Monday, December 31, 2007

Hung on Every Word

From The Whole Shebang

An interesting premise for a song, the song whose name I gave to this blog is about the treacherous effects of the rumor mill as our speaker hears that a certain someone harbors certain feelings about him. Upon hearing that she can’t get enough of him, the speaker vows to make her prove that this is true. He says that if the rumor is not true, it should mean nothing to him, but he finds himself too excited about the possibility to just let this rumor be “a lot of noise in [his] periphery.” And so going on a simple rumor, he rejects logic and anything telling him to restrain himself, only to plunge into a situation that probably does not end favorably, hence the imagery of being executed, as the song ends in a cacophony of guitar walk-downs and shouting, “hung on every word.”

I will confess that I thought this song was the low point of The Whole Shebang from my very first listen to the record. I became a fan of it in the summer of 2005 when the live band began playing it, adding its energy and power to the guitar set. It was short-lived in the set, and its last performance that I can recall is from January, 16 2006, from which this recording was taken.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Invincible Boy

From Instant Nostalgia and the Japanese release of Foreign Legion

This song started out as one among the throngs of Seth Timbs demos, but among the few that has actually surfaced. I believe I heard it said that Mac Burrus had requested to Seth that he write a song called, “Invincible Boy,” and Seth was obliged to do it, penning words about the youngsters of today and their detachment from reality as a result of being so engulfed in technology and media (for a similar theme, see “Twenty-First Digital Boy” by Bad Religion*). A demo was made, and the song was performed live once in 2000 or early 2001 in one of Seth’s acoustic appearances (which I wish I could access so I could post it). The demo was released on the Japanese version of Foreign Legion, and very few of us in this country got to hear it.

It features one of those melodies, the “make way” part (perhaps a reference to the H.M.S. Makeway, the name given to Fluid Ounces’ touring vehicles), that you’ll swear you’ve heard some at point before (the Beatles hold the copyright on most of those melodies, but occasionally other people stumble across another one). Like the vocal melody of “How to Be Happy,” it just makes so much sense that those sounds should come together!

Anyway, this song lay fallow for years before it did something that no other Fluid Ounces song has ever really done. It evolved. When the final live band began playing together, they were mainly showcasing tunes to promote The Whole Shebang. Interludes in the set in which Seth played guitar have come and gone as long as Fluid Ounces has been around, but with hits like “Selma Lou” and “Fool Around” being so guitar heavy, it was necessary to include a guitar set in every Fluid Ounces show for 2004 and 2005. They began to include other guitar songs, and around the time Brian Rogers vetoed playing “Lazy Bones” live anymore, the band pulled this one out of its collective hat.

The new live version was heavier than the original demo. Kyle Walsh used a shaker with one hand and played the kit with the other, adding backing vocals to emphasize the word “way” every time it appears in the song. With two electric guitars, a jamming solo was added to the end of the song, during which Tha B rocks out while Seth sets down his guitar, only to sit down at the piano and finish up with a solo to make a smooth transition to the rest of the set (the live version I’m including here is from May 27, 2005—not my best live recording of the song, but the only version I have of this particular way of performing it). Sometimes, with almost no pause, Seth would immediately count off and then launch the band into “Paperweight Machine,” which made for an exciting musical moment for those of us in the audience.

Recording began sometime in the summer of 2005 with drums and bass, and then it continued to evolve to what I think is its quintessential version for Instant Nostalgia once Seth and Brian re-vamped it in early 2006. A drum machine was used, and the solo became a freak-out jam between an electric piano and an electric guitar, filled with too many cool parts to mention.

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*The song I mentioned above is the only Bad Religion song I’ve ever heard.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Best of Everything

From Awkward Middle Phase: Seth Timbs' Home Demos, Volume One

This song was played live a few times at the very beginning of 2005 as the band was experimenting with several other new songs in order to break new ground after The Whole Shebang, the best of which was kept and became Instant Nostalgia. This one and “Bombardier,” another of my favorites, didn’t make the cut. Fortunately, we were given a copy of this song for Awkward Middle Phase.

Seth Timbs said this one was retired because of its “Foldsness,” which, not having heard enough of Osama Ben Folds to know one way or another, I could not distinguish in this song or any other. It features a great piano line as its intro and reaches toward “Smitten” in the way that it celebrates two people being together and feeling on top of the world just because of they’re together. It also has traces of “Make It Through” as it compares walking a high-wire to the earlier song's flying trapeze.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


From In the New Old-Fashioned Way

Eleven reasons why “Eleven:Eleven” would have been the perfect leading single for In the New Old-Fashioned Way:
1. Its infectious catchiness will stay in your head for hours on end.
2. Which part is the verse, and which part is the chorus? Only a large-scale vote could resolve this.
3. At the time, the band’s best bet to break free of the chains of Ben Folds comparisons was to embrace the jazz that soaked what they were doing around this time. This song is the closest the band sounds to being a jazz combo aside from “Sucker” and “Lend Me Your Ears.”
4. The solo, complete with the easily identifiable quote from Tholonious Monk’s “Straight, No Chaser,” is perfectly accentuated by a single note by Tha B, attracting fanboys the world over.
5. With its pensiveness played in such a fast and clever manner, it would attract music lovers to listen so closely to it to detect the subtleties of its story.
6. This song is surrounded by all of the best songs on In the New Old-Fashioned Way, so casual listeners who would have bought the CD just for this song would have likely found the other songs to branch them out to the awesomeness of this record.
7. The old saying is to make a wish whenever you see a clock that reads, “11:11,” and even though this song doesn’t reference this directly, it’s almost like a wish to cure some relationship woes.
8. “Vegetable Kingdom” had already been shopped on college radio stations months before, and with the new CD coming out, Spongebath set out an online vote among fans to decide whether “Drought” or “Luxury” should be the first single. I believe “Luxury” won, and I never thought it held the strength to be any type of single. And as for “Drought,” well, it would be my distant second choice after “Eleven:Eleven.”
9. I would have loved to have seen “11:11” shirts with a Fluid Ounces logo and a clock on them with the simple statement, “The Time Is Now…”
10. Did I mention how hard it is to expunge “The time is now 11:11” from your head once it gets there?
11. Irony: a three-minute song about a single minute in time.

The video presented here is from Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1999.

Monday, December 17, 2007


From Soaking in the Center of the Universe, Vol. 1

This song was originally written and performed with Ella Minopy, but Seth Timbs brought it with him to help beef up the fledgling Ounces’ sets in the early days. One of the lyrics says, “You’ve known my kind to write god with a lower case g,” which is a reference to Lower Case G’s, Ella’s only studio (or perhaps semi-studio?) release. As to whether this song appeared on that EP or if this is a pre-Ounces recording, I don’t know. (Tha B, can you help us out with that one?)

The other songs around this time focus either on love gone wrong or the ills of religion exclusively, but this song blends the two together so seamlessly that it could be about either one. Either way, we know that Seth Timbs was about to be sick!

The song is filled with brilliant little lyrical moments, so many that I won’t list them here as I’d be printing the whole song, but I’ll mention that my favorites are in its contrasts (“from my Superman heart/ to your Kryptonite eyes”) and one of my single favorite religious references in any Fluid Ounces song (“from my Mennonite heart/ to your Baptismal eyes”).

Many confused this lone b-side from Big Notebook as a live track because it ends with some raucous Ounces shouting at what sounds like some sort of drunken party, but this was obviously grafted onto the studio recording as the quality is too good to be a live recording.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Big Empty

From Big Notebook for Easy Piano and Soaking in the Center of the Universe, Vol. 1

This song begins in utter silence, with just Seth Timbs alone in the studio asking, “Is it rolling?” (Those words are not on the Soaking in the Center of the Universe version.) A single acoustic guitar then begins to lead us into a very mysterious place as whirling guitars and sustained, reverberated piano notes join it, and we hear Seth’s quietly strained words leave lots of space to breathe and think within the microcosm of this song. (It reminds me of Self’s “Placing the Blame,” only Matt Mahaffey says the word “man” at the end of a few lines, making me always think that extraneous word would work at the end of every line or every other line here.) “I’ve got bigger fish to die for,” rings out from among all the descriptions, beginning to align the many images filling the great big empty that is this relationship coming to a bitter end.

I think what makes this one jump out as a bona fide epic is when they change things up for the amazing bridge, when quietly moving along turns into shifty rhythmic piano moves as Seth begins,

“I packed my bags for a lengthy stay in a tropical place
I couldn’t keep myself contained
So, it’s official we’re ignoring monumental consequences
We just can’t erase
I love you more when you’re away
And when you’re gone I walk the floors’
I’ve got duties to ignore”

The fast delivery is juxtaposed against the space of the rest of the song, with breaking free of the “big empty” of this relationship and setting us up for “Poor Man,” the next track on the record. But the seamless transition into the end of the second half of the song shows our narrator is not quite finished with toils he’s experiencing with this relationship.

Brian Rogers has alluded to this song being a live favorite early on, describing it as both an “epic” and a “hit” (which probably explains its inclusion on the Spongebath compilation). It never emerged again on any of the line-ups I’ve ever seen, as much as I’d love to see this one performed some day.

Monday, December 10, 2007


From The Whole Shebang

On one of the many incarnations of the Fluid Ounces message boards that have come and gone, amid many discussions of what songs people wanted Fluid Ounces to revive at their live shows, I steered one such conversation toward songs that I hope I never heard played live again. Most were songs that I’m still tired of from before Seth Timbs moved to Los Angeles (“Marvel Girl” and “Luxury” come to mind—because they always seemed like easy songs added to live sets as throw-aways to add length and song-recognition to the sets), and the only one I listed that they were actually playing at the time was “Crazies.” They never played it again, and I take credit for the demise of this song, whether I had anything to do with it or not.

It’s not a bad song, but I tend to associate it with past relationships, and I think it was given too prominent a place with its frequent plays, and I just got tired of it. It does a lot of things right, though with the nice, “La da da da da da da, la da da da da da”-ing and a great piano outro.

I guess, and maybe this is brought on by the fact that I’ve done a lot of “growing up” since this song was debuted in 2001, that my chief problem is how the song flaunts its naïveté and boasts of a love that “couldn’t work out better in the movie,” yet in the end, the “love so simple it was made to go on and on and on,” for both Seth and me, proved not to be that at all. Thinking specifically of having this song played at my wedding reception, it seems to embody pride coming before a fall to me. I guess Seth doesn't feel that way about it. That is why I was surprised that it stayed in Fluid Ounces sets as long as it did, on through 2005, before I killed it.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Mountain Man from Mole Hill

From Awkward Middle Phase: Seth Timbs' Home Demos, Volume One

Written on guitar and first performed at the first of two of the band’s only piano-less sets, this one in the summer of 2000, “Mountain Man from Mole Hill” essentially takes its premise from the Beatles’ “The Fool on the Hill” and runs with it, fleshing out the ideas into a more fully realized vision of what Paul McCartney was trying to say and do.

The song begins with a marching drum intro and then ascends into a high place in which the mountain man can see the world below, comparing the people in the world below to ants as they busy themselves with making mountains out of mole hills. The song has no true chorus to speak of, using the spoken title as the refrain to punctuate each verse at the beginning and the end. Its bridges then serve as the two haiku within the song that almost show us what sets the mountain man apart from the ants as the first one says,
“And the ladder to heaven
Climbs only halfway,
But it’s over the weather
And the sun shines all day,”

while the second one says,

“And the sooner or later
Gets closer each day.
But it’s just human nature
To sit and watch and wait.”

The second of these then goes into a blistering Doug Payne solo as the song then leads back into a third verse amid some very Brian Wilson-esque backing vocals. It then cools down as it brings us down from its higher place and coasts us back into a station to go forth and work among the ants, hopefully to fight against their industry and ability to turn mountains into mole hills, whatever they may be.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Out of Your Element

Unreleased Track

It may be low quality of this recording (from January 29, 2000, my first Fluid Ounces show—though I’m not the moron recording this and asking why the minidisk player is still on “track 1” in the first few seconds of the song—I was lucky enough to find and trade for this recording), but “Out of Your Element” is not a song I reach for when looking for my favorite Fluid Ounces songs. But if I could name an anthem to concisely sum up my experiences with both college and marriage, “Out of Your Element” is it:
“When I was out of my element
I did the strangest things.
So I’m compiling up the evidence
And it doesn’t add up to anything.”
For the immediate sense that this song is about me, I do consider among my favorites, and the fact that few of you have heard this forgotten tune (until now, at least) has always kept it close to my heart as a song about me for me. It has a certain accessibility to it since it is written in “the people’s key of G,” and features one of the simplest guitar riffs for novices to emulate, unlike the rest of the catalogue entirely. The lyrics in it are ambiguous enough to be applied to anything (i.e. one’s experiences with college or marriage), making it one that I wish had caught on more so that I could hear others’ interpretations of it.

The song was among the many that debuted with the new line-up the night mentioned before, and it was because of it that the band would include guitar sets for the next six months until Justin Meyer left the band that summer. The band would not have any more guitar sets until the final line-up debuted in 2004, and it was necessary to showcase the guitar songs from The Whole Shebang. But this song never re-surfaced, and I’ve since been given the impression that Seth Timbs prefers it that way.

Maybe the demo will turn up someday anyway.

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Saturday, December 1, 2007


That's right, friends! Fluid Ounces finally have Instant Nostalgia available for sale online. Download it at their website!

Seriously, this is the one that gives In the New Old-Fashioned Way a run for its money as the best record! You've read the blogs, and now you can hear the songs!

Purchase Fluid Ounces mp3s Directly from the Band!