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Changer

by Fred Thomas

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1.
There was something I was trying to say But I kept losing my grip on the slippery meaning The same way cold resentments can get swallowed By the start of the spring, when everything’s beginning Dehydrated dreamers practice shitty tricks in the grass Weak ollies and yin-yang ankle tats These are 5K stragglers, dealership hagglers The sad-faced bystanders on those gas station cameras And there was something I was trying to say But I was followed by a non-descript chemical smell An amature witch cast her fist binding spell And the laughter of my neighbors in their trailers Punctuated those awful tendrils Awful edges as your hometown keeps extending its bleed Every time that you leave Misremembered awful passage of some book You didn’t actually read, yeah? We all navigate the having of bodies and histories It’s a snuff film existence Matthew writes poetry about coffee piss, loneliness, The only-ness of his childhood And I do my best to stand in as some simulated sibling A satellite rendition of an oddball older brother A mythical creature who’s got his shit together But it never works There was something I was trying to say But the paperwork at the plasma center ate up the first half of the day The creeps in their cars just got in my way I went looking for my friends It was last call again Oh, the embers When the controlled burn that you call your 20’s is finally extinguished, you know you’ll still need someplace to go Misremembered every story, every word, every lyric, every mention Everything that I said, everything that it meant But it’s okay! It’s ok. There was something I was trying to say.
2.
Reactionary 02:08
I remember daylight draining Driving through the endless West Texas fading In remote negotiations on my own evaporating world Panic was a place I stayed in I dug my nails into my face out of raw frustration Too used to my own displacement And the exhaustion in the way you said my name And I watched the sun come up Talking on the front porch in those hushed and toxic breaths While inside the brand new lovers soft as strangers gently slept Maybe when you’re finally famous You can pay someone to do your communicating And they can translate it I couldn’t comprehend a word No, nothing that you said made sense But I didn’t actually mind There’s something entertaining When you’re dealing with reactionary types In every picture you just looked so sad! But I guess that was what you liked I could never understand Why you wanted that imaginary life.
3.
2008 02:47
That brutal unreciprocated wave to a stranger You thought would know you All of those first week mistakes that you’ve already made; They’re culminating in another year That you spend curled up in a ball proclaiming, “OH MY GOD I HATE IT HERE!!!” But god already knows you hate it here. You were sad before you got here And you’ll be sad when you move on You’ll be sad that they don’t miss you when you’re gone But there’s no shame in wanting a place Where everything feels good Who wouldn’t want to live there if they could? 2008-- an era of pointless boys in putrid sea foam V-necks I wanted to hate but I was much the same Spiritually broke, my Bridge Card revoked When I got a job working in the basement of Amer. Appar. They had to take my picture there to see if I could get hired Before I got hired When everything is paper thin you just have to adapt You learn how to breathe slowly and move on fast But you won’t be blamed for wanting a place Where you feel understood Who wouldn’t try to find that if they could?
4.
Brickwall 02:49
Six pack, thirty rack, brick wall I’m gonna drink them all I hate myself in a way I hate myself every day Flag fights, blue and white, red stripe The animals are right There’s got to be another way There’s got to be a better way But you don’t really talk to him now He’s just a costume that you once wore You don’t really talk to him now Don’t think about him ‘til you’re falling on the floor And you’re crawling on the floor You don’t really talk anymore Spend your time looking at books about New York from the 1990’s But you know it’s not the same anymore And all your friends, every single one of them They’re unavailable, they’re obsessed With taking pictures of their children They’ve got one foot out the door They were born with one foot out the door And you don’t really talk to them now You’re like a postcard that they can hang You don’t really talk to them now Unless they call you to lethargically complain To make fun of the old gang You don’t really talk anymore One time, I remember, you told me I was like a child who was too smart for the lesson But still didn’t learn anything You were my boyfriend then Six pack, thirty rack When are you gonna come back and be my boyfriend again? Come back and be my boyfriend again.
5.
Oh the crushing weight of an exceptional memory! There’s a detailed, unfailing transcript of every conversation waiting And I know it’s annoying But what happens in a house with the windows always open And the water always flowing and the candles always burning And the porch light always broken? And love is always looming but it’s tired of your attention It feels like an excuse you use to rename old conventions I made the flyer myself -- it said “ALL ARE WELCOME” But failed to mention that strict psychic dress code Like, I remember standing out in front of the Northern After another 15-paid gig Getting harrassed by Olympia street punks (the worst!) for looking like a hipster I wanted to be like “Man, I’m probably a couple years younger than your father. And I’ve traded in any chance at stability for this community of people who, like, Know what Black Flag is, or whatever. And look a little closer- This outfit is amazing! You think these pops of pastel play off of each other on accident?” But no, I didn’t say any of that It was just another moment crystallizing Another open letter to forever Like the fast food trash on the side of the road The poorly timed reminder of home The manic rush towards anything That makes it harder for you to tell me who I am.
6.
Changer 01:00
7.
When the lights come on I’ll have been awake for hours A thin film of sweat on my skin Partial lists of pink dawn reflections clogging my mind But no progress and another dead kid in my feed More words screamed about *Life After Money* But it’s fuzzy, still unclear how far a voice can really reach I’m watching each contender surrender whatever They say “I don’t even care! I just want to feel better!” You talk about your enemies, that doesn’t really interest me I’m grateful just to be considered As possibly something more than just A cloud of distressed emotions A custodian of regular feelings So much of the time I am speculation, snark and argument But that “Dirty Boots” video from when I was a kid, I still remember trusting it And I saw an unbroken world where everything was explained And the people survived Everyone was alive And everyone kissed and every kiss was forgotten Seconds after it happened Everyone was swimming Everyone was in love and nobody cared In my dreams I get visits from every beautiful being who’s ever left me They kiss my face, they tell me they miss me, they love me They want to protect me I say “I miss you, too!! I’m trying to be something better for you.” I’m trying to scratch through to the immaculate core That gets hidden in the center of all these regular feelings All those regular feelings All those laundromat feelings All those grocery store feelings All those canker sore feelings All those overdraft feelings Second place feelings You’re just like anyone else feelings All those regular feelings All those internet feelings All those angry dad feelings All those White Castle feelings All those left behind feelings Those student loan feelings Those D.U.I. feelings The phones-about-to-die feelings Unpopular feelings Your UTI feelings Those bus station feelings.
8.
9.
A memory swarm from a lesser hive Leaves you crying in the bathroom at the party While the unholy midwest drunk drivers Lace up the highways like always Here’s another night that feels amazing Until the morning The summer boys smile at everybody But they only leave with young sociopaths Ugly smiles on such pretty people “They’re worse off in a lot of ways.” That’s what you say The August rats are the first to feel the chill When the fall’s coming on They say “Fuck, man. Can’t something be kinda good before it’s kinda gone?” Here’s another garbage year to dread the end of Like a nothing kiss that felt so arbitrary Felt like it was something you were supposed to do A symptom of youth Those carsick tears on that shitty birthday “Well, it will all be for something someday.” That’s what you say.
10.
Echolocation 02:56
I couldn’t stand to hear your voice At certain points in those desperate days 4:30 in the morning, no place to be Trying to sleep on the train You said “You met me at my lowest, You know this place-- it just brings out the worst.” But that was a lie you told yourself While you burned in a constant state Of flickering between the person you were And the one you became A disgusting oscillation between the way that you were And the way that you stayed You’ve been moving your trash From room to room, from city to city, from place to place And now you’ve got a pile of trash That you can fall into whenever you want to.
11.
Infuriated 03:49
12.
Oval Beach 02:58
13.
Mallwalkers 04:05
Is this the same song? Does something feel slower? Is something wrong? Is there anything wrong? Does something feel slower? Or is this just the same daydreamed death where you see yourself lowered Into the cold, greedy ground as your parents and plagiarists lose their shit Sobbing over your casket And you broadcast it every couple of hours When you’re not busy with customers Selling cell phone cases and cords at that kiosk in the middle of the mall Air-conditioned days in this insufferable summer And at night you watch your friends dance around Feeling weird about fucking each other And you wonder “Do I even need to be here?” and “Why does this hurt?” You find a more consistent community with those early morning mallwalkers Than these horrid hushed hall talkers; judge-gabled gawkers Some will call you their crush, but they’re all stalkers And soon enough you’ll find yourself thrust up against those fall lockers Dreaming of a simple suspended eternity Where you’re stoned in your basement, playing games, Hanging out with your dogs Could it ever be possible to just pause on that feeling? And why does it seem like now every boy cuts you off when you start speaking? And why do things feel negated before they’re experienced? Why does it hurt? When they tell you you talk like a teenager, you sound so stupid Say nothing Because those high school scars, and the parallel bars All the lonely lights on these frozen cars Every broken-wrist handstand in some best friend’s yard And every ugly part of everything that people keep on telling you you are They aren’t yours, they’re just wrong.

about

Following the release of his critically-lauded 2015 album All Are Saved, songwriter/producer Fred Thomas entered a period of enormous transition. He gave notice at the writing job that had offered stability for years, got married and moved to Canada, all between multiple tours that ran the spectrum from sold out opening slots to sleeping in the car after empty gigs. At the end of yet another tour he returned to Athens, Georgia, to again work with producer Drew Vandenberg (of Montreal, Mothers, many more) on an album aiming to encapsulate the nonstop changes that had sprung out of this phase of his life. Naturally, this record is named Changer.

The unflinchingly direct lyrical approach that defined All Are Saved continues here, with themes of uncertainty and struggle coming up over and over. A working title for the record was "Hope I'm Funny," a reference to the opening line of an especially bleak Richard Pryor routine. The comedian found himself confused at the audience's applause before he's even uttered a word, certain he was going to disappoint them and feeling a little set up, but still hoping for the best.

That sense of floating between dread and promise runs through the album, present in the drunk-dial desperation of live favorite "Brickwall" as much as the chopped up harp samples that propel the electronics-heavy "Echolocation." The production here is some of the densest in Fred's catalog, with straightforward guitar pop burners like "Voiceover" melting into synth-heavy instrumental segments like the glistening, Boards of Canada indebted "Oval Beach." That these moments of textural ambience make sense alongside stripped-down guitar pop speaks to the overall flow and vision of the album, which was meticulously edited from an hour long first draft to the lean 33 minute final product.

Taken from start to finish, Changer slowly tells a story that is more felt than explicitly narrated. Rather than insisting on finding an answer or some greater meaning in the shifting nature of lives in motion, these songs simply offer vivid snapshots and strange scenes. Even in its darkest moments, however, there’s an underlying sense of hope, that every mundane laundromat trip, every bummer night, every empty gig, hours logged at pointless summer jobs, or even the pain of tragedy could be for something bigger and lead to the next beautiful change.

credits

released January 27, 2017

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