Terse/Mordant 

If you can bet on it then it’s probably rigged
Every description’s cautiously vivid
Follow the program becoming toxically rigid
Bothered by thoughts hauntingly cryptic

Smothering logic by feeling irrational
Rock bottom starts seeming manageable
Ignorant of the cost,
Knocking on the doorstop leaping down another rabbit hole
Just another lost cause
Stop trying to fix the process, just for once be fucking rational. 

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Howl of Desperation

Somehow all the right trees are uprooted at the wrong time
We all feel the ground beneath us shaking
Wonder if we have things that need disconnecting, too
But the ways we learn begin to be so painstaking
How could anything of value grow in this place?

Search for something solid,
what’s real all fades away.
There’s no high left to chase
We run and hide, we run and hide,
but nothing seems to change.

The warning signs all wail
Desperate not to become a waif
Desperate not to become a waste
Desperate is all we’ve come to stay
Desperation coming in droves makes it hard to create.

We’ve reached rock bottom so things can only get better – or more obscure – 
of that, we’ll make damn sure
Circling back, surfers find the shore
Circling back, search for nothing more
Circling back, desperate for a cure
Circling back, this window I’ve climbed through is nothing but a detour.
So what’s the allure? What’s the allure?

We’re all out here looking for something we cannot escape,
What I thought was a garden was just a nest full of snakes. 

Insanity

Do all you can to relax,

take deep breaths, 

take your time, 

take things slow

It may still seem impossible 

But daydreams make it feel logical 

Sharp snap back to reality, 

and the smog covers over 

can’t see to the other side 

You can only wait it out and know that you’ll survive 

no matter how long it takes 

these things come to pass 

You could wait and flip and flip the hourglass

Everything is rarely clearly revealed 

It’s all a guessing game and putting faith in something that may not be real

Play the game for keeps 

and keep all the leverage you can get 

Try to figure out existence 

but the purpose, I can’t guess 

What if we can’t nail it down 

Until we do we will wander around aimless 

I watch the dial spinning on my moral compass

Money, sex, love, success, or happiness, 

the dial’s out of control

And if there is an afterlife, well how am I to know

I can only find out whenever I die 

Or I’ll wait to find what cross I am nailed to

Do I have a cause I would wear a crown of thorns for 

Sometimes I am lost I would die to find something to carry on my back 
But I just can’t 

no matter how much I search, 

I’m like a foot soldier who’s lost the battle and the war 

And so much more

And so much less simultaneously 

And my opus I’m still writing in an untimely manner – of course – 

I don’t know what’s the matter anymore 

Tired of this illusion 

Tired of this confusion 

Tired of this constant state of bemusement

Tired of uncertainty, 

give me a foregone conclusion

I won’t search anymore I’m too exhausted for any movement 

If someone wants or needs me they can prove it –

even if I won’t believe it’s true or absolute 

because trusting anyone is too hard to do – 

I’ll set up my defense mechanisms once it’s too late 

Serving a sentence for my own carelessness

I’ll care too much and then give up 

But sometimes all the doors are closed

and no one opens up a window 

Getting in is sometimes just as hard as getting out 

There is nothing that makes sense here 

My mind is troubled by endless doubt.  

Evil In, Evil Out

Put evil in and get evil out 

Can’t recognize your reflection now

Eat your goddamn heart out, take a bow, 

Listen to your fucking ocean sounds. 

You can’t sleep your problems away 

Instead, all night just dig your own grave 

So tough it out or writhe in pain 

There are things that just can’t be saved.

But what else is there to say? 

The game is rigged so don’t play, 

Hearing the same things repeated gets tiring 

Beat the same horse to death then keep on riding, 

Get the fuck out of your head 

before you can’t anymore. 

Mostly you deal with all you can, 

then give up when you’ve had enough

The cards will just fall where they may 

Nothing else to do besides sit and wait 

Passing the time becomes harder with age

Trying is nothing but a pain in the ass

Sleeping through all of the hours I shouldn’t be

Keeping my head on straight becomes impossible

After long enough, I know this makes no sense

Count your change – not your blessings – you’re still flat broke. 

Bath

Stuck somewhere losing his mind 
The architect of his own demise

He sits and waits and waits some more,

looking for more time to kill

Time stands still 

He watches hell unfold from inside his window sill 

There’s a chill that washes over his bones

for a second thinking that he’s all alone 

“Here I thought I was unique,”

We all learn that we aren’t after plugging so many leaks

Thinkin’ ’bout what we shouldn’t have done 

and everything that we’ve done wrong 

The only thing we put at risk; ourselves. 

Sitting there, he signs his whole life away

Barely disgruntled, but in constant dismay

Wanting to sleep and nothing else for days

There’s nothing here that’s left to chase – 

Maybe distractions,

maybe a grave, 

Another helpless life to save –

But he concludes, 

Your problems are your own 

They shouldn’t burden anybody else’s home

The brain’s a war machine, destroying everything in its path 

The more he thinks, the more he wants to take a napalm bath. 

#2

Clarity avoids me 

Is this worth sticking around?

Desperately annoying 

“I’m sorry” won’t help me get out 

Two words 

repeated a thousand times 

Jesus Christ

I’ve wasted a temple

I’ve ruined a mother 

I’ll die with no son

Sleeping through daylight 

Can’t see the forest I’m in

Weaving through trees, hung up to dry 

Hung up left here to die

Ready or not 

You can run but you can’t hide

not for long enough.

Selfish nature calls my name 

I can’t get away.

Album Review: Queens of the Stone Age – Villians

Josh Homme and his longstanding band Queens of the Stone Age returned with Villians at a time when the world needed more from one of the music scene’s guitar gods. Villians picks up where their last effort left off – long, dark, heavy riff-driven songs swimming in the depths of Homme’s mind. 
Homme spent his time in between QOTSA albums working with punk and rock legend Iggy Pop on his album Post Pop Depression, and Iggy Pop’s influence is heard throughout Villians. The two worked well together, and seemingly enjoyed working with one another despite the lack of Iggy’s presence on the latest Queens’ album.

Villians could easily be the follow up to PPD or My God is the Sun, and serves as a great addition to Homme’s vast career discography. It situates itself well in the dark void of guitar rock or prog rock where QOTSA wade around just below the surface and stretch deep enough to the blackest depths. Realistically it could fit anywhere in Queens’ discography, as we’re seeing a band who has already found themselves and rarely veers away from their signature sound.

Villians sees Queens work with prominent pop producer Mark Ronson for the first time. The effect of Ronson is scarcely seen, though certain moments on the album find frontman Josh Homme unhinged and dropping his guard – something Homme doesn’t do often. Regardless, you aren’t going to get blood from a stone, and you aren’t going to get Bruno Mars from Queens of the Stone Age.

Homme knows his place in rock and roll, whether or not millennials are listening to his records or Twenty-One  Pilots. “Save me from the Villians of circumstance before I lose my place,” he croons on aptly named “Villains of Circumstance”.  

There are hints of Led Zeppelin and the Ramones traced through the nine tracks. While some places have a clear lack of energy, some songs play at a quicker pace and sound like they could fit in any alternative rock block. “Head Like a Haunted House” begins sounding almost like the opening theme to Ed, Edd n Eddy and the closing riff comes across like a little sister to “Little Sister”. Many other songs sound similar to other older releases by the group. 

The album is more haunting than any of Queens’ previous releases by far. Especially closer “Villians of Circumstance”, which finds Homme questioning his place in the world using binaries, going back and forth between being unsure and entirely certain. Age has gifted Homme with wisdom as he has  grown lyrically. He sounds downtrodden on much of the album, as his deep croon usually does, but this time with a more immediate purpose. 

The album’s opener, “Feet Don’t Fail Me,” begins slowly with a minute of build up before a Robo trip enducing riff breaks the song wide open. The lyrics in the bridge perhaps describe Homme more accurately than anything else he’s written before. “One foot in the gutter, one in the clouds,” he ominously sings over heavy, bouncing riffs. 

“Domesticated Animals” is the closest Villians comes to social commentary, calling out humanity for their own calls for revolution that never comes. Lyrics like “So tell us where’s the goddamn gold,” and the ever-present question of “Where’s your revolution now,” show the singer’s discontentment rising. 

Homme also shows vulnerability like rarely before on Villians. On “Fortress” the band’s frontman is found remembering how everyone in life faces problems, often alone. His stoic conclusion being that you will never know how strong you are until you face disappointment on your own and come out the other side. 

It’s hard to remember this is the same band whose first big hit came in the form of “The Feel Good Hit of the Summer” where Homme just repeated the names of drugs and pills for about three minutes over a driving riff. Their song structure has come to be more diverse than they had been on some of their most popular releases. Villians finds them rocking back and forth between slow, brooding dark rock and quick, dance hall ready tunes like “The Way You Used to Do.” 
This album is one of QOTSA’s most diverse of their career despite only being nine tracks long. In past efforts, it felt like the band was trying to do too much and spread themselves too thin; and on this album, brevity works in the band’s favor. 

Image courtesy of Paste Magazine. 

Out

The game was rigged and I didn’t have to play it to know, I could just tell by the other people who did. There were always more losers than winners and most of the losers lost big – there weren’t a lot of big winners. Everything is just a consolation prize. 
I woke up empty and I’m still sitting in bed hungry. I know I have eggs in the fridge, but not much else. Fuck eggs, I thought, as I got out of bed and started doing some exercises with my resistance bands and the little 20 pound weights I had sitting on the floor by a hanging mirror in my bedroom. It wasn’t much, but I figure should the revolution come I should at least be able to fight my way out of a wet cardboard box. 
It’s about 11:30 and I don’t have work until 4:00, so I have some time to kill but don’t know how to kill it. 
I’m a manager at this movie and video game rental store that shouldn’t still be open except one day this guy working there had this risky idea to electronically cater parties – it was me – and rent out game systems and games in bulk. And because of the area we were in, the idea actually has worked. I live in a small, five room apartment outside of this small town surrounded by fairly wealthy suburbs in New York. The fortunate part of where we live is that there were a lot of middle-aged parents with a decent amount of money looking for new ways to throw birthday and graduation parties for their kids. 
My phone rings and it’s a number I don’t recognize, nine times out of ten I won’t answer a call like this but the call was coming from a New York number. 
“Hey,” I answer, not hearing any voices.
“Yo Johnny,” the voice says and I start to recognize them. 
“Is this Alex?” 
“Yeah dude, what’s up! You still at the same place?” 
“Yeah man, it’s only been like three months since I saw you last,” I laugh. 
“Okay, good. You doing anything? I’m actually in your town if you have some time to kill.” 
It’s an old friend of mine that I went to high school with and we worked together at my first job at this sandwich shop. He lives down in Philly but takes some combination of a train and buses that drops him off around where I live somehow. He’s usually running up here to make deliveries because he has this really good weed connection back in Philly and the further he goes from the city the more he can make on it. 
Not ten minutes pass by and he’s already knocking at my door. He’s always been one of those friends you can really count on when you’re stuck or screwed in a situation, but his presence isn’t always welcome. He talks more than you really want him to a lot of the time. Sometimes he’s funny, though, so it isn’t all bad. plus since he’s been selling weed so much lately, he’s had some bizarre stories. One was about this straight guy who was apparently really hard up for cash that offered to blow him for a half ounce so he could pay his rent or something like that. Alex didn’t go for that (so he says, ahah) but really instead agreed to give the guy the bud if they went to the main square of a nearby college and freestyle over random beats for 20 minutes. Alex had a mic and an amp he could plug the mic and his laptop into because he raps sometimes on the side. He’s actually pretty good, but more so because of his charisma than all talent. He doesn’t sound off flow or dumb or like he’s forcing rhymes together often, but he doesn’t have a ton of nasty bars – just some real tight one liners. This dude, though, he only listened to rap, didn’t actually rap – so the 20 minute freestyle looked like it’d be a disaster. But he said yes, just wanted to make sure they were good and high before they went, which Alex had covered. 
It ended up not actually being a disaster – according to Alex, the guy found his flow on this eight minute-long beat and ended up drawing a pretty big crowd. Alex said the whole crowd was bouncing and shouting to this random dude just killing it in a freestyle. “Man, he started spitting about the five food groups at one point. It was hysterical, but damn did he earn that half,” I remember Alex telling me. 
So today when he walked in and said he “had some funny shit” to tell me about, I wasn’t shocked. He just wanted to smoke this joint of Grand Daddy Purp bud he had with me first. And who am I to say no to that?
We smoked and caught up for the most part – he tells me stories of random girls who’ve come and gone, I tell him I’ve been basically nothing but working and having less than stellar luck with women – and he dropped a bomb on me. 
“I’m gonna be movin’ like 45 minutes from here and I’m gonna need a roommate, wanted to see if you’d wanna move in with me,” he says. “I’ll still be selling but I have a part-time job lined up so it’ll be a little less sketchy. The place I was looking at is in a college town, so the cops won’t be suspicious about traffic coming and going there, ya know?” 
“Damn,” is all I can say. 
“Yo I know you have your life here and your own place and all, but I know you hate your job man. You don’t even gotta give me an answer right now. Sit on it, think it over, sleep on it, whatever. Just lemme know this week sometime. I’m goin’ to look at the place on Thursday if you’d wanna come with or drive. If you drove I’d even cover the gas and shit.” 
“Alright, man, that’s cool. I’ll definitely think about it. And Thursday I don’t work until 6 in the evening so I’ll drive ya out there just so I can check it out too,” I tell him. After this, we hung out for another hour or so before he has to leave to start heading back to his place. 
“Always good seein’ ya, dude,” Alex says, “and hey, lemme know if you make your mind up before Thursday. If not, I’ll talk to you Wednesday so we can make up a game plan.” 
“Sounds good to me. It was good chillin’, and I’ll let ya know if I figure it out these next couple days. Be easy, man,” I say. We bump fists and he’s out the door. 
I sit down on my couch, grab the remote for my stereo system and turn it on and start playing Era Vulgaris by Queens of the Stone Age. I start thinking about moving in with Alex – the pros, the cons, the whole nine yards. I don’t really have anything tying me down where I’m at. I mean I have some friends here, but I rarely see most of them. Honestly, to me, if I see you you’re my friend if i don’t you’re dead, simple as that.
I like my place here, I’ve been here for two years and I finally feel like it’s my place. I haven’t bought any new furniture in months, I have tour posters from most of my favorite bands and weird art covering enough of the walls that it no longer feels like a hospital waiting room, I even have one of those prototypical dens for reading like a middle-aged dad, and the guy who lived right next to me that used to watch porn too loud and scream at his girlfriend moved away last month. Besides comfort and sustainability, though, I’m not sure there’s much else that this place has to offer me anymore.
I really do hate my job. It isn’t “dead end” exactly, but it’s been made clear to me I’m not going to advance any further. I work almost constantly and the benefits and nearly nonexistent. I always wanted to do something with my life, but it still hasn’t materialized. I used to like writing, but I haven’t written anything in over a year. I got this short story published in a magazine from somewhere close to the city. Then I sent in another one to a couple different magazines and got denied because they were either “too vulgar” or “just not what we’re currently looking for,” and then haven’t really written anything since. My job is taking away most of my free time and I’ve lost interest in trying to write when I actually do have the time. 
I feel all this potential and ambition being destroyed by circumstance.
People have changed so much from nomadic origins, and I’m as guilty as anyone. I’m set in my ways. I know what the upcoming weeks hold for me, but one, two, three years from now? I have no clue. Certainty is power, not knowing something is a weakness. Considering the store’s profits have been close to the same or in decline the last couple months, my future there is completely up in the air. The uncertainty is unsettling. 
I turn the volume on my stereo up and leave my living room to go into my bedroom. I open the drawer of my nightstand and reach for a blue 30mg Percocet. I bring it out to my living room along with my ID, a twenty dollar bill, and a lighter and break it up on the top of my glass coffee table. With my ID I sift through the residue and chop the bigger clumps into a fine powder, then into a long, thin line. I roll the twenty up and snort the line in one pull. Then I fall back into the couch as the music bumps. I feel better, I think to myself. 
I can’t stop thinking about Alex’s offer to move in with him still, but it feels less daunting now – less life or death. Decision-making has never been my strong suit, I escape the pressure and push things off as long as I can. I light a cigarette and pick up my phone to a text from this girl Lacey apologizing for not hanging out with me last night. She says she “didn’t mean to pass out” and that she hopes we can hang out sometime soon. Of course. We met at a party about a week ago and started texting on and off, haven’t seen her since then though. It’s part of a pattern; different girl, same story more or less. I laugh to myself and decide not to even bother responding. 
I’m pretty hungry and I have work pretty soon so I go into the kitchen and make an omelet with cheese and pepperoni. I finish eating and I’m still pretty high, which is always nice. I know I have to get ready for work soon, so I roll a small joint and throw on a pair of black chinos and a light grey button down and head out to my car with the joint tucked behind my ear. 

 

I look at the time in my car, it’s already 3:54 and it usually takes me a little more than ten minutes to get to work so I know I’ll be late. I don’t really care, though. I plug my phone into the aux chord and throw this hip hop playlist I made on shuffle and start driving. Once I make it to the backroad that takes me to work, I light my joint and start anticipating all the tight ass parents who are gonna bring their kids into the store and let them touch whatever they want. Things are always out of place there because parents let their kids become spoiled brats anymore and telling them to keep their hands to themselves must be some form of abuse now. 
I toss the last of the joint out the window when I’m pulling into the parking lot. I spray cheap cologne twice, once on each of my wrists, and rub it on my neck so I don’t wreak of weed. I walk in and the store is mostly empty and the store’s main manager stares me down my whole walk to the office door and follows me in. 
“Hey, it’s 4:10, you’re late, John,” Gary tells me with his hair gelled so much it still looks wet and combed over. 
“Oh, wow, you know what? You’re right, if my shift started at 4:00 and I walked in at ten after, I am late! Glad you cracked that code, Gar,” I cock back to him. 
“I don’t appreciate your tone, John. I don’t think it’s asking too much to ask you to be on time for your job.” 
Something clicks and I’m filled with rage directed at this 30-something year old managing a shitty video and video game rental store. 
“Oh my god, Gary, go fuck yourself. It actually is asking too much for me to be on time because this isn’t my job. I quit. I’m done,” I snap. 
He looks like someone just throat-fucked his mother in front of him. “But John, you’re the manager on tonight. What are you saying?” 
“It’s pretty clear what I’m saying, dickhead. I quit. So I’m not the manager on tonight, and I don’t care how you wanna get this or any of my other shifts covered,” I say and turn and walk out of the office to the store. Gary follows me. 
“John, I’m willing to forgive everything you just said. Let’s talk about what’s going on,” Gary pleads. 
“Here’s what’s going on, this job fucking sucks and I quit. Nothin’ else to talk about, man. I’m gone,” I say and then see Miguel standing behind the counter and Jane sorting things on the shelves, both on the verge of laughter. They were probably able to hear me back in the office. “I’ll see ya around Miguel and Jane, have a good one. Later.” I start walking to the door.
“Hey,” Gary yells after me, “if you walk out that door, you are done here!” 
“Oh yeah? Well shit, then I guess I’m done here because I’m walkin’ right out that door. So get it through your sticky, hair gel-soaked head, I quit, you dumb fuck.” I hear Jane start to laugh and see Miguel smiling at me as I walk out the store’s door backwards. 
I get outside, pull out my phone and call Alex. It goes to his voicemail.
“Yo man, I’m down to move in. You wanna come up and crash at my place Wednesday and we can hash out some of the details and shit. Oh, and I got a funny story to tell ya then so call me back when you get this. Later.” 

New Music From Nas; Rapping Over Old Memphis Blues 

(Image courtesy of FACT Magazine)

A new Nas song surfaced last week called “On The Road Again”. It isn’t actually a Nasir Jones original, but rather, features the hip hop elder statesman rapping over the 1920s blues song of the same name originally recorded by the Memphis Jug Band. 

It was accompanied by a video from PBS from the docu-series American Epic. In part produced and scored by Jack White, American Epic – which will focus on the history of the beginning of music and cover a lot of music of the 1920s – had a number of guest musicians contribute to its soundtrack, but Nas is the only rapper who contributed to the soundtrack. 

Nas gave some backstory to this song, saying, “The Memphis Jug Band sounds like something today.” Nas went on to further explain by adding: 

“These guys are talking about women, carrying guns, protecting their honor, chasing after some woman who has done them dirty. This is not high society black folks. This is the down under, street, wild black folks that they’re singing about.  And it’s the same as rap music today. They were rapping about street life and gangster life and hustling, just a dark side of the world.” 

To learn more about the backstory of the original “On The Road Again” that Nas felt inspired to rap over, click here

Below is the audio of Nas’s version of “On The Road Again” from the American Epic soundtrack. 

(Video courtesy of YouTube)