My 3 Addictions: An interactive album

My 3 Addictions is the 2007 album by Elastic No-No Band. Download the original album from ENB's Bandcamp page.
New Deluxe Edition coming in January 2013!


MY 3 ADDICTIONS Re-Release with bonus tracks!

A new version of the album for 2013, featuring 10 bonus tracks: live recordings, demos, and some demented elevator music.

I also put together some amusing video footage of the band, shot while we modeled for the album cover.

Grab My 3 Addictions (Deluxe Edition) on iTunes or stream it on Spotify.


My 3 Addictions is what you're listening to now on this jukebox-looking thing:

This blog was started September 3, 2007, and a new song was posted every other day until September 23. At that point, every track from the album was posted here, available as a stream. There used to be many more bonus tracks and extra mp3s posted here, but I took them down when I shut down the Elastic No-No Band website at the end of 2011. Still there's more than enough junk here to keep you busy.

Please enjoy hearing and reading about the album, and if you want to buy the CD. And feel free to visit our Bandcamp page.

For an even more detailed explanation of the deal with the album and this blog, please visit this handy FAQ's page: What is MY 3 ADDICTIONS?

Tighter than Steely Dan's... ahem... Some words from Toby Goodshank

Toby Goodshank (of [alphabetically] Bearded Witness, Christian Pirate Puppets, Double Deuce, Huggabroomstik, The Moldy Peaches, The Tri-Lambs... and creator of almost two dozen albums of his own) kindly shares these words about My 3 Addictions:

The new Elastic No-No Band album is fantastic! The instrumentation is about as lush as a rock band can provide without adding a pit orchestra. The vocal harmonies are on-point and layered to a rich effect. The production is tighter than Steely Dan’s asshole (as they say). I find the disc to be an enjoyable listen the whole way through.


01. My 3 Addictions

"01. My 3 Addictions" - free download from Bandcamp

" 'My 3 Addictions' is now my new favorite Elastic No-No Band song. I enjoyed hearing it live before it was recorded. It's a well recorded folk song. If this was the 1990s, the Elastic No-No Band would be able to get a gig at the Peach Pit 90210-style with this one song. Bravo, brothers." --Thomas Patrick Maguire (Check Tom out at our CD release show.)

Hi, my name is Justin Remer (pictured left; photo by Herb Scher), and I am the leader of Elastic No-No Band, an antifolk, acousti-quirk pop band, with occasional '50s rock and country music tendencies.

And here it is. As that guy from Cheap Trick once said (and was sampled by the Beastie Boys on Check Your Head), this is the first song on our new album.

It's an album I started writing in January 2005, not knowing it would turn into the album it did, and not knowing it would take almost three years to complete. (That first January song is actually "Nobody's Wife (You're the One)," which is the last track on the CD, so you'll have to wait for that nailbiter of a story to come in about 20 days.)

The writin'

This tune got its start in May '05, if my journal is correct (and, frankly, why would I lie to me?). I had been going to New York's East Village and playing the Antihootenanny open mic at Sidewalk Cafe -- the home of Antifolk music -- and I had been doing that pretty much every Monday night since that February. It was just me alone, but I called myself "Elastic No-No Band."

I had tried out a number of new songs, including "You Think It's Wrong (To Sing Along)" and "Jeanette Is Working" that wound up on the lo-fi CD-R albums I was making at the time, using the voiceover recording equipment at NYU, where I went to film school. (I had graduated at this point, but was finishing up the editing on my thesis film. The film is about a guy in a motel room waiting for a hooker to show up, but then again, isn't every student film like that?) These recordings later wound up on The Very Best of Elastic No-No Band So Far, ENB's first official CD.

You can see the video for "Jeanette Is Working" below; it features ENB's bass player Preston Spurlock eating popcorn and lip-synching, even though he didn't play on the recording.

Meanwhile, this song "My 3 Addictions" is a rip-off. I took the strumming pattern of a song I had already done, "Something You Should Know," and changed the chords a little bit. (Click on the link, and you'll probably hear the similarity.) This greatly concerned me at the time, because I thought it was a bit early for me to be running out of ideas and having to cannibalize my own stuff, but now I realize that I have no original ideas and that's probably for the best.

According to my journal, I played this song for the first time at the open mic at about 2am, which is a luxury I could afford myself when I had no steady job and had time to worry about having original ideas. I remember Frank Hoier (pictured right; he plays harmonica on a couple of songs on this album) was an early fan of the song, especially the third verse about women who won't date me. Feeling very single at the time, Frank could relate to the idea of all the women he liked already in the midst of dating someone else. Unfortunately for someone, I still have this problem, but Frank does not.

The recordin'

The two most notable things about the recording for me are the cowbell and the Electribe.

The cowbell doesn't have much of a story. Our new drummer Doug Johnson liked the sound and used it. I liked it, and we kept it. The end.

The Electribe is a synth/drum-machine type deal that Preston has frequently used in his Sewing Circle shows. And after all the other recording was done, Preston thought he would try to improv some bleeps and bloops over "My 3 Addictions." So Preston did a once-through with the Electribe, and most of it didn't gel, but there were some moments that were close.

So Major Matt Mason USA (who recorded the album; pictured left) and me, we were like, "That bit was sort of good, try and do that but more like this," and Preston just shrugged and said, "I can't." The problem with the Electribe is that if you twist a bunch of knobs and push a bunch of buttons to make different sounds, you can't recreate it for take 2. So we all stroked our respective facial hair, and Preston ceded that maybe it just wasn't working and should be scrapped.

Matt said, "But I like that sound right at the beginning." I agreed. And so that 2-second bleep-bloop at the beginning is all that remains of Preston's 3-minute improvisation.

02. Part 1: Food/03. Cheese Fries

"03. Cheese Fries" - free download on Bandcamp

I asked a bunch of my fellow musician friends to come up with responses to My 3 Addictions and/or to specific songs, hence the Toby Goodshank and Thomas Patrick Maguire blurbs above.

John from The Telethons volunteered a few Robert Christgau-style song reviews. (By which, I mean they are short capsule reviews, like Christgau writes; not ill-considered, pompous, and usually wrong reviews, like Christgau writes.)

Here what John thinks of "Cheese Fries":

"I don't eat cheese fries, and I'm not sure if this song has changed my opinion of them, but I'll be damned if this isn't one of the catchiest songs about food I've ever heard. The whole 'giving them as Christmas presents' seems like a particularly perverse gift idea, now that I think of it."

The writin'

Like some of the other songs on this album, this little number comes straight out of my experience working at Troma Entertainment, the movie company who brought you The Toxic Avenger movies, Surf Nazis Must Die and the South Park guys' first movie, Cannibal! The Musical.

I worked for Troma for about a year and a half as the DVD production manager and head video editor (I was an intern for them during my NYU days before that, and somehow I still decided I wanted to work there).

One thing remained constant during my time at Troma: unhealthy lunches. Nothing like wandering down to the nearby cheap Mexican place, all-you-can-eat Indian (the all-you-can-eat being the unhealthy part), Wendy's, or Pluck U, and trying to refrain from eating shit (I mean that figuratively, despite the fact that there is feces in fast food).

Sometimes -- like when one works around 50 hours a week for a salary that winds up equalling less than minimum wage, editing bonus features for movies about heroin-addicted fetuses and zombie comedies -- one must revel in fast food's sweet, sweet shit. And so, in addition to sauce-soaked chicken fingers dipped in blue cheese sauce, one forgoes standard dietary logic and also gets cheese fries.

After one day where a goodly portion of lunchtime chatter had been taken up with the subject of some particularly cheesy fries I had purchased and consumed, I went home and started messing around with a kind of bluesy-sounding chord progression I had already hit upon and just decided to sing the phrase "Cheese Fries" over it. The lyrical brainstorming continued from there.

I've sort of been surprised at how well-received "Cheese Fries" is when folks hear it in live shows or hear the stripped-down solo recording of it on the The Very Best of Elastic No-No Band So Far. I've always thought of it as a throwaway, but (as with our song "Let's Fuck") what seems to me a silly throwaway turns out to be goofy enough and simple enough to get stuck in folks' heads.

And I guess it connects with people's own feelings about food. As Major Matt has said on a few occasions: "The song's right. They do make no sense."

The band

In late 2005, after becoming enough of a recognized regular at the Antihootenanny open mic, I started playing shows at Sidewalk Cafe. And at these shows, for at least a couple numbers, I would try to use some of the fellows I met at Sidewalk to flesh out the tunes: Preston Spurlock (left, in the picture at right), who now mostly plays bass, although he has played keyboard, melodica, glockenspiel, and accordion at various times; Herb Scher (right; he also took this photo of the band), who plays piano and occasional other keyboard stuff; and Clint Scheibner (unpictured), who would play a bass drum strapped to himself as though he were in a marching band. (If I think of it, I will youtube some footage of this permutation of Elastic No-No Band and post it in a future entry.)

Clint has moved on, and somehow Preston and Herb became official members of the band -- maybe just because they kept agreeing to show up to gigs. Earlier this year we added my former roommate Doug Johnson to the band; he plays a regular drum kit.

I think this is one of the songs that really takes off thanks to the band (even though the field-recording sound of the Very Best Of... So Far version of this song that I did by myself is kind of fun). Preston's groovy bass line and Herb's jazzy piano lead form the fun of the tune, in my opinion. Doug's good too, but I ain't gonna lie, this song doesn't require him to do anything too fancy -- but he'll wow you later in the album.

The recordin'

Matt was very excited to put a Moogerfooger filter effect on Preston's bass in Pro Tools. You can hear it during the bridges ("And I know that they taste like dung"). When Preston first heard the effect, he was very pleased and said it reminded him of a Ween song. I don't know Ween, so I just nodded, smiled, and changed the subject.

BONUS TRACK (FREE DOWNLOAD!) - What's up with this?
*Cheese Fries (live - 18 Feb. 2007) - This is the full 4-piece band doing the song at the Winter Antifolk Fest. It was the first time all four of us played together. This version is included on No-No's (Leftovers and Live Songs).

04. Coffee Den

"Easily one of the most poignant songs about that dude in the corner of Starbucks reading Dostoyevsky a little too obviously." - John from The Telethons

One day when the Doug-free trio version of ENB was practicing, between songs we were discussing what sort of additional instruments would be nice to add to certain songs.

Preston said, "Whatever you do, don't put a cello on 'Coffee Den,' it'll just make it sort of maudlin and sappy."

And on that note, I am pleased to introduce "Coffee Den" as the first of three songs on this album that include Tianna Kennedy (right) on cello.

Fortunately for all of us, Tianna doesn't play the cello in a maudlin and sappy sort of way. She's able to add interesting colorations to the sound without making it blatantly "emotional."

Out of character

Frankly, Elastic No-No Band almost never plays this song live. It's not that it's necessarily a buzzkill, but when folks think of us, I don't think "portraits of isolated, lonely people" immediately pops into their head. (Maybe it does; we do have more than one song like this.)

After all, Phil Collins (left) had to cut down on performing lesser-known ballads during stadium shows because... well... frankly, people got bored.

"Play 'In the Air Tonight,' you twat!"

"Su-su-suddio! Not this!"

So usually when I make out a set list, this tune gets passed up. But that's the beauty of recording, because now the song gets it due, I think. I mean, it's not a lesser song of ours. It's just out of character.


When I went to see Tianna, after first giving her the work-in-progress recording of this song, she asked me which Kierkegaard book I thought the fellow in the song was reading.

"Is it Either/Or?" she asked.

Frankly, I don't know Kierkegaard, so I just nodded, smiled, and changed the subject.

05. Sundaes on a Sunday Afternoon

When I asked folks I know to take a listen to My 3 Addictions and write responses, I didn't know what to expect. I sort of wanted blurbs, but I sort of wanted interesting stories, and basically I wanted to see what people's reactions would be.

Today, I got an email from Mike Baglivi (pictured far right, with his band Heroes of the Open End), in response to my prodding: "Hey, you said you would write about 'Sundaes on a Sunday Afternoon,' where's it at?"

To say Mike's email about the song was unconventional is a bit of an understatement. In response to my little song about grandmas and ice cream, Mr. Baglivi has created a four-page-plus exploration of his personal feelings on family and food, and other tangential topics. Now, this blog is already getting a little big for its britches (how far down did you have to scroll to read this bit here, huh?), so I've placed Mr. Baglivi's response in a separate location right here: CHECK ME OUT!

Greenpoint Grandma

Two of the first people to hear "Sundaes on a Sunday Afternoon" were Garin Glassy and Seth Ekblad, coworkers at Troma Entertainment. They both really liked the song, and Seth even got slightly emotional and said he knew that obviously I was as close to my grandma as he was to his. Mildly embarassed, I conceded that it was true, failing to mention that the song wasn't about my own grandmother.

See, I lived for about 2 years in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and one day I went to this combo sub shop/ice cream store about a block from my house to get a sandwich. As I waited for my food, I watched this grandmother and her sugared-up, bratty grandkids for a few minutes. I realized that she didn't give a shit that they were acting nuts -- they were having fun because she bought them ice cream, and that seemed enough for her. I found the idea touching; hence, the song you have before you now.

The "Temptations" Sound

Jon Glovin (right) frequently says that he really likes the way this song sounds like The Temptations to him. Frankly, I think it sounds nothing like the Temptations, but that's because I was raised listening to lots of old-timey pop and I know what I'm talking about, while he listens to newfangled indie stuff. (Also, as you can tell, I am a crotchety old man in the body of a nearly-27-year-old.)

But, I do know what he means. However, I would pinpoint the "sound" as something more like '50s rock, with some doo-wop tossed in for good measure.

And although I'm always up for some classic '50s/'60s-style excesses (did you check out the "sha-la-la"s on "Jeanette Is Working" in the video up above?), this song started off with a more subdued-Ramones-style "thud-thud-thud-thud-thud-thud-thud-thud" approach.

During one of our practices, though, Preston intuited that the 1-6-4-5 chord structure of the tune is, as Lou Reed points out in this old-school essay, basically the same as every '50s rock song ever (and many many songs since). He eased up on the straight-ahead flavor and started doing something more like a slowed-down "Don't Be Cruel." Herb picked up on it, playing some real "clink-clink-clink" jazz in a "Great Pretender" vein. I reluctantly followed suit. Months later, when Doug joined the band and added his spicy syncopations on the cymbals, there was no turning back -- we had made our answer to "Leader of the Pack," only instead of a rebellious young antihero at the center of our story, we've got a rebellious old grandma. She doesn't die at the end of the song, but who needs martyrs anyway?

ENB goes electric

This is the first of a few tunes to feature electric guitar on this album. The honors on this tune were given to Preston's former roommate, Angel O. Mendez.

To give him a model for the style of playing I wanted, I emailed Angel a number of tracks from X's second album Wild Gift. (X's influence is also elsewhere on this album: the extended "eeee"s in "Cheese Fries" are my attempt to do what John Doe does during the song "Los Angeles".)

I especially wanted Angel to hear the X song "Adult Books" (which, if I could find anywhere, I would link to here). But frankly, I don't know if he ever listened to any of those songs, because when we did the recording, I remember just talking with him about how it should sound right before he played, and then sort of singing the sound to him. And then he played back what I sang. I do remember, however, that he just came up with that twangy bit during the bridge (where I'm just singing "Aah" for 30 seconds) on his own, moments before.

06. Part 2: Movies/07. Woody Allen Surrogate (Kenneth Branagh's Blues)

"Possibly my favorite No-No's song. Elvis Costello would eat his shoe and maybe his socks to write a melody as good." -- John from The Telethons

I have to partially agree with John on this one. I know you're probably not supposed to pick favorites, and while "Woody Allen Surrogate" isn't my all-time favorite ENB song, it is probably my favorite song on this album. (If not, it's in the top three, along with the two songs that Sammy Shuster sings on.)

History lesson

This song started off as an instrumental music cue called simply "E7" (due to the fact that all the chords in this song are seventh chords, and the song is in the key of E major).

It appears a few times in this short film I made, called "In Defense of Lemmings." It's a Monty Python-ish sketch film that runs about 9 minutes.

I always thought it would make a good song with lyrics, but I never came up with anything satisfying. My immediate impulse every time I started playing "E7" was to start singing whiny lyrics about girls that sounded to me like Nerf Herder (pictured right; a band I liked in high school, after seeing the video for their song "Van Halen"). Those song attempts always completely sucked.

I pretty much set "E7" aside, although I would just sometimes play it to myself because I liked the sound. Then, somehow with the prospect of having to write 3 songs about movies, I found a completely unlikely song topic: Woody Allen. And then I tried matching that up with the sound of "E7." It worked brilliantly! Hooray! Let's go get ice cream! Who's buying?

ENB goes electric, pt. 2

Dibson T. Hoffweiler (pictured far right in the picture at the right) and Casey Holford (pictured far left in the picture at the right) are one-half of Urban Barnyard (pictured all over in the picture at the right; photo by Herb Scher). These two gentlemen lend their electric-guitar-playing expertise to this track, as well as "I Am Klaus Kinski," and they are a large part of the reason why I like this track so much.

Me and them, we didn't meet up about these songs until we were already in Major Matt's studio to record, so it took a little bit of time to work out who did what. Mostly, what they came up with as their initial instincts is what we stuck with. And after four and a half days of noodling around (ha ha, just kidding!), we had the guitar parts you hear in the song.

Casey plays the almost New Wave-y rhythm stuff, while Dibs does a simple lead that often acts as a counterpoint to the keyboard (which was overdubbed later, so maybe the keyboard is the counterpoint... whatever). Dibs also takes over during the bridge.

More cowbell!

You wanted it; you got it, suckers!

Our drummer Doug (pictured right... no comment) said to me one day, "You know that Beatles song 'Taxman,' where the cowbell just comes in for a few bars and then drops out? I think 'Woody Allen' needs that." I am never one to hinder that kind of ripped-off creativity. Hence: more cowbell.

John Houx on "Woody Allen Surrogate"

This year I came t Manhattan n saw my first Woody Allen film, Manhattan. It cost Manhattan dollars. I left th cinema having watched onscreen a lifestyle newly familiar to me, walked out into th village — July afternoon, coffee, gorgeous gals n bookstores. It was all black n white, with Gershwin music.

As I said, I jus know one of Allen's movies, but we're all a lil familiar with his character n style. He's an icon, an he's had imitators. Some copy his worried-nerd ways, some his method of writing, directing n starring in his films, and they succeed in diffrent degrees, some never escaping Allen's shadow.

"This is not impersonation"

Another famous Woody, one I know a mite better, also had unique mannerisms an a then-distinct habit of writing his own material. Had th image of a travlin champion of free folk. Ain't surprisin he had followers. The follower finds Woody's work — which Woody we mean don't much matter — inspiring. Studies th gestures, drawls his "cain't"s n stutters his neuroses, takes t heart th message, n goes out t recite it himself.

"Doesn't even matter how good I am,
you'll only compare me to that other man"

Whether he's playin th part of th hayseed sage or th self-conscious city boy, th follower's received as a harmless novelty for those what missed it th first time. But if he don't soon evolve, he's gotta quit. Learn th diffrence btween th mask and th face wearin it. An take th same ol thing an do it better, or upside-down, or naked, but by lord do it differnt. Grow into his own skin, an equal or not, be seprate.

Lotta innovations start as pale imitations. Lotta pale imitators just give in n quit. But with time, no one can help but grow outta th tight-fittin Halloween getup n pick th right suit for hisself. Sure, Ken Branagh ain't so widely known these days as that bespectacled curly-headed New Yorker. But he became, and is remembered as, more n jus a Woody Allen surrogate.

08. The Guy Who Dies

Would you be scared of getting killed by aliens if you were this guy?

Of course not, that's why War of the Worlds (2005) was not a movie about regular people reacting to global crisis, but was instead a movie about why it is important to be Tom Cruise during a global crisis, if you want to survive.

09. I Am Klaus Kinski (And This Is My Song)

Ben Godwin on "I Am Klaus Kinski"

One of my all-time favorite New York memories is watching a solo ENB gig after-hours at the Sidewalk Cafe. Apparently it was a secret gig, because nobody was there apart from the previous act- myself, Dan Costello, and Chris Kuffner- and two random dudes who looked like plainclothes cops. It turned out that the gig was so secret that the two random dudes (henceforth referred to as the TRDs) appeared not to know it was actually happening, and were concentrating on their beer & whiskey chasers, and their conversation. Their rather loud, drunken, nothing-to-do-with-Elastic-No-No-Band conversation. We ignored them.

That night was the first time I heard 'I Am Klaus Kinski'- in fact, it was the first time I'd heard of Klaus Kinski, as I'm not quite as erudite as Justin. ('erudite' is a word meaning 'one who watches a lot of old movies, googles them and writes songs about them.') But it didn't matter, because when Justin abruptly interrupted the song, jumped offstage, and proceeded to spend an uncomfortably long time in character as Klaus Kinski screaming at the TRDs, I felt like I had an instant and perfect understanding of his character and bearing. (Justin will correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this performance was captured on No-No's. [Justin's note: Yes, that live performance is on the No-No's rarities CD, but there is also an mp3 of it at the end of this entry. Hooray!]) It was a glorious moment of WTF!!@#$! And the TRDs did, indeed, shut the fuck up. At least for a couple of minutes.

Here, the song is elevated to new heights of silliness, precisely because Justin sounds nothing like Klaus Kinski, and the actual tune is so incongruous with the subject that it's actually poetry: a colossal, Pythonesque non sequitur. The final 'We Are The World' style singalong is out of this world- it sounds exactly like Bob Geldof, Bono, Pink Floyd and the rest decided to get together and stage 'Klaus Aid' for some unfathomable reason. We are all Klaus Kinski. Magic.

A few brief words

I was tempted to leave the entry at that, with just Ben's words, but here are a few tidbits I couldn't keep myself from sharing:

*This song was inspired by the Werner Herzog documentary, My Best Fiend: Klaus Kinski. Over the course of a couple of days, a number of the folks working at Troma took time out of our busy schedule of manufacturing and marketing schlock to watch this flick in pieces while the bosses weren't looking. I essentially wrote the song afterward as an inside gag for my coworkers, but it has since become a popular staple of our live performances.

*This is the second of four songs on this album that also appear in different, lower-fi, stripped-down versions on our last album, The Very Best of Elastic No-No Band So Far.

*This is the only song on the album to feature an audible contribution from every human who worked on this album: Debe Dalton on banjo, Dibson T. Hoffweiler on electric guitar, Casey Holford on electric guitar, Tianna Kennedy on cello, and Angel Mendez on electric guitar, and everybody (including Major Matt and excluding Casey [we forgot to record his voice]) on sing-along vocals. Gummo the cat, who has a brief meow solo at the end of "Cheese Fries," is the only contributor who is completely excluded.

BONUS TRACK (FREE DOWNLOAD!) - What's up with these?
*I Am Klaus Kinski (Justin solo - 1 February 2007) - This is the solo performance that Ben talks about above. It is also included on our CD, No-No's (Leftovers and Live Songs)

10. Part 3: Girls Who.../11. (Everywhere I Look) I See Your Face

You know, it can feel really good sometimes just to see the person you have a crush on. I sort of say that in the next song "I'm in Lust" with the line "I wanna shout out loud about how seeing you just pleases me." It's true, I really think that it can make you feel better. It's only when the person is gone that you curse yourself for being alone, or suffer what the singer in this song suffers.

I think I originally tried to use this concept in the first screenplay I ever finished, back in high school, but I eventually left it out because it seemed trite and cheesy. Obviously, as I've gotten older, I've gotten triter and cheesier. Also, I experienced the phenomenon this song describes enough times that it seemed necessary to talk about.

Special guest appearances

Do you think it's played-out if you're doing an old-timey country and western song to include harmonica, banjo, and washboard? You do? Oh... well, uh...

Just pretend you didn't notice the contributions of Debe Dalton (right) on banjo, Frank Hoier on harmonica, and our own Doug Johnson on washboard.

And if you're wondering who did the wonderful Spike Jones-style backing vocals during the solo, why that wasn't any sort of special guest at all, that was just li'l ol' me!

Chris Maher on "(Everywhere I Look) I See Your Face"

I've been getting lot of interesting pieces from folks, spurred by the ideas of some of these songs, like the Mike Baglivi and John Houx pieces up above. The newest one is from Chris Maher (right), which takes the obsessed, melancholy subtext of this jaunty little number and makes it the text. You can check it out at this link here.

12. I'm in Lust

"Evidence suggests that The Elastic No-No Band's frontman, Justin Remer, is from another world. His world is one in which a man can tell a woman how he really feels without the risk of getting a drink thrown in his face. 'I'm In Lust' is a sort of tongue-in-cheek reaction to the typical love song. The concept is refreshing, but the most striking element of the track is Justin Remer's vocals, which bring to mind the sincere croon of Evan Dando." -- Neil Kelly of Huggabroomstik


If this song works at all (and I think it does -- it's one of my favorites on this rekkid), I think it is because of the drumming of Doug Johnson (left) and the singing of Sammy Shuster (right). It certainly has very little to do with the writing.

Now, I don't mean to put down the other players on this recording -- Tianna Kennedy plays the shit out of that cello, and Preston and Herb know their business and they just do it -- but when Doug and Sammy added their respective magics, I began to believe in this song as something worth playing or listening to.

Troubled past

This song has always been troubled -- a guitar sound without much to say. The song doesn't have that many lyrics, and the ones it used to have really didn't bowl too many people over. They were a sort of laundry list of physical attributes the singer found appealing about the lust object in question. Impromptu performances of the song were greeted with shrugs and with general unimpressed facial expressions.

My best friend Zach told me essentially that the song was dishonest -- that I was skirting the key issue -- and that I should talk about what it was about me that led to this sort of lust situation. That's where the second verse and bridge came from, trying to admit my faults and expose why it's a song about lust, not love.

Gram Parsons and John Bonham

Gram Parsons (left) is the shit. I started listening to him because Elvis Costello is such a big fan and covered a few of Gram's songs on his country album, Almost Blue. One of the notable things about Parsons's short recording career is the numerous duets he did with Emmylou Harris (who has since become a duetting fool, singing on songs with Costello, Bright Eyes, The Pretenders, Willie Nelson, and... well... just about everybody else).

When I wrote "I'm in Lust," I imagined it having that tight-harmony, Parsons-and-Harris sound. Fortunately, I met Sammy Shuster, whose near-immediate ability to come up with an interesting harmony or countermelody is something I'll never be able to understand or do myself. When I first heard Sammy sing on "I'm in Lust" during a rehearsal for some show, I knew the good song I had always hoped was there was finally showing its face.

And then months after it had shown its face, the song learned how to move its ass thanks to Doug Johnson. This album was recorded with every part recorded separately, usually scattered unevenly over the course of the entire process (for example, the first guitar part on "(Everywhere I Look) I See Your Face" was recorded in November '06, and the final goofy Spike Jones backing vocal was recorded in August '07). So there were months and months where "I'm in Lust" was mostly recorded but had no drum track -- and we had never played it live as a 4-piece band at that point. Doug said, "How 'bout I try a part kind of like John Bonham [pictured right]? You know, like 'BWACK a-BWAT a-BWAT-a-BWAT.' "

John Bonham, really? I was skeptical. And, in fact, even after the drums were laid down, I wasn't quite convinced. But after a number of listens, I really grew to like it. And that's when Doug told me he didn't think it worked. But we sat down and listened to it again as a team, and realized our hesitancies were nonsense. The tune had a serious groove.

BONUS TRACK (FREE DOWNLOAD!) - What's up with this?
*Jeanette Is Working (live, with Sammy Shuster - 24 September 2006) - Another example of Sammy's brilliant harmony/countermelody work. It's kind of shaky in the first verse because I keep singing flat, but nonetheless, I'm a big fan of this recording.

13. A Modest Proposal (For Laura Cantrell)/14. My 3 Addictions (postlude reprise)

First off, let me start with this video clip.

What's nice about that clip is that you can see the majority of the people who performed on this album all on one tiny cramped stage at the Sidewalk Cafe: the trio version of Elastic No-No Band, Debe Dalton on banjo, Dibson T. Hoffweiler on glockenspiel, Frank Hoier and Casey Holford on harmonicas (Casey's the one a little further back in the corner), and Sammy Shuster singing backup (apparently just for the benefit of Herb and myself, since she doesn't have a mic).

Who is Laura Cantrell?

Despite how much people appear to like this song, tons and tons of them have no idea who Laura Cantrell is. And actually, some of them have probably seen this video for They Might Be Giants' "The Guitar," in which Ms. Cantrell covers her ears, strums a guitar, drums her fingers, holds an oversized gun, blinks, looks quizzical, and sings the hook without moving her lips:

(Please ignore the annoying music-channel superimpositions, this is apparently the only version of this clip on youtube.)

For those out of the loop: Laura Cantrell is a Nashville-born, New York City-based country singer whose last album Humming by the Flowered Vine was released by Matador Records.

(It is worth noting, for the sake of trivia, that before that, she and Major Matt Mason USA [who, you should recall, produced this here record] were on the same record label in the UK.)

Anyhow, I had been listening to some of her stuff online; I think I first checked out her website because I had been directed to it by a now-defunct Elvis Costello covers website [Reader's note: Oh, for Pete's sake! Does it all come back to Elvis Costello!?]. She has a really great cover of Elvis's country number "Indoor Fireworks" in her site's downloads section.

On July 4, 2005, I saw that Matador Records was having a kind of label showcase for free in Battery Park, so I went down. Some folks I knew were going for the other acts -- Yo La Tengo and Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks -- but I didn't, and still don't, really know either of those groups.

It was a good set. I was made fun of most of the time by my acquaintances (including ex-bandmate Clint Scheibner) for obviously having a crush on Ms. Cantrell, and then for buying three of her CD's at the merch table when her set was over.

As the night wore on toward fireworks time, there was much discussion of the countless past crushes I've had on female musicians, and within a week, I was trying out my new song on Clint. He liked it, and in fact, he later told me that he saw Laura Cantrell at a Prairie Home Companion broadcast (I think) and told her about the song. I still don't know at this point, despite the fairly easy accessibility of different recordings of this song on the internet, whether or not Laura Cantrell has ever heard this song. I'll have to figure out a way to send her a CD.

UPDATE: For more on Laura Cantrell's reaction to this song, check out this blog entry on ENB's Myspace page.

Fussed and fussed over

Although he never said anything about it, I was always afraid of annoying Major Matt with this song. I never thought I got the vocal right on it, so I was constantly re-recording it in part and sometimes in full.

A lot of the initial vocal recording on this album was done while my nose was stuffed up, which isn't the best for pitch control (or for saying the letter "n" -- if you listen closely to the first lines of tracks 4 and 9, it sounds like I'm saying "coffee dend" and "I am Klaus Kindski").

So it seemed, for the longest time, that most of the vocals on "Modest Proposal" were terrible. But the problem became that when I re-sung them, the alternative wasn't always that much better. In fact, there are still some moments in this song I wish I could re-sing... but the public clamor for this album to be done was so great that I decided that good was good enough.

Herb, glorious Herb

This song has one of my absolute favorite Herb moments on the album. It's not a big, showy thing, and it only lasts about 15 seconds.

You see, Herb is often very meticulous about the parts he plays, and would want to retake them -- in part or in full -- as often as it took to get them right (sound familiar?). This meant that sometimes we had sessions like the three-plus-hour marathon where the piano parts for "Coffee Den" and "I'm in Lust" were repeatedly altered, distilled, and perfected (maybe in the real world three-plus hours ain't much, but in DIY-land, it's a big expenditure of effort).

Alternatively, I think that Herb nailed "A Modest Proposal" on the second or third try, without much fuss at all. Admittedly, it's not a really fancy part -- although I think it's interesting the way it grows and develops as the song goes.

But the moment that gets me is during the bridge ("Maybe I could write you a song to sing"). The simple fills that Herb plays are so right for that moment in the song that I get a bit giddy when I hear them. You know, Herb doesn't always play things exactly the same every time -- he likes jazz -- and I think that this recording is the first time he had ever played those fills exactly like that. So I think it's not an overstatement to say that that moment is basically lightning captured in a bottle. Thanks, Herb.


Yes, I am aware that Laura Cantrell is already married. This song is not a serious marriage proposal. Thank you for your concern.

15. Nobody's Wife (You're The One)

It's scenes like this that force people like me to watch bad movies. While some people may go too far and say that there's something to like in everything, you do sometimes find an amazing moment in the middle of the most middling piece of mediocrity... like Elf with Will Ferrell (although, I must admit, after re-reading some of the quotes on imdb and thinking about the scene where Will Ferrell blindfolds Zooey Deschanel and makes her drink coffee, that I think the movie has a few decent chuckles).

After seeing this scene the first time, though, I was so taken by the genius songwriting of Frank Loesser (right) and the interplay between the male and female parts that I decided to write a song like that.

This was January '05, and after doing my first two CD-R albums, I was looking to do something new and interesting, so I thought about doing a duets album to be called Songs Sung With Other People. I started working on sketches for songs that I hoped my future song partners would help me fill out. However, the project never materialized and the song was set aside.

Months later, Preston (pictured left, with R. Stevie Moore) took me to a performance by Sammy Shuster at the Sidewalk Cafe, and I was immediately taken by her voice and her playing style. My self-serving little brain suddenly started whirring: "You must befriend this woman and see if she will sing on 'Nobody's Wife.'"

Long story short, she did sing on "Nobody's Wife" at a number of our live shows (including a performance that was recorded and included on No-No's (Leftovers and Live Songs)). Dan DiMauro, who I used to work with at Troma and who did the drawing and art direction on this CD and on The Very Best Of... So Far, was a very vocal proponent of the inclusion of "Nobody's Wife" on this album because of his assessment of its general awesomeness. I initially thought of including it as an unlisted track, since it didn't directly fit into the My 3 Addictions song cycle, but it became apparent that that was way too mid-90s of an idea to be feasible.

Preston wanted me to ditch the song because he felt like the album would be lopsided with too many songs about women who won't date me. He thought that if I liked it so much that maybe I should ditch the troubled "I'm in Lust" and replace it with this instead. My argument for keeping all of the tunes is that this song is not about women who won't date me. The male character is on a date. Therefore, the song acts like an epilogue or an appendix to the "proper" song cycle.

Also, I began to think about Phases and Stages, the Willie Nelson album that inspired the concept-y nature of this album (more on that at this link here). Phases and Stages ends with the song "Pick Up The Tempo," which sort of acts like an epilogue to that album. Willie has been through an album's worth of heartache -- a divorce from two points of view -- and now he uses the idea of playing music as a metaphor for his life and decides "the band" needs to "pick up the tempo."

Taking that into account, it seemed obvious that if I was really going to rip off Phases and Stages, I should rip it off entirely and include an epilogue song.

And, as Major Matt once said, "Yeah, just do it. Nobody cares."