters exact more harm on the people around them and get surprised by the fallout. But by bringing voice to problematic views that people define themselves by, are you doing more harm than good? As Vonnegut said, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be,” after all.

So how does that relate to …Is A Real Boy? Max Bemis, the writer behind Say Anything’s catalog, has openly spoken about how often the themes of …Is A Real Boy were misinterpreted. Our character was never supposed to be Max, but the manifestation of what drives an angst-ridden, entitled, suburban asshole who can’t control his own impulses.

I watch this dude each night, same table
He creates and crumples up
His eyes are wide from sipping endlessly his endless coffee cup
He feeds me quotes, that lonely goat
I watch him grazing by himself
I will not stop him when he rambles
I’m becoming one myself

Lou is bugged, shot up with drugs.
He sweats this bird he hardly knows,
All he wants is to see someone he respects without their clothes.
So like some hybrid mother/lover, she’d soothe and heal his wounds
And kiss those dying ears so softly
That the reaper stops to Swoon Oh, please

Full disclosure, I completely missed this in high school and couldn’t stand his vocal delivery and writing style until years later when it finally clicked. I thought it was celebrating his ego and lust for sex and acceptance (mostly the former), but it wasn’t. It was projecting what this guy, who was a hell of a lot more like high school Ryan than I’d like to admit, wanted more than anything in the world, but it wasn’t supposed to make you feel good and empowered. Revisiting it years later, it made a hell of a lot more sense why his style was so… sarcastic.

And this girl, who I met.
Who’s pride makes her hard to forget.
Took pity on me, horizontally, but most likely because of my band.
And that’s all I can get, when I’m lonely. 
And these visions of death seem to own me
In the quiet of the classrooms
All across the stacked United States of Woe, whoa
We live with woe, oh, oh, oh, oh

When I read Catcher In The Rye in middle school, it was on the recommendation of my 8th grade English teacher, two years before we read it as an assignment. She pulled me aside after class and said “You really should read this now. If you wait to read it with a class, you’ll hate it.” I don’t know what she saw in me at 13, but she was right. When I first read it, I was in disbelief at how much of myself I found in Holden Caulfield. I read it over and over again, every winter for the next several years and my feelings towards the book changed significantly every time I finished it. My senior year of high school, I realized, yeah, I was Holden and Holden really sucks. I was also convinced that the whole book serves as a farewell message to his therapist before an inevitable suicide. And, being an angst-ridden, entitled, suburban asshole struggling with my own depression, I knew, deep down, that if I didn’t make a significant change to my cynical, spiteful, implicitly misogynistic self, I would end up there, too. I hated everyone around me and what did I have to show for it? A lot of hate. And nothing else. So I worked on it, went to college, and reinvented myself as a romantic optimist. Desperately trying to escape Holden Caulfield.

I still adore Catcher, don’t get me wrong, but much like …Is A Real Boy where I once took it literally, I finally realized that it’s supposed to make me uncomfortable. It’s supposed to challenge me to rise above this character. In “Every Man Has A Molly,” we have a break up song with more vitriol than you can believe. It’s about how his emotional honesty has pushed his girlfriend away and now he’ll never “have rough sex with Molly Connelly again.” Max has openly spoken about how he was a virgin till college and how there never was a real Molly. But in this character’s mind, there should have been one. In “Admit It,” a diatribe against the exclusive nature of liberal hipster culture, we see that same rage directed at “the same superiority complex shared by the high school jocks who made your life a living hell. And made you a slave to the competitive, capitalist dogma you spend every moment of your waking life bitching about.” It’s pretentious, it’s pissed off, it’s what I felt like as a teenager. All I wanted to do was scream at everyone I thought I was better than, which, of course, was everyone. But luckily, I used characters like this to address and start the process of exorcising the parts of myself that I see in these characters.

So what happens when the audience learns the wrong lessons from a cautionary tale? What does Holden Caulfield look like 15 years later? What kind of person grows out of someone like this if they never learn how to be better? I’ll be back later this month to talk about the sequel, 2019’s Oliver Appropriate.

So you’ll come to be, made of these, urgent unfulfilled.
Oh no no no no no.
When I’m dead, I’ll rest

33 And 1/3 Under 45 – Track Two: The Berlin Trilogy Part 1 – Low

33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 And 1/3 Under 45 - Track Two: The Berlin Trilogy Part 1 - Low
33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world.

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you. You can find Ryan’s band, Premium Heart, on facebook or twitter for upcoming releases and shows.

The original column was published on December 15th, 2018 and can be found below.

Baby, I’ve been breaking glass in your room again
Listen don’t look at the carpet
I drew something awful on it
See you’re such a wonderful person
But you got problems
I’ll never touch you

It’s been a rough month. The only way I can bring myself to describe it is transitional. And my main companion throughout it has been David Bowie. Last month, I talked about why and when I started listening to Bowie, so I won’t reiterate, but the shorthand context is that I just got married and election day came and went. And for this month, I’m going to dive into my favorite era and for the next few weeks, I’ll be covering an album from the Berlin Trilogy.

Up first is Low.

I’m new to the whole Bowie catalog and… lore would probably be the best way to describe the many personas and phases of his career. The first album that really resonated with me was the incredible Station To Station, under his Thin White Duke persona. Which if you don’t know, is an interesting and controversial era for him, when he made a lot of seemingly pro-fascist remarks, which he later attributed to cocaine and drug abuse. Following the end of that era, Bowie moved to the still-divided city of Berlin to escape the toxicity of his lifestyle in LA and work on his next three records with Brian Eno, the first of which is Low.

When I first learned this context, I had already fallen in love with the record, after getting caught in a blizzard with it for a very tense two hour drive home in the snow, but the story behind it made me take a closer look at what Bowie was trying to say. I was soon struck by just how much it really resonated with my feelings over the last month. From “Be My Wife.”

Sometimes you get so lonely. Sometimes you get nowhere

Please be mine
Share my life
Stay with me
Be my wife

I hadn’t realized just how much of my anxiety and anger at the world was being scapegoated into the aforementioned wedding and election. I was constantly saying “Once we get through this, we’ll finally have time to…” and “Once this all goes right, I’ll be way better, I promise” to no one but myself. Afterwards, I felt… empty? The wedding was perfect and the election was a wave. Objectively, everything should be great now, but I wasn’t being honest with my problems in the first place. Just like Bowie’s (and America’s) temporary love affair with unchecked fascism, I was putting so much faith in this larger idea to just fix everything without having to actually rectify the issues inside of me. Hoping to be saved left me bottling up a lot of things I’ve struggled with for years, like my anger. I started really retreating into myself, choosing headphones over my stereo and sitting alone in my office instead of working in the open living room. Too often, when I tried to open up, I just found myself in another argument. More often than not they were either my own fault or I was over exaggerating the effect of someone else’s flaws. The next song, “What In The World,” lays it out better than I can.

Deep in your room, you never leave your room
Something deep inside of me – yearning deep inside of me
Talking thru the gloom
What in the world can you do?
I’m in the mood for your love
I’m just a little bit afraid of you
So what you gonna say and what you gonna do?
Ah, what you gonna be?

I’ve always struggled with a lot of internal rage. At society, at my friends, at my family, the list goes on. I’m always aware that I’m flying off the handle, but I just can’t bring myself to stop. Even when, no, especially when those that I love are the focus, I can’t help it. I hate it, but I’m trying. Throughout Low, Bowie talks a lot about how hard it is to break the toxic cycles that define us, even when you know you’re being watched by those affected. In “Always Crashing The Same Car:”

Jasmine, I saw you peeping
As I put my foot down to the floor
I was going round and round the hotel garage
Must have been touching close to ninety-four

But I’m always crashing in the same car

Structurally, Low is a fascinating album. The first 7 songs are complete, but only just. They’re primarily shorter snippets, some instrumental, that fade out right when you start to get the feel of what Bowie was going for. As soon as I felt the connection and message I was looking for, Bowie leaves, leaving us both with the same problems we had before he started. This happens over and over on the record; I’m never ready to hear the end of a song like “Sound And Vision.”

Pale blinds drawn all day
Nothing to read
Nothing to say
Blue Blue
I will sit right down
Waiting for the gift of sound and vision
And I will sing
Waiting for the gift of sound and vision
Drifting into my solitude
Over my head
Don’t you wonder sometimes
‘Bout sound and vision?

And the way the album ends is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. The final songs are mostly instrumental (or with atmospheric and often non-English vocals), so I can’t really show you any excerpts here. During the following year’s tour, he opened with the first of these “Warszawa” to make sure the audience was patient and ready to really experience the show (side note, listen to David Bowie: Stage, it might be my favorite live album). These pieces sound like the perfect soundtrack to my favorite movie, whether it exists or not. They’re somber. They’re complex. They’re so… deep and rich in instrumentation and tone. This is exactly what I’ve been feeling sounds like and that… helps.

The Berlin trilogy’s first entry really means the world to me and really set me up to try to face my issues head on instead of projecting and scapegoating. How’s that going? Next week, I’ll talk about how “Heroes” started to help me answer that question.

Care-line driving me – Share bride falling star

33 & 1/3 Under 45: Track 12 – Stranger Songs

33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 & 1/3 Under 45: Track 12 – Stranger Songs
33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world.

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you.

The original column was published on May 15th, 2019 can be found below.

Ryan’s Bass Tone Spotify Playlist for his new record: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/39rbB9NlgBVseO4o9nPqf5

Welcome to the freak show

Brace yourself. I’ve never seen Stranger Things. I’ve never seen a whole lot of stuff, but Stranger Things is one of those rare cultural zeitgeist kinda things that everyone seems to really love. Sure, everyone was talking about Game Of Thrones, but half of the takes were about how trash it was. Everyone saw Avengers: Endgame, but there was still a lot of hate out there for it. I’ve never really heard anyone say anything negative about Stranger Things, though. I’ll watch it one of these days, I promise! But until then, I’ll gladly just cherish this rare thing where everyone I know all seems to be really into it and just bask in it. Which brings me to the new Ingrid Michaelson record, Stranger Songs.

As far as I can tell, this album isn’t officially affiliated with Stranger Things at all and is just heavily inspired by it. So, like I constantly do, Ingrid was just inspired by a piece of media and wrote a whole lot about how it made her feel, and thus, Stranger Songs was written. There’s something pure and beautiful about one of my biggest influences, just gushing about a TV show for 40 minutes through her music. (Ingrid’s been my favorite lyricist since high school and it’s only a matter of time before one of her early albums ends up in this column). It’s really cool to see someone whose work I so often project my feelings onto or to not feel so alone with, showcase the exact same thing for herself, even if I don’t get any of the references.

Welcome to the freak show, I got a place that we can go
Welcome to the freak show, I got a place nobody knows
Who wants to be normal anyway? What’s normal anyway?

The show seems to really hit some universal themes of love and rejection, themes that have always been prevalent in Ingrid’s work. It’s clear enough from the material itself, but right before the record came out, I saw her live for a “sneak peak” show and there was a lot of banter and explanation of why the show resonated with her so intensely. (As an aside, if you’ve never seen Ingrid, you really have to. She’s as hilarious as she is talented.) These universal themes shine through in songs like “Hate You.”

2 am, 3 am, then 4, I’ll never sleep, not like I did before
You’re the living nightmare that I always dream about
I can’t seem to live without you

I don’t hate you, I don’t hate you, I just hate how much I don’t hate you
God I want to, want to hate you, I just hate how much I don’t hate you

I don’t hate that you called our love bullshit when you were drunk that night
I don’t hate how much I love you, I don’t hate that I cry
And I don’t know why, oh why, oh why

Or in “Best Friend,” a song that captures the romantic tensions that become the focus of most coming of age stories, certainly mine.

Wide awake, I lay beside you
It’s in the middle of the night and I really want to
Wake you up, tell you my secret, that you’re the one I want

But I don’t want to mess this up, I don’t want to say too much
It always gets too real, when I tell them how I really feel

Here I go again, Falling in love with my best friend
Try to hold it in, but you’re making it hard, hard to pretend

And we don’t just fall in love with characters because they show our best traits. Like in “Jealous,” you can see Ingrid latching on to characters that fall into the same traps we all do. Universal flaws that we can never seem to get right.

Hurts bad seeing you out, knowing that you’re happy now
You’re laughing like the way we used to do
I feel it rising in me, I feel the tide pulling deep
I never knew I could be so mad at the one that I love, no

I do bad things when I’m jealous
I do bad things, I can’t help it, I can’t help it
It’s what you’re doing to me, ruining me, turning me upside down
Yeah, I do bad things when I’m jealous
And I’m jealous a lot

But more than anything, I think a good piece of pop culture can do a lot to break the norms and cause a paradigm shift in how we view societal status quos. Action and adventure stories have historically been a real boys’ club, and from all the recommendations I’ve gotten lately (I promise, I’ll watch it, I promise!), it seems like Stranger Things is opening up the genre and letting young girls be part of the adventure too, and that rules. Even if I haven’t seen it, or don’t need that as much as someone else might, I’m so damn glad it exists and will gladly pull up a chair and listen to someone tell me why it means the world to them. 

I’m done spinning ‘round and ‘round, planted my feet in the ground
I’m not afraid of the dark, I’m not afraid to get hurt

Head above the clouds, Mama, come look at me now
I’m not afraid of the world, I’m gonna fight like a girl

Running around with my long hair, tear in my dress and I don’t care
If you’re looking for something beautiful

I’m pretty sure that I’m all good, Walking away from you like I should
Washing it all away, I’m not just pretty
No, I’m pretty damn good.

Rosy cheeks and lips, she talks but nobody listens
That’s just the way of the world, I gotta fight like a girl

33 & 1/3 Under 45 Trailer: Tuning Up

33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 & 1/3 Under 45
33 & 1/3 Under 45 Trailer: Tuning Up
33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world.

Hello everyone, and welcome to the Hidden Track at the beginning of this show. If this is your first time hearing 33 and ⅓ Under 45, there’s some stuff I have to get out of the way. This is a monthly music column and all written versions can be found on flyingmachine.network/blog and either click on my name, the music or 33 and ⅓ subcategories, or search for 33.

These audio versions were originally released on the Flying Machine Patreon 6 months prior to their release here, so if you want to get them early, or get exclusive access to the first 10 episodes and donor chosen columns, head over to patreon.com/flyingmachine and back us at the $1 level. If you don’t mind waiting, expect episodes here on the 5th of every month, with bonuses!

You can find episodes on frondsradio.com and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have any suggestions or thoughts, my twitter handle is @stoopkidliveson and I’d love to hear from you. Enjoy!