Over the Battlements b-w Kids

New Single

Hope everyone had a delightful winter break. The last time we sent a single out, there had recently been an election, and so too we now find ourselves releasing music amid the wake of a major event. Suspicious though it may seem, I assure you that such overlaps are entirely coincidental.

None-the-less, we have a single. Our fearless leader, Slitzky, assures me that this recording, “doesn’t suck.” High praise from a man who can’t stand U2. Ask him about it.

Over the Battlements

And with that observation in mind, we now turn to the lyrical content of this particular piece, and so return to one of my more uplifting preoccupations: the trenches of WWI.

Astute listeners will note the odd time signature, which I derived by repeatedly botching a riff while trying to write a Son Volt inspired rock anthem. Most of the song is in 7/4, which is a tough time signature to play in; you constantly feel like the rug is being pulled out from under you. 7/4 has a fine tradition in rock music, most notably “Money” by Pink Floyd and “Solsbury Hill” by Peter Gabriel, but it is unusual and examples are far and few between.

I landed, somewhat accidentally, on this rhythm and thought it would be the perfect backdrop for some thoughts on the horrors experienced by soldiers in war. In my few conversations with veterans about their wartime experiences, I always get a sense of unending tension, interminable stretches of boredom broken by moments of existential terror. I get the sense that the “breaks” are preferable to the monotony, which may go some way toward explaining why some vets find it difficult to transition back to a stable (boring) domestic life.

The western front of WWI seems a particular brand of horror to me; a confined, sodden, semi-subterranean existence punctuated by suicidal forays into all manner of poison and eviscerating obstacles and projectiles. Is it any wonder, then, that the shock of this event cast such a long shadow? From Tolkien’s devilishly mechanized orcs to the rise of Fascism, we see that anyone placed in that situation would question the fundamental truth of their reality.

And so the protagonist of this song, an American Marine, lands in the trenches and oscillates between observations on the absurdity of his position and questions about his seemingly inevitable demise. His sentiment gradually moves from the soldier’s spirit de corps to existential crisis.

I suppose my takeaway from all of this is that we should think very carefully about what could be worth subjecting people to this, and also that we should try, at times, to see the world through the eyes of those who have been through these experiences, both to learn more about them, and possibly, to learn more about ourselves.

This track features the usual cast of characters; Dan Sauve-Rogan, David Slitzky, Niles Krieger, This Guy; as well as a really moving part by Will Violette on Rhodes piano and B3 organ. Will did some work with me on Mobjack and a few other projects here and there, but he’s been kind enough to start sitting in on our annual winter tracking sessions on the regular, for which we are endlessly grateful.


For our semi-monthly cover song, we selected Kids by MGMT. I’ve always thought that this song was deeper than the bubble-gum EDM it’s associated with. It has an elegant structure, a deceptively simple melody, and a compelling narrative for those who care to stop and listen to the lyrics.

My favorite elements of this particular production are Rob Ashley’s ethereal backing vocals and Dan Sauve-Rogan’s earthy bass line. Niles’ fiddle and guitar parts are similarly delicious, and Slitzky once again turns in a performance with Helmsian subtlety.

Tracking Notes

We got together for our annual recording session in late December and, once again, far exceeded our expectations in terms of both quantity and quality. Assuming our semi-monthly release schedule, we now have enough material to continue through 2018. That’s not a typo; we will be releasing new material every other month for at least the next two years.

Needless to say, we’re ecstatic! Overdubs, mixing and mastering continue apace, but the short story is that this project is officially a going concern. Tell your friends…

Keep your ear to the ground for the next release, and in the meantime, send this one along to anyone who you think would enjoy.

Thank you,

By the by, my wife Kathy informs me I used the word “existential” twice in this email.

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