thanks impose magazine and yvynyl for featuring “crazy girl”
Today, Breakthru Radio releases a unique performance of “Patient Like A Lamb,” from the April ‘14 “Lamb” EP. I was joined by Streets of Laredo, Totara Jack, and pipe organist/little brother Griffin McMahon.
Christ Church NYC, a glittering golden gem of a cathedral in Uptown Manhattan, graciously invited us face-painted knot-haired be-robed & be-denimed not to mention tuxedoed misfits into their sacred space to film this little hymn for the good of all mankind.
I am eternally grateful.
Open Letter From Workman Song To You (All),
This Week’s Sermon:
“When you get older, you’ll be a soldier.”
I’m concerned about this because there are two soldiers in the world, the war one and the spirit one. These songs are not really for children but they’re addressed to a child, the one whom I hope you find in yourself.
I tried to create anticipation for this EP by releasing a video of myself dancing half-naked next to scrolling lyrics advising things like, “Your parents treat you like a child, they always will and then they’re gone so alright? Alright. Treat them good and treat them kind, take care of them, don’t send them off to some resort to die.” That’s a good thing to say out loud in thin air, you know. “Hold on tight and don’t give up, I hope you’ve been encouraged enough to believe in love and all the holy stuff and all the rights to live and the rights to truth.” I’d want to hear that. “You can never love enough, and I ain’t wrong.”
But I guess my belt was sticking out too much and looked like a penis, what with all the thrusting and dance moves. Even one of my closest friends felt he couldn’t share it with his audience because of the innocent youth in their numbers (I don’t hold it against you, Johhny boy). Only a few friends had the courage (not the only quality, just makes me feel better to say) to share it and the rest, as per usual, had difficulty getting past the length.
Of the song, I mean.
And the video quality was undesirable. And the audio quality is weird. And all these things. Standards, standards. I challenged myself, so I’m not surprised that I’m challenging other people. Stupid standards. The thing is, I am yet unable to produce a higher quality recording on my own. This is the best I can do right now. This is the proud peak!
…As of today. (Which day is it? The one that matters? Or the one that doesn’t? …Amen.)
But honestly, I still think it sounds better than all the shit out there that takes no risks. And I don’t claim that rhetoric for myself only. I feel I’m not the only one going underground with a shitty audio interface and cheap cables and whatever illegally downloaded recording software I can find on thepiratebay and trying to lay the hits down at my nine roommates’ convenience.
I’m pretty sure I actually broke laws making this EP. I know for a fact my living situation is probably illegal, for starters.
But how relevant is that shit anyway? There’s still a red button in an oval-shaped office that blows up a city somewhere. And sampling Paul McCartney without permission is a bad thing? (Please help me get in touch with him, I feel I owe him a flower.)
I’m not afraid of failure, I’m actually just half-petrified of it. Because if no one cares then maybe my work is shit and I deserve it, and I can deal with that. But I’m pretty damn sure that I’m trying hard to help people with this work, trying to put a message out there, in a pretty sonorous, tuneful, polite, and reasonable way (hip thrusts aside). And if that gets ignored, then I’m actually afraid for the world.
To be clear, I have been to date unable to remove one foot from the traditions of teaching and seeing that have regularly, throughout our human history, spotted a ridiculous spiritual climax on the horizon featuring a planetary awakening and mass-scale resurrection of the dead, etc. I have always thought the best safeguard against developing a messiah complex is to acknowledge the pre-existence of a messiah who is definitely not you. In my case, I’m too much of an optimist to take my attempts at this work too seriously because God. My wires are too crossed from years of esoteric study on the internet to make an elevator pitch that will convert anybody to one just faith or cause. Which I won’t, which I didn’t, which I don’t, because God. Lol
Which is why I make these weird songs, with weird lyrics, with weird lengths, with weird sounds. “Wrong, wrong, wrong.” I prefer to remain ten steps ahead but I will always be just a few degrees off anyway. That’s where you can really have a lot of power, but that’s just because you’re hidden in the periphery and retain some freedom in your obscurity.
I say all this in order to dedicate this music to you. I wish the world were a better place. The last EP, Lamb, was all about “all the things I wish I could see in the world.” This one is more about what I do see, “a thousand lamps — but there’s no light.” If I seem like am challenging you, I don’t step back from that. I hope you accept a challenge. There’s no movement for you to join that I’m leading or a part of, it’s just a feeling I hope we can share. A feeling, in the sense of the word implied by this statement from some Metropolitan in a Jacob Needleman book*, “Kill emotion. Cultivate feeling.”
This EP is something I had to do, kind of an impulsive purge of some feelings I captured, yet uncultivated, which I do not yet understand, something obscure which alludes to something greater but is not yet fully inspired to finish its transformation. Lamb was elegant, refined, this one’s more of a crack-up. I love the untoward amount of audio compression all these tracks are subjected to, not just because it’s the only way I could find to make them pump alright on shitty laptop speakers (that’s important to me), but because the feelings they contain are also in confinement. That’s how I feel in life, honestly. Confined to a time in which things are starting to make sense but the madness is still enthroned.
Or deeply entrenched, more likely.
And, by the way, this is how I believe we all feel. Or, shit, I’ll go the extra mile: ought to feel. At least enough to be in balance with a handful of other feelings we ought to have about, you know, the shit.
Well, enjoy “Soldier,” it’s bouncy, not dark, not light, just true-ish, for the kids. I recommend you study the lyrics of “Menorahs,” it’s a great introduction to secret histories of the world (probably false), esoteric extra-biblical exegesis, and it’s also pretty bouncy.
“When People Are Better Than You” and “Pockets” are the most important songs of this release.
I should have explained earlier that Ion Zelig is a character that comes to mind (whom, I guess, I inhabit) when I write experimental music, particularly electronic. He is probably half-robot, a Martian scientist, and all that. He is a bit spindly and weird, but benevolent. This, actually, really is the third volume of Ion Zelig experiments I’ve published, it’s not just a clever name. I can’t remember where the other two volumes are located. Somewhere on the internet. Probably listed under “Sean McMahon.”
Anyway, I meant to close.
Enjoy the sermon that is “Sophia Is Smiling.” That one will take me a long time to figure out, but it grows on me. Similarly, you will ask yourself at the end of this EP, “Why ‘Veronica’?” I’m there with you.
aka Workman Song
*Needleman, Jacob. Lost Christianity. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980. Print. If not a quote, appropriate paraphrase.
A blurb featuring a blurb written by yours truly, re: Ion Zelig Vol. III, December Ace Hotel Residency:
“I want people to hear this and leave it with the feelings I intended to infect them with: peace, joy, courage. But I also don’t fully understand the feelings yet. There’s a lot of frustration, a lot of cynicism I have, that through this music I am making peace with and finding courage to be a soldier, a crusader, an advocate. Or at least a loving man.”
Bushwick Daily does me a solid and helps promote this December’s Ace Hotel Residency:
“Playing for free in the lobby of Ace Hotel, you can catch his completely unfiltered performance of beautiful ballads that unfold with layers of complex lyrics and mellow guitar riffs.”
Workman Song is the cooler version of Alex Ebert from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. Workman Song establish a cool, distant electric sound—one that leaves you wondering if you’re tapping your foot to the folk-beat or the hypnotizing echo of Sean McMahon’s voice.