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Outbirds is partly rage, and partly lament, and none of it’s happy; it’s for everybody who has been a friend of convenience one too many times. If you were there for people who then weren’t there for you; if you’re just a little too strange; if you’re just a little too real, or not real enough; if you’re just a little too useful – this song is for you. It was the first song I wrote where the lyrics came in a huge lump, with me writing them down as quickly as I could as they came falling out of my head in a rush. Usually words are the harder part; they come later, and sometimes with difficulty, but in this case it was the music which took all the time.

You can compare the studio version with the earlier version – which for all its multitracking was very nearly a live recording – on the Sketchy Characters CD. Kathryn says the new one’s the album cut and the old one is me slamming back a fifth of Jack and staggering up to a mic. I kind of like that image, so I’m going to keep it.

The most entertaining part of this song from a technical standpoint are the chimes between verses; they’re actually not chimes, they’re interference patterns between the left and right channels of out-of-phase fake-stereo output from a Radio Shack synth. The actual voice selected on the synth (what it’s “supposed” to sound like) sounds nothing like what I recorded, and is not nearly as interesting, either. I discovered this by accident when I plugged it into my board with a mono 1/4″ cable, thus merging left and right channels and cancelling out most of the signal – leaving that. Which I of course then had to use. It was imperative.


brenda and sugar and alex and jeff
remember they day that the rest of them left
william and honor and carrie and jean
certainly never meant anything mean

melting and running the snowflakes away
sooner or later when no one can say
circles that move along making their way
slowly forget about you

rosie and ethel and suzie and john
always the best until then they're gone
aaron and esteban; tiffn'y and karl
never did write and it's been quite a while

out-birds and flocking create quite a scene
never together and sometimes quite mean
but if you're useful we'll make quite a team
someday, or maybe, for now

jerry and joseph and thomas and me
eventually turned out was best left a three
amy and elsie and misty and boo
always had something else better to do

chasing them down along albany lane
sycamores waving as if they're to blame but you're
orbiting loosely, pherepheries high
jumping away yet again

never quite touching through crystalline glassery
always the outbird will look rather lost
where are the others whose thoughts are so glittery
how can you sail along ever so tossed
knee-deep in comrades who briefly play friends with you
wondering what kind of creature they've found
looking askance at your faceted plumery
soon they're distracted by ones more their kin

charlotte and erika, jenny and kirk
quickly get tired of all of that work
terrence and maxwell and lisa and kyle
maybe they'll latch on, at least for a while

someday this dancing may seem quite routine
falling then catching then tossed off, unseen
outbirds still looking for others who share their sky
windswept away yet again...


from Dick Tracy Must Die, released March 3, 2011


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Crime and the Forces of Evil Seattle

We are one bunch of seriously pissed-off elves, writing the songs of the supervillains. Enjoy our rage-driven acoustic elfmetal, or our GeoIP-driven heat ray. It's up to you.

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