Normal History Vol. 474: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

I wrote the words for “Waiting For Rudy” in the early 90s after finding out that an apartment building we frequently stayed at when we played in San Francisco was slated to be torn down once Rudy, an elderly tenant, died. He had some sort of deal with the owners that disallowed them from evicting him.

“Waiting For Rudy” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 473: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

I can’t help but think violent games are part of a well-thought-out system of indoctrination that helps lubricate the impulses of economically oppressed youth to slide off to war. Putty in da man’s hands. What if all those hours of shooting were actually replaced with something positive and useful—like a rising up against the corporate ogres and shady politicians who are running the show?

Where’s that video game?

“Greater Beauty” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 472: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

I wish my band had clout! I know first hand that music can change the world, but we timed-out after our 15 years of fame. I get that we fall into the old and irrelevant heap. Christ! Women my age are invisible at best—mostly regarded as worthless, ugly and taking up space, etc. Ever wonder why that is? It’s because we are a dangerous element that needs to be suppressed, and treating us like we’re lepers is part of how that’s accomplished. As a culture, we’ve succumbed to the abhorrent notion that 100% of a woman’s value is wrapped up with youth and sensuality.

A Kind Of A Girl” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

MAGNET Exclusive: Premiere Of Western Centuries’ “Time Does The Rest”

Western Centuries is a bi-coastal honky-tonk outfit whose members have played with the likes of Donna The Buffalo, Zoe Muth, the Lost High Rollers and Eli West. Given its three songwriters are urban cowboys (Jim Miller lives in and around NYC, while Ethan Lawton and Cahalen Morrison call Seattle home) with a healthy respect for old-school rural influences, the band’s sound is the new, real “countrypolitan.” Traces of all the good stuff (classic C&W and R&B, cowboy songs, Delta blues, three-part harmonies, stellar lyricism) find their way onto the dozen-track Songs From The Deluge (out today on the Free Dirt label), the follow-up to 2016’s Weight Of The World.

One of the album’s standouts is the Miller-penned “Time Does The Rest,” a song “about those scary and beautiful moments when you know your life is about to change in huge and unpredictable ways,” says the songwriter. “But as scary as those life-consuming moments can be, I try to convey what I personally believe—that whenever change follows the heart, nothing but good will result. I also wanted to create an aggressive waltz mood, to explore what an edgy waltz might sound like.”

You ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie, Mr. Miller. We’re proud to premiere “Time Does The Rest” today on magnetmagazine.com. Stream and/or download it below.

“Time Does The Rest” (download):

Normal History Vol. 471: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Pre-dating Anonymous, the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999 and Occupy Wall Street, my intention with “Nobody’s Asking” was to instill a kind of Road Not Taken sensibility of empowerment by using language that intended to activate a sort of slivering off of conventional notions about creativity, gender-based roles and various traditions that helped maintain the status quo. Having had some success in connecting with people, I felt fortified to a degree that I wanted more poetic approaches to do the same sort of heavy lifting. I don’t think I succeeded here.

“Nobody’s Asking” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 470: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Something’s blowing
through the town walls
on a current of agreement

Slowly take the green
from the wood

Factory dance on broken glass
Metal, teeth and keys

Letters hung on velvet walls
There used to be a season for the blue

“Current Of Agreement” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 469: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

We performed “Ribbon” a lot in the mid-1990s. It’s a landscape-and-time scenario that reflects a spike in our energy. So much had already been accomplished in terms of albums released, tours and associations with like-minded people. I felt there was room for less literal lyrics, even though I’d frequently been told no one could tell what I was singing about anyway. At the time, a lot of our history was “streaming out behind us” with the “news from nowhere” being a general nod to a restructuring of society, referencing William Morris’ novel from 1890 about a future based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned that to anyone before.

“Ribbon” from Flood Plain (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 468: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Originally released as a K Records single back when Calvin wrote poetic descriptions of recordings and published a catalog on yellow broadsheet-size newsprint:

“This beauty spreads. Feel it. Two concise song sketches, “Rose” and “Days,” in the inimitable Mecca Normal style that celebrate life in all of its sublime, melancholy and emotional power.”

“Rose” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 467: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Jarred Up is a compilation of singles, but without looking, I can’t say where “One More Safe” was originally released. I’m not sure if we ever played it live. David’s guitar is beautiful. It reminds me a bit of “Throw Silver,” and it’s possible I wrote the lyrics on the spot as I was realizing that. It isn’t about love lost or found or a specific injustice that sometimes reveals larger truths. It’s about the stories we tell. Their importance. More from the teller’s point of view. If there was a visual for it, there’d be something representing the story scampering, ducking and diving, across dangerous territory toward something that represented … what? Being heard? Or simply succeeding in releasing a significant tale.

It’s bittersweet that “Throw Silver” is probably our best-liked song. Here’s me: the angry feminist agitator writing lyrics about injustice, and the song that sticks to the ribs of the choirs we preach to is an ambiguous tangle of jumbled metaphors about blue and yellow, going away and returning home, silver and gold, yesterday and today. Tragic! Yet it connected with people, and it taught me a lesson about the nature of conceptual communication that happens while music plays. Even when it’s political, it doesn’t have to be literal. There’s one more story safe.

“One More Safe” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

MP3 At 3PM: A Certain Smile

Back when MAGNET started in 1993, indie pop was all the rage: nerdy kids with cool record collections full of colored, marbled-vinyl seven-inches from K Records-inspired little-labels-that-could like the three “S”s (that’s Sarah, Slumberland and spinART for those of you who only can remember one Bush administration). They were simpler times, when zinesters with names like Archie, Toby and Joey shopped at brick-and-mortar thrift stores for cardigans to wear over their striped T-shirts, proudly donned Morrissey specs without prescription lenses and wept openly at all-ages twee-pop shows. Everything comes back into style 25 year later, so the time is right to get acquainted with A Certain Smile.

The Portland, Ore., quartet led by Thomas Andrew will self-release its debut album, Fits & Starts, on March 2, a nine-track LP that you can file right between the Boyracer and Field Mice CDs your riot-aunt gave you after she succumbed to Spotify. You can return the favor by turning her on to “Hold On, Call,” the opening track on Fits & Starts. Andrew says the song is “about long-distance love and the inequities of separation. I was in Philly on my own with my pug for a summer, while my partner was in Minneapolis. We’d talk everyday, but as time went on, I got more regular and on time with the calls, while she was having fun and it could slip here or there. It never mattered to me, as as soon as I got the call, I was all in.” Download and/or stream “Hold On, Call” below, and get all in with A Certain Smile.

“Hold On, Call” (download):