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Entry date: 6-11-2024 – Why Are Weeks So Long? – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

I’m pretty blessed in a lot of ways.

 

The last two days I’ve been part of long jams with people I love and in the midst of all the jamming, we didn’t really play a single song. It was just jams. It feels so good. The more I do this, the more I want to let the freak flag fly and one day do a show where the whole set is improvised.

 

It seems like it would be a really freeing experience to just be a feral musician on a stage in front of people who would get to have a completely unique experience. No two shows would ever be the same. Think about that. Some friends of mine did it for a while and seemed to love it.

 

It would be super noisy and that’s okay.

 

***** 

 

The week already seems long and this is only the second day of it. I am rooting for a low turnout at camp today. Yesterday was kind of a low turnout and then one of the teachers got called away, so our groups doubled in size. It was awful.

 

We shall see in a couple of hours what awaits.

 

One of the things the older kids seem to enjoy sharing is their disdain for white people. I tread on dangerous ground here, but over the past two weeks I have heard at least a half dozen students mutter under their breath something derogatory about me in relation to the color of my skin. They don’t own it, of course, but it makes you wonder about where they are learning this stuff. The fact of the matter, though, is that our country is divided in so many ways that it really doesn’t surprise me at all.

 

I’m a white male in a primarily brown neighborhood and I get that people might not want to see a person like on the regular. It doesn’t take away from my love for my job or my desire to serve the kids I serve. Hopefully I help them see that we are all pretty much the same in terms of what we want and need.

 

I suppose experiencing this would suggest that I have had some sort of white, male, heterosexual privilege and I certainly have benefitted from being who I am in a lot of ways. I’ve also seen the world from other lenses in my life to the point where I know I’m lucky and I know that I’ve also been very unlucky. I don’t need to wave a flag, though, or reach for a victim card when I’m not a victim.

 

It's not a terrible thing to be the “white guy” who wants the kids to be accountable, listen, and enjoy their summer camp without hurting anyone. I guess that makes me lame. Oh well, it’s not the first or last time that will happen.

 

*****  

 

Few albums have been as instantly shocking to me as Snakeboy by Killdozer.  This was an impulse purchase hastened by reading a write-up in a magazine. Probably Flipside, but it could have been something else. The name, “Killdozer,” was instantly attractive to me. The music, though, I guess I have to say I was not quite ready for it in 1986.

 

Snakeboy starts out with what I now find to be a very humorous song called “King of Sex.” The song itself is pretty simplistic. Killdozer has a big, pulverizing sound and singer/bassist (who doesn’t love a bass player who sings?) Michael Gerald has a very unique singing style and voice. He just sounds like someone you don’t want to fuck with. “King of Sex” was intimidating to me when it first came out of my speakers.

 

Akin to Flipper, Killdozer doesn’t try to blow you away with dazzling musicianship or fast songs. They just bludgeon their way through Snakeboy and after you get past Gerald shouting at you, there is the realization that these guys, which include the Hobson brothers, Bill (guitar) and Dan (drums), really can play a little bit.

 

I finally embraced Snakeboy once I listened to the aforementioned Flipper on the Let Them Eat Jellybeans compilation in 1988. Hearing Flipper reminded me that I had this weird record in my collection with two boys on the cover, so I went back and dug in again. I was now truly ready for Killdozer.

 

There is a lot to unpack on Snakeboy. Lyrically, you have to really pay attention to what Gerald is sing/shouting/screaming at you. His lyrics are pretty fucking brilliant on this one. To be honest, I hear something new in there every time I listen. The guy really excels at painting a pretty dire picture of life.

 

“Going to the Beach” is a perfect example of this. Gerald sings about going to the lake and kind of makes a list of the things he is going to do there. It doesn’t sound particularly appealing, and it is punctuated by a really melancholy bit of guitar noise by Bill Hobson.

 

I think I was initially pretty confused by the nightmare-ish aspect of songs like “River,” too. The song sounds like the background music of an awful nightmare. I think it is the violin work on the song by a lady named Jessica Noll. She really laid into the weirdness.

 

One song later, though, and the riff is way less scary. “Live Your Life Like You Don’t Exist” is one of my favorites on Snakeboy. I like how the band just milks the main riff for a long time and then it sort of dies before morphing into a weird, talky bit. You listen to Snakeboy and just shake your head. This is the mark of an interesting record.

 

“Don’t Cry” could easily be a Flipper song and, come to think of it, lots of Flipper songs could easily be Killdozer songs. If anything, Killdozer is a bit more melodic in odd places. “Don’t Cry” kind of reminds me of watching a boxer who is clearly beaten but won’t go down. He or she just keeps throwing punches as their face continues to swell. You want it to be over but you can’t turn away.

 

I love the cover of “Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young & Crazy Horse. There are a ton of good covers by Killdozer on their records (including the super fun For Ladies Only from 1989. I have to wonder if Neil Young ever heard this cover (and thanks to ChatGPT I know that he did and he liked it). I would have guessed that he wouldn’t have cared for it, but Neil Young is always full of surprises.

 

Killdozer could have easily mailed it in from here, but over the years, I’ve grown to like the B side of Snakeboy just as much as the A side. “Gone to Heaven” is another one where I dig Gerald’s vocal delivery. He’s a bit less gruff at the outset and it lulls you into a false sense of security. Then Bill Hobson delivers a bunch of feedback layered guitar skronk that is truly worthy of one Neil Young. Great stuff.

 

“Revelations” is a cool, dirge-y riff that kind of takes the blues out behind the shed and dresses it up like a perverted circus clown. Listen to it and tell me I’m wrong. “Burning House” is a direct challenge, I think, to the listener to stay strong in the face of Gerald clearly attempting to melt down on tape. Get it? “Burning House”/melting down.

 

Spend enough time with Killdozer and your sense of humor changes.

 

“Big Song of Love” is fine moment of Dan Hobson and Gerald linking up really well to provide Bill Hobson a chance to kind of take wing. The lyrics are also great.

 

“I was born in South Dakota/I was born on the wrong side of the fence. I was born under a mossy stump and I was born and I was left for dead.”

 

“57” is another kind of unnerving one. Something about it reminds me of the sounds a large group of people might make if they were having tremendous pain inflicted on them. Don’t take it the wrong way. I love it, but it does make me uncomfortable.

 

I love Killdozer, though. I wish I could have seen them live. Snakeboy forever.

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



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