Back of All Hail West Texas Cover of All Hail West Texas

All Hail West Texas

Title: All Hail West Texas 1 2
Released: 2002 3
Label: Emperor Jones 3

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Liner notes

(front):

fourteen songs about seven people, two houses, a motorcycle, and a locked treatment facility for adolescent boys.

(booklet):

I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANY MORE. I AM GOING TO TAKE THIS A LITTLE WHILE LONGER. I'LL TAKE AS MUCH OF THIS AS I CAN POSSIBLY BEAR. OUR HOUSE IS A LOVELY SOUTHWESTERN RANCH. OUR HOUSE WOULD BE A LOVELY SOUTHWESTERN RANCH IF IT HAD A ROOF. WE HAVE NO HOUSE. YOU ARE LOVELY BEYOND COMPARE. YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU USED TO BE. YOU HAVE REALLY LET YOURSELF GO, LET YOURSELF GO, LET YOURSELF GO. IT'S EASY TO GET OUT IF YOU JUST BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. YOU CAN GET OUT IF YOU'RE COMMITTED TO THE EFFORT. THERE ARE NO WINDOWS OR DOORS AND THE WALLS ARE ON FIRE. I LOVE YOU. I LOVED YOU. YOU CAN'T MAKE ME LEAVE. DRIVE OUT TO THE AIRPORT. TAKE THE TRAIN DOWN HERE IF YOU GET A CHANCE. STAY WHEREVER THE HELL YOU ARE. STAY WHEREVER THE HELL YOU ARE. TAKE THE TRAIN DOWN HERE IF YOU GET A CHANCE. DRIVE OUT TO THE AIRPORT. YOU CAN'T MAKE ME LEAVE. I LOVED YOU. I LOVE YOU. THERE ARE NO WINDOWS OR DOORS AND THE WALLS ARE ON FIRE. YOU CAN GET OUT IF YOU'RE COMMITTED TO THE EFFORT. IT'S EASY TO GET OUT IF YOU JUST BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. YOU HAVE REALLY LET YOURSELF GO. YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU USED TO BE. YOU ARE LOVELY BEYOND COMPARE, BEYOND COMPARE, BEYOND COMPARE. WE HAVE NO HOUSE. OUR HOUSE WOULD BE A LOVELY SOUTHWESTERN RANCH IF IT HAD A ROOF. OUR HOUSE IS A LOVELY SOUTHWESTERN RANCH. I AM GOING TO TAKE THIS A LITTLE WHILE LONGER. I'LL TAKE AS MUCH OF THIS AS I CAN POSSIBLY BEAR. I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANY MORE.

"All Hail West Texas" was recorded in central Iowa using the trusty Panasonic RX-FT500 4 and the occasional Marantz PMD 222. 5 While there is seldom much to say about the deliberately primitive nature of the recordings we make, the strange case of the Panasonic RX-FT500 is worth considering for a moment or two. Bought at a Circuit City in Montclair, California in 1989 or thereabouts, its functioning used to suggest a combination of two technologies, one brutishly sophisticated and the other magnificently cheap. Its built-in condenser microphone didn't condense (that is, it didn't react to changes in volume by automatically contracting its diaphragm) unless the levels with which it found itself confronted were truly overwhelming, which never happened; meanwhile, oblivious to this tic of mass production, the machine's designers hasn't thought to situate the actual moving parts (that is, the gears) as far as cosmetically possible from this unusually sensitive microphone. The results were uncannily accurate representations of sound complemented and complicated by some pretty ferocious wheel-grind. Sometime around 1998, the Panasonic appeared to have breathed its last. When you'd punch "Record," a large triangular piece of plastic just to the left of the spindles would begin jutting in and out of the view frame, bringing with it a clicking noise whose arrhythmic clatter could in no way be incorporated into any songs one might be trying to record on such a low-tech piece of equipment. In the summer of 2000 6 having written a few new songs that took place in Texas and being frustrated with the uniform sound of the Marantz, we hauled the Panasonic out of its corner and gave it a shot, just in case it might have repaired itself during the long time it had spent standing all alone near the window.

The results are what you have with you now: the sound of a long-broken machine deciding, on its own and without the interference of repairmen or excessive prayer vigils, to function again. It is a painfully raw sound that can legitimately be thought of as a second performer on these otherwise unaccompanied recordings. Its inexplicable self-originating will to go on echoes some of the boneheaded ideas that motivate the people who populate these little songs. Some of us, when we're really sleepy or facing an unacceptable loss, imagine the hand of a person behind all this: an ornery little fellow who will have no sound without a second sound to obscure and pollute it, who is deeply mistrusting of singers in general, and who believes that whatever "signal-to-noise ratio" might mean, it can't be any good unless more value is placed on the latter of the two hyphenated terms. Of course the original signal is never actually anywhere near any recordings anywhere, but you all already knew that. You have been sure of it for quite some time now. You see the proof everywhere. It is the reason you started reading these lines in the first place.

Our love of west Texas and its rich musical heritage in no way mitigates the universally held maxim that you shouldn't have a hockey team in a place where no one will ever under any circumstances be able to play hockey outdoors... Special thanks to young men and women in bedrooms with electric guitars and Morbid Angel 7 T-shirts around the country. The future is yours.

(back):

It came to him very clearly: If I ever set foot in that place I am done for.
— John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman, chapter 38 8

(CD label): 9

every knee shall bow and every tongue confess: 10
West Texas! West Texas! West Texas!

(reissue booklet and gatefold): 11

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. YOU CAN GET OUT IF YOU'RE COMMITTED TO THE EFFORT. THERE ARE NO WINDOWS OR DOORS AND THE WALLS ARE ON FIRE. I LOVE YOU. I LOVED YOU. YOU CAN'T MAKE ME LEAVE. DRIVER OUT TO THE AIRPORT. TAKE THE TRAIN DOWN HERE IF YOU GET A CHANCE. STAY WHEREVER THE HELL YOU ARE. STAY WHEREVER THE HELL YOU ARE. TAKE THE TRAIN DOWN HERE IF YOU GET A CHANCE. DRIVER OUT TO THE AIRPORT. YOU CAN'T MAKE ME LEAVE. I LOVED YOU. I LOVE YOU. THERE ARE NO WINDOWS OR DOORS AND THE WALLS ARE ON FIRE. YOU CAN GET OUT IF YOU'RE COMMITTED TO THE EFFORT. IT'S EASY TO GET OUT IF YOU JUST BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. YOU HAVE REALLY LET YOURSELF GO. YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU USED TO BE. YOU ARE LOVELY BEYOND COMPARE, BEYOND COMPARE, BEYOND COMPARE, BEYOND COMPARE. WE HAVE NO HOUSE. OUR HOUSE WOULD BE A LOVELY SOUTHWESTERN RANCH IF IT HAD A ROOF. OUR HOUSE IS A LOVELY SOUTHWESTERN RANCH. I'LL TAKE AS MUCH OF THIS AS I CAN POSSIBLY BEAR. I AM GOING TO TAKE THIS A LITTLE WHILE LONGER. I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANY MORE.

This is an album called All Hail West Texas, which I wrote when I lived in Ames, Iowa. It's the first of the three albums I wrote in the small house we'd moved to from Colo after the City of Colo bought out the owners of the even smaller one we'd been renting and told us we had to leave so they could knock it down.

It's also, as its original liner notes make much of, the last album that the Panasonic RX-FT500 had in it. All our previous full-lengths — the ones that got issued on CD, anyway — had been mixtures of home-recorded songs and takes from radio shows and ventures into Bob Durkee's studio; all were, to larger or lesser extents, collaborative, featuring other musicians and singers. All Hail is really the only one that fits the "one guy recording alone in his house" description.

As it happens, the album exists partly because I ended up spending a fair bit of time alone in the house. My wife, Lalitree, was playing hockey with a squad at ISU, 12 and she heard something about a women's hockey camp in Banff; 13 it was a week-long deal in summer, and she decided to go. I'd just changed jobs, and I was going through orientation. Orientation, if you've already been through it in several health-care jobs, involves getting a bunch of mimeographed handouts which the management is legally required to read to you as you read along. There's at least five eight-hour days of this, and sometimes it goes on for two whole weeks. You can get a lot of lyric-writing done in the margins of these handouts. 14

Around three o'clock each afternoon, orientation would let out, and I'd go home to a mainly empty house. ("Mainly" here because I mean no disrespect to the cats, and because I am so poor at housekeeping that no house with me in it can fairly be called "empty.") I didn't own a laptop and I'm pretty sure we were still tethered to the wall at 64kbps, so hanging out online all day was even less rewarding than it is now. Some people would have taken this opportunity to hang out with friends, but... like... have you ever seen a possum on a summer night? How he just comes shuffling out of nowhere all by himself, all beady-eyed and content and solitary, heading through the dark to who knows where? I am essentially a possum.

So I'd watch baseball or old horror movies on cable and go through my notes, and I'd mute the TV when I found something I wanted to work on, which had been my songwriting pattern since 1991. I would revise the verses I'd written down on the orientation materials, and set them to music, and record them. Sometimes I'd run down to Hy-Vee 15 for provisions, and listen to my recent efforts on the way there.

It was a pretty productive summer, I see from the surviving tapes. "Absolute Lithops Effect" appears to have been the first song written; "Distant Stations" came directly after, followed by three songs I didn't like well enough to release or work on any further. Then "Pink and Blue". That was it for keepers on the a-side of the first tape; the b-side fared better: "Fall of the Star High School Running Back" and "Color in Your Cheeks" were written in the same night, and "Source Decay" and "The Mess Inside" crop up a few tracks further down. By the time Lalitree got home I'd written "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton" and "Jenny" and a couple of others. The unused ones that still seem interesting to me are here as bonus tracks; there was once a third tape of the stuff I kept writing after I felt like I had enough for the album, but I threw a tempter tantrum one day years later and pitched it into the garbage, which I'd almost regret doing, except that the idea of lost and unrecoverable work has this dumb romantic appeal to me, so when I think of that tape off in oblivion somewhere, rotting away, I get the sort of moony-eyed stupid look on my face that is the exclusive domain of dumb romantics.

The tapes were originally transferred from cassette to 1/4" reels by Alex Newport at Tiny Telephone within a few months of their having been recorded, and that's good from the archivist's standpoint, as it turns out. Initially, we retransferred from the cassettes for this release, but in listening, we found that time had had its way with them: much of the high-end was missing, gone, unavailable. It had once existed in the form of magnetic particles on the original cassettes, and those cassettes had shed enough of those particles in the intervening years that the remnant was like a mildly eroded version of the originals. So we brought up the 1/4" reels. God bless Ampex. 16 The reels had guarded their particles jealously, and the minute "The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton" rang out, we knew they were perfect. Naturally, there's also more dumb romantic appeal for me in the degradation of original sources. I can't help it.

I don't remember when the album came out, or how it did, or whether it met with favorable reviews. By the time it got released I was pretty heavily into that job I'd been going through orientation for. it involved working with children in a residential setting: rich, rewarding work. I do remember bringing my first copy into work one day and playing in on the house boombox after the children had gone off to school. I watched the door closely and kept my hand near the player so my supervisor wouldn't come in just in time to hear her morning shift guy singing "hail, Satan" through the speakers, and I had few plans for the future except to keep working at all the things I liked working at. I didn't know, at the time, that this would be the last album I'd make where all the takes were live within minutes of having written the songs, and I don't really know that now, either: it's a long life and lots of things happen. The house in Colo was razed to the ground and the last time I saw the spot it was only a giant hole in the earth. All hail. All hail. All hail.

Durham, North Carolina, 2013

Thanks to Craig Stewart for originally releasing this album and for always believing in me: without your faith and goodness this record wouldn't exist, and neither would any of the other ones that came after it. Craig originally sent our the promos with pages from a very old Texas road atlas enclosed; only one person ever noticed or said anything about it. To the best of my knowledge none of these promos have ever been spotted in the wild, making them the most elusive piece of Mountain Goats ephemera known... Thanks, finally, from the deepest and truest depths of my heart, to Jeff and Cyrus: for making yourselves known to me, for raising your voices, and for refusing to go down without a fight.

This reissue is dedicated to Matt Fraction, because we are both still here, and who would've guessed it.

NOTES ON TRACKS 15 – 21: 11

These were mastered from the surviving cassettes, which, again, have degraded over time. Insert your own high end by humming the root chord; if you can get a friend to do the fifth, so much the better.

(reissue back):

It is clear that if one has a substantial collection of molecular groups, then it is quite a difficult matter for any other creature to pass through the groups, but a so-called "ghost" which has its molecules widely spaced can easily pass through a brick wall.
— T. Lobsang Rampa, You Forever 17

(reissue CD/vinyl label):

Special thanks to the young men and women with electric guitars and Hate Eternal 18 t-shirts who have shaped our now-radiant future. All hail! All hail! All hail!

All Hail West Texas was reissued in 2013, remastering the album and containing eight outtakes: Hardpan Song, Answering the Phone, Indonesia, Midland, an alternate take of Jenny, Tape Travel is Lonely, and Waco, all of which belong to the informal series of outtakes. Several additional outtakes also exist, Song for God and Warm Lonely Planet.

Table of contents

  1. The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton
  2. Fall of the Star High School Running Back
  3. Color in Your Cheeks
  4. Jenny
  5. Fault Lines
  6. Balance
  7. Pink and Blue
  8. Riches and Wonders
  9. The Mess Inside
  10. Jeff Davis County Blues
  11. Distant Stations
  12. Blues in Dallas
  13. Source Decay
  14. Absolute Lithops Effect

The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton 19 20 21

The best ever death metal band out of Denton
Was a couple of guys who'd been friends since grade school
One was named Cyrus, and the other was Jeff
And they practiced twice a week in Jeff's bedroom

The best ever death metal band out of Denton
Never settled on a name
But the top three contenders, after weeks of debate
Were Satan's Fingers, and the Killers, and the Hospital Bombers 22

Jeff and Cyrus believed in their hearts they were headed
For stage lights and Learjets, 23 and fortune and fame
So in script that made prominent use of a pentagram 24
They stenciled their drum heads and guitars with their names

And this was how Cyrus got sent to the school 25
Where they told him he'd never be famous
And this was why Jeff in the letters he'd write to his friend
Helped develop a plan to get even

When you punish a person for dreaming his dream
Don't expect him to thank or forgive you
The best ever death metal band out of Denton
Will in time both outpace and outlive you

Hail Satan 26
Hail Satan tonight
Hail Satan
Hail, hail 27

Fall of the Star High School Running Back 28 29

Sophomore year
You rushed for an average of eight and a third yards per carry 30
All eyes were on you
Junior year
Blew your knee out at an out-of-town game
Nowhere to go but down, down, down
Nothing but the ground left for you to fall to

By July
You'd made a whole bunch of brand-new friends
People you used to look down on
And you figured out
A way to make real money
Giving ends to your friends and it felt stupendous 31
Chrome spokes on your Japanese bike, but
Selling acid was a bad idea, and
Selling it to a cop was a worse one
And the new laws said that seventeen year olds could do federal time
You were the first one

So I sing this song for you
William Standaforth Donahue 32
Your grandfather rode the boat over from Ireland, but
You made a bad decision or two, yeah

Color in Your Cheeks

She came in on the red-eye 33 from Dallas/Fort Worth 34
All the way from sunny Taipei 35
Skin the color of a walnut shell
And a baseball cap holding down her black hair
And she came here after midnight
The hot weather made her feel right at home
Come on in
We haven't slept for weeks
Drink some of this
It'll put color in your cheeks

He drove in from Mexicali, 36 no worse for wear
Money to burn, time to kill
But five minutes looking in his eyes
And we all knew he was broken pretty bad, so we gave him what we had
We cleared a place for him to sleep in and we let
The silence that's our trademark make its presence felt
Come on in
We haven't slept for weeks
Drink some of this
It'll put color in your cheeks

They came in by the dozens walking or crawling
Some were bright-eyed, some were dead on their feet
And they came from Zimbabwe, 37 or from Soviet Georgia 38
East St. Louis, 39 or from Paris, 40, or they lived across the street
But they came, and when they finally made it here
It was the least that we could do to make our welcome clear
Come on in
We haven't slept for weeks
Drink some of this
This'll put color in your cheeks

Jenny 41 42 43

You roared into the driveway of our
Southwestern ranch-style house 44
On a new Kawasaki 45
All yellow and black
Fresh out of the showroom
Our house faced west
So the big orange sun 46
Positioned at your back
Lit up your magnificent silhouette
How much better, how much better, can my life get
900 cubic centimeters of raw whining power
No outstanding warrants for my arrest
Whoa, whoa, whoa whoa
The pirate's life for me

I hopped on back of the bike
Wrapped my arms around you
And I sank my face
Into your hair
And then I inhaled
As deeply as I possibly could
You were sweet and delicious
As the warm desert air
And you pointed your headlamp toward the horizon
We were the one thing in the galaxy God didn't have his eyes on 47
900 cc's of raw whining power
No outstanding warrants for my arrest
High-diddle-dee-dee
God damn
The pirate's life for me

Fault Lines 48

Down here where the heat's so fine
I'll drink to your health, and you drink to mine
As we try to make the money we scored out in Vegas 49 hold out for a while

We drink vodka from Russia
We get our chocolates from Belgium
We have our strawberries flown in from England

But none of the money we spend
Seems to do us much good in the end
I got a cracked engine block, both of us do 50

Yeah, the house, and the jewels, and the Italian race car
They don't make us feel better about who we are
I got termites in the framework, so do you

Down here where the watermelon grows so sweet
Where I worship the ground underneath of your feet
We are experts in the art of frivolous spending

And it's gone on like this for three years I guess
And we're drunk all the time and our lives are a mess
And the deathless love we swore to protect with our bodies is stumbling across its bleak ending

But none of the rage in our eyes
Seems to finish it off where it lies
I got sugar in the fuel lines, both of us do 51

Yeah, the fights, and the lies that we both love to tell
Fail to send our love to its reward down in Hell
I got pudding for a backbone, but so do you

La la la la, la
Hey, hey

Balance

Two tall glasses of sweet ice tea
Underneath the sweet gum tree 52
And the love we once nurtured, you and me
Disintegrating violently

Stick your tongue out
Catch the pieces as they drift down the air
I am too slow to catch them all
Not too far gone to care

Two slow summer hours spent peeking at the bones
Figuring the interest on delinquent loans
Speaking in sad and mournful tones
Trying to squeeze tears out of mute stones

Wet your finger, place it toward the wind
Feel disaster in the air
We are far too slow to outrun it now
Not too far gone to care

Pink and Blue 53 54

Wind out of Oklahoma 55 this morning
Smelled like blood and smoke
And the crows discussed their future in the
Branches of their Louisiana live oak 56

And the limbs are strong and heavy and its
Leaves are all aglow
And the branches brush the upper air
But the roots reach down to where the bad people go 57

And what will I do with you
Pink and blue
True gold
Nine days old

Nice new clothes on you
And an old cardboard produce box for a cradle
I mashed some bananas in a coffee cup
And I fed you there at the kitchen table

Crows outside complaining about the
Finer points of local politics
Strange wind all full of new smells
Rust and fur and reception sticks 58

And what will I do with you
Pink and blue
True gold
Nine days old

Riches and Wonders 59

We live high, our love gorges
On the alcohol we feed it
And it grows all fat and friendly
We have surplus if we need it
We hold on as hard as we can
Our knuckles are white

We write letters to each other
Invent secrets to confess to
I learn foreign and exotic
Terms of endearment by which to address you
We feed fresh fruit to one another
We stay up all night

And I am healthy, I am whole
But I have poor impulse control
And I want to go home
But I am home

We are strong and we are faithful
We are guardians of a rare thing
We pay close, careful attention
To the news the morning air brings
We show great loyalty
To the hard times we've been through

We are filled with riches and wonders
Our love keeps the things it finds
And we dance like drunken sailors
Lost at sea, out of our minds
You find shelter somewhere in me
I find great comfort in you

And I keep you safe from harm
You hold me in your arms
And I want to go home
But I am home

The Mess Inside 60

We took a weekend, drove to Provo 61
The snow was white and fluffy
But a weekend in Utah won't fix what's wrong with us
The gray sky was vast and real cryptic above me

I wanted you
To love me like you used to do

We took two weeks in the Bahamas 62 63
Went out dancing every night
Tried to fight the creeping sense of dread with temporal things
Most of the time I guess I felt all right

But I wanted you
To love me like you used to do

But you cannot run
And you cannot hide
From the wreck we've made of our house
And from the mess inside

We went down to New Orleans 64
One weekend in the spring
Looked hard for what we'd lost
It was painful to admit it, but we couldn't find a thing

I wanted you
To love me like you used to do

We went to New York City in September
Took the train out of Manhattan to the Grand Army stop 65
Found that bench we'd sat together on a thousand years ago
When I'd felt such love for you I thought my heart was gonna pop

I wanted you
To love me like you used to do

But I cannot run
And I can't hide
From the wreck we've made of our house
And from the mess inside

Jeff Davis County Blues 66 67

After three nights in jail
I head north from Toyahvale 68
Switch to 285 69 in Pecos, 70 head up to Red Bluff 71
My walk's real steady and my eyes are real cold, but I
Feel like I'm all of sixteen years old 72
Lost in a Travelodge 73 with the television on, with the sound down
I don't feel so tough
Old issues of Sunset magazine 74 to read
Sleep for twelve hours
Dream about home

I have no place to go, so I
Drive up to New Mexico 75
Fix my eyes in the rearview when I cross the state line
And I panic, I guess, and although it's quite late, I
Take the first exit to 128 76, I am
Coming back to Midland, 77 and I hope you won't mind
Polaroids 78 of the two of us
Scattered on the passenger seat
I drive slowly
And evenly
And I dream about home

Distant Stations 79

I found an old rock
In the dry dirt outside
The door of my motel room
It was a triangle with soft rounded edges
And a split down the middle of one corner
It was darker than English moss
Green like the soft frills of a peacock's plume

I waited for you
But I never told you where I was
It was you who taught me how
To write these kinds of equations
I waited on the steps for you
And I hid in the bushes whenever a car pulled into the parking lot
You taught me how to listen to these distant stations
Distant stations

I saw the sky break
I threw a rock at a crow who was playing in the mulch of some rose bushes by the motel office
Missed him by a good yard or two
I sang old songs from nowhere
Los Angeles, Albuquerque 80
Said a small prayer for the poor and the naked and the hungry
And I prayed real hard for you

I waited for you
But I never told you where I was
It was you who taught me how
To write this kinds of equation
I waited on the steps for you
And I hid in the bushes whenever I saw a car pull into the parking lot
You taught me how to listen to these distant stations
Distant stations

Blues in Dallas 81 82

Will I see you there when that final trumpet blows 83
Will I see you there when that final trumpet blows
If I don't see you there
I will run a comb through my hair
And I will wait
I will wait
I will wait

Will you walk on in when the angel summons you
Will you walk on in when the angel summons you
If I don't see you go
I will let the minions flow
And I will wait
I will wait
I will wait

Down in Dealey Plaza, 84 the tourists mill about
Down in Dealey Plaza, the tourists mill about
And I am far from where where we live
And I have not learned how to forgive
But I will wait
I will wait
I will wait
Yeah

Source Decay

One a week, I make the drive two hours east
To check the Austin 85 post office box
And I take the detour through our old neighborhood
See all the Chevy Impalas 86 in their front yards up on blocks
And I park in an alley and I read through the postcards
You continue to send
Where as indirectly as you can, you ask what I remember
I like these torture devices from my old best friend
Well, I'll tell you what I know
Like I swore I always would
I don't think it's gonna do you any good
I remember the train headed south out of Bangkok 87
Down toward the water

I always get a late start
When the sun's going down
And the traffic's thinning out
And the glare is hard to take
I wish the west Texas highway 88 was a Möbius strip 89
I could ride it out forever when I feel my heart break
I almost swear I hear it happen
It's that clear and that hard
I come in off the highway
And I park in my front yard
I fall out of the car
Like a hostage from a plane
Think of you a while
Start wishing it would rain
And I remember the train headed south out of Bangkok
Down toward the water

I come into the house
Put on a pot of coffee
Walk the floors a little while
I set your postcard on the table
With all the others like it
I start sorting through the pile
I check the pictures and the postmarks and the captions and the stamps
For signs of any pattern at all
When I come up empty-handed the feeling almost overwhelms me
I let a few of my defenses fall
And I smile a bitter smile
It's not a pretty thing to see
I think about a railroad platform back in 1983
And I remember the train headed south out of Bangkok
Down, down toward the water

Absolute Lithops Effect 90 91

After one long season of waiting
After one long season of wanting
I am breaking open
My insides, pink and raw
And it hurts me when I move my jaw
But I am taking tiny steps forward
And I, I feel sure that my wounds will heal
And I, I will bloom here in my room
With a little water
And a little bit of sunlight
And a little bit of tender mercy
Tender mercy

The big trucks come up the highway
And the big wheels rattle my windows
And night, night comes to Texas
After one blind season alone in here
After one long sweltering summer
I, I'm going to find the exit
And I will go to the house of a friend I know
And I will let myself forget
With a little water
And a little bit of sunlight
And a little bit of tender mercy
Tender mercy

Hardpan Song 92 93

The daylily 94 withers 95
Heat kills off all the grain
Just when you think
It's never gonna rain
The rain comes
The rain comes
It floods the town
Kills everybody in it

The dog runs in circles
Parolees all skip town
The heat goes on forever and ever and ever
Shows no signs of slowing down
And then the rain comes
The rain comes
It shows no
Signs of stopping

Answering the Phone 96 97

Maybe I didn't get enough milk when I was a baby
Maybe I never learned the value of a penny
Maybe I listened to that first Black Sabbath album, the one with the witch on the front 98
One time too many
I think something's wrong with me
I think something's wrong with me
I think something's glued-down wrong permanently

Maybe it's the things I never learned how to do
Maybe it's the things I learned to do real well
Maybe it's the Irish whiskey that I like to drink
Maybe it's the California Zinfandel 99
But I think something's wrong with me
I think something's glued-down wrong, maybe permanently

I'm gonna tell you once, you oughta listen
You came here for comfort, you came to the wrong place
I got a strong stomach and a murmur in my heart 100
I got a tremor in my hand, muscle twitches in my face
And I think something's wrong with me
I think something's snapped-on wrong, maybe permanently
Yup

Indonesia 101 102

The summer came in carrying spring in its mouth
Held it up for everyone to see
This is the time when all our plans and schemes
Melt down into listless anarchy
Historically, anyway, that's been the case
But this year there's a new pink sheen on your face
Like the color of a secret flower
That grows tall and moist and incorruptible 103
Indonesia
Indonesia

The season tunneled forward like a moth through grain
Its hunger was an all-consuming mindless thing
And you slept for twelve to fourteen hours at a stretch
I wondered what the weather in the fall was gonna bring
And then you said you dreamt of cowboys that were zombies in disguise
Well, I knew fall was never coming, it was written on your eyes
Like the mist that hangs there in the air
On the mountainside where rare and nameless flowers grow
In Indonesia
Indonesia

Midland 104 77

Come and stay with me as long as you like
I live outside of town where the straight highway curves
For three years I lived next door to the airport
So nothing you can say to me can get on my nerves
Stay 'til you feel your legs underneath you again
I've got room in my house for you

I got a Kenmore single room window unit air conditioner 105
Cools down the place in the full heat of day
And a family of possums have made their home underneath the front steps
They are majestic in their own beady-eyed homey way
Stay until you can breathe like normal people do
I've got room in my house for you

They tore down the airport in 1981
This is where I came when I ran out of places to run

Come, come, come and stay with me out here away from things
Come and stay with me where the sky's real clear
I live way out where no one believes anybody could live
Sky's purple from six in the evening 'til midnight out here
Stay 'til the world goes down in flames
I've got room, room in my house for you

Tape Travel is Lonely 106 107

Peppers on the plants
Plums, tomatoes ripening on the vine
Midsummer evenings on the back porch
Barbecued sweet corn, sweet white wine
When the west wind comes through, it'll rip right through you
When the west wind comes through, it'll rip right through you

Bottle after bottle of the cheap stuff
Feeling two degrees north of all right
Heaven help us, heaven help us
We're all gonna die tonight
When the west wind comes through, it'll rip right through you
When the west wind comes through, it'll rip right through you

Party goes on 'til the end of August
The tensions build, the air currents throb
Mosquitoes suck the blood out of my body
Why don't they finish the job
When the west wind comes through, it'll rip right through you
When the west wind comes through, it'll rip right through you

Waco 108 109 110

Where the dry dust turns the sunset pink
Where all summer long, it's so hot that you can't think straight
Where we pump water from a well by hand
Half a world away from the old promised land
We understand that we've been given
A new covenant, a real sharp one
And we spend our days and nights
Gaining new appreciation of its finer points
And waiting for the dead
To rise up from their graves
Waiting for Jesus
To come along and save us 111
And biding our time
Biding our time
Biding our time as best we know how

Where the Texas doughboys 112 used to play
Before the wind blew everything away
Where we came to get away from our friends
Where we tell each other jokes waiting for the world to end
We know our jokes are funny
But in all the wrong ways
And we rent old George Romero movies 113
Relish the short time left
Waiting for the dead
To rise up from their graves
Waiting for Jesus
To come along and save us
Yes, and biding our time
Biding our time
Biding our time as best we know how

  1. All Hail West Texas, Nall, accessed April 26, 2014.

Credits

Thanks as always to the inestimably knowledgeable Caliclimber, whose Flickr page provided the album art. Thank you also to Joel Fell for pointing out the Big Poppa reference in Fall of the Star High School Running Back, to Harrison Lemke for clarifying the botany of Lithops in Absolute Lithops Effect, to Adam Birmingham for correcting the references to Louisiana geography, and to Andy Jones for helping with my Texas geography.

Footnotes

  1. An interview dedicated entirely to All Hail West Texas and music that John enjoyed that was related to it can be found in the SPIN session, August 13, 2013. 

  2. Despite the title, songs mention locations throughout Texas, including Austin (east and south of central) and Dallas (east) as well as locations in neighboring states. 

  3. All Hail West Texas was reissued in 2013 by Merge, containing new liner notes, remastered tracks, and 6 additional songs (see below). Announcing the reissue, John said:

    Getting the reissue together has been a really interesting project for me, because it involves going through old boxes of tapes, which necessarily means exhuming the corpses I became at several turns between then and now. All Hail was the last grinding burst of the machine on which I'd built whatever name I had at the time. It was recorded in the final frenzy of the boombox-era writing style (hit a stride, work absolutely every night until you write a song you don't like, sulk for a couple of days, start up again), though I'm hesitant to say final, because who knows, I still track demos on a couple of the working decks I still have and I have ~~~ideas~~~about restricting myself to demo'ing on tape for a season at some point, who knows, life's long, "seldom say never" remains my non-committal motto par excellence. It's the only album where one of the worktapes went missing not by accident (the fate of untold handfuls of worktapes) but because I made good on my generally-empty promise to myself to destroy stuff if I don't want to see it out in the wild at some point. In between the songs that made the album on the two surviving worktapes there's a lucky 7 that didn't make the cut, sometimes for technical reasons ("ran out of tape"), sometimes for artistic ones ("this chorus: what were you thinking?"). These songs have been transferred from the original cassettes and are now on the reissue as bonus tracks, mainly ones that fit into the former category. Several more I didn't transfer from the original cassettes at all, because after listening to them, it was learned that they kind of sucked. RIP, "Red Southern Curl," you are just plain not a good song.

    There's more to tell, but most of it's in the new liner notes, and the rest of it's in this piece Matt Fraction wrote about it, which is legitimately all you really need to know.

    Mountain Goats news. Requiem for Red Southern Curl. May 13, 2013, retrieved April 28, 2014. See also Resisting Bad Latin Jokes One Minute At A Time. July 23, 2013, retrieved April 28, 2014.  2

  4. The Panasonic RX-FT500 was a cassette recorder as described above, used on many Mountain Goats tracks. It is no longer in manufacture. 

  5. The Marantz PMD222 was another cassette recorder as described above, similarly no longer made. 

  6. On the reissue, the date is listed as 1999. This paragraph is otherwise identical. 

  7. Morbid Angel is a Florida-based death metal band. 

  8. John Fowles was an English modernist and postmodernist novelist. The French Lieutenant's Woman, published in 1969, is a critically-acclaimed postmodern novel about a man's romance, simultaneously critiquing other Victorian period novels. 

  9. The liner notes to All Hail West Texas are part of the informal series of Biblical references

  10. A reference to Isaiah 45:23: "By Myself I have sworn; Truth has gone from My mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to Me, every tongue will swear allegiance." Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved May 16, 2012. 

  11. The text on the CD booklet and vinyl gatefold of the reissue is identical to the original, except for the changes to the prose poem (transcribed here), the absence of the final dedication paragraph, and the change of the date of authorship listed above. Accordingly, those two otherwise identical paragraphs describing the album are not retranscribed.

    The reissue contains more text discussing the album, transcribed here below the prose poem. Further, it contains additional notes on each new song, which are included with each song rather than here.  2

  12. Iowa State University

  13. Banff is a town in Alberta, Canada, famous for its nearby beautiful national park and major outdoor film festival. 

  14. A great version of this story is told at Zoop II, Farm Sanctuary, New York, June 13, 2009. 

  15. Hy-Vee is a Midwest chain of supermarkets. 

  16. Ampex is a major electronics company based in California which manufactured many pieces of professional recording equipment. 

  17. Tuesday Lobsang Rampa is the pseudonym of Cyril Hoskin, an English plumber who claimed to be transmigrated by the spirit of a Tibetan lama. Despite being inaccurate representations of Tibetan Buddhist thought, he wrote numerous books on the occult. You Forever is a collection of lessons purporting to teach astral travel, see auras, and other similar paranormal things.

    Rampa, Tuesday Lobsang (1990). You Forever. York Beach: Samuel Weiser. 

  18. Hate Eternal is another Floridian death metal band. 

  19. One of the major show-closing encore songs and one of the Mountain Goats' most popular tracks.

    "This is a song about hope in your life. There is a magnificent Mark Eitzel song title, It Is Important Throughout Life to Proclaim Your Joy. It's also important to admit on occasion to the righteousness of your fury and the justness of your cause in the face of those who would do you wrong, and who would rob you of your youth, and who would ignore what's good and beautiful in you. And I know this is all corny platitude stuff, but I know people who got sent to places, and it sucked for them, you can't even say how bad it was. Kirk FitzPatrick, I remember when they sent you away, man, this is for you." — Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, February 25, 2009. See also Judge John Hodgman, Episode 98: All Dogs Go to Trial, Sketchfest, San Francisco, February 20, 2013.

    "One of the earliest sources for inspiration for that song was a friend of mine who was dating another friend of mine, and he was going through the experience of being seventeen and being exposed to new ideas and coming into yourself as you do when you're a teenager, it's an incredible, magic time, there's nothing like it, you know — being exposed to literature and music and going, 'I am someone other than these people who made me'. Amazing, right. But he was Mormon, and his Mormon family was not down with where he was going, you know, and like a lot of Mormon families in the '80s they thought, 'How can we fix this?' So one day, his girlfriend called me, and said, 'They took him away.' And I said, 'So where — what are you even talking about?' 'He's in Provo.' Provo, Utah. We were in Southern California. That's the Moon, you know. He was gone, and he couldn't get out until he was 18. Now, he happens to have turned out great, he's a professor of philosophy, you know, but I thought how many people must have had their hopes crushed by these people who are trying actually to restore their version of hope to them." — City Arts and Lectures, Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, February 24, 2009

    He further clarifies at City Arts and Lectures that while he's inspired by his Mormon friend, Jeff and Cyrus aren't intended to be Mormon, and he wants people to be able to project their story on them.

    There is a wonderful dedication to this song sung at Berbati's Pan, Portland, October 3, 2003, but since it's not relevant to understanding the song, you'll have to go listen to it yourself. 

  20. The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton is part of the informal series of Biblical references

  21. Denton is the county seat of Denton County in Texas, located just northwest of Dallas. 

  22. Often sung with alternate names or with the caveat, "But the top three contenders / Some of which have now been used", or "Which were later ripped off", occasionally with joking antagonism of the Killers especially. Some other band names used are The Poets and Corpulent Mortuary. Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, February 25, 2009; Opalis, Norman, Oklahoma, November 13, 2002; 40 Watt Club, Athens, Georgia, August 10, 2006; Gold Student Center, Claremont, December 2, 2006; Bluebird Theater, Denver, October 17, 2008; American Theater Company, Chicago, May 16, 2010; Mission Theater, Portland, June 25, 2012. 

  23. Learjet is a manufacturer of private luxury airplanes. 

  24. The pentagram, or five-pointed star, particularly when inverted, has long been a symbol for Satanism and the occult in general. 

  25. Occasionally sung, "And this is how Cyrus got sent to the school in Utah", further emphasizing the origin of the song being about John's childhood friend being sent away by his Mormon parents. Also sung as Colorado. Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, February 25, 2009. Bluebird Theater, Denver, October 17, 2006. 

  26. These lines are often sung en masse, with John shouting, "Sing it!" before the first "Hail Satan". Sometimes he exhorts the crowd to sing for the entire song. For example, see the Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, February 25, 2009; 40 Watt Club, Athens, Georgia, August 10, 2006. 

  27. The "Hail Satan" lines were ad-libbed at time of recording.

    "[It] didn't feel quite done. I never wrote 'Hail Satan' on the paper I was writing it on, it just seemed like there was something more to say. And I'm playing it and I'm like, 'How do I feel right now? Hail Satan is how I feel right now.' ... I can tell you what that means in that song. That means, all the things you tell young people they have to feel? Fuck you. All those things that you tell young people that they have to be, you know. All the ways in which you try to make up for your own failure through the people whose dreams you should be guarding and cherishing. Go die with those. Satan can eat you." — City Arts and Lectures, Herbst Theatre, San Francisco, February 24, 2009. See also SPIN session, August 13, 2013; NPR interview, August 10, 2013.

    "I hold with the Gnostics who say that there are two Satans, and one can't help you, and he's bad and is the cause of illness and disease and pain. And the other is he who resists, and he who stands against those that would hold you back, from the pain that would keep you from advancing, and that is who we will now worship." — Zoop II, Farm Sanctuary, New York, June 14, 2009

    "Hail Satan" is also sometimes sung with different epithets, such as "Hail sweet prince of all flesh". Judge John Hodgman, Episode 98: All Dogs Go to Trial, Sketchfest, San Francisco, February 20, 2013; Bottletree, Birmingham, Alabama, June 22, 2013. 

  28. "And Hal said, 'Did you hear about Dave?' 'No, no, what happened to Dave, Hal the One-Legged Hot Dog Vendor?' And he said, 'Oh, man, he blew it.' I've never forgotten that. 'What?' 'Well, he got a bunch of money again and he went over to Amsterdam, and he was having a really good time and when it was time for him to come back he showed up at the airport really, really high, and they arrested him.' Here ends the story of my friend Dave, as far as anybody knows. Disappeared into a Dutch prison in 1986. In 2001, I remembered him because less than a year before I met him in our druggie community he had been a track runner from Texas, All-American, All-State." — Swedish-American Hall, San Francisco, June 28, 2012

    "I don't really do protest songs, but this is one, kind of. Mandatory sentencing never works." — Somerville Theater, Somerville, June 16, 2014 

  29. Running back is a backfield position in American football whose major function is to accept handoffs of the football from the quarterback and then run, or rush, the ball to gain yardage. They also block and receive passes. They can be either halfbacks or tailbacks, who are the primary runners, or fullbacks, who generally block for the halfback or tailback. 

  30. To rush the ball in American football means to gain yards by running with the ball, as opposed to passing. 8 and 1/3 yards per carry is a tremendous statistic, only two professional football players have ever beat that statistic in a season in the entire history of the National Football League, Michael Vick in 2006 and Beattie Feathers in 1934. 

  31. This line is taken directly from the third verse of The Notorious B.I.G.'s top 10 charting hit hip hop song Big Poppa:

    How you living', Biggie Smalls
    In mansion and Benzes
    Givin' ends to my friends and it feels stupendous
    Tremendous cream, fuck a dollar and a dream
    Still tote gats strapped with infrared beams

    John has confirmed this homage.

    Mountain Goats forums. WANTED: Most impressive tMG rhymes. August 6, 2008, retrieved July 18, 2014. 

  32. Sometimes sung with other names, for example, Jason Standaforth Donahue. Zoop II, Farm Sanctuary, New York, June 13, 2009. 

  33. Red-eye refers to flights departing late at night and arriving early in the morning. 

  34. Dallas/Fort Worth is a major international airport in the Dallas region, one of the busiest and largest in the world. 

  35. Taipei is the capital of Taiwan, the Republic of China. 

  36. Mexicali is the capital city of Baja California, Mexico, located at the Mexico – United States border. 

  37. Zimbabwe is a country in southern Africa, bordered by Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, and South Africa. 

  38. Georgia is a country on the eastern side of the Black Sea bordered by Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, independent since 1991. 

  39. East St. Louis is a city in Illinois located across the Mississippi from St. Louis. 

  40. Paris is a major city and the capital of France. 

  41. "This is a love song about a couple of people and the machine that unites them." — VPRO session, Amstel Festival, December 7, 2002. See also Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, October 23, 2002; Will's Pub, Orlando, April 9, 2003; Mains d'Oeuvres, Mofo Festival, Paris, June 27, 2003;

    "So, this is a song about alcohol and a motorcycle, it's called Jenny." — Empty Bottle, Chicago, March 8, 2002

    Sometimes John introduces this in a bleaker fashion, but I generally think this an actual love song. See Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, May 26, 2004; Black Cat, Washington, DC, October 11, 2004; Bowery Ballroom, New York, October 1, 2006. 

  42. An alternate version of Jenny was released on the All Hail West Texas reissue. John wrote:

    Slower, a little more sentimental, some differences in the phrasing. Why the other take's better: it just is. Thing I learned in the remaster: it sounds like this is in DADGAD, or maybe EADGAD. I've played it in standard tuning from the first time I ever played it live.

    All Hail West Texas reissue liner notes. 

  43. Jenny is part of the informal series of Biblical references

  44. Ranch-style housing is an American architectural style popularly built in the years after World War II notable for being single-story, having long roofs, simple floor plans, and attached garages, among other characteristics. 

  45. Kawasaki is a Japanese motorcycle manufacturer. John has clarified that the type of motorcycle he was imagining was something along the lines of a ZX900, a sport bike. William Caxton Fan Club, ok now if you hadn't actually thought about..., retrieved April 18, 2014.

    Occasionally, this is sung with an alternative manufacturer, such as Bultaco. Apolo, Barcelona, October 19, 2013. 

  46. Also sung, "So the new orange sun..." Mains d'Oeuvres, Mofo Festival, Paris, June 27, 2003; Black Cat, Washington, DC, October 11, 2004; Amoeba Music, San Francisco, August 22, 2006. 

  47. Also sung, "We were the two things in the galaxy..." Black Cat, Washington, DC, October 11, 2004; Amoeba Music, San Francisco, August 22, 2006. 

  48. A fault line is a crack in a body of rock, particularly when referring to the large fractures formed at the borders of tectonic plates. 

  49. Las Vegas is a major city in southeast Nevada, known for its decadence and legalization of gambling. 

  50. The block of an engine is the major engine part, being a metal body containing the cylinders and crankcase. The head sits on top of the block, forming the combustion chamber. Cracked blocks occur often from overheating, generally destroying the engine beyond repair. 

  51. Many urban legends exist stating that putting sugar in the fuel of a car will destroy it, making it near universal knowledge. However, sugar does not in fact dissolve in fuel as rumored, and so putting sugar in the tank is only as harmful as putting any other undesired mineral in the tank. Nonetheless, this presumably refers to a sabotage attempt. Snopes (2011). Sweet Revenge. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 

  52. The sweet gum tree, or Liquidambar styraciflua, is a deciduous hardwood tree native to the southeastern United States and parts of Mexico, including parts of Texas. 

  53. On not playing this song live:

    why haven't I played it over the years? I feel like the recording is pretty perfect — it's a home recording, obviously, but that was the magic of the boombox years: sometimes I'd be recording during just the right take, and the energy of the song's newness would be present at the exact moment when I'd gotten my fingers wrapped around the changes and my voice was fitting the words just right... and, I assume, vagaries of chance like the humidity in the room and the hour of day would come into play, I don't have enough tech knowledge to really say. relative distance from the mic. the condition of the gears on a hot day vs a cold one. etc. the song still has live potential, but it's never seemed to me like one that calls out for live performance. when I hear the version on AHWT I feel like that's the best one to hear. also you don't feed solid food to nine-day-old babies but I can't really substitute "days" with "years" because that'd just be weird, also "months" would sound ridiculous and "centuries" would change the meaning of the song drastically. well ok those are my thoughts about how I haven't really played "pink and blue" live much if at all, guess I should have some coffee before thinking out loud much more today

    William Caxton Fan Club, curious: have you ever played pink and blue live?, retrieved April 18, 2014.

    A small number of live recordings of Pink and Blue do exist. 

  54. Pink and Blue is part of the informal series of Biblical references

  55. Oklahoma is a state in the Southern United States bordering Texas. 

  56. The Southern live oak, Quercus virginiana, is a large, broadly-branched evergreen tree iconic of the antebellum South. 

  57. I presume that this refers to Hell, rather than to the generic practice of burial, or to a more general world tree motif. 

  58. A reception stick is a kind of confection in which a thin, straw-like wafer is covered in chocolate, traditionally given out at wedding receptions. 

  59. "I remembered why I don't ever play that song — it's not 'cause I can't remember the lyrics, it's because I'm afraid of the guy that wrote them." — Go Rehearsal Studios, Room 4, Carrboro, April 20, 2004

    "This is a love song." — Letters to Santa, Chicago, December 7, 2011 

  60. "This song is... another divorce song. It's about trying to rescue something whose time to drown has come." — Troubadour, Los Angeles, December 13, 2012 

  61. Provo is a medium-sized city in north-central Utah. 

  62. The Bahamas are a Commonwealth country of over 700 islands located in the Atlantic Ocean near Cuba and Florida. 

  63. Also sung, "We took a cruise to the Bahamas..." Troubadour, Los Angeles, December 13, 2012 

  64. New Orleans is a major American city and the largest city in Louisiana. 

  65. The Grand Army Plaza stop is a subway station in Brooklyn located next to the Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park, served by the 2 and 3 trains during the day and the 4 at night, all coming out of Manhattan. 

  66. "It's a song you may find yourself singing if all hope is gone. And you're like, 'Oh, man, this sucks that all hope is gone. I liked it better when there was hope. Guess it's too late to really be worrying about that now, though, and that's what the whole meaning of the word gone is, isn't it.' And maybe you look it up in a dictionary, but there's just a picture of your motel under that. And you think, 'That's really fucked up.' It's like a movie, and you start looking around for cameras — there's no cameras." — Bowery Ballroom, New York, March 28, 2011

    The route described here takes place on the border of western Texas and New Mexico, and meanders a fair amount. Fortunately, Zachary Eldredge made a map of the route which helps understand what's going on a little bit. 

  67. Jeff Davis County is a county in western Texas. None of the events in this song actually take place in Jeff Davis County, perhaps implying that he was imprisoned there prior to reaching Toyahvale. 

  68. Toyahvale is a small unincorporated town of less than 100 people located in southern Reeves county, north of Jeff Davis County. No jail exists in Toyahvale, meaning that he was released from jail and drove there prior to the events in this song. 

  69. Highway 285 runs north-south from Denver to southern Texas. According to the described route, the narrator drives on 285 for about 80 miles. 

  70. Pecos is a small city in western Texas. 

  71. Red Bluff isn't the name of any town or city in this region of Texas, or anywhere else nearby. However, it is the name of a reservoir located off 285, making that the most likely location described. 

  72. Sometimes sung with different ages, for example, 15. Bowery Ballroom, New York, March 28, 2011. 

  73. Travelodge is a chain of cheap hotels throughout the United States. 

  74. Sunset is an American magazine about home improvement, gardening, cooking, and other household interests, established to promote California and the West. 

  75. New Mexico is a state in the western United States, crossed into briefly during this song. 

  76. Highway 128 is a state highway in New Mexico and then Texas, located south of Carlsbad in New Mexico and running to outside of Midland, Texas. The highway's entire length is less than 15 miles. 

  77. Midland is a city in western Texas and also the title of an outtake included on the reissue 2

  78. Polaroid is a camera manufacturer and a proprietary eponym for any instant film camera due to Polaroid's popular cameras. 

  79. "The song is like a study of inaction, right, of a guy who — if you write indie songs, usually your early narrators are, they think being a stalker is a romantic thing to do. You find this, that all young indie songwriters, myself included, is, they think, 'What is a more romantic figure to cut than a guy who is obsessed with some girl and is stalking her?' Hopefully, though not always, you grow out of that. But you still are interested in these guys who are tormented by these feelings that they have. So, my stalkers don't do jack, that's their new thing, they sort of just think about it and maybe, you know, walk past a building whose name is the same as the state where his intended lives." — Zoop, Farm Sanctuary, New York, June 17, 2004 

  80. Albuquerque is the largest city in New Mexico. 

  81. Blues in Dallas is part of the informal series of Biblical references

  82. Dallas is a large city in central Texas. 

  83. Likely a reference to the seven trumpets sounded at the apocalypse and described in Revelations. The sounding of the first six trumpets mark the beginning of catastrophic events, while the seventh trumpet marks the beginning of Christ's rule on Earth:

    The seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying:

    The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom
    of our Lord and of His Messiah,
    and He will reign forever and ever!

    The 24 elders, who were seated before God on their thrones, fell facedown and worshiped God, saying:

    We thank You, Lord God, the Almighty,
    who is and who was,
    because You have taken Your great power
    and have begun to reign.
    The nations were angry,
    but Your wrath has come.
    The time has come
    for the dead to be judged
    and to give the reward
    to Your servants the prophets,
    to the saints, and to those who fear Your name,
    both small and great,
    and the time has come to destroy
    those who destroy the earth.

    God's sanctuary in heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant appeared in His sanctuary. There were flashes of lightning, rumblings of thunder, an earthquake, and severe hail.

    Revelation 11:15 – 19, Holman Christian Standard Bible, retrieved April 22, 2014. 

  84. Dealey Plaza is a plaza in the West End district of Dallas, famous for being the assassination site of President John F. Kennedy. 

  85. Austin is a large city and the capital of Texas, located southeast of central Texas. 

  86. Chevrolet Impala is a make of American car beginning in the late 1950s with a classic car style, including tailfins, and continuing through the present day as a more subdued sedan. 

  87. Bangkok is the capital and largest city in Thailand. I've been unable to find any event that unambiguously is related to this song, but if you know, I'd like to hear it

  88. The major east-west highways running through Texas are Interstate 10 and Interstate 20. Of these, only I-10 runs close to Austin, with I-20 passing far to the north. The only major freeway which goes directly through Austin is Interstate 35, which runs north-south.

    Almost exactly two hours west of Austin, sitting on I-10, is Kerrville, host of a major annual folk festival. There's no documentary evidence linking this particular town to the song, but it's the only significant town I'm aware of that meets the criteria specified in the opening lines of the song. To drive to Austin from Kerrville, you would take State Highway 16 to US 290 East. Thank you to Texan Andy Jones for pointing this out to me! 

  89. A Möbius strip is a non-orientable surface with only one boundary most easily described as being the result of taping a strip together in a loop with a twist in it. When tracing the loop, one finds that despite being two-dimensional, it only has a boundary in one dimension, and in fact has only one side. 

  90. "It's about the process of turning into a plant when you stay inside the house too long and you really can't leave anymore, like the plant, who, if it wants to leave, it doesn't really matter what the plant wants, it has to wait for somebody to take him outside. And that's you in this situation, or me." — Masonic Lodge, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, December 12, 2012. 

  91. Lithops is a genus of succulent plants from Africa, popularly used as house plants given the ease with which they grow. During the summer, they are dormant, and are generally slow to grow. 

  92. "The only song of the bunch where I did the old record-into-the-boombox trick of taping something random from the radio and flipping the source switch from 'radio' to 'mic' and then immediately starting to play the song. Why it didn't make the album: feels like a formal exercise, or like the sort of brief vignette that was better suited to the earlier tape-only releases." — All Hail West Texas reissue liner notes 

  93. Hardpan is a soil science term for a layer of soil so dense that it is impervious to water. 

  94. Daylily, or Hemerocallis, is a colorful genus of flowering plants native to Eurasia and grown for their beauty. The name refers to their flower's characteristic of only lasting for a day, blooming and withering within 24 hours, often with another blossom opening the next day elsewhere on the stalk. 

  95. The song begins with an easy listening or smooth jazz sample. I'm not sure what this is from — if you recognize it, please let me know

  96. "Sounds like it's in drop-D, though I'm not sure. I didn't own a tuner at this point in my life so I'm tuned to a Casio keyboard, I think. Concludes with arguably the best yelp of my entire boombox era. Why it's called 'Answering the Phone': I can't say for sure, but my guess would be that the first several takes got interrupted by somebody calling the house and I didn't have a better title in mind." — All Hail West Texas reissue liner notes 

  97. Answering the Phone is part of the informal series of Black Sabbath references

  98. The eponymous album Black Sabbath, which skyrocketed the band into fame.

    John briefly discusses his relationship with this album and how its weirdness captivated him at the SPIN session, August 13, 2013. 

  99. Zinfandel is a grape variety used to make wine, generally a red or rosé wine. 

  100. A heart murmur is an abnormal heart sound made by blood passing through the heart valves in an atypical fashion. Murmurs can be functional and harmless or pathological and requiring intervention. 

  101. "I've thought of this song a lot over the years, because I remember working on it pretty hard: not over a long period of time, but over the course of one of those really focused evenings where you turn around and you've spent several hours trying to get all the angles just right. I can hear the seeds of the somewhat more expansive writing style I'd shoot for on Tallahassee here: the little riff, the development, a little more elbow grease on the rhymes. But it has nothing to do with the several stories that intersect throughout the album; it's just a freestanding song, and it didn't belong, so it got put in the corner, and it stayed there. Not recorded on the Panasonic but into the Marantz PMD-222, a professional cassette recorder mainly used for reporting. Is there an actual flower that grows tall and moist and incorruptible in Indonesia: yes, and its name is 'Rafflesia,' which in the happily-lost initial draft rhymed with 'Indonesia.' Its nickname is 'corpse flower,' which could conceivably have been rhymed with 'horsepower' if I hadn't settled on a different solution." — All Hail West Texas reissue liner notes 

  102. Indonesia is an archipelago country comprised of over 10,000 islands in Southeast Asia and Oceania, with its capital city, Jakarta, on the island of Java. 

  103. Refers to Rafflesia (see above), a genus of Southeast Asian parasitic plants without its own leaves, stems, or roots that lives by colonizing vines. Rafflesia is also called corpse flower because it smells like a rotting carcass, which evolved to attract flies as pollinators. 

  104. "I remember almost nothing about this one except the title. When I dug it up it came as a complete surprise. Why it didn't make the album: the first line of the second verse is dumb. 'But John,' you might say, 'you could have worked on it a little more; the song might have been salvaged thereby.' But in those days a song got exactly one day in which to either resolve its issues or be cast forth from the company of its brethren. It was harsh, but those were the rules." — All Hail West Texas reissue liner notes 

  105. "There's one of the bonus tracks, is one where it has this line about an air conditioner, that when I first heard it, I was like, 'Oh, that is a terrible line, don't, no, that's not any good', you know... It's just the identification of the Kenmore. To me, that's a relic of a different style of lyric writing that I'd been doing like two years previously where I was kind of more interested in little specific physical details, and I sort of can hear myself realizing as I deliver that line that I have outgrown that style, you know, and it's like, and I sort of hear my, my enthusiasm lags. But I think the song sort of, it resolves nicely from there. You sort of have a freedom if you're not worried about anyone ever hearing it, where you can let things go to a different and almost more interesting place than the place where you're trying to knock everybody over." — NPR interview, August 10, 2013 

  106. "This one didn't have a title on the original cassette — it was the last song on a side and when I was mining the tape for anything that might be used here, it just popped up after the last one listed. Why it didn't make the album: tape ran out while I was recording it. It was always disheartening when this happened, so often I'd be too annoyed to resume recording afterwards. 'But John,' you might say, 'that's completely stupid.' You are right. My bad." — All Hail West Texas reissue liner notes 

  107. The title likely alludes to the John Vanderslice album and song Time Travel is Lonely, although further similarities are unclear. 

  108. "This was also the last song on a side, as you'll hear, and I did try tracking it again at the beginning of the other side, because I was fond of the song. But I didn't like the next take as much as I'd liked this one, and that was the end of that. If the song didn't like the rules, it ought to have sought out a less temperamental songwriter. Should George Romero be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom: yes." — All Hail West Texas reissue liner notes

    A number of themes seem to play on each other here: a juxtaposition of the dead rising for the Last Judgment and the dead rising to attack the living in Night of the Living Dead; similarly, the title of Waco and the reference to doughboys seems to allude to the assault on the Branch Davidian compound by federal law enforcement to the experience of being trapped in a farmhouse assaulted by zombies in Night of the Living Dead. 

  109. Waco is part of the informal series of Biblical references

  110. Waco is a moderately-sized city in east-central Texas infamous for being the location of the Waco siege, in which the ATF raided the compound of cult leader David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, resulting in a great fire and the death of 76 people. 

  111. A description of the resurrection of the dead in the Christian Last Judgment, in which the dead will rise from their graves to be judged by God, preceding the rule of Christ on Earth. Simultaneously, given the George Romero reference, a description of the zombies rising to attack the living in Night of the Living Dead. 

  112. Doughboy is a term for an American soldier, particularly those who fought in Europe during World War I. 

  113. George Romero is a North American horror film director, most famous for his zombie classic Night of the Living Dead