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Back of Beautiful Rat Sunset Cover of Beautiful Rat Sunset

Beautiful Rat Sunset

Title: Beautiful Rat Sunset 1
Released: 1994
Label: Shrimper

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Liner notes

ONE DAY AGAMEMNON WAS WALKING DOWN THE STREET.

We are Rosanne, Amy, John, Sara, and Raaachel. We recorded these songs in Summer 1993 here in California. Bob Durkee sequenced them; Steve Kronk engineered the first one. The cover is an original artwork by Mark GIVENS so thank you Mark for the nice painting. The model for the cover was Mr. Do so thank you Joel for Mr. Do.

HE COULD HEAR THE MUSIC OF THE HOUSE-CURSE 2 IN THE RUSTLING LEAVES AND FEEL ITS RHYTHMS UNDERFOOT. THE LIGHT WIND 3 BLOWING WAS NICE AND COOL AND UP IN THE FOOTHILLS HE THOUGHT HE SAW A RING-NECKED PHEASANT. IT WAS NOT A RING-NECKED PHEASANT.

Side 1 has four songs and these are their names: Itzcuintl-Totzli Days. New Star Song. Song for Cleomenes. Sendero Luminoso Verdadero. Side 2 also has four songs but their names are different: Song for Mark and Joel. Going to Maryland. Seeing Daylight. Resonant Bell World.

THEN THE GROUND OPENED UP AND THE EARTH RECEIVED HIM. DOWN THERE THE AIR WAS WARM AND INVIGORATING.

THIS IS SHRIMPER 99. I have a terrific fever but it's nothing that some hot coffee wouldn't fix.

AGAMEMNON SMILED. IT HAD BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE HE HAD FELT LIKE SMILING. THERE WAS MUSIC TRILLING IN THE AIR, AND OLD VOICES: FAINT, UNCERTAIN.

Thanks to all the people we usually thank but new thanks to Gary from Revolver and to Car In Car Disco Product for making everyone so very happy. Thanks also to Aeschylus, though he probably would have found this record confusing on a number of levels. Special thanks to whoever had the original idea for coffee. It was a really, really good idea.

CHILLING AND FAMILIAR. LIKE A WIND CHIME.

Table of contents

  1. Itzcuintli-Totzli Days
  2. New Star Song
  3. Song for Cleomenes
  4. Sendero Luminoso Verdadero
  5. Song for Mark and Joel
  6. Going to Maryland
  7. Seeing Daylight
  8. Resonant Bell World

Itzcuintli-Totzli Days 4

I hear the pads beat, loud as drums
I know he's coming, let him come

Let the big big rabbit 5 come out
Let the big big rabbit come down
Let him cast his shadow on the bright face of our little house
Let him dance through the garden
Let him come

It's getting darker, as the sky grows colder
And I feel your hand on my naked shoulder
Praise God, I know you're with me, I know you're here
And I can feel you breathing, I know you're near me, OK

Let the big big rabbit come out
Let the big big rabbit come down
Let him cast his shadow on the bright face of our little house
Let him dance through the garden
Let him come

New Star Song

I hung pictures of you from every lamp post in town
As the humidity climbed into numbers I don't care to repeat
The air was heavy and the sky was alive
And the Pacific Starlight train 6 wasn't due in till 11:45

I thought about how cold you must be
I thought about things I thought that I'd soon be forgetting
I thought of you up in Canada as the lightning storms lit up
All downtown Redding 7

There were teenagers in mini-trucks coming around every corner
You could taste the adrenaline, coming out through their skin
I came to the well-lit doorway of a sheet music store
Saw my face in the glass, sat down in the doorway and I settled in

I thought about how cold you must be
I thought about things I thought that I'd soon be forgetting
I thought of you up in Canada as the lightning storms lit up
All downtown Redding

Song for Cleomenes 8 9

73 years before the advent of the Christian era
As Rome was taking over any land within reach
Setting up proxy governments in the conquered lands
There lived one such man given just such a job
Gaius Verres 10 — go!

A praetor held a position which operated on trust
He was to govern instead of the emperor himself
It was an easy, easy privilege to abuse
And Verres did so

He was the governor of Agrigentum which we now know as Sicily 11
And he stole everything that wasn't nailed down
Took improper advantage of other men's wives
The list goes on, trust me
Cicero wrote it all down

At Syracuse Verres welcomed a band of pirates
They all drank and danced and sang on the shore
And when the husband of one of Verres' paramours
Came bringing a fleet of boats with him
Verres, clever, if diabolical, gave him a job 12
And enlisted the pirates to burn the whole fleet down

The boats burned in the Sicilian harbor
The flames rose hundreds of feet into the air
We stood on the shore watching them burn
We stood on the shore, we heard the old songs, hey!

Sendero Luminoso Verdadero 13

As they age, men encounter the 6th fear — loss of virility. Just look him straight in the eye, invade his space by standing a little closer than normal… 14

By 8:30 am the sun was so hot that it made me remember
And I pulled on the jacket with the bars on the pocket
And I stood in front of the window
And the skin on my face has a memory all its own
And it drinks in the pure heat, real slow
I remember Lima 15, I remember the good life
I remember Lima, I remember the good life

The window is ten feet high and three feet wide
Sun beams bounce off the dark water
And come through the clear glass, magnified
Standing here in the house on Pacific Coast Highway 16
Given to me by a friend whose name is no longer important
My conscience is clean
And the feeling of power like thick red wine
And it's oh-nine-oh-five military time
I remember Lima, I remember the good life
I remember Lima, I remember the good life

Song for Mark and Joel 17 18

I opened up the window and the cold air came in
And I saw a bird on a branch outside that I had never seen before
He looked a robin, but it had an upside down V-shaped red mark on its chest
And I had a special feeling in my mind, I had a special feeling in my mind
I had a certain glint in my eye
On the morning trouble came by

There was a map of the American Midwest on one wall
And there was a map of the American West on another wall
And there was a map of Rome on the third wall
And there were maps in all directions
I was looking at them pondering connections
When trouble came by

Then I stuck my head out the window
I had to stick my head out the window
It was much colder than I'd imagined it would be
It was much much colder than I'd imagined it would be
It was much much colder
It was much much colder and trouble came by

Going to Maryland 19

The water's real cool and the water's real sweet
Here's hoping that no points repeat
Because I bet against the chances that you'd ever be mine
Laid everything down on the don't pass line 20
And it's a stupid trick of fortune anyway
But the lights are bright tonight
And your eyes shine tonight on Chesapeake Bay 21

Walk through the water and our feet get wet
And on the dark ended water I see your silhouette
5 dollars says that it's gone in a minute
5 dollars says that your heart goes with it
And it's a stupid trick of fortune anyway
But the lights are bright tonight
And your eyes shine tonight on Chesapeake Bay

Seeing Daylight

Two cans clear chicken broth
Two white onions
One bulb garlic

Boil, boil
Boil, boil

And the screams of delight from the pool outside, the splashing sounds
The coffee heating up on the stove
The sky outside the color of pure fresh milk

Boil, boil
Boil, boil

And the phone ringing, and me picking it up
And watching myself do so in the quiet room
In the June evening and your voice on the other end
And the impossibility of your voice on the other end

And the impossible echo inside

Boil, boil
Boil, boil

Resonant Bell World

Sometimes you're a starling
Sometimes you're a kite
You're a hyena from early to mid afternoon
You're a stray dog at night

It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen
How you will not act like a human being

When you put on your special coat
And you made your special lunge for my throat
Between you and me
It was, it was, really exciting

It's the most alarming thing I've ever seen
How you will not act like a human being
It's the most incredible thing I've ever seen
How you refuse to act like a human being

In the starlight
In the starlight
In the starlight
In the starlight
In the starlight
In the starlight
In the starlight
In the starlight

Credits

Innumerable thanks to the superb Thomas Fidler, also known as Drumhax on the Mountain Goats forums. These lyrics were annotated almost entirely by him, and he did a phenomenal job. He can be contacted at thomasfidler at Google's popular email service dot com.

  1. Beautiful Rat Sunset, Nall, retrieved January 29, 2013.

Footnotes

  1. My best guess is that the title refers to the painting, which appears to have been done by a friend. If you know more about this, I'd love to hear from you.

  2. In Greek mythology, Agamemnon was a descendent of the house of Atreus. Atreus was a king of Mycenae, descended from Pelops; his lineage bore a curse as a result of Pelops' deceit of the divine hero Myrtilus. The Curse of the House of Atreus, handout from Introduction to the Latin Language and Culture, Haverford College, retrieved January 29, 2013.

  3. The goddess Artemis punished Agamemnon for boasting that he was a better hunter than she, and killing a sacred stag, by causing the winds to die down as Agamemnon's Greek army prepared to sail on Troy. Agamemnon sacrificed his own daughter, Iphigenia, to regain the favor of Artemis, who then allowed the Greek ships to sail. It is unknown whether this reference was intended. Agamemnon, Myths Encyclopedia, retrieved January 29, 2013.

  4. Itzcuintli-Totzli Days is part of the informal series of Aztec songs.

  5. The Tonalpohualli, the sacred Aztec calendar, divides the days among the Aztec gods, keeping the divine forces competing for power in equilibrium. Day Itzcuintli (Dog) is governed by Mictlantecuhtli, God of Death - Itzcuintli is the guide for the dead, the spirit world's link with the living, and these days are considered good for funerals and remembrance of the dead. Day Tochtli (Rabbit) is governed by Mayahuel, Goddess of the Maguey and of Fertility - these days signify a selfless religious attitude, and are considered good for communing with nature and spirits. Aztec Calendar, René Voorburg, retrieved January 29, 2013.

  6. The Coast Starlight is a passenger train operated by Amtrak on the West Coast of the United States. It runs 1,377 miles from King Street Station in Seattle, Washington, to Union Station in Los Angeles, California. Major stops include Portland and Eugene, in Oregon and Sacramento, Emeryville (for San Francisco), Oakland, San Jose, San Luis Obispo, and Santa Barbara in California. Coast Starlight, Wikipedia, retrieved January 29, 2013.

  7. Redding is a city in Northern California and is a stop on the Coast Starlight train line. Coast Starlight Amtrak, retrieved January 29, 2013.

  8. Song for Cleomenes is part of the Song for … series.

  9. According to Cicero's In Verrem, Cleomenes was commander of a fleet expedition sent by Gaius Verres to destroy a group of pirates in the area who, due to incompetence, allowed the pirates to enter into Syracuse harbor and sack the town. In Verrem, Wikipedia, retrieved January 29, 2013.

  10. Gaius Verres (ca. 120 BC – 43 BC) was a Roman magistrate, notorious for his misgovernment of Sicily. Verres, Wikipedia, retrieved January 29, 2013.

  11. Agrigento, Agrigentum in Latin, is a city and province in Sicily. It does not actually refer to the whole island. Thanks to Sarah Margaret for catching this.

  12. In In Verrem, Cicero argues that Verres sent Cleomenes after the pirates to keep him out of reach as Verres cuckolded him.

  13. Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) is a Maoist communist organization in Peru, who at its peak in 1980 held the goal of replacing what it saw as bourgeois democracy with pure Communism. The group is on the U.S. Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, and the EU and Canada also describe it as a terrorist organization and prohibit providing funding or other financial support. Shining Path, Wikipedia, retrieved January 29, 2012.

  14. If you know the source of this recording, which sounds like a self-help tape, I'd love to hear about it. The track ends with sounds from it as well.

  15. Lima is the capital and largest city of Peru. Lima, Wikipedia, retrieved January 29, 2013. Lima, Google Maps, retrieved January 29, 2013.

  16. State Route 1 (SR 1) is a major north-south state highway that runs along most of the Pacific coastline of the U.S. state of California. Highway 1 has several portions designated as Pacific Coast Highway. California Legislature has designated the segment of Highway 1 between Interstate 5 (I-5) in Dana Point and US 101 near Oxnard as the Pacific Coast Highway, though PCH is used to refer to other portions of the highway as well. California State Route 1, Wikipedia, and California Pacific Coast Road Trip, National Geographic, retrieved January 29, 2013.

  17. Song for Mark and Joel is part of the Song for … series.

  18. It seems reasonable to guess that Mark and Joel are the same individuals mentioned in the liner notes — Mark Givens, who painted the cover, and Joel Huschle, who provided Mr. Do (whom one presumes must be the white rat). Both were members of the band Wckr Spgt, which is very related to the Mountain Goats, and Joel performs as Furniture Huschle, whose songs have been covered by John.

  19. Going to Maryland is part of the Going to … series.

  20. In the game of craps, a don't-pass bet is a wager that the shooter of the dice will either throw a 2, 3, or 12 on the first roll or, if the shooter rolls a point (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10) on the first roll, that they will roll a 7 before repeating the point. Craps, Wikipedia, retrived January 29, 2013.

  21. The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay's drainage basin covers 64,299 square miles in the District of Columbia and parts of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Chesapeake Bay, Wikipedia, retrieved January 29, 2013.