Are You Electrified???

Are You Electrified???
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COVERART : Cocaine Feet, Live Birmingham July 2012

Track listing for “Cocaine Feet: Live In Birmingham, Alabama”

1. I Miss the Zoo
2. Too Much to Hide
3. Black Lexus
4. Almost Blue
5. Honey and the Moon
6. Travel as Equals
7. Echo Park
8. Invisible Hands
9. Can’t Exist
10. In the Sun
11. Cocaine Feet

Joseph Arthur – lead vocals and guitar
Kraig Jarret Johnson- background vocals and bass
Russell Simins – drums

All songs written by Joseph Arthur

Cover drawing by Kraig Jarret Johnson on a bar napkin in New Orleans
Recorded live before a live studio audience
No over dubs or fixes
Mixed after a gig at the Bottletree
Between the hours of 3 am and 9am
Recorded Mixed & Mastered @ KJP | King of the Jungle Productions
Recorded by Ahmad Farzad & Steven James
Mixed by Ahmad Farzad, Joseph Arthur & Kraig Jarret Johnson
Mastered by Gigantor
Special Thanks to Birmingham Mountain Radio

REVIEW : The Ballad Of Boogie Christ - Blurt Magazine


Note : 4 of 5 stars

Joseph Arthur’s The Ballad of Boogie Christ (out June 11 on his Lonely Astronaut label) opens with “Currency of Love,” which is Arthur like we rarely hear him. Singing forcefully, almost theatrically, pushing at the limits of his voice. He’s backed by horns and a bouncing piano, tapping (awesomely) the spirit of Randy Newman.

“Saint of Impossible Causes” is a return to form. The poetic laundry list, the train of thought word-play set to a jangling melody split here and there by a raga that drifts across the headphones as if threaded through the listener’s mind. Here, instruments layer and the roll call of Arthur’s saints — “I need the saint of longing, I need the saint of will, I need the saint of killers too afraid to kill” —collage in textures and juxtapositions much like the canvases he paints.

The album’s title track begins with the bold assertion that “Christ would wear cowboy boots, Christ would have sex, Christ would eat pizza and cut black jack decks.” It’s a song that could easily jump the proverbial shark. It’s both insouciant and over the top and yet there’s a control within the chaos. Arthur could wink, but he doesn’t. He sings each verse with slow and seductive conviction, his voice low and unhurried. In the background, what begins as a psychedelic-tinged waltz builds in intensity with organ, horns, electronics, and a chorus that seems to rise from the din of a party. Ultimately, it is a party. Not a statement against Christianity, but a celebration of humanity in all of its weird, colorful imperfection. Hard not to get behind that, even if the song’s title leans toward pretension.

Maybe pretension isn’t the right word. Audacity is more like it, because with this song, Arthur makes Christ in his own image (“Christ would be savage, but Christ would be true. He’d say if you want him then look inside you”), which feel a bit like breaking the rules. Which is what rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to do. And here it’s smart and bold and heart-on-sleeve. It’s also the passion project of an artist who may feel like he’s yet to receive the recognition he deserves. After all, Arthur has been at it for a long time. He was discovered by Peter Gabriel in ’96. He’s put out 10 studio albums and 11 EPs. And he paints and writes and makes videos. He’s sung a duet with Jimmy Fallon. Michael Stipe has covered his music. He’s in RNDM, a collaboration with Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament. Which is to say, Arthur is a known entity, but he’s not a limo-riding, entourage-having super-star.

And that’s probably a blessing. That’s why he can put out The Ballad of Boogie Christ, and that’s also why he can hold a Pledge Campaign to pay down studio debt incurred in making the album and get that fundraiser 150-percent funded with weeks to spare. Arthur’s fans follow him, wherever the muse may lead. That kind of freedom, to create and express, is rare.

“Ballad of Boogie Christ” is followed by “I Used to Know How to Walk on Water.” The two songs could be the opposite faces of the same coin, with the second full of the doubt and anguish that the first steamrolls in its soulful swagger. But “I Used to Know How to Walk on Water” is soulful, too, in its quiet reflection and raw honesty. “Forgive me now my useless thunder when I was such a dynamo,” Arthur sings. “For I am here, and I am humble. I know not which way to go.” The songs dissolves to a stripped a capella for just a moment. It’s a rare glimpse behind the curtain of Arthur’s lavish maelstrom and production.

“I Miss the Zoo” is reprised here, though in a different form from last year’sRedemption City. There’s something about that song that is always a little hard to hear. It’s Arthur’s spoken word revisiting of his own addiction. Though he’s been sober for about a decade now, there’s something in the lush visuals, the palpable longing wafting through the dark-but-lovely words that suggests the songwriter feels compelled to revisit the wreckage. On Boogie, the song is more up-front — voice, guitar and piano — less buried under reverb. But still. The ache is there.

“Still Life Honey Rose” also thrums a poignant note, with Arthur’s falsetto well-matched with electronics and guitar melodies. That song recalls the melancholy-but-rhythmic turn of 2011’s The Graduation Ceremony.

While that ache, that connection to lost love and human tumult, is something Arthur is skilled at plumbing, his rockers trade wistfulness for flirtatious saunter. “It’s OK to Be Young/Gone,” in its last minute, reminds of the “You’re a pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty girl” break in the Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden.” And up-beat “Black Flowers,” with its brisk hand-drums and brassy horn hits is part block party and part ‘60s revival.

Somewhere between the somber and the swagger are the expansive and loosely-narrative “King of Cleveland” and “Famous Friends Along the Coast,” which both play like cinematic vignettes. Rich with imagery, resonance and hooks, they feel less esoteric than the rest of the album. But these songs are relatable and immediate, and lend a groundedness to the 12-track collection.

The Ballad of Boogie Christ wraps with the seven-plus minute “All the Old Heroes,” which was released in advance as a video. It’s worth seeking out: It’s long and a bit of a saga. But also wonderfully rendered. The video is a photo montage of heroes which, in the first seconds, might have you thinking 1) No one tells me who my heroes are and 2) There aren’t enough for a seven-plus minute song. By minute two, you’ll start to catch on. Joey Ramone, Shirley Temple, Superman, Gandhi, Twiggy, Dukes of Hazzard, Bob Marley, Captain Kangaroo. They’re all there. They flash by and you think something like, “I get it. Heroes are those people who show us how to really go for it.”

And that’s exactly what Arthur is doing with The Ballad of Boogie Christ. Going for it.

REVIEW : The Ballad of Boogie Christ - AmericanSongwriter

Written By Megan Pacella // June 10, 2013

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

When you’re writing from the perspective of a fictionalized character, it takes quite a journey to nail down a solid story line—let alone enough interesting melodies and compelling lyrics to back it up. That’s the journey that Grammy-nominated alt rock singer Joseph Arthur has been on for the past several years.

During a career that has spanned nine full-length albums and 11 EPs, Arthur has been socking away songs and ideas that weren’t yet ready for listening ears. From that abundance of riches, the Brooklyn-based singer (who is formerly from Ohio) carefully selected and molded his latest record, The Ballad of Boogie Christ.

This single narrative thread is based on what Arthur describes as “a fictionalized character loosely based on my own journey.” And what a journey it’s been. The album is comprised of sessions put to tape in upstate New York, Los Angeles, Brooklyn and Minneapolis, thanks to the help of talented session drummer Jim Keltner, composer Paul Cantelon, and a handful of other talented musicians.

While The Ballad of Boogie Christ is being sold under the guise of Psychedelic Soul, there’s more to the album than one simple genre. The opening track (“Currency of Love”) is decidedly orchestral, which gives Arthur the chance to prep listeners for a sensory excursion with his truly exceptional vocal range.

From there, the narrator calls for a muse in “Saint of Impossible Causes.” Following that, the title-track offers a closer look at the character of Boogie Christ (“Christ would be rocking/Christ would be free/He’d say there’s no difference between you and me”) in a soulful production complete with horn solos. Other tracks explore the victory of overcoming addictions (“All the Old Heroes”), while others provide narratives of open-hearted loyalty and solidarity (“It’s Okay to Be Young,” “Famous Friends Along the Coast”).

The Ballad of Boogie Christ weaves beautiful narratives in and out of folksy numbers and rock songs, adding a layered palette of horn solos and soulful back-up singers. In short, there’s a reason why Arthur calls this album one of the “richest” projects he’s worked on during his 17-year career.

Listen to the whole album in one sitting, and you’ll feel like you’ve traveled a long journey with the 41-year-old singer—one that leads you from addiction, to recovery, to making amends and affirming friends, and, finally, to the light at the end of that long, dark tunnel.

REVIEW : The Ballad of Boogie Christ - Soul Surmise

I had two fascinating meetings with songwriter and visual artist Joseph Arthur. After a gig at the Errigle Inn in Belfast, way back around 2001, I approached Joseph after the gig and asked him about the spiritual references in his songs. He got animated, had the house sound turned off and played me, and my mate Gordon, a new song Redemption’s Son. Quite a moment (read about it on the page beside this one on this blog). About a year later I was in Calvin College interviewing Joseph before a concert he was doing in the college later in the day. I was excited about the idea of following up our post gig chat in Belfast. So I asked a question... And then another.... And another... it didn’t go well! “What books are you reading?” “Lots.” “What?” “Oh I don’t know their titles.” It was like interviewing Bob Dylan circa Blonde On Blonde! Arthur was not prepared to commit to any kind of detail or substance. The difference in the two experiences was a little surprising but looking back I understand. Here is a rock dude cornered in a Christian College lecture room being asked deep and meaningful questions. Avoid! The enigmatic nature my two meetings with him about sums up Joseph Arthur. This guy shifts soundscapes and styles in a whim. Almost every album has been different. Indeed that is one of the things he was firm about in that Calvin interview, saying that he was always eager to move from sounds and make very album a different hue from the one before.

That fidgety approach to his records has had me lose a little interest in Arthur now and again and feel that nothing ever reached the heights of 2002’s Redemption’s Son. The Ballad Of Boogie Christ Act 1 has my attention again. It is as also an eclectic sprawl of styles from orchestral to horns to soul singers to psychedelia and even throws in some mid sixties Indian meets rock! It all blends beautifully and more organically than some of Arthur’s recent albums. It rocks with literal boogie, filled with melodies big of sound and wonderfully artistic of instrumentation.

For me the lyrics set it apart. One of the reasons for this might be that the songs started out as poems. They are wordy, clever of couplet and original of rhyme. The content has certainly that transcendent mature that drew me to Arthur way back when. He himself describes it as a fictional record about “about redemption and what happens after you find it and lose it.” It seems Joseph hasn’t lost his draw to that redemption things in the time since he sang Redemption’s Son to me in that small bar in Belfast. At Calvin when I pushed his obvious identification with Christianity he was most animated at denying that, saying that there were lots of religions that could be identified with his work. I did point out that the word Son after Redemption did indicate Jesus. Here again it is Christ he use in naming the transcendence at work in the redemption and Jesus gets various name checks. Yet, again it is not easy to pin down any creed that could be theologized. He needs saints, divine love and even the Holy Spirit gets called for. Yet, there is much doubt too. It’s all intoxicating heady stuff and most satisfying indeed!

REVIEW : The Ballad of Boogie Christ - Mockingbird

Joseph Arthur Is Putting the Boogie Back in Christ

by ETHAN RICHARDSON on Jul 19, 2013

My first Joseph Arthur record was his sixth–Nuclear Daydream (2006)–which had the track, an anthem of mine in college, “You Are Free” (“I’m no longer who I was / No longer who I thought I was…I’m not of losing myself / There ain’t no self to lose,” kind of in a hippy-bros-on-the-railroad chant). I’d say it was a good introduction, though I can’t say there’s really any starting point so much as a collage of Joseph Arthurs strung about his career. A songwriter’s musician who has seemed, in ten records in just over 15 years, to continue to operate under the radar despite working with some pretty big names (Peter Gabriel sang his praises 20 years ago, Coldplay sang his “In the Sun” with Michael Stipe, Arthur and Ben Harper are buds through their supergroup Fistful of Mercy), he just released the first of a trinity of albums–The Ballad of Boogie Christ–which was released and paid for by his fans. He’s known for being a Lou Reed-Tom Waits-influenced folk singer-songwriter with a certain inclination towards the psychedelic; a friend of mine went to show where Arthur pedal-looped his melodies while stepping aside to work on a painting towards backstage…

This is definitely there in Boogie Christ, whose Holy-Spirit-themed Part 2 will be released in September, but if the psychedelic is not your bag (and why shouldn’t it be?), hold your horses. The entire collection of songs on this record is a very personal (and highly imaginative) meditation on Jesus Christ-meets-Joseph Arthur. Boogie Christ isn’t Jesus–Arthur made him up–but a kind of caricatured semblance of their marriage. Doing this, Arthur emphasizes the glory of love that envelops man, and the very human sicknesses that enveloped Christ’s suffering.

It’s about somebody that could be enlightened or be insane or could be a mixture of both. It’s sort of oscillating around that theme. I mean, I’m trying to give a well-rounded depiction of a human being that’s somewhat vain-y and somewhat enlightened and just going through the process of life…

“I Used to Know How to Walk on Water” is a perfect example. The chorus mourns the “useless thunder” that now stands in the midst of what was once so transcendent, so “dynamo”. It is a psalmist’s lamentation, a remembrance of and longing for the times of glory, a prayer for help in the time when it is deafeningly absent: “I am here and I am humble / For I know not which way to go”. It is a song of Calvary, too, of death striking the man of God.

“I Miss the Zoo” is his caged bird song. An about-face inversion of “Walk on Water,” Boogie-Arthur here sings from the perspective of freedom, looking back longingly on the days of encagement, of repulsive living and addiction, of drugs and illicit sex and meaninglessness. It was simple then. There’s a feeling of despair, here, with the weight of Christ’s freedom, that freedom comes with it the overbearing power of meaning. And here, simply, there’s the human desire to go back to forgetting.

Of course, these are not the answers for Boogie Christ, but the dark depths of his human experience. These are the “Black Flowers” that are “growing to take you down.” Arthur sings, “There’s nothing much for us here / Peace comes in acceptance of this / Old ways break off into new loves / Which quickly reveal themselves as f***ed up as the old ones.” It may sound nihilistic, but it’s not: God’s peace comes in the recognition of and surrender to what’s temporary: the piffling new loves that come and go with our whims. And the One Great Love is the currency from which all others are seen as counterfeit.Audio Player

“Currency of Love” is the first song cornerstone of the record. It makes sense that the album ends and comes back to it. It is orchestral and swelling, it is not funny, it is earnest and sober. It is one of the only songs on the entire record not littered and complicated with drug references or pimps or crazy nights–it is powerfully one-sided. It is explicit about the love of God that comes from Jesus Christ–not the love of Boogie-Christ, but the love which includes him. This currency is an awkward currency–it’s weaponless, it’s quiet, it’s painful, it makes one a fool before the strongman of the world. But it is all we are trying to find.

REVIEW : The Ballad Of Boogie Christ - AllMusic

AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek

From the beginning, and even on his best work, there has always been something haphazard about Joseph Arthur's recordings. He's always tried so hard to capture the heat of the moment in the studio, that he can get sloppy, thus blunting impact. The Ballad of Boogie Christ changes that. A successful crowd-funding drive netted him a big budget and he spent it getting it right. Arthur calls this a "psychedelic soul record," about seeking, finding, and losing redemption. Recorded in four different studios from New York to Minneapolis to L.A., it features a star-studded cast including Joan Wasserman, film composer Paul Cantelon, Jim Keltner, Garth Hudson, Cynthia Popper, Juliette Lewis, Ben Harper, and more.

Opening track "The Currency of Love," with its piano, bass, drums, strings, and electric guitar, plays an early rock & roll vamp as doo wop choruses support a lead vocal that's urgent, yet just campy enough to sound glam. "The Saint of Impossible Causes" weaves guitars and mandolins with crunchy beats; it's a first-person expression of need and hope, sung by someone who's lost everything. Arthur plays a mean sitar to boot. The title track, a fast rock & roll waltz, is a poignant observance about Jesus walking the earth in the 21st century. A hip, soulful horn chart and a gospel chorus provided by Wasserman and Jenni Muldaur send it over the top. The are only two "psychedelic soul" tracks here. The first is the furious "Black Flowers," with Popper's bass fueling the bottom end, appended by fiery percussion and punchy horns, as phase effects rampaging arund the lead and backing chorus vocals (Muldaur and C.C. White). "It's OK to Be Young/Gone," commences as a rock anthem and contains a chorus reminiscent of the Rolling Stones' in "I'm a Fool to Cry." 

There are studio versions of three songs that have been part of Arthur's stage show for years. The poem "I Miss the Zoo" is a paean to addiction's simplicity; the nostalgic longing for the rush and the seeming illumination its chaos brings; it's gorgeously illustrated by acoustic guitars, piano, and organ. Likewise, "Famous Friends Along the Coast" and the skeletal "All the Old Heroes" are given moree acoustic yet empathic treatments that illustrate the crafted poetry in Arthur's lyrics. The former features a lithe slide guitar solo by Harper and the latter Keltner's intuitive rock-solid drumming. To say that The Ballad of Boogie Christ is inspired is an understatement. It was written, performed, cut, and mixed with great care, and as such delivers Arthur's creative vision with abundant emotional power.


POEMS : 2013


Before the abyss

We are all trapped here
Me in these orange shoes
You on this plane
Me between pages of a book
Like an old leaf found by a child
Or a feather given to a sweetheart
Before he went out to the battle
And found God in a bullet
Pounding thru the air
To the front part of his skull
We are trapped here
You with a flat tire
Me with the nozzle and the air
You drinking water in mexico
You in the wine glass of Paris
Me wearing that watch you gave me
Holding grace by the neck
And looking for relief in a shoeshine
I used to be a poet but gave that all up
To use my soul as a battering ram
To become a fire ant
Looking for wilderness before the sleeping/snoring nostril of time
And there I am trapped
As you are trapped
At the bakery
In front of the television
Exploring your loss
On a digital device made to lock secrets
And expose the rituals of the damned
For you to make fun
To help you to make fun
Of what they are
Of who you are
I visited my heroes grave
And he died young
But then we all die young (if you think about it)
Here in these traps
Where like prayer candles
We explore to the best of our ability
The will of the tiny flame
The will of the tiny flame we are
Spitting our fire at light
Against the air
Which gives us life
And the air which takes it away
The lips of our lover which comes to blow us away
The soldier falls
The feather waits
The dry leaf crumbles
The bullet goes thru the skull
And falls on the mud
The child cries
The plane lands
We are all the nucleus of nothing
Trapped on a planet that gives us a small reprieve
Before sending us to the abyss. 




I am looking at you thru a window
And that’s as close I get
Your skin is glass
The things you say are panes to hold it in place
This shield between us
I tap at it
You bring your face up close
Look at me with one eye almost
Pressed against it
Then you pull away and we smile
And that’s as close as we get
Even your breath is glass
I feel it sleep on the back of my neck
But I am just dreaming
And the small stones you throw from the street outside
Only ever bounce off and never break thru
We all live in these tiny theaters of isolation
Neighbors in solitude is all your lovers can be.
How lonely is the spider when he weaves his web
Or the lightning bolt that sings thru the sky to shock protected children in suburbia
How lonely is their father
Driving the mini van to their baseball game
Or their mother who is sneaking a cigarette in the parking lot of a grocery daydreaming of perfection in a kiss
As the turkey thaws in her trunk
Looking for his neck next to old shoe strings and a deflated ball of a game lost by everyone.
How lonely is the trunk
Or the steering wheel
Or the light holding the pulse of life together by some intergalactic slight of hand the creator performs for the atheist who lead the chaotic chant of fuck you
Aimed at the wings called oblivion
Yes I am a savage
Wearing an alligator on my chest
His mouth around my neck
I stab his back
My heart
With your pen knife
You wrote
I went back to the cocoon
I was a butterfly but always wanted to become a spaceship
There is needles all around your feet
Let’s dance you say
And smile into your missing teeth
You bring your eye back in
And nearly touch my glass
I tap right at your pupil and you blink
Like a child
Threatened to be tricked by the hidden dynamics of darkness
(the things none of us touch but rather steep in)
I look away
And you are gone
There is nothing now but the fog of your breath
Slowing disappearing
Revealing a heart
That you wrote with your finger
After I gave up trying to touch you



061513 Chicago

Waking up in Chicago 
A hotel near the airport 
It’s all we could afford on a Saturday night
Touring is a game about keeping costs down
Fledging indie musicians on the edge of the mainstream 
That’s a pretty big edge
And it can all seem like an illusion
I didn’t do much but watch Stevie ray Vaughn and Albert king you tube clips while playing along
Learning from the way they nuance tones and notes
The way they coax emotion by drifting in and out of tune 
I made up my mind then and there that this journey I’ve been on is a long road to the blues
Thru the singer songwriter ghetto 
Past rock n roll way
And into the kingdom of the blues
As my mad ID programs beats on my laptop
Electronic music igloos are places I can visit but my home is the kingdom of the blues
Maybe it’s cause I’m in Chicago 
Bit that’s what I got for you this morning

I slept like a lunatic
If lunatics sleep long and hard
I didn’t wake up til noon but I needed it
NYC was a cluster fuck of emotion and pressure
The folks came in as did the cousins and then a good deal of my friends
Debuting a new album that is rather wordy
But we played it all without a hitch and the gig was great and some said the best they’d seen from me
So it’s nice that I’m improving on my way to the kingdom
The kingdom of the blues 
There’s a song here

Im gonna write it

saluting the sun in Chicago

hope to see you there! 


2013-06-15 (2)

The Kingdom of the Blues

Thru the singer songwriter ghetto
And rock n roller way
The life that roads defeat you
But bring gifts that make you stay
In the capitol of country
Littered melodies to use
I’ll see you just inside
The kingdom of the blues
Robert Johnson’s shadows 
All play and sing in line 
From a sun that left us wanting 
As it left us all behind
With guitars and harps all broken 
Left for you to choose 
The best way to get in 
The kingdom of the blues
Howlin Wolf is dancing
Muddy Waters feet
They all assume we’re broken
On some forgotten street
And they are right until
They sing our heart the news
That all of us can stay 
In the kingdom of the Blues 
Stevie Ray and Jimi
along with Albert and rest 
Are having high times laughing 
About just who was the best
Some say it was Lightning
He paid so many dues
But now he is a king
In the kingdom of the blues 
Here they aren’t forgotten
The ones who sold their soul
To reach the hearts of others
Too fragile for the toll 
To reach the drunk in hiding
Beaten by the booze 
Which floods certain corners
In the kingdom of the blues
Etta James, Odetta
Ida Cox and Bessie Smith
Will help you find your way 
Out of the darker myth 
It takes a certain woman
And one that we all lose 
Somewhere in the kingdom
The kingdom of the blues
I wish you could meet me 
Where our ancestors remain
In fields of cotton raining
And the history of pain
In nights when we are lonely
With nothing left to use 
And just one candle glowing
In the kingdom of the blues 
If you hear me singing
The song is just for you
The one still locked in darkness
With no way to get thru 
This whole place is a church 
With instruments for pews 
And voices full of mercy 
In the kingdom of the blues
This whole place is a church 
And a love you cannot lose
A song made out of mercy
In the kingdom of the blues 



Whats it like living in New York?

(this question posed to me in a written interview)
It’s like my big brother
or some odd grandparent I’ve never met but seen pictures of,
or like a parent that’s a best friend
a stern, but respectable father
a mother who’s proud, but whose love must always be won.
It’s like a deviant friend who pushes you into risky situations
or like an enemy reaching for a knife with your back turned.
And all over the streets
many ghosts of the many past lives
contained in the disco incarnations of anonymous celebration.
You can see former selves running everywhere
like clones with different faces and names
kids drunk and turning over garbage can,
lovers drunk and making out in a park
or street-fighting punks with Bic and safety pin tattoos.
The buildings, like ancestors and pinnacles of awareness,
looking over it all unmoved and unimpressed, having seen it all before
but with the titans of history cast in rolls you barely fill
as they barely filled those that came before.
Each generation is less eloquent than the one before
less romantic
less refined
or maybe that’s just my imagination.
But the Lower East Side has turned into a frat party from Thursday to Sunday night
so who knows?
But what’s it like living in New York City or Brooklyn?
It’s like being trapped in history going forward.
A river of culture where the only way out is thru and 
where it comes thru is the streets of this city
an unforgiving temple to the grace of creation and toughness of pushing thru.
There’s no place else to go
and no place else I’d rather be,
except maybe Mars,
but that’s here too.
Just before dawn
when the streets are empty and only the real freaks remain
as the nuclear sun shines red on uncovered shadows
whispering lines you can hear
from the dead who still have something to say.
Because this place is a ghost town, too,
but only if you’re tuned in to its frequency.
Because here
you become an old factory
a derelict building
an abandoned garage 
where homeless dreams come to sleep
and get born and consumed.
They are literally everywhere
and they come to life thru you
as if the city blooms thru you.
It’s voice is your voice.
You are its moving manifestation
an urban pilgrim
a beat warrior
a jazz runner
a living scholar of need and how it reaches thru you
to the sky of great art
to the ears that bleed song.
The city whistles a tune
from steam coming thru the manholes in the street.
It’s beats are jackhammers digging up the pavement 
making bike paths
and two-ways where there were one-ways
opening up the flow
in and out of your head
and in your head
nothing but buildings
populated by organizers of insanity
or thought police.
Voices of your ancestors,
people you never knew,
coming unglued in your dream
turning into rats and running into heaps of garbage as you walk by
holding hands with your future
romancing your past
walking here again alone.
The streets love it when you do that-
when it’s just you and the city
making plans for where to go next.
Living in New York,
like a marriage to the mob;
once you’re in
I mean, really in
you can never get out. 



Dinosaur Salmon 

We all just want
to collapse like a lung on this side of nowhere.
To be forgotten and ostracized 
but then redeemed by the models of the world.
Our faces hurt in touches of beauty lost
like snowmen melting in show biz culture
coming in for a landing in tarmacs of fire.
We all just want an escape route laid out for us
with fur coats jumping in rows of diamond jumping ropes
endless fucking in champion rain
and the rock and roll star hierarchy pinnacle pointing like a pyramid to the top of you. 
We all just want
to swim in blood to be unknown mercy in the dance of those that came before
in the music of surrender 
a note to remember. 
Can we not be that? 
One note sung by a mountain 
one note sung by a giant salmon (dinosaur size) 
swimming up stream so the others don’t have to. 
Salmon Jesus,
the savior of fish. 
We all just want
to eat his body
to bite the pink flesh and swallow
to make sex and survival one
to be hung up no more
but free. 
To set madness free,
theirs and ours. 
Let the lunacy dance on the moon.
Hide it in caves of cheese
and set a thousand rats free on the skull of Hercules. 
Let him recount his failure for eternity. We all just want red dice and snake eyes
blue prints and mob scenes
bus visions and the hope of the homeless
the mad decaying kind
which gets cold and hot at the same time as we bloom into something 
even God didn’t see coming. 


2013-07-13 (2)

The Dream Called Eternity

The nuns are crack whores 
The preachers are beggars
The street is a church in the kingdom of the lost
I’m just passing thru
And not much of it touches me
It’s a show for me I guess
But I don’t own it
I remain detatched
I see jesus
He’s raping a widow in the corner
He’s stabbing a leper with a snake
He’s mugging a child with sadness in his eyes
He’s saving us all again 
By being the worst among us
I see jesus and think to run
But make myself look


I saw him defeated and weeping
He lost his mother
He had no brother
He was made of sticks
He was burning
He was fire. And then he was smoke
And cinders
And finally ash. 
And then he was an eagle. 
And then a cactus
And then a tree
And then I opened my eyes
And he was inside of me
In my heart
His finger poking out 
Until it burst in my chest 
Like a balloon
Or a pinata for the celebration of my soul
And then I was defeated
And weeping 
I had no mother
No brother
I looked up
And saw that you were looking at me 
I became sticks
And started to burn


Who here can be saved
And what am I saving them for
Or who? 
Who counts the souls lost in rotting bodies? 
And who believes in a God that abandoned us to ourselves? 
How can we save ourselves in the folly and cruelty of this place? 
How can we be redeemed and why should we care to be? 
What motivates faith but the need to surrender a will that’s driving you mad? 
And if that’s all there is then what choice do any of us have? 
We face oblivion starving, 
How is it heroic to say a prayer? 
We face infinity without an answer, 
How is it victory to say I don’t believe? 
We are terribly small things 
But we are like seeds
And within us lives the infinite 
We mean nothing and are already gone forever
But within us
The dream called eternity


2013-07-13 (3)

Even As The World Comes Crashing Down

When I went home
Many buildings were broken down
Where I bought my first guitar
The window shattered
Bricks of graffiti 
I saw old dreams wander past me drunk and homeless
When I went home
It’s not right to say there was no home
But home had changed
My parents were still there
Yet they never woke me up for the parade
I drove thru the night
From Red Hook to Akron
Eight hours in a van alone Time to reflect on the woman who was giving me a hard time
Time to contemplate insanity 
And retell stories to myself as I tuned in old blues songs and swerved over wet highways

I was there in time for the parade but
I took a nap and they never woke me up
It didn’t matter
I survived long enough to come back home
To see it dying
To see it changed
I am lucky for that
And even my father and I 
Having an easy rapport

We drove around on the fifth looking for a car wash
And we never found one that was open or big enough
So we just took the van home and swept it out
Cleaned out the old garbage
Renewed it’s purpose 
Helped it come and stay alive
In this decaying place
I took a picture of my folks
Walking with umbrellas in the light rain
The light breaking thru trees in the distance
The ecstasy of love coming thru
That we are here 
To see this
Our happiness and bliss and survival unified
Even as the world comes crashing down 



Filled With The Magic Of You

Sometimes I go to your thing on Wednesday night
You hold court there
In beer-soaked song

Friends and acquaintances from all walks of life 
Come thru and 
Its become a New York thing

A West Village thing
A scene
Filled with the magic of you
The easy way you sing
And invite us in
We could all take a lesson from you
But then again you’re not so much a master or a saint as you are
An angel of the night
With the key to surrender 
Floating just above you
And I wonder if you notice it there
Once I thought I saw you reach for it but I can’t be sure
Tho the next day you had a purple bruise covering your back
So something had changed
Maybe decay had set in
Or maybe you were just being born
But anyway, your thing on Wednesday night

I always come for you
Did I tell you I love your songs? 
And the way you sing
A drunken whine, euphoric and needy
Assured and content 
Fixed, but searching in a basement down the stairs from the West Village hustle
You, a preacher to the damned, 
Who thought they were coming to save you 

I want to do great honor to this life
Don’t you? 

It’s such a tiny and precious thing 
How can God see it from the stars?
Our tiny dramas. 
Or going to get coffee
Our bliss
The care we cast on one another
Our betrayal 
How we’ve been betrayed
But isn’t that our drive?
Isn’t that for who we sing?
For the nameless opportunity we are granted here?
To sing because we can

To stretch my mind to liberate truth 
To find myself and inspire 
It’s all so useless 
But then nihilism is even more useless 
And you can deny the existence of God but you cannot deny the opportunity we are given at every moment to become God 
Or a fully realized vision/version of the cosmos exploding into itself

I heard on a podcast that there were many Big Bangs
And many universes outside of this one and that in fact everything that is possible is happening 
Somewhere we are kings

Somewhere else we are gods looking over ourselves 
Judging and damming ourselves, offering salvation for anyone that could believe in us

Remember when we wrote that song about smoking meth in a Red Roof Inn while smoking meth in a Red Roof Inn? 
Things like that make sobriety a regrettable thing
For as dark and deranged and dangerous as that might be
Are we not seeking one more chance to be kids?
Free in the unhinged grope of laughter, feeling like time has no place

And dreams are things that rain from red roofs and crawl on dirty carpets 
Where a thousand feet scatter to find the drug of surrender

And after all
Love and nothing else
Rock and roll

The Rolling Stones 
Your feet stink
But baby, you’re my best friend. 



Training Day

(this ones old)

On a Southwest flight to Portland
It’s a free for all
The junkies with a baby let it wail
I’m wearing a vest made out of goose feathers and nectarines 
Still wearing the noose from last night’s failed attempt 
But no one noticed the locket with your picture in it
Or the fact that my belt is a goldfish swimming in a race around my waste
Ant bones and mother’s milk toothpaste

On the side of everyone’s mouth 
We are the cheapskates in the skies
We fly thru discount clouds 
And lay ourselves in the cruddy aisles

Invisible men stand on my back
My brain is made of chewing gum
You’re blowing a bubble in me now
How do I taste?

Like raspberry and jalapeño? 
Or like camel toe regret? 
I’ve been bitten by the bug
And now I want to slave with you
Let’s fly this baby upside down and come in for a drunken landing
Heroes of the final night sky
The world is ending
This is the final jab of Christ
He wants his fish back
And he’s got a message for you
He says, 
“Just do it” 


We are coming in for a landing
We are coming here for a caning

Who signed us up for this pursuit? 
Was it really so bad being a porpoise in turpentine? 
Or a firefly in the belly of a ghost? 
Or a gnat in the god head mound inching closer to destruction in grilled cheese?
The teeth of swingers, like coins falling thru your skull, from the top of the Empire State Building

We are coming in for a branding 
We are the dead and defeated trying to sing for Baton Rouge


Here on Southwest 
We pick our own seats 
It’s disgusting if you think about it
In my chest is a cow’s heart
I’m swimming in rivers of milk 
As the sneezes on this devastating flight
Are like a symphony of sickness singing the Beethoven in my pants into a coma

Over my friends shoulder I watch the Brian Jonestown Massacre doc
Antonio wearing white and kicking in the head of angels
The fat dude behind me coughs like a timpani drum into the back of my head
And I guess there is really nothing to regret
Except for everything 


2013-07-25 (2)

unfinished song

Your beauty is eternal 
Like fire made of grace
The expression of the rose
All across your face
Love in broken shadows
Dance for you and me
Bumping in the light
We search for ecstasy 
A moment of surrender
Put down the heavy cross
Put down the pain of heroes
Put down the things you’ve lost
Pick up the will of mercy
And sing another song
To the ones who’ve been like you
Nowhere to belong 


2013-07-25 (3)

Bad '80s radio

Bad '80s radio on in the East Village bodega
Or is it good? 
It’s Madonna
And there are 15 DX7 keyboard layers
Along with a Linn drum machine
At this point it’s classic
That’s what time does to everything
It surrounds it with magic
It becomes framed by life disappearing
All the ‘80s ghosts are now dancing here at Gracefully 
I rode over the Manhattan Bridge in spite of the gray skies
I had to escape my bed
It was a trap of thick dreams
Hands from the unconscious were holding me there
Giving me mad dreams
One even about how sad the feud between Liam and Noel is
And I never knew I felt that way
But we all need an oasis 
Anyway this poem isn’t about shit
Except what they all are about
And that’s that life is a magic zoo
And no other city nails it like New York
And I want you to know that I drank a small coffee
And a whole bottle of Perrier 
And I also want you to know that for me 
Life is an ecstasy
Full of DX7 robots and hot chicks walking thru the Village
And also to say
I love ya and hope it’s good for you too 



Joey Ramone

No art is perfect 

And you can make fun of anyone
For trying anything

The more someone puts themselves out there
The easier the target
But those are also our heroes
Joey Ramone
The freaks
The ones who didn’t fit
But made the world fit around them

They were easy targets
All of them
And they felt the weight and pain of that
And they felt its elevation too

And when they were gone
They left the world changed
Their spirit so great
It stuck around
Still changing how we thought about things 



gods and rodents

At first they love you
You occupy heroic status with them
And they let you know
To them
You are close to a god
A king
A saint 
A servant of the righteous
The best kind of being
Their savior almost
And It’s compelling.
As embarrassing as it is to admit
You take it in
Maybe they see something know one else does
Maybe they see the truth
Sure, you can see that there is something a bit off about them
But against the barrage of extreme flattery, it’s easy to dismiss
Deep mental illness for a quirky personality 
Magical even
And that’s the trip about mental illness
It is it is close to magical at times
They are locked into compelling vision
They see truth in a certain way that others don’t
And that’s great when the truth they see in you is epic unhinged heroism mixed with a pure heart of genius and love
But what happens is
Over time 
You let them down
Could be something you wore
Something you said
A song they didn’t like
Your image- to them- begins to crumble 
And in their mind you descend to a depth directly proportionate to the heights of the pedestal on which you were mounted
And even that would be ok
If they just wandered off and and wrote you off as a charlatan never to be seen or heard from again
But this isn’t the case
Or hasn’t been in my experience
Thru the wonders of social media, you can track each other
And you can see the change
Their posts get more and more freaky
It becomes more obvious that the person is unhinged
Maybe even dangerous
And then comes the attack
A comment burped up from the pit of despair 
Their disappointment in you and what you’ve done
Another disillusionment in a world full of them
And I’d like to say that that has no effect, as obviously the person or people in question suffer from mental illness
But just as their pedestal is somewhat compelling, so is their judgment of you as a fraud 
For in their way
They have uncovered a truth about us all
We are all gods and rodents
All wrapped in one
Heroes heading to hell
Flung around in the shit of existing 
It’s hard not to get any of it on you or even in you 


2013-07-28 (2)

plastic meat and robot chips

A note to you, dear reader,

These are works of fiction
None of this happened or is happening
Even if it happened, it didn’t happen
We are wooden horses on a carousel 
We are bumper cars
In the nudity of night
In the left field of a falling light
None of this happened
None of this is real
Now I am free to say anything
Also, anything that points to a belief
Or a belief system
Is also nothing more than an illusion 
For you see, dear reader,
I don’t believe anything or not believe anything
Those matters are for better men than me
I’m an empty vessel 
Marked “Eternity”
I’m made of plastic meat and robot chips 
Don’t confuse me with human
Don’t stack any cards of belief of experience here
I have no belief or experience
I’m simply letting dreams fly around
And jotting down interesting things I see
Leave the wars and the revolution to the others
I’m a bird on the horizon
I’m a flower wilting in the corner
I’m a rat going into a crevice
I’m ice cream on the hand of a child
I’m a beggar looking for mercy in the eyes of a snake
My only hope is to write it down and be left alone
Don’t mistake me for a person
I’m a football flying thru the air
I’m a fire in a trashcan in an abandoned parking lot
I’m a beer on the bar of some dive on Hollywood Blvd.
I’m the loveless monster you see in the mirror 
I’m big foot baby
Don’t expect me to surrender
Let me be free to jot down the perverted murders in my dreamz
None of this is real 


2013-07-28 (3)

mountain bird’s retirement dream

I could never understand why someone would retire
Until retirement called me
When the thought of no longer doing what had been the central part of my life
Filled me with joy and liberation rather than dread
I knew it was time
To really consider
A life just living
No pursuit of nothing
I can go beyond the rat race just by deciding to
I can give up
With so much life left
Be driven by nothing
Be free
Is this dream real?
Even with its thought
I feel freer now
Just to discuss the possibility
With myself feels like a break through
In a sense, I feel I’ve done it all
And in another way, I feel like it’s never really been out of the shadows
But that’s ok too
Maybe there is victory where failure loomed
Maybe I can sneak out the back door
Instead of facing the firing squad out the front
I still love music
And I love making it
I’m an optimist and so I could keep striving forever but where does it say
That a life in pursuit is the only life there is?
Maybe I’ve given enough
And all that’s left to give is to give up
Maybe that’s victory
Reaching for sanity
Reaching for surrender
Who knows what I would do or could do with my time and my mind?
I could paint but
The life of an artist is no better
Perhaps no life is good
Sitting on a mountain top lusting for God
For surrender in meditation
A dancer in New Orleans
An insurance salesman in Ohio
A lawyer in Alaska
I could still go to college
Or maybe escape to India or Africa
Assume another name
Call myself Mountain Bird and start a cult
Or else sell meth in Jersey
Or be one of those guys who wears a trench coat and has hundreds of stolen watches
and chains just inside
Or maybe move to Buffalo and become a regular in the flea market circuit
Or join a circus as a tall man
Or learn a trade like carpentry or shoe cobbling
Become a pimp or tennis coach
Or a high school math teacher
Or just go back to cooking in a diner, which is what I did before all this hoopla
Of chasing stars and dreams all over this nation and many others
I had my taste and it was good
I got further than most
And not as far as many others
But I’m proud of what I’ve put out there and I can hold my head high
As I go look for a life doing something simple
And off the grid
Disappearing into the wilderness
Of this giant-sized life 


2013-07-28 (4)

ghetto preachers and razor blade legs

It’s hard to get the things we want
Ain’t it, Alex? 
We can work thru our masterpieces 
We can crawl out of hell into some dream of acceptance 
We can lift our obsessions out of damaged mental receptors
And glue them to wax
For the world to pawn and deal with 
A ticket for love 
The birth of bliss
What is a dream but an avenue of salvation?

And they tell us how we should all dream big
But what they forget to mention is
A dream is a dangerous thing
You need a dream to get thru
But a dream can kill you
And rock and roll is the salvation of fools

Ghetto preachers
Slinging the hash of power chord crashes
And razor blade legs spreading in red pleather graffiti light
She’s inviting you in
She’s wanting you to walk her home
She’s trying to be like you
She’s trying to relate
If I could talk to you now Alex, I’d say

Thanks for showing me how strong I’ve been to survive any of this
(and I’ve survived plenty) 
And I’d also say
Thanks for the songs
And sorry that they never really sang for you
Or maybe they did
But well
I guess they didn’t get you to where you needed to go
Or maybe they did
Who knows? 



American Music Awards

Some dreams are simply not made to come true.

I remember being a kid
watching TV upstairs in my parents’ room,
throwing myself game-winning –
Super Bowl-winning –
touchdown passes in the end zone of their bed.

I would toss the ball
and then leap for it,
diving thru the air and catching it for touchdowns every time.
I must’ve won a thousand Super Bowls this way.
I was a kid living in a painful world and susceptible to living in fantasies.
My imagination knew no bounds.
So when the American Music Awards would come on,
I went straight into that world.
I would accept my award alongside The Oak Ridge Boys, who seemed to be undefeatable,

or whatever pop stars won ‘em all–
Michael Jackson 
Mariah Carey 
These were the low-rent Grammys and I swore or prayed to whatever God was listening that I would make it there,
as I threw myself touchdown passes in a small bedroom in Akron.

But some dreams aren’t meant to come true
and today in the gym,
I saw an ad for the American Music Awards. 
Lady Gaga and Katy Perry looked to be the new queens of it
The fucking Oak Ridge Boys are probably still winning those damn things.
I’m lifting weights now and not really throwing touchdowns. 
Not sure if it’s failure or growth, but I feel far away from award shows and the need to be in them. 
Somewhere, a boy just fumbled the ball at the one yard line
and Kenny Rogers counted his money at the table.
My parents still sleep on that same bed in that same bedroom in Akron
and I still catch the footballs I throw myself every time,

only now those passes don’t appear anywhere
but in the vortex of my mind.
Somewhere in another dimension, me and The Oak Ridge Boys are singing a song together, standing on a pile of trophies in the junkyard of celebrity.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll make it there yet, but for now
I’m glad I don’t give a shit.


2013-11-26 (2)

Punching boredom in the gut 


You told me I should call an album Breakless
Or was it Unbreakable? 
Or was it Brake Less? 
No, it was Breakless. 
I used that word/non-word

(is it even a word?) 
And you said, “You should call an album that,
a rock and roll album.” 
You said,

"Joe Arthur Breakless, how tough is that?"
I asked Jenni,
“Do you like this?”

She right away did not
but I did.
It came from you
and it’s weird, odd, tough, punk, detached, wrong, right, irreverent, reverent, silly and serious just like you.
Joe Arthur Breakless
Not Joseph? I wanted to ask but didn’t. 
You always called me Joe, 
which I liked.

It was as if you always wanted the essence of things 
without the fluff.
Why be a Joseph when you can be a Joe? 
And like a moon orbiting a planet, it was hard not to always just agree with you.
When I asked you for a band name,
you suggested Cooz
without missing a beat.
The best and worst band name ever.
I ran it by a few folks who were almost always horrified by it.

I never said it came from you
and it always made me smile,
your audacity in everything you did.
A real Cooz.
I had never even heard that word before.
I had to look it up. 
Another word down to the essence.

I asked you one time 
what you thought of so and so’s book.

(it was a book everyone loved) 
“Between you and me?” you asked.
“Yes, of course.”
“I don’t like it much.
Too much fluff,
too much poetry speak.”
For you poetry was simple, tough language,
not a series of adjectives describing a bridge going into worlds unknown,
but rather a breakless cooz
punching boredom in the gut.