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The Scottish Play

by Charcoal Burners

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    2x180gm black vinyl. Gatefold sleeve with lyrics

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1.
29 04:06
29 29 years have gone You’re back where you belong What did he say, all the rest is toys? What did you say when you hurt yourself? Bit me You won’t know in a while, you won’t know In time 29 reasons why I should ask for you But I put down the phone And I don’t know why I do Do you? Bit me You won’t know in a while you won’t know in time 29 years have gone You’re back where you belong What did he say? All the rest is toys
2.
Tell Me 02:57
Tell Me Tell me what you want and it’s yours Open any one of these doors Looks like we won the apocalypse And the jury’s still out cos they’re dead Throw out all the dresses you’ve sewn Feed them to the peasants below They till the green fields of purgatory Fearing gods that we’ve murdered or own What’s that cloud over your eyes? What’s this spear piercing my side We’re on the edge of a precipice And it should be the view of our lives Tell me what to do and I’ll try Close that door that’s banging outside I’ve got the keys to the armoury But I can’t free your time-shackled mind
3.
Phantom Fingers When you look back on a decade and what it means And the second chance you traded for a bag of beans Who’d have thought that the old man had so little to steal? Just the rings on the phantom fingers you still feel If you’d come here yesterday I’d have traded you the world For nothing at all And still felt I was winning Here’s someone I know from a bar of soap Kept his hands so clean they were scarcely there Seems one day they got to their master’s throat Tore it out like the tab on a can of beer Celluloid lies to me every night And the cutting room floor’s no judge of wrong and right If it sounds implausible then it’s probably real Like the touch of the phantom fingers you still feel
4.
Black Waterfall Black waterfall looking out through Can I lay low now with you? At Girly’s Hole watched the children leaping in Gets dark so early now, gets light much later Black Sabbath songs when you’re lonely Really make sense now to me At your high school – quite a strange place to cut free Always thought your family would have really liked me Black smoke and fire, Devonshire tea Scenic train ride with me Your rainswept eyes set in your translucent skin Pointed out the waterfall and asked me where it begins It begins with you
5.
Tomorrow’s Queen She never grew up to be a daytripper Never came home to fit the slipper But fled with a man to this bedsitter Part Little Jack Horner, part Jack the Ripper And when he leaves Ricki Lake soon takes over Then there’s a dogfight over Dover And a dad never knew that he had a daughter He was in a Spitfire underwater She’d like to get a place out in the country But A Clockwork Orange has made her jumpy And Lord of the Flies starring Miss Piggy Is coming to a theatre in your city Once thought that she read a red letter Written in red on a double decker It said ‘come along with us when you’re better’ But she never grew up to be a go-getter Having seen all there was to see She turned from the window to the screen To a world of thrones and robes and prophecies Of tomorrow’s queen In the corner of her eye Is a drop of the sea that might have been But this world will so wear out before she’ll be Tomorrow’s queen
6.
The Night Has Come The gentle touch of autumn breeze Sending down all the leaves To the earth around me They’re hanging greyhounds in Madrid Because the season’s over And over land to the sea The night has come Jesus said collect my mail And keep me posted please If you want me I’ll be found Trying to burrow in the ground At your feet Don’t forget you’ve had a day As it sets in the west Did your best The night has come Peter said to Macbeth: Guess I’m available
7.
Traitor Song 02:30
Traitor Song I’m feeling ill today I’m falling over myself To grab a few things here And get away down south Now that I top the list of your imaginary foes What’s it like there now? What’s your awful pleasure? Who’s sucking up there still? Who’s helping you kill off your love? You destroyed this scene You’re pinning it on me But you just stabbed your own doll You destroyed this scene You’re pinning it on me Right through your soul
8.
Following from Our Conversation I was not ever really there I was not altogether truthful I was a victim of for what no one could ever prepare Oh how inaudible you are I’m clinging to this fucking speaker Like it’s some new Rosetta Stone Like I care It once was so clear Now what’s superfluous has gone But what’s essential tagged along And what is left has nearly gone back there It once was so clear And if I’ve ever been remiss And if you miss the one you’ve chosen Well baby please remember this: The best part of me is frozen in you Oh how invisible you were Right when I had the chance to see you And how indelible your face now appears In all my dark corners You were not ever really mine Not in the way that people mean that Not in a way that any woman would share Now that’s so clear
9.
Born Again 03:31
I want out of the covenant I can't keep up my end of it I'm heading back to my element And this indelible monument Can outlive me for all I care I don't want you to talk me round Your fury isn't the only sound That is able to deafen me But your whisper is everything Let's cut our losses down from the tree I'm getting out of the firmament I want our inferno to be born again I don't want to see the morning I don't want to fear the dawn I don't want to find i sleepwalk I don't want to feel much more I don't want to hear your silence I don't want to see you blind I don't want to touch your coldness I don't want to know your mind I just want an end to all this I just want to damn myself I want to believe your falsehood I just want to drink your health
10.
The Life that is to Come Now the wood has come Come against my door And I want more life fucker I don’t know why I want this Maybe what I want is the life that’s passed The life that is to come: An amoeba fighting for its day in the sun I’ve known loyalty From those that owe me life I say that counts for nothing Or something more than I can reverse You were the last, the last and first Oh baby tell me: How’d it ever come undone like this? I have dreams of you And they’re all coming true One by one these apparitions gain substance As your transparency fades Into the life, the life that is to come And I won’t see it but some day you’ll reign
11.
It’s Not Enough Now you’ve got all that you want It’s like you’ve shut down Turn the tables on yourself Could it be it’s not enough? Your balancing act Up on your parapet is beautiful You washed the black mark from my name Now I’m your domain You say for me There’s grander halls and higher pedestals That I’d break my neck to see Then would that be enough? He sits alone The only boy in class to get an erection in school But that was ten years ago And the laughter in this room’s got nothing to do with him He’s got a feeling it’s not enough But he’ll never find the truth that he’s been suppressing Nobody sees him anymore And sure as hell nobody ever sees him undressing She stands alone The girl who you thought was too good for you to talk to She works selling magazines to old men And tries not think where they go to She’s got a feeling it’s not enough But she’ll never find the part that she’s missing Nobody wants to know anything about her But if there’s someone that she’s kissing We live alone In perfect circles concentric And worry about getting progressively more eccentric We’ve got a feeling it’s not enough
12.
Black Waterfall Black waterfall looking out through Can I lay low now with you? At Girly’s Hole watched the children leaping in Gets dark so early now, gets light much later Black Sabbath songs when you’re lonely Really make sense now to me At your high school – quite a strange place to cut free Always thought your family would have really liked me Black smoke and fire, Devonshire tea Scenic train ride with me Your rainswept eyes set in your translucent skin Pointed out the waterfall and asked me where it begins It begins with you
13.
The Ghost of the Castle Who’s that out in the marsh? With twenty mortal gashes? He’s a friend of mine I’d like him back sometime Hear them call me dead butcher Doesn’t that seem a little harsh? I’m just the ghost of the castle Whose body’s that? And what you doing with it? You’re like a girl playing with a doll to me Give me back the head that I’m missing Wouldn’t have thought that was much to ask For the ghost of the castle But you don’t see me haunting you
14.
Heather 02:52
Heather Heather on the hills where I walk with you no more This rusty crown it appears I traded you for And the very stones themselves now dust in my hand There’s nowhere left to run, nowhere to make a stand So I ask myself now what remains that true? It was good once I was good once With you

about

Is this a Dating Godot album I see before me?

When trying to decide which of the many albums in the back catalogue should be chosen for a vinyl release, I was as surprised as anyone that The Scottish Play from 2002 floated eventually but persistently to the top. I think at some point after its initial 'release' (a handful of CDRs flung into the jetstream) I somewhat banished it from my affections, probably as a result of some nagging doubts about the cannibalised drum tracks the album was built on. Dating Godot's (amazing) drummer at the time, Nigel Duncan (no relation), had played on four albums the previous year, all of which had largely sunk without a trace, and whether he was unavailable or had lost heart, or both, I cannot recall. It certainly never occurred to me to postpone recording The Scottish Play until I could convince Nigel to play, or find another drummer. Impatience has always imperiled my work. Instead, I ransacked my CD collection for soloed drums and booked time with my longtime producer, Ryan Beehre, who with his band Minuit was no stranger to the dark art of sampling. I think that in the years that followed, this folly kept me up at nights, anticipating a sheaf of subpoenas from Gibby Hanes, Grant Hart and a host of others for the blatant theft of their drum tracks. Now, I am more relaxed about this prospect and cordially invite all affected parties to a share in all the revenues The Scottish Play has accrued over the past two decades. I have also come to appreciate the rather odd quality that the 'borrowed robes' lend to the album: songwriting 101 set in a Brett Easton Ellis themed karaoke lounge: 'Old New Order was playing...' In any case, there is something very Macbeth about the whole idea of wanting things and just taking them. This unethical behaviour extended even to my dear friend Victor Billot, from whose Alphaplan album I filched some drums with neither permission nor thanks. A Banquo moment for sure. For the record, I borrowed drums from the following artists, and I thank them now for the parts of their recordings, all far more accomplished than my own, that I ransacked in the callow ambition of youth: XTC (Making Plans for Nigel obviously had a particular ironic weight; he was clearly tired of my making plans for him), Husker Du, The Durutti Column, Alphaplan, Beck, New Order, Red House Painters, Talking Heads, Joy Division, Underworld, Nirvana, The Smiths, Butthole Surfers. I think that's it.

Enough with the drums. The next point to address is the extent to which The Scottish Play is 'a concept album based on Macbeth' as I have sometimes rather lazily described it. And if it were so, why would that be a good thing? Weirdly, The Scottish Play was not the only Macbeth themed recording released in 2002. If you want to check out the real deal, try Rebellion's A Tragedy in Steel - an altogether more literal and faithful rendering, in a full metal jacket. With witches. My interest in Macbeth went only so far as the points of direct connection to my own life. And no, I haven't killed any kings lately. So in 'The Life That is to Come,' the lines 'I've known loyalty from those that owe me life/ I say that counts for nothing, or something more than I can reverse' might contain an echo of 'Those he commands move only in command, Nothing in love', but really they about a young English teacher with a disintegrating wife and young daughter wondering how this is all going to play out. So the story of Macbeth and the story of The Scottish Play are parallel streams that sometimes merge, sometimes separate and ultimately empty into the same body of water in 'Heather', where the imagery is all blasted heath but the truth is a Nelson bedroom and the lines 'It was good once, I was good once, with you' are ones I like to imagine Macbeth offering the ghost of his dead wife, but are fundamentally for anyone - and were definitely for me. 'The Scottish Play' title itself, with its bodycount of thespian misfortunes, has a resonance I like. It is of course code - what you say when you can't say what you mean, which is Macbeth - and this for me is the songs themselves. They are the code - and they mean more than they say.

Possibly the greatest benefit of the loose Macbeth skeleton the songs are arranged upon is the sense of structure the album gains. As an opener, 29 might appear something of a red herring, but, like the recent adaption of Macbeth by Justin Kurzel, it establishes the lost child - and the vacuum that will then need to be filled. The 'bit me' chorus is a little mystifying perhaps - my daughter really would say this when she injured herself on the various challenging apparatus of two year old existence. But I like the inherent sense of blame: I have been attacked (by the table corner, by the sidewalk, by life) which we don't all relinquish as we age, and the immense sense of self-protection that we all too often do. The naive invincibility of 'Tell Me' captures something I vaguely remember inhabiting in my late teens and twenties. Then there are a series of waypoints leading through various levels of dread and emotional collapse until our protaganist is wandering around sans head in 'The Ghost of the Castle' Yes, this track is about 5 minutes too long but the intention was to intensify the tenderness of 'Heather' through the endurance test required to reach it. And part of me thought the length of 'Castle' was determined by the exact length of time it takes Macbeth to die? Excuses, I know. Some songs have no literal connection to the play. 'Black Waterfall''s twin appearances do however make a point. The first is celebratory, to my ears, while the second piano version is probably the closest thing the album has to Macbeth's actual death. The point being that joy and despair often pivot around an axis of identical content.

So there we have it. The Scottish Play, twenty years later, makes a lot more sense to me than it did at the time. It helps having it spread out over four sides of vinyl. And to anyone that takes the time to investigate further, 'So thanks to all at once and to each one.'

credits

released November 15, 2020

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Charcoal Burners Dunedin, New Zealand

With your skeleton crew in the cockpit pornographic zombie flight attendants serving cyanide in first class and I'm someone in economy's sole baggage I'm the body they're bringing home and heads will roll in the bowling alleys of the town when the news gets out might as well just overshoot the airport set her down in ten million parts take as many of the rebels with us - Relate (Colours) ... more

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