Track-by-Track: “Spooky Spongecake”

Like other tracks on Thank You for Holding, “Spooky Spongecake” has a longer history than one might expect. I originally released a different version of this track as simply “Spongecake” about a year ago (and have since made it unavailable for reasons I’ll explain in a moment.) Here’s what I had to say about the track at the time:

I was sitting on the beach, and every iPod was playing Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville,” but they were all out of sync with each other. The song would be fading on one speaker and just starting on another. Or two would be playing almost simultaneously but not quite in sync with each other. The line that kept jumping out at me was “living on spongecake,” which I later learned was actually “nibblin’ on spongecake.” But when I thought it was “living,” the line really stuck with me because I thought, yeah, isn’t that pretty much what we’re all doing? Living on a media diet of spongecake and margaritas? Pretentious, I know, but a few days later, I went back to work, and the Xerox machine (which is actually a Canon) was grinding away, and that line was still in my head. This track is an attempt at capturing what it sounded like.

The original version of the track actually included a brief snippet of the Jimmy Buffett song that I looped and ran through various effects and filters so as to make it unrecognizable. All the same, I didn’t love the idea of having someone else’s voice from a hugely popular pop song on the track. My concerns weren’t just artistic. I also didn’t want to violate copyright law, so I took the track down from BandCamp and recorded a new version in which I’ve replaced Buffett’s voice (as well as his melody) with my own. I also changed the words a bit: “Groovin’ on spongecake.” That version was twice as long as this one and included synthesizers, guitar, and drums. It had a distinctly Depeche Mode feel.

I’ll also admit that this is one of the strangest tracks on the album. In a way, it’s in line with one of my larger projects as far as being a recording artist is concerned. While appreciate the form of the traditional three-minute pop song (as exemplified by “Margaritaville” and countless other songs that have graced the pop charts over the decades), I also like to explore other forms that recorded music can take.

Perhaps the best known version of this view of recording artistry is John Lennon’s “Revolution 9” from The Beatles (aka The White Album). In this track, Lennon spliced together sound effects and recordings to create a sound collage that left many fans scratching their heads in wonder. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” it wasn’t.

With “Spooky Spongecake,” I was trying to paint a creepy picture of an deserted workplace where only the copy machine and a malfunctioning music player are getting anything done. It’s essentially in line with some of the other songs in the “mini album” that begins with “Mellow Pleasant Spongecake” and ends with this track.

The “Mellow Pleasant” version of this song represents the robot from “Thank You for Holding” drifting into a reverie about the world outside. “Best Worst of Times” is a meditation on what the world was like before it ended. “Sweet Chocolate Jesus” gives us another answering machine repeating a meaningless message to no one. “66th and City” depicts an abandoned home in a world populated only by ghosts. And “Spooky Spongecake” returns us to the dreaming robot, only now the dream has turned sour.

Track-by-Track: “Sweet Chocolate Jesus”

I was a little worried that some listeners might find this track offensive, much as fans found John Lennon’s “more popular than Jesus” comment offensive in 1966.

Burning-01

Fortunately for me, my fan base isn’t quite as large as that of the Beatles, so the backlash against this song, should there be any, won’t be that bad.

In truth, though, the song is more about the commodification of religion in general — and Christianity in particular — than anything else. Isn’t it odd that when it comes to Christmas and Easter, gifts and candy eclipse the more sacred aspects of those holidays? Hence the repeated “The more you spend, the more you’re saved!” line that repeats throughout the track.*

About that line: My sister-in-law sent the recording to me when someone at a local department store left the message on her phone. And since this is an album about machines and messages and miscommunication, how could I not include it?

The “Sweet Chocolate Jesus” lines are actually slowed-down samples of my own voice. I rigged up an electronic drum kit so that instead of the usual snare and tom sounds, striking the drum heads would produce the sound of my slowed-down voice shouting “Sweet,” “Chocolate,” and “Jesus” respectively. Kind of an odd way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but what can I say? I’m easily amused.

Sweet Chocolate Jesus

The more you spend, the more you’re saved.

Sweet. Sweet. Sweet chocolate.
Sweet sweet chocolate.
Sweet chocolate Jesus.

Sweet chocolate.
Sweet, sweet chocolate.
Sweet Jesus.
Sweet, sweet Jesus.

Give me some of that
Sweet chocolate.
Give me some of that
Sweet Jesus.
Give me some of that
Sweet chocolate Jesus.

Sweet chocolate Jesus.
The more you spend, the more you’re saved.

Sweet chocolate Jesus.
The more you spend, the more you’re saved.
Sweet chocolate Jesus.
The more you spend, the more you’re saved.
Sweet chocolate Jesus.
The more you spend, the more you’re saved.
Bye-bye. Have a great day.

*Technically, the line is actually “The more you spend, the more you save,” but if you squint your ears, you can hear what I’m hearing.

 

Track-by-Track: “Best Worst of Times”

Before I begin, a quick note to say that Thank You for Holding is now available on several platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcast…

This short track was an extremely late addition to Thank You for Holding. I was in the final stages of putting the album together and sequencing it when I stumbled upon this recording that I’d made in May of 2016.

At the time, if I remember correctly, I was fooling around with a Vocoder, which is essentially a synth you can sing into, and I rearranged and added some superfluous words to the famous opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

When I stumbled rediscovered the track on my hard drive a little over a year later, it occurred to me that the song fit thematically with one that comes a little bit later in the sequence, “66th and City.”

I also thought that it complemented the synthy sound of the song that closes out “side one” of the album, “Mellow Pleasant Spongecake,” and would therefore offer a smooth transition into “side two.”

Then again, I also think of “Mellow Pleasant Spongecake,” “Best Worst of Times,” “Sweet Chocolate Jesus,” “66th and City,” and “Spooky Spongecake” as a mini album within the album–the automated answering system dreaming of life outside its electronic confines and being woken rudely by the sound of a copy machine sputtering away in an adjoining office.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…