Basic stuff that would be on my Wikipedia page if I mattered:
- Jane Alissa Koslowski
- Baltimore, 1986
- Andrew and Vanessa (nee Andrews) Koslowski.
- Yes, it is funny, but it’s not fun to be told it’s funny a million times as if that meant your parents are total soulmates, as they like to have you think.
- Only Child.
- Promising Wunderkind once upon a time.
- Best friend Mindy
- Former radio producer
- Majored in Music
- More specifically drums and percussion
- Which is a ridiculous major
- Though that did not occur to me at the time
- Because I thought being a good percussionist would help me in life
- It has not
- My minor is Philosophy
- Which is even more useless
- Hurray for me!
Random stuff I do:
- Knock on things to see the sounds that come out of them
- Talk with my hands a lot
- Spend too long on the internet
- Get really obsessed with one band or another and follow them across the country.
- Make lists about things
- Make lists about why I make lists
Why I make lists:
- I have probably read too many Buzzfeed articles in my lifetime
- They help me to organize my thoughts
- (Lists; not Buzzfeed articles)
- Or at least give me the illusion of control in a world of chaos
- Full sentences take longer to write than fragments of thought without precise connectors
- This fragmentation is probably a manifestation of the postmodern divide between abstraction and the concept of abstraction
- One makes you think analytically, and the latter is but an empty vagueness viciously concealing our own ignorance from ourselves
- This concealment allows us to accept many contradictions by isolating them from each other
- Like items in a list
- Far from the heart of the matter
- This tendency for deconstruction is great if you do it right; if you manage to put the puzzle back together once you’re done with it
- I am lousy at puzzles given that I have no spacial intelligence
- Postmodern deconstruction is itself nothing but a meaningless concept if we don’t deconstruct it
- Sometimes I feel like I’m a concept of myself
- That sounds so pretentious
- But you know what I mean: the notion of you matters more than who you are right now
- So I list things that I am so that I remember who I am
- It doesn’t always help
- Sometimes I feel like I’m just frying my brain doing this
- You can’t just go on analysing stuff forever
- I suffer from OCD
- OCD is as much about organizing one’s thoughts as it is about one’s surroundings
- Actually, I don’t really care about organizing my surroundings
- As long as they’re clean, I’m fine.
Why I used numbers not dashes on the previous list:
- Argumentative clarity
- There were sub-items
So I bought this notebook in order to get out of the internet and get inspired to write about whatever I’m supposed to write about, because I have no insights about anything whatsoever.
I sit at a Starbucks in silence with my new notebook. It was very expensive due to its aesthetically pleasing cover and I don’t want to ruin it with my shaky handwriting and stupid ideas, but that’s pretty much all I’ve written so far:
On the Road with DeathWish: Meditations on Heavy Metal and the Nature of Fandom Culture by Jane Koslovski
I bought the notebook so I won’t have to turn on my laptop in order to take notes, and won’t get distracted by other things once the laptop is on. Like that test I took to find out what punctuation mark I am—I was a semicolon, which is probably the worst result you can get. You know what? I actually have a screen caption of my results:
YOU GOT: The Semicolon (in case you’re wondering, yes; the link did take one to that same page, in an eternal loop)
Very few people have the ability to understand you, which frustrates you to no end, and may cause you to bend over backwards and sometimes appear in places where you don’t belong in an effort to be more social. The complicated nature of your character may cause others to see you as a snob when in reality you’re just not a people person. Because of how rare you are—just like your most amenable companion, the M dash—most see you as an unnecessary risk. There is nothing wrong with being an acquired taste; it shows a paradoxically independent spirit as it deals with conciliating ideas that may seem different but are intrinsically connected.
You are a deeply philosophical individual whose ability to focus is greater than that of the coma; that meandering relative, but not as great as that of the full stop. That is actually a great balance, given that full stop types have been known to miss the big picture in their eagerness to just get to it.
Did you know?
- Karl Marx
- Ayn Rand
- Rita Ora
- Jane Austen
- Axl Rose
Never date a: Full Stop
What I tell people I am doing with my life in case they get too inquisitive about it:
- I am following DeathWish across the US so that I can write a work of creative nonfiction meditating upon that experience, the challenges of the heavy metal genre in the 21st century, and the nature of fandom culture.
- Fuck off.
On the Road with DeathWish: Meditations on Heavy Metal and the Nature of Fandom Culture: Essays by Jane Koslovski: Chapter One: Rebel Kid
I was first introduced to DeathWish by my cousin Lucas, when he was going through his Rebellious Phase (1998-1999), right before the start of the Mystical Phase (1999-2000). The transition between those had been fairly smooth; heavy metal having led him into the fascinating world of pseudo-witchcraft as he traced the sound of Manny Bat’s guitar straight to a clearing on the forest nearby—where the wicked witches of Wicca had lit a fire. The song in question was “Witches Are Only Bitches If You Cross Them”, from the DeathWish Halloween album.
Though his application to his local Wiccan society was rejected on account of him being a male, the witches ended up explaining feminism to him, which he willingly and surprisingly accepted as a doctrine. That helped him pick up a lot of girls. In conclusion, DeathWish is a feminist band.
I was very happy in the nineties—although I think everybody was very happy in the nineties, or thinks they were very happy in the nineties (is there a difference? I hope so).
This is a classic case of the Retroactive Happiness Paradox—you wish you could go back to before this whole bunch of shit happened, but if you did, you would not be able to fully appreciate it due to a lack of awareness of said shit.
It’s kind of like how you only ever notice your nose’s presence when you have a cold and it’s useless and you have to breathe through your mouth.
It was either a great thinker, a tv show or a notorious tweet that said “happiness is the immediate second of relief following great distress.” At first I thought this person enjoyed some weird stuff, sexually. The more I thought about it, however, the more sense it made: has there ever been a moment as purely happy as that of finally peeing after having to hold it in for what felt like years? Or having a painkiller dissuade one’s headache away? Getting to sit down after standing in line forever, to lie down after one hell of a day for better or worse?
What’s more: it’s getting rid of something rather than fulfilling a deep yearning. If I’m starving or dehydrated, I may be desperate for food and drink, but I’ll approach it so violently and urgently that by the time my senses are satisfied I’ve already had too much. The drinking of the water itself does not compare to the sudden glimpse of an oasis of an ice-cold bottle, right in the fridge. Even then, the feeling is simply anticipation; not happiness per se.
When I’m in pain I cannot think—actually, whenever I have the slightest discomfort it becomes impossible for me to think; which means that everyday spent marginally at public transportation is a bad one. You’re suddenly very aware of your body and the space you occupy and the sheer animality of it all. Your mind leaves you to your body’s mercy.
After that you are free to return to your solitary mind and all of the other, more abstract problems.
So maybe the thinker/show/tweet was spot-on; happiness might be just one moment between utter pain and plain indifference. It is the moment in which mind are body rejoice as one.
- Songs for when you’re sad for no reason whatsoever and then finally you realize the reason is that you are sad for no reason and the reason that you are sad for no reason is that you’re depressed
- Songs that sound like rain
- Songs that don’t sound like rain but are about rain (there is only one song in it and we all know which one it is)
- Popular songs that you hate (to play when you’re feeling nostalgic for a time when they played all the time)
- Songs to tune off to
- Songs that could be applied to a dog (you’d be surprised how many)
- Songs that famous people made when they were really obscure
- Duets where one of the singers sounds much better than the other
- Good singers singing terrible songs; subcategories being:
- Saved it
- Did not save it
- All of the covers of Bohemian Rhapsody ever
- Covers that I like of songs I do not like
- Songs that aren’t real songs, just the same note over and over again
- Book playlists (that is, if I’m reading a book, I make up a soundtrack for it)
- Songs with “World” in their titles (Mad, Ordinary, Wild, End of it as we know it…)
Am I aware that instead of obsessive-compulsively composing playlists is a completely pointless, time-wasting activity?
I was never good at making things—except for lists, and mistakes (now you laugh). I am not immensely aware of the corporeal.
“Corporeal” is such a pretentious term—used only by bad poets, self-help books disguised as memoirs, and well-meaning hippies. But I guess those are those who are more familiar with them, so they get to name it.
Doing things, I’m fine with—only when there are specifics do my senses blacken; I can’t for instance make food, or friends, or money or phone calls or apologies.
Everyone’s always made things so pretty and delicate and full of detail. Their handwriting is the stuff of old letters, when people practiced it too much given that the ridiculous amount of free time available to them, and only a few great novels had been written and there was no internet to lead you to a Wikipedia rabbit-hole that ends in .
In conclusion I am not good at pretty things. Mom who is good even at folding laundry—which is surprisingly one of the things one can be good at—was of course disappointed in my un-girliness. I am not good at folding. Even when I think the ends are meeting on both sides, they are not even slightly even—so what you do is you unfold it and fold it all over again, and unfold it all over again, until everything is wrinkled, and you need to iron it all over again.
See, I never learned to colour inside the lines—and, while some would interpret this as a metaphor for my difficulty to function in a capitalistic society, the rules of which I cannot follow; this is really just about how much I suck at arts and crafts and making things. It isn’t just that I am slightly clumsy; it’s more like I would not survive in the wild for a day.
I haven’t spoken to either of my parents since I left. It’s not that I’m mad at them, it’s just that they will be judgmental about all of this. The plan was waiting a week to call them back, and when the week passed it just felt like too long had passed for me to explain this and not have to explain why I hadn’t called them sooner as well.
Damn, I could not stop meandering—maybe I am just an unfocused coma trying to convince the world that she is a semicolon.
Descriptions that have been ascribed to me:
- “Thoughtless freeloader”, My Parents
- “Underachieving nerd-type, kinda”, Wheeler, principle of the Junior High I frequented
- “Disorganized slacker who never had to work for anything in her life”, Spitzer, my Science teacher at 7th grade (was I supposed to have worked for anything at that point?)
- “One of the students I have had”, Primmer, High School English teacher in my recommendation letter. Yes, she forgot to write “best”.
- “(That girl who) would be pretty if she had the right haircut”, Madison Gardener, Prom Queen, when trying to shine a light into her friends’ memories
- “The randomest girl”, Kyle Davis, when I won class president after the top two contenders were thrown out of the election for engaging in a physical dispute in the school cafeteria
- “Intellectually unbalanced”, my friend Mindy, when talking of my ability to make abstractions versus my difficulty to locate myself without (or even with) a GPS
- “Such a Sagittarius it hurts”, my cousin Lucas when he was going through his mystical phase
- “(Jane) would be the person I would call if I needed to hide a dead body, except that you’d be of absolutely no help and keep complaining that the body was too heavy and gross”, Mindy again
- “Really fucking selfish”, my Mom when I didn’t want to shave my head in sympathy for her friend Betsy’s stomach cancer.
- “Blond, but not a blond”, Arnold Keirzs, in what I imagine was a prejudiced statement against blonds.
- “The sort of person who could do whatever she wanted if she had any ability to focus on the task at hand”, my High School counsellor.
- “(Jane), who is always wearing headphones so she doesn’t have to listen to her own thoughts”, Dad.
- “Band T-Shirt girl”, Annalise Foreman, referring to my controversial DeathWish T-Shirt which was about the band; not an actual death wish, but which got me suspended for inciting suicidal behaviour in a school environment
- “Really smart, in a scary way like her brain is going off and she can’t stop it and then she’ll like spontaneously combust or something”, this boy I dated once whose name I forgot
- “Gone crazy or something”, the aforementioned dumb guy with whom I broke up when I decided to quit my job and follow DeathWish across the country in a 1995 van.
- “Not stupid” and “Better than that”, my psychiatrist, when she tried to convince me not to do those things cited in the immediate above-ness.
- “Groupie”, Many People
What makes people abandon their lives and become groupies:
- Well, I don’t know
- Feeling irreparably old?
- And I missed listening to DeathWish like I always did in high school
- The time spent in high school somehow seems much larger than the time ever since.
- It may not have been longer; yet it remains considerably larger
- Because I felt things more clearly
- And deeply
- Music will do that to you
- It fits a whole eternity inside
Why I don’t get along with the other groupies following DeathWish:
- They are their own clique
- They share a van (I mean? Privacy?)
- I actually enjoy being alone
- They all became groupies because they want to be like Kate Hudson in Almost Famous
- Which means at some point they’ll have to realise the only reason it looks glamorous on Almost Famous is that someone was actually registering it
- Since, you know, it was a movie
- Some people can never stop thinking about their lives as though it was a movie
- Are they the camera?
- If they believe in god, god is the camera
- People used to think about their lives as though they were novels, now it’s movies
- That’s not necessarily bad, though: there are pretty bad novels out there.
- Bad novels make good movies, I don’t know why
- Good novels, however, make bad film adaptations
- Not always
- Most groupies are in their early twenties
- One time I got drunk with them, though
- They were okay then though that was because I was drunk
- I don’t know why they’ve been following DeathWish; they grew up at a time they were already making shit music
- I guess they just want to be radical
- They are just such bimbos
I INTERVIEW MYSELF because apparently that is a recommended practice for those who struggle with organising one’s thoughts. TIP: Ask precise, relevant questions and try to give articulate and clear answers. DO NOT: Pretend you are on a real interview in a scenario in which you are a famous person because you wrote a best-selling book about your experience following the band DeathWish to feel better about yourself and rationalise the situation further.
For clarity, the Me that is asking the questions will be called “I”, for “interviewer”.
I: Thanks for coming today! We’re so excited to have you.
Me: Excited to be here; thanks for having me!
I: Now, your non-fiction book, On the Road with DeathWish: Meditations on Heavy Metal and the Nature of Fandom Culture: Essays by Jane Koslovski is a best-seller, but people have struggled to understand the motivation behind your journey. Many think of DeathWish as just another heavy metal band. What special characteristics made you choose to write about this particular band?
Me: I was already following them around. It seemed like a stupid idea to start following another band to write about.
I: Yes, of course, but why follow them around, and not other bands of the like?
Me: DeathWish had so much history that was getting lost because the people who really grew up with them feel like they’ve “outgrown” it. To me it felt like a snobbish way to think about it. Sure, DeathWish hasn’t been great for years now, but that in itself is interesting—who doesn’t love narratives of washed up artists who feel like they’ve lost it? Look at Manny Bat; it’s him, but it’s not actually him, you know? Like whatever made him brilliant just left him without warning! He’s just a parody of himself now. That to me is fascinating.
I: But why does this, hum, decay in the quality of DeathWish’s songs interest you so much?
Me: Well, it’s quite obvious, I think—I’d call you stupid if you weren’t me. Like many other gifted children who grew up to be unremarkable adults, I empathize with Manny Bat. I think those last few albums have definitely been an improvement. It’s paradoxical that the most powerful songs; the ones that really show the same quality of old DeathWish records, are about Bat’s crisis. Talentless? The brevity in it allows for the concentration of the lament—You lost your mojo/ you make them wonder if you ever even had that mojo. In these 52 seconds there’s more rawness than in all of the late-00’s DeathWish albums in their entirety. I got to be honest; I loved (This Album Will Give You An) Ear Infection. It’s not a lot of people’s cup of tea, but between Talentless and Fuck you for not listening to me anymore, not to mention the titular track, it speaks the truth. The title is a reference to Rolling Stone’s review of their first album, Fresh Meat—it was a nice way of returning to their roots.
Of course, it’s only a vicarious sort of nostalgia—a way to relive their former glory. And I’m reliving it through their vicarious music, so it’s happiness twice removed. Or thrice removed, if you want to think about art always being a vicarious experience.
I: What do you mean by that?
Me: Glad you asked. I mean that when you are singing about something you feel it more intensely than when it’s actually happening. It’s not just music, of course—it’s books about dull things making them exciting. It’s a painting of a landscape that is more beautiful than the actual landscape, etc. And I don’t know if I’m supposed to feel like that? I think I’m just supposed to listen and think about the Now.
I: I don’t think you’re supposed to do anything. You can just live.
Me: That’s the thing, though—I don’t know if it’s a thing of the century, or of the species, or the educated classes; whatever. I just spend my entire fucking life wondering how to live, and what to live for – I guess that which I live for is DeathWish?—and what life is about, and why I am alive, really (as opposed to the spermatozoid that came second in the race). And I don’t like the answer that oh, the world is random. Neither do I think everything is premeditated and free-will is a lie.
Maybe it’s something in between—a shuffle button. Everything is absolutely random within one’s freely chosen playlist.
I: That made no sense. I mean, for a second it did, and then it didn’t.
Me: That’s what I’m talking about! It’s so annoying!
I: So, does DeathWish grasp that kind of anxiety? Is that why you like it?
Me: Probably. I mean, people only like stuff they understand. Or maybe not. My mom used to love The Sun Also Rises and then I told her it was about the guy’s impotence and now she doesn’t like it as much because she likes sincerity in novels. I told her it was pretty plain in the text for her to understand, but it lost literary value to her. So maybe we only like the things we cannot fully understand. I mean, who’s to say we don’t understand? Death of the Author and all that. But with songs I think the words are more open to interpretation—we’re allowed, even encouraged to incorporate them into our personal histories. You can’t read books like that.
I: Not even your book?
Me: I mean, you can because you’re me. Bu;t, yeah, no.
I: What made you think, I’m just going to get in this van and do this for a year?
Me: Hum… You know when you lose your sense of self? I guess a lot of my sense of self was intrinsically connected to DeathWish and heavy metal in general.
I: But it wasn’t an Eat, Pray, Love moment, right? Because that’s tacky.
Me: Look, I don’t think I’m going to find meaning or purpose or love on this trip. But I have found things. Mostly found out things. The answers I found in my journey were not exactly those I was looking for—in St. Louis, an old man at the train station told me he never got paid for coming up with a Math problem that was in every textbook in America, and that the answer was -5. In Tampa I learned that Swaziland was now called Eswatini but that the immigrants are still calling it Swaziland. In Minneapolis, I realised that one day the world will become one giant underground mall, and that’s okay with me.
I: Hey, no spoilers! So, DeathWish got you… somewhere? Do you feel more like yourself yet?
Me: Look, DeathWish sucks, and I still absolutely love them because once upon a long long time ago they did not suck. Maybe that’s pathetic, but I’d rather think of it as a privilege; to love something as much as I love them. And heavy metal in general—when I heard it for the first time, it felt so natural to me. It’s not that I don’t like other music genres, but I guess I can be sort of nonchalant and the guitars and vocals and the nakedness of it all sort of pull me back into the world. The real world. Music has been so awfully trivialised that you need something that takes you by the gut. Supermarket aisle songs won’t cut it. Art should never be an instrument of alienation.
I: Were you alienated?
Me: Not really. I lost my sense of self, I said—maybe a more precise description would be that I got lost in it. Like a labyrinth or something. A lot of the things that defined me seemed disconnected from me—I was talking about music I hated. None of my PhD thesis proposals were accepted given the very few professors interested in the correlation between percussion and history. I wanted to write about how the average percussion of a period’s popular music dictated that society’s overall sense of the passage of time, but they said it was too broad a concept.
I: You thought they were wrong.
Me: I thought they were mistaken. Then I kept thinking about how terrible I’d become at things I used to be good at, like I’d forgotten how to be me all of a sudden. Or maybe I was never good at them. The only thing I really was ever really good at, really, was pointing out other people’s mistakes.
I: You are very good at that, yes—spot on.
Me: I can’t write a song to save my life, but I know exactly what’s wrong with everyone else’s songs. I know how to fix it, even. I just could never have come up with it in the first place. Of course, it’s not just songs—I know exactly what other people are doing wrong in their lives, I can point to every single contradiction in their discourse. That’s why I was so good at school; it’s basically laughing at your classmates for saying dumb shit and correcting them. I can point out everyone’s intrinsic flaws; even my own. I just can’t get myself to do anything about it. Maybe I should have been a critic.
I: But you decided to be a groupie instead.
Me: I decided I was going to give myself a break. It occurred to me that maybe I should be anchoring myself in my once hopeful past, as opposed to in the brilliant things I always thought I was going to accomplish in the future. It occurred to me that I may not accomplish them. And maybe that was okay.
I: But it’s not okay. In an ideal world everybody has a PhD and the machines do all the menial work. You know that!
Me: I just had to come to terms with the fact that I might never do anything noteworthy.
I: Thank God you ended up writing a best-selling book about your life as a groupie! (*whispers* Are you sure this scenario is a good idea?)
Me: Thank god. ( *whispers* shut up and smile and pretend everything’s going to be okay )
I: (*I can’t smile; I’m a thought-process!* 😊 ) So…How are you supporting yourself? You know, in addition to your best-seller money from your super-existent memoir.
Me: I have a lot of collectible DeathWish paraphernalia. I’m not an idiot; I came prepared. When I was a teenager I bought two of each DeathWish item because I know there would come a time when my free spirit would require some sustenance; whenever I went on my punk rock journey to find myself. Only in my fantasy I had purple hair. And the opening credits to my dream sequence played to “I hate you more than I love you”.
I: So this was something you wanted to do?
Me: When I was fifteen? It was my dream. It was what I thought about every night as I fell asleep; one day I’ll follow DeathWish in a van—I used to picture a yellow van, but that’s okay. I was always going to do this. I owed it to myself.
I: Is it everything you hoped for?
Me: It’s way more fun day-dreaming about doing stuff than actually getting to do it. But I’m glad I got to do it. It retroactively validates the daydream—15-year-old me is ecstatic. She knows now she is going to live her dream. Otherwise, it would just have been a lame fantasy.
I: But it’s not your lame fantasy.
Me: That’s not the point. When I finally get that doctorate, I’ll be daydreaming about something else already. You think I’m going to be happy with my life then? No, but I will be retroactively happy now with the fact that future me will get to do it.
I: This makes no sense whatsoever.
Me: You just hate being positive about things.
I: I’m honest; you pretend you’re enjoying things. You’re like the people on Instagram who take pictures of moments they’re not enjoying so that later they can tell themselves it was soooo much fun.
Me: I don’t even have an Instagram, okay?
I: You should, it will make you look back on so-so moments and think they were sooo fun.
Me: Look, I’m trying to be positive here. My book was a best-seller!
I: You have never had a positive attitude, ever since I’ve known you, which has been literally forever. Also, you haven’t written a single page of that book yet. And no one would buy it—the only thing less interesting than a bunch of old white guys playing heavy metal is a grown woman in crisis stalking these old men.
Me: How about a grown man in crisis stalking these old men?
I: ( ͡~ ͜ʖ ͡°)
Me: What is this?
I: An emoticon called Lenny.
Me: You named him?
I: No, that’s just his name.
Me: Whatever. Look, I just want to be doing something. I can’t just go back there. I should move abroad or something.
I: You’ll just get bored again.
Me: What is wrong with me that I get bored so easily? Smart people aren’t supposed to get bored.
I: Maybe you’re not so smart.
Me: No, that’s not it. Sherlock Holmes is always bored.
I: You think you’re Sherlock Holmes?
Me: It was just a thought. God, you’re so judgemental.
I: Well, I’m just a voice inside your head so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Me: Did you just ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ me?
Me: How dare you? I’m walking out of this interview.
I: Fine. Just one last question: what are you even doing with your life?
Me: Fuck off.
Things that upset/anger me:
- People telling me to get my shit together
- Whenever I have my shit together for a while but lose it again
- People singing off-key
- People who are like “Do you like music?” as if music were just one specific thing like vegetarian lasagne. I don’t know, Jan! Are we talking Mozart or The Chainsmokers?! One cannot just not like the concept of music; it’s so much greater than all of us! God! I’m annoyed just by writing this hypothetical dialogue with hypothetical Jan!
- People who dislike dogs
- People who insist on talking about why they hated The Catcher in the Rye even though everyone who hated that book hated it for the same reason
- Those assholes who don’t know what they’ll order even though there was a huge line and they had plenty of time to think about it, and the line is still huge and they’re taking forever and people like them are the reason the line was huge in the first place
- When my mom tries to get me into country music, which I hate, because I am too nasty about other people’s tastes
- When my mom tells me she likes bad music
- When people in general like bad music
- When people try to argue that it’s all a matter of taste and there’s no difference between good music and bad music
- People pronouncing my surname “KoslOW—ski” as opposed to “KosloVski”.
Some additional chunks:
- When I don’t talk to someone for a few days, I get this irrational fear when they call me. Most times I did not mean to avoid them at first, but begin doing that once I realise it might look like I am.
- I have always felt as though the world should just recognise me for my intellect; at school everyone always did. I didn’t stop having the smarts; adults just don’t care if you know stuff. They care if you do stuff. That’s not right—because I always knew stuff; I never had to put any effort into anything therefore I never had to work for anything.
- I have probably already written this on another list; but every time I have a breakthrough into my Psyche I forget about it
- Like I forgot to save thought
- Save thought as: Smtgtothinkabout2098.docx
- I’m so tired of thinking in chunks
- My insights are so infrequent
- I have no discipline to avoid distractions
- But I am also constantly bored.
Jane’s Top Ten DeathWish songs (with lyrics):
10: A Real Death Experience
From the 2016 album This band will give you an ear infection
Did I just die
Am I still alive
Sometimes I can’t tell
I guess I’ll survive
But am I still alive?
Might as well die
Yeah, back when people cared
People would care
If I died
But they’ve moved on
Maybe they can give me a ride
Rotting flaky flesh
No longer fresh (meat!)
Think I lost my soul
Playing rock n’ roll
A long time ago
Rock stole my soul away
Now I play my songs
But they all sound wrong
I’m not strong enough for this
I’ve shed my blood
In this guitar
I was a star
Guiding the wild childs
Now I have scars in my hands
But it was worth the while
While I had it in me!
Oh what the Devil is happening to me?
Run, run, run, run
Motherfucker, run! (10x)
It’s a real… Death experience
Why I like this song: Whenever I think about this song, I think about something in your fridge that’s expired a long time ago and yet it’s just there.
This is such a vulnerable song—here Manny Bat admits to living in the shadow of his image and failing to live up to it. There’s this constant fear, when you’re good at something, that you’ll just lose it at one point—that you’ll have given everything you could and now you’re all emptied out trying to imitate yourself. Think I lost my soul/ Playing rock n’ roll is a simple but overwhelming statement. He’s given the best of himself away and now he just survives. I think that is painfully true to life, not just music; when everything is just out of tune. And it’s funny, actually; that this song sounds a bit like Fresh Meat, from DeathWish’s very first album. He’s trying to imitate it and failing on purpose.
I can relate to that, for some reason (…).
9: Shit Storm
From the 1995 album Shit Storm
You talk, it’s a shit storm! (2x)
Get me an umbrella
You’re a fucking loathsome fella
You’re an asshole through and through
It’s not right you’re well-to-do
You talk, it’s a shit storm!
Look, I see
the weather report
As long as you’re here
We’re a shit airport
Whenever you talk
Shit falls from your mouth
I’m no weatherman but we’re going south
Why I like this song: I just think it applies to so many people. Sometimes, when I am frustrated at someone, I hum it to myself—it does help.
From the 1994 EP Trash Can
Throw me a rope
We’re out of time
We’re out of place
Going to waste
Going to waste
Going to waste
Going to waste
Going to waste
Going to waste
Going to waste
There is no hope
Throw me a rope
And I’m outta coke!
Why I like this song: I just love the continuous repetition of the lyrics as if they, too, were being wasted. The other two songs on this EP were, as you can imagine, Reducing and Reusing (Drugs). Moreover, there’s this cheeky juxtaposition between the general, pretty important matter of democracy being broken and the fact that he’s out of coke. Of course, to the drug addict, the latter would look like a problem of equal stakes.
7: Unidentified Shooter
From the 2000 album Death to the System
Colin’s gone mad
Last week it was Steve
Before it was Dave
No time for us to grieve
Bang bang they all cried
The guns bought at Walmart
Everybody died again
Oh, well, guess that’s life
(Multiple Gunshot sound effects; one man screams)
Oh, I think I saw an unidentified shooter
Oh, they said he should’ve spent less time on the computer
(Sound of a woman screaming)
Kids these days they’re desensitized
to violence they said
Don’t take away the guns
Just take away them video games
It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad!
Oh, I think I saw an unidentified shooter
Oh, they said he should’ve spent less time on the computer
(More Gunshots; they keep on going until they’ve completely muffled the song)
Why I like this song: It’s not the social critique in it, which barely scratches the surface. I think I just really like the sound of it. The drops and the intervals and the gunshots—this song was actually quite scandalous back then since Walmart publicly condemned it—which of course caused Unidentified Shooter to break into the mainstream.
6: Mommy help me burry Alan
From the 1995 Christmas album Merry Land—The DeathWish Family Album
Mommy, I think I killed Alan
I need help getting rid of the corpse
Mommy, Alan had it coming
He stole my money which is much worse
(Ironic sitcom-inspired laugh tracks)
Mommy, help me burry Alan
Get me bleach, I need ‘bout a gallon
I am mentally unbalanced
And that’s your fault so help me burry him
Mommy, never mind what I said
It turns out Alan ain’t dead
He had just been knocked unconscious
We’ve made up, it’s all behind us
Instead of burying Alan
We have now
Buried the hatchet
Cancel the order for the casket
(Sitcom laugh tracks again; applause)
Why I like this song: It’s a narrative and there’s so much happening all the time—there’s also the fact that you cannot tell, from the song, who the fuck Alan is. I actually half hope I didn’t know that Alan is bassist’s Rocky Shiver’s brother—because this is the DeathWish family album, however, all the songs reference the families of the band members. Not all of them are as great as Mommy help me bury Alan, however: the song about Timothy Lowe’s mother, Smother Lowe, is way too obvious. Nonetheless, one should not blame the Lowe family for the unevenness of the Family Album—the song Traditional in Tulsa, which Manny Bat wrote about them, is a pretty spot-on satire of the Midwest. Of course, Timothy failed to notice that.
In addition, the sound effects are priceless—not only is the song making jokes, it is also making jokes about it being a joke! Even if you think it’s a convoluted analysis, you get that right away. That’s why it’s so simple and so brilliant.
5: Death to the System
From the 2015 album DeathWishes Death to the System ft Mc Trotsky
(Mc Trotsky) Everyone in the end is on death row
They don’t know
We don’t know
When we’ll go
The only difference is that they’re locked up
(DeathWish, in a Gregorian Chorus) Oh, one day it will come
Even systems die
And it’s your time
A prison system so inhumane
But what do you get for causing pain
To us damned souls
Locked up like animals…
(Mc Trotsky) DeathWish sentences the system to death! DeathWish sentences the system to death!
(DeathWish) We have sentenced the system to death!
(Mc Trotsky) Capitalism kills! (5x, simultaneously to)
(DeathWish) Death wishes death to the system! (5x)
(Timothy Lowe in a jazzy voice) Oh, Death wishes (*whispers*) death to the system.
Why I love this song: I am not quite sure—it’s such a plain weird song, you kind of root for it. The album which was titled after it was so irredeemable; I might have come to love this song just because it was the only good track in it. Despite its flaws, it deserves credit for… not sucking. What I’m trying to say is that; while I don’t necessarily like Death to the System, I am quite protective of it—it’s like when you spend a lot of time with an ugly person; you grow friends with them and start thinking they’re not that ugly—then you start seeing them as simply different; soon enough you’re thinking their features have a certain je ne se quoi and they look all right, in a peculiar way—it works on them, you’ll think, and that’s that.
I also love the fact that MC Trotsky was the first and only musician to be featured in a DeathWish song, ever. These guys—fine, they might not have had as many choices as they once had, but they still got a substantial amount of people who would like to work with them. DeathWish have famously rejected a collaboration allegedly suggested by Sir Paul McCartney.
So, why Mc Trotsky? I just love how random that choice is. Maybe they did, too.
4: Fresh Meat
From their 1992 debut album Fresh Meat
Who else is tired of the choirs?
We got something new for those of you who
Can think beyond that stuff
That’s like your brain-cuff
Handcuffs for your brain
Free yourself from sanity
The insane profanity
Of thinking for yourself!
We are through with this fucking world!
Of idiots killing mockingbirds
They keep screaming ‘free speech’ at us
Even though they all say the same stuff
I ain’t stupid I have called their bluff
Speech is free for them
But when I talk they’ve had enough
Hope vengeance is cold but sweet
When my voice is on their radio
Ignoring the rules of tempo
They’ll think they’re going mental
But it’s time for fresh meat!
Eat this food for thought
Show us what you got (3x)
Why I love this song: This is just… the DeathWish song; it’s an eternal classic. The criticism in the song, unlike most of DeathWish’s lazier attempts (as with Skeleton in the Closet or Democracy Autopsy, though admittedly they are great songs), is spot-on. It speaks to how we, who are supposedly the freest and can say whatever we want, somehow all say the same things, all the time. It is a delicate, surgical analysis of insightful precision into the American ideal—it shows us that being free to speak is not the same as being free to think. It is not that thinking is forbidden; it’s just a rare thing that a person thinks for his or herself.
It reminds me of a testimony I heard from a Soviet woman in the late 90’s… We couldn’t say anything back then, she said; so we said everything. Now we can say everything, but everybody sounds the same.
It’s a nicer, lighter form of manipulation; to keep people not only from reaching the state of an autonomous and authentic introspection, but also from finding out there is such a thing altogether. I guess when the world is closed off to you and you aren’t sure of the truth; which was what happened with the Soviets, you make more of an effort.
But because now we have so much superficial information going around, we believe anything we read without even clicking on the headline—it is rare, today, for people to have actual thoughts; they immediately calcify into an immovable opinion carved into the vicious patterns and pathways of their unwilling minds.
3: You suck (and I don’t even know you)
From the 2003 album You suck (and I don’t even know you)
There’s nothing you could do
That I couldn’t do better
Not that anyone cares
Or that quality matters
You’ve become the things
You’ve been running from
Now I’m screaming at you
From the intercom!
Why I like this song: Again, it is a painfully relatable mood to be in—though I think they could have found a better rhyme there than “intercom”. But still, when someone succeeds at something that I’m sure I could succeed at but had no interest of pursuing I play this song in my head.
2: Bad Ballad
From the 1998 album I hate you more than I love you
(Samples from various screaming women trying to imitate Whitney Houston)
Stars are just scars
Scars in the sky
Scars that the sky
Got over time
And got over in time
Die in my arms
It all starts in your eyes
It all starts with your eyes
A stirring enterprise!
Gonna write you a ballad
It will be bad
Our love was beautiful
But now we’re sad
Gonna write a bad ballad
Please don’t be mad
That I’m talking about our personal life
In my new tracks
Why I love this song: Alright, so, this very special 1998 album is the reason why Manny Bat’s then-wife, Bertie Bent, broke up with him. Though it was fairly clear to anyone who listened to it that things weren’t going well between them, it seemed to be the first time Bertie heard him talk about it. In an interview years later, Manny Bat confirmed that he did not, in fact; share any of his feelings of frustration with her because he wanted to “pour it all into the music”. If you still don’t think he overshared, wait until the next song.
1: I hate you more than I love you
From the 1998 album I hate you more than I love you
Sometimes I really do love you
Like when you said I’d make it into hell
And when you tell me to go there
But I don’t like it when you yell
Or when you roll your eyes at my favourite things
I really hate you when you try to sing
You mess up lyrics and you’re so off-key
I really hate that you unpeel you peas
I hate it when you can’t see what I see
Oh, I really hate you when you don’t love me
I hate it, hate it, hate it when you say I don’t know shit
Just ’cause that time I forgot to wear oven mitts
I hate that when you see a movie you’ve already seen
You act so surprised
You look as shocked as you’ve ever been
Like you completely forgot the entire plot
I hate it when it takes you forever to finish
It is a life sentence
I guess there is a lot in you to hate
Oh, I hate you but I love you but I hate you but I love you but I hate you
I guess I hate you more than I love you
Why I love this song: It is just so unbelievably petty, but it also has so much truth to it; in a way that is so specific and yet so relatable in a universal level. Also, to be honest, this does not even make the list for Pettiest Songs Ever (I know, because I actually did make it; first place went to Gives you Hell by The All American Rejects).
DeathWish’s Dirty Laundry album, which was the one after the divorce, was where things got really ugly, Bertie Bent-wise: that album contains the infamous Bertie Bent Over (backwards for Mark), for which she sued DeathWish and got them to issue a public apology as well as take the track out of the album. It is extremely rare to come across a copy of that song, and one of the original CDs was sold last year at an auction for two thousand dollars. Sometimes there are listening parties, though the tickets still cost like a hundred bucks. I only went once and the song wasn’t even that great—I prefer the Bertie Bent cover that she did in the process of reclaiming her narrative in order to feel empowered. It was pretty awesome, though I have problems with the word empowering—it’s fucking everywhere. Not every choice is empowering just because you got to make it—I don’t feel empowered as a groupie. In fact, I feel as though I might have put myself in this position because no one expects anything from you, ’cause you’re supposed to be an idiot. Maybe if everyone else thinks that, I’ll start believing it myself, and then I’ll stop overthinking everything.
Beatriz Seelaender was born in São Paulo, Brazil. Her first novel, De volta ao Vazio: Rosário da Sinhá e outras memórias (in Brazilian Portuguese), was published in 2016, and she has since been trying her hand at English. Her short story “Music for the People in the Shadows” appeared in Cagibi Issue 2. Seelaender’s essays have appeared in The Collapsar and The Manifest-Station, and her short stories also in Psychopomp Lit Mag, The Gateway Review, and others. Her story “A Kidney Caught in Quicksand”, published by Grub Street in 2017, earned recognition from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association in the categories of experimental fiction and humor writing. Seelaender is currently studying Literature and Languages at the University of São Paulo.
Cagibi Issue 5