Monday, January 25, 2016

Mere Mortals: Capsized.

I've been on a hiatus. Having not posted since August makes me a little warm under the collar, like I'm letting someone down. Not that there is any expectation I keep this thing up, but having had a decent run so far with the little expectations I put on myself in the first place, a little shame creeps in when I re-browse my past posts then look at the date today and realize it's been five months since I've said anything on here. Though my absence was for a good reason. My band, Great Reversals, did, for us anyway, the unthinkable! We wrote and recorded an eleven song record! Prior to this the most we could muster was five songs at a time, those were the first five songs we wrote. Every release since has been in the two to four song range, all of which took a long time to write and release. An LP was unthinkable, but the riffs kept coming. We went from five or six songs kicking around to a solid eleven in a year! Hell, we even wrote a twelfth song in the studio for another split release! We're on fire! Writing lyrics for all these songs was a task, but they're all mine. Besides some edits and rearranges here and there every song on the record is my words. I know there are a billion bands putting out a billion records and a billion lyricists writing a billion songs and I'm just one more on the heap, but I'm proud none the less. Our previous releases have been pretty lyrically collaborative, so while I've felt proud of those, I haven't felt as much pride as I do in this one. 

We've decided to allow the songs and lyrics on the record to speak for themselves for this release. What that means is that in the past I've written explanations in the liner notes for each song, it's a pretty traditional thing to do in hardcore bands who value their message or ideas as much as they value their music. There's heavy debate at times about whether this adds to or takes away from the art aspect of the project. There is certainly value in allowing the listener/reader to take from the songs what they will without guidance. We've been inclined in the opposite direction in the past, understanding that this aggressive music is a peculiar form of expression and that poetry, which is what I think most lyricists are shooting for, can leave many in the dark if the idea behind the poetry gets muddied in the delivery. I mean, "you can't even understand what they're saying!" More than anything this tradition may be rooted in trying to persuade our moms and dads that we are actually saying something of value. So here we are at what I'd call a happy medium. The record itself won't have any notes about the songs, save a small essay about the general concept of the record. But I've decided I'll do a series here to jump-start the year by expounding on each song one at a time. Perhaps you have no interest in what the band is doing, I get that, but at least I'll be able to show you what I've been working on.

The record is titled: MERE MORTALS. I'll explain that choice at the end of the series. 

Track One: Capsized

I could've been born from pain. I could've been conceived in hate. I could’ve been created with a craving in my veins. Consider me lucky, in a cold and callous world, consider me lucky. I could've been raised knowing nothing but war, trafficked in a world we abhor, or forced from home only to wash lifelessly ashore. For all that could've been I still sleep through days and squander nights too insecure to take the reigns or aspire to great heights. Painfully aware that everything I cling to will be torn away. One single moment, it could all end. In one single moment it will all end. All the could've-beens will be no more. There will be no alternate realities to explore. I'm lucky to have known so little woe, but can't escape the shame of the world’s pain that I'm lucky enough to ignore. In one single moment it will all end.

While I've written before (specifically here) about feeling lucky to have grown up where, when, and with whom I did, the words for this song came out of seeing the Syrian refugee boy, Aylan Kurdi, who washed ashore in Turkey last September after his family attempted to sail to the Greek Island of Kos. Abdullah Kurdi, the surviving father of the boy, lost his two sons and wife in this single trip. Listen to his testimony:

"The Turk [smuggler] jumped into the sea, then a wave came and flipped us over. I grabbed my sons and wife and we held onto the boat," Mr. Kurdi said, speaking slowly in Arabic and struggling at times for words.
"We stayed like that for an hour, then the first [son] died and I left him so I can help the other, then the second died, so I left him as well to help his mom and I found her dead. ... What do I do. ... I spent three hours waiting for the coast guard to come. The life jackets we were wearing were all fake. ...
"My wife is my world and I have nothing, by God. I don't even think of getting married again or having more kids. ... I am choking, I cannot breathe. They died in my arms."
A few weeks ago my wife and I had a discussion with my folks about the state of our faith and thoughts on faith in general. I did my best to explain that I can't wrap my mind around the idea of 'blessings.' If I were to try and summarize my parents' faith, from what they've reiterated over the years and stated again in this conversation, it would boil down to a sense of feeling God's blessings through their faith. In their experience, and they've experienced many hard times as well, God has provided time and again what they've needed to live the life they've wanted to live. My only rebuttal to that is that while they are lucky enough to feel that, people all over the world, many living in faith as well to their god or one by another name, are suffering losses we can only imagine, praying to be able to live the life they'd like to live. What about Abdullah Kurdi? Can you imagine what he's feeling? What about Aylan Kurdi? A child, the least of these? Where is his blessing? 

Last week a friend and I were talking faith, she mentioned that in travels she's met people who seemingly have the least to be thankful for but have the largest faith. Is it possible that faith is simply being genuinely grateful for what you DO have? Is that where the idea of blessings comes from?

While some may call it a blessing, the fact that I'm able to sit here writing lyrics and writing essays that are too long about what my lyrics are trying to say in the bloggosphere, is sheer, utter, stupid luck. I know I need to be more grateful for it, and really, I need to do more with it to help those less lucky. For I could've been born from pain, or hate, or born with an addiction feeding through my veins. I could've been born in a land that only knows war, trafficked into slavery, or, like Aylan Kurdi, lived three years just to wash lifelessly ashore. But instead I sit here wondering about my place in the world, in the comfort of my warm home, with my beautiful wife and child, asleep in their beds, knowing that at any moment something could upend all of this comfort, but likely wont for some time. Consider me lucky.

(Turkish shoreline image stolen from

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