Monday, January 28, 2008

Record Stack

From Big Notebook for Easy Piano and Soaking in the Center of the Universe, Vol. 2

So the story goes that the band in its shortest official line-up (Seth Timbs, Doug Payne, Trev Wooten, and Elliott Currie—Jason Dietz had just left, and this line-up played two shows before Sam Baker resumed the drum duties) went to New York City in spring of 2000 to play in a showcase for the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and could only play two songs. The people initially took no note of the little piano band from Nashville, treating them with the curt uppitiness of big-city folk seeing another in a long of line of country bumpkins playing for their “big break” in the big, scary city. The story goes that the band played “Make It Through” first, and then a band member, presumably Doug, turned to Seth and insisted they play “Record Stack.” The people there had never heard the song before, and although Seth was tired of it from playing it at every show since he was in Ella Minopy, he conceded. The crowd went crazy, and the band was treated very well after that. So the story goes, at least.

This is easily the single most memorable song in the entire Fluid Ounces canon. It leaps out from among the throngs, whether sitting in the middle of the record on which it was released or in the middle or at the end of a Fluid Ounces live set. There are other Fluid Ounces songs that infuse an Eastern-European groove, but none that execute it so accessibly. And more than that—it’s just so catchy! For these reasons, it has always been a crowd pleaser, and it has been a standard in the set for every line-up of Fluid Ounces and almost every show before 2006.

As Seth once said, he compacted a long, mostly bad relationship into a one-night stand and subsequent “month in sin,” to describe this song that uses rhyme as its strongest component in its lyrical tango. The chief image defining the song is when he sings, “I had her in the sack / But just that once.” Attaching anything that rhymes with “sack,” we are given the song’s title; the line, “she smoked the last in the pack;” and the high-point of the song, when Seth sings, “So I got my records back / I smashed my Marshall stack,” followed by a loud thunder of discordant piano and guitar. The chorus is the unforgettable singing-borderlined-on-shouting of “La da da da da da,” which is perhaps what makes this song both so catchy, so easily (probably too easily) accessible, and so memorable. (Using the same chords, the Features would later modify this chorus into their classic, “Thursday.”) You can hear Seth scratch his throat numerous times during the recording, giving it a remarkable intensity that is a counterpoint to the Robin Wilson comparisons that his voice would get, especially after the release of the second record.

The song goes into its final chorus after a brief pause on the recording, which Seth would turn into a moment to add something surprising to each live show—a random saying (“this song has been brought to you by chicken tenders”) or, more often than not, a snippet from a random song—from random Irish drinking songs to Self’s “Better Than Aliens” to whatever strikes Seth’s fancy when the song is performed.

By the summer of 2005, as the song was at least nine or ten years old, Seth and Brian Rogers were tired of playing “the hit,” tired of it getting yelled out by show-goers and tired of practicing it, and so it gradually fell on the back-burner, not having been performed, to my recollection, since December 9, 2005. My official prediction is that this song might get played one additional time before the band calls it quits for good.

I understand why the band is tired of it. I’m tired of it too. I’ll admit it was the first song to leap out at me when I first heard Big Notebook on the first night I ever listened to the band, and I was elated a few weeks later when I heard them live for the first time and they played it (if the recording wasn’t such low quality, I’d post that cut of it because Justin’s drumming on it is sooo tight with the band!). But as the Doug Payne era went on, I began to feel like Fluid Ounces was becoming a shadow of its former self, re-treading In the New Old-Fashioned Way songs a little too much, and this song was among those I became tired of. It was performed once with horns, at The Whole Shebang release party, which is the mp3 I’m providing here for download in all its epic glory. With the final line-up, I accepted this song as a necessary evil in each set. Now that it’s been gone so long, I find myself wishing they would rock it out one more time for a random encore some night. Here’s to hoping, I guess.

Download Live mp3

Here's a video where it is paired with "Ambiance," which I never would have put with this song and am happy to discover this new cohesive live moment.

6 comments:

Soymilk Revolution said...

that NYC story is fantastic! can someone in the band (or that iteration of it, specifically) give a little more details about this anecdote?

great song, by the way. funny, never noticed how the features reappropriated it...but you can tell they were fans, since i believe on the Thunder 94 radio performance they jammed on the chorus to it at the end of one of their own songs. i can dig up which it was in particular if you're interested.

Anonymous said...

Always a fun one to play, even if we did tire of it...
-J

Kerriffic said...

back in 2004, I was at a party at Bingham Barnes house and Seth was there. He asked me If I was coming to the Fluid Ounces show the next night (the debut of the current line-up)and i replied that I had to work but was going to try and get out early. Seth replied "you have to come! we're gonna play Record Stack!!" Someone turned around and said "do you still play that song?!?!?" Seth just said "i will always have to play that song, Its our "hit" Sure enough I made it out to the show and they played Record Stack.

This is one of my favorite songs, possibly my favorite from Big Notebook.

This had been absent from the set for about 2 years noe which is alright. Peach and I have been yelling for it at the past fews shows, but no dice. a great return?

this song got some dancing at my New Year's party. (peach, you left early!)

Kerriffic said...

another memory attached to this song was when I tried to get my crazy Hot-lanta girlfriend into the Ounces.

We listened to Big Notebook and her reaction was "what's this guys problem?" I asked to explain and she said "that record stack song! she fucked him then left! he needs to get over it!" i tried to explain but she didn't really care...it ironic considering how our relationship was. I always felt I had HER in the sack "just that once" even though we had an on and off type relationship, in the end it felt like a wham-bam thank you type relationship.

in the song, he pines over it because it was THAT GOOD! right?

Tom Foolery said...

"WOOO! Play 'Record Player'!!!"

I still think that this blog should've employed a "Record Stack" rating system for each song. For example, you could rate "Selma Lou" as "4 out 5 Record Stacks." I would've even made cool little icons to go along with it.

Juan Horsetown said...

It's never too late to start a back log of song ratings...

Purchase Fluid Ounces mp3s Directly from the Band!