Skin and bone. Nobody knows what happens to the rest of me. Life and soul all tinted rose. There's no party left inside of me. A deeper sense of recognition for lack of self control. It seems to me a contradiction: you feel good young or look good old. That was the start of it. This is the end of everything. As for the rest of it - well, that was your life. And you wake. And you watch and you learn and you medicate. Always you shoulder the burdens. From brightness to darkness you shift in shade. Innocence, where did it go? If you love it you must set it free. You're better off, if truth be told, without it if you want to feel a deeper sense of recognition for losing all control. No sign of a correlation between time bought and sold. Lessons learned in gilded light. Seems like only yesterday I was torn away. Setting up to fail. Set me up to fade. Colour dulling grey. Onward march of age prevails. A shattered electric blue shadow effect by design.
It's a new day. Only got my self to blame again. Only got a fool's intent. Only a got a chaos tic. I don't want to be a failure. And something about this concrete is killing me. The chances of making it work vs. chances I make it essentially worse vs. chances of failure. Fuck me, I felt my intentions were so pure... Liar.
Wait in line for the 'moment of...' This is the feeling that I was afraid of. I returned because I never learned that these memories must die in the dirt. Wait in line for the moment I place all my uninspired exchanges on. Up above, in that moment of 'not the same but unchanged' we all love. Say goodbye. Say free. Say exit Vania. Meet same time, same place. But there's an expiry date. Say love. Say free. Don't fucking lie to me. When the door closes you will not remember me. There is an exit here if you follow me down. I can't seem to break myself when I fall. Wait in line for the moment when your memories dictate you're not welcome anymore. It's not lack of love, it's an inherent mistrust you'll return, dust them off, see a better man. It's five years later, and all my friends they agree. They see the better me. My friend, I disagree. But there's an exit here. So if you follow me...
This is the last time that I will listen to what you have to say. So thanks for the advice but I will not be taking it. I don't need a reason for systematically rejecting it. You think you've got it bad? You've got it made. You shine your light on situations you know nothing about. It's only idle talk and your lying mouth is framing it. 'It's only human.' 'Follow head not heart.' 'Yeah, that's what I was thinking.' 'If I were you.' 'In my opinion...' Words. This is all I hear. I don't need a reason for systematically rejecting you. You're not a friend. You're just a Kibitzer.
Wait for the moment to face the lens only to fake a smile and open wide and click. Flick the triple X-rated switch. Mix it all up. Pan and fade. A fad. And mud that sticks. You're abused by somebody. Used by somebody. Too bad. Tonight somebody is watching you using your body to please somebody. Too bad. Soon it will come back to bite you. Take your time. Take a pic. Take a trip right off the edge of it. And don't forget to pack your selfie stick. Quick, gutter dog, write it real quick. These slick obits we fixate upon and switch and mix for kicks. Frostbitten by the filter. Waiting for something new. Teeth bleach and bone-white. Winner. Don't deviate at all. Don't make a difference. Say what you will. Say what you like. Don't like the blood? Don't watch the fight. You've got to grin like the gap between your thighs. Oh, what's the matter? Diet tips? Semantics? Peroxide? Turmoil tuned into Project 2x2. I'm #false! #I'm fake! #I'm fucking great! #I sucked a dick! #I bled! #You watched me sick! #I'm still not fucking famous!
Got the blood. Got the girl this time. I am better than this. You say, 'Am I in? Am I out?' while I'm suffering endlessly. I am bored. Get me out. Get me down to the deepest gin-soaked seabed scene. Loss of face blanching bones to the leanest meat. I've got bottles and lies I am hiding. They just beg to be found and I want to feel it when she does. I'll be so gone. A surrender chip only cheapens it further cuz I want to feel lit. First awash, then I'm dry. Then I syphon it into my life. When I first wrote this verse I used the 2nd person. Then I changed it to this. Then back again it went when I felt too involved. Then it hits: I deserve to be uncovered. First I take a drink. Then the drink takes a drink. Then the drink takes me. And oh my God. All that I've got in my life is this fucking drink.
Got a fat fuck bassline. And what a rhythm - watertight. Water rippling glass in time. Shatter teeth. Rattle tiles. It pulses once, twice, then dies. From beat to thin flatline. Yes, I played once or twice, once upon a time. Take the bass like a man. Play it down on the inside. Take the bass, take a stand. I've got a man, got a plan. Bass invader. Chew the meat of the bassline. Don't trim the flab, leave it supersized. Serve it full fat with fuckin fries. Embrace the power that's melting your eyes. Take the bass like a man or play guitar if you're too tight. Playing never meant as much to me. Now I never stop. Hitting you so hard you'd better sit down. The bass that goes around will come around. And don't you dare turn it down. I got a man, got a Panama plan... Bass invader.
Down and out in ST3, I am exactly where I want to be. But there's a distinct possibility there's someone that will soon be calling me and saying, 'Let's go!' Now, you see, we've got a last gang in town mentality. I can't say no, but I can say, 'taxi!'. And when I'm sitting in a bar then I can say that I tried. But I'm so bored and I'm so tired. And I'm thinking, let's go to fuckin Hanley. From bar, to Base, to bowl, to dancing on a pole, to bet, to fold, to playing Dirty Soul... too late, too old. Sex, drugs and birth control beats Solpadol and red wine. Moving up to ST4, this is the life that I was looking for. We've got our wine, got our weed, got our own front door... (it's boarded up - got battered in when we were on tour). So listen: we're going up to ST5. New place with a double bed inside, but don't use that. Then back to ST1. Paddle board of shots, then move on. Let's all go to fucking Hanley now! Mayonnaise on my oatcake, and I'm too old for fingering. So let's not go to fucking Hanley, nah. Hahaha.
I was baited, clicking on the link, stumbled on this. I got your warning and it got me sick. I don't really want to know the way the body smelled, blood and sickle cell, falling down unwell. And I don't really want to know, too many, I don't really want to know all the facts. I don't really want it, no. I don't really want it at my fingertips. And you can call me camera-shy, but when I'm looking online I'm always looking over my shoulder petrified. It's like there's something behind me. Holy fuck, it makes me paranoid. And I don't really want to know, too many, I don't really want to know all your friends. I don't really want it, no. I don't really want another friend request. In the future a life is not essential or natural.
All automatic. Movement too manic. Not much to doubt it. Don't have to be addicted. Dramatic. All bruised and battered. List all the things you hate about me. I am a liar. I am deceit. I am a product of my defeat. I make it more difficult than it has to be. So meet my friend. He comes everywhere with me. He's shadowing me. He follows me. He leads me from wealth into bankruptcy. Here, from silence to scream. And, finally, from intelligence to stupidity. Blood shod. A batted eyelid. A maggot budding to burrow down into me. Needless end. Damage done. It's apparent. Invert the line of morality. Seems that the gutter is the place to be. All of the stars are shining on me. So skip the tonic. Just get it into me. Liver all fatted. This is the prophecy that is shadowing me. That follows me. That leads me from wealth into bankruptcy. Please silence the screams. And finally - the sound of inaction in symphony. Show me the one who sold me the sun that burned me instead of shining bright: a coldness that glitters golden and soulless, as bold as a burning halo. Shaking, unsettled, sentences failing, sentenced to suffer. Take it or leave it. Substances at the top of a spiral that's hidden until you take them away. There is a place that exists between the darkness and the escape from here. They don't print this in their magazines. They're saying 'This is the life!' Well, if this is life I don't want it. Intelligence is the death of me. It's like the flick of a switch in me. This is the end of it. Now slip back inside the silence, and seal the scars.
Penny for your thoughts? Got none worth paying for. Burst balloon on a lake. There must be some metaphor to describe these feelings. It's something you don't need to know, and that's for sure. Take the rope to my life and let it be done. Dark heart generation spinning forwards. It never meant as much to belong as it meant to suffer needles. It's something you don't need to know. Let it all out and patch it all up with a slow hand clap for the road. Bring it all to a close with an overture. Seclusion of settled seed in the darkness internal. Bleeding heart commentary all resolved. And still it stands to reason that you got it all wrong. Caught yourself. Yeah you got it all wrong. Got yourself to blame. Still you put it on me. You can trace it back to the first choice where you're making it. Little dog got a bite with a kick. I'll make it easy. Don't make it easy. Get real. Take my bait, take my blame. Take your helpful advice and throw it away. And I am so bored. At least when I'm talking to myself I listen. Like a lab rat alone and unfed learning push-button lessons. Please send him your support. Cuz you got it all wrong. Caught yourself. Yeah you got it all wrong. Got yourself to blame. Still you fucking insist that you get it. It's like you stop for a breath as you take it in: tick to scars. Tick to wrist. Tick to slit. 'I'm a caged animal. I've got insight. I can sense when you're looking in,' said the worm to the world. 'So take a shot. It makes sense, if you think of it. Open sores. Scalpel Scores. Overtures. In the future a life is not essential or natural. Skin and bone. Nobody knows what happens to the rest of me. There is an exit here. I don't want your life. I don't want your six broken hearts. I don't want your love. I don't want it.
And, suddenly, there were three…
But in actual fact, there was nothing sudden about A Generation of the Dark Heart. When we finished The All-Important Lie Detector Test in December 2012, we had no songs left over and no ideas for any either, apart from a couple of riffs and a title or two. The chorus to Bleeding Heart Commentary had been knocking about for ages, as had the idea of a song called Let’s Go To Fuckin Hanley. But that was pretty much it. It was a situation far removed from the one we’d found ourselves in a couple of years previously: when we put the first album out, the second one was already well on the way.
In June 2013, a load of songs appeared at once. They seemed to come from nowhere. Among the first were Overture, switchmiXXXer, and The Kibitzer. Soon afterwards, Exit Vania, …Hanley, Bass Invader, Futurenatural, and the completed Bleeding Heart Commentary arrived. Wheatfield With Crows was written in mid-2014 along with the title track. Last of all came The Hunt For Big October, in 2015.
Tom had a new studio set up in an old school building, so we started recording rough demos and jams there, as well as at his house, as early as 2013. We no longer had the old house as a base, but there was a small studio set up at his new place. The lyrics were few and far between, but that always seemed to be the case with most of our songs right up until the eleventh hour, so we weren’t too bothered about it, apart from occasional jibes to the tune of, ‘Have you written any fucking lyrics yet?’. This went on for a while. We’d meet up, jam, do the odd gig here and there, drink lots of gin. We kept talking about ‘the next album’ and we had the songs for it: we just needed to knuckle down. Around November 2016, by which point The Riff Factory had moved to its fourth – and current – location, we finally said, in these words or similar, ‘Are we going to do this fucking album, or what?’. Once we made the decision that we might as well get on with it, we were all in.
We worked much more methodically this time, which is in part down to scheduling but mostly, to give him his dues, thanks to Tom’s ever-increasing competence as an engineer and producer. We started the drums in late 2016 and finished them by early 2017. Then Matt came in and we recorded most of the bass parts in a couple of days. In March, all the main guitar parts were done in the course of an afternoon, although it nearly didn’t happen. We went to the studio with the intention of recording them, but Matt and I decided to visit a local chip shop first, where I procured a large portion of chips with a side of peas and gravy, and a potato fritter. On the way back to the Riff Factory, I stopped for a cheese and onion pie, which I popped merrily into the paper bag along with the various chip shop wares. In the studio’s control room, at great speed and without really bothering to chew it, I devoured the whole lot. Still hungry, I inhaled the rest of Matt’s chips, which he’d decided he didn’t want after all, along with (almost as an afterthought) a bread roll. Sated at last, and replete from my feast, I sat back and nursed my stomach’s swollen pregnancy.
The feeling arrived suddenly, and I found myself awash with the kind of awful, sick drunkenness that comes not from alcohol but from gluttony: the vile inebriation of the gourmand as opposed to the sot. Through sharp, painful intakes of breath, I informed Matt and Tom that there would be no recording today.
But the feeling passed, as luck would have it, and within a few hours the guitars were done. A few days later, Tom sent out a rough mix of the whole album, minus any lyrics, which I listened to while driving to and from work while coming up with vocal lines. From really early on, we’d decided we wanted Bleeding Heart Commentary to open the album and, conversely, Overture to close it. There’s a quote from Martin Amis where he says words to the effect of, ‘if you invert time, you invert morality’ – so a bad deed played backwards becomes a good one, and recovering from something, played in reverse, becomes succumbing to it. That was the thread we needed – a story, told in reverse, with death at the beginning, birth at the end, and all the various songs acting as ‘chapters’ working in the same way as a novel does. As soon as that idea presented itself, the lyrics were some of the easiest we’ve ever done. The songs were written one at a time – it was obvious from the outset exactly what each lyric had to add to the overall picture of the album.
The album was finished on 30th March 2018. Tom and I sat in the car outside the studio and listened to it, and then we went up to Manchester to watch a gig. It wasn’t anticlimactic – it was more like, ‘Fucking hell, it’s done. Now what do we do with it?’
The answer, of course, was to release it. We wanted to do a similar thing to the All-Important Lie Detector Test and create a cool package with a theme and interesting artwork, and it took us a few months to pull all this together, again with the help of Gwen (of Gwen Woods Imaging fame). Early on, we toyed with a few different album titles: Wheatfield With Crows being one of them, along with Checked and Verified and Yes I Said Yes I Will Yes – the latter of which is a quote from Ulysses that I have on a T-shirt which Matt has long coveted.
The final title was decided in 2017, I think, and had been a contender for at least three years. A Generation of the Dark Heart, named after one of our favourite novels, was released on 17th August 2018, preceded by five music videos (and a Christmas single!). There were no trumpet fanfares announcing its arrival, just a short promotional video created by Matt. We wanted to give the artwork and the songs a chance to speak for themselves. Hopefully they’ll speak to someone else, somewhere, the same way they speak to us.
It’s one of my favourite CreepJoint songs now, but that vocal line in the verses was the bane of my life for months. The chorus had been around for ages – possibly even since the first album. The end section is one of the last bits we added to the song, while we were jamming at Riff Factory III. Swansong from the second album was our benchmark in terms of epicness at that point, and this beat it. We were happy.
Tom and I arranged to have a jam one Sunday in June 2014. I got the train from Manchester and wrote the lyrics to this on the way to the studio. The guitar part had already been demoed on my phone. It was never meant to be a CreepJoint song – Tom played bass on the original version and we shared it online. But it always held a special place in my heart, and I suggested it might fit on the album. We re-did the bass with Matt a few years later. Apart from that (and a remix) this is the original version we recorded that day in June 2014. The sample of birds tweeting was recorded on my mobile phone – there were birds nesting in the chimney of the house I was staying in. In the second verse, there’s a sample of the metal boiler in the house Tom and I used to share being hit with a wooden spoon.
The guitar part for the verse was meant to be the chorus, at first, but then we changed it around when we started jamming it. It was originally meant to sound a bit like the chorus from Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others. The stop-and-start intro is inspired by The Shortest Straw by Metallica. The lyrics were written in the Roosevelt Hotel in New York in March 2017, and the title comes from a short story of the same name written by a friend of mine. I loved the title and the story, and asked if we could use it, and she said we could.
Way back in 2013, when we were still jamming in the room we recorded The All-Important Lie Detector Test in, I plugged in my guitar and played the intro riff to this song. I hadn’t written it, it just sort of came out. Tom joined in, we repeated it a few times, and then we stopped and he looked at me and went, ‘Eeeeuuuuuurrrrggggghhhhhh!’ which (having known him all my life) I interpreted as, ‘Good Lord, that’s heavy!’ The bass pattern in the verses is something that had been sitting around since before the first album, so we stuck it on, and we had a song. We thought it sounded a bit like Emily Bones, so we called it Emily2.
The music for this was written in summer 2013 and demoed at Tom’s home studio using programmed drums. The title came at the same time: the three of us were up in Sheffield celebrating Matt’s birthday. We were drinking gin and at one point Matt said, ‘Get me a gin, but with something other than tonic. I want to switch mixer’. I liked it and made a note of it in my phone, which is where pretty much all the lyric ideas for this album started life. The song is all about the dark side of social media – hence the triple-X wordplay. The lyrics were a joint effort between Matt and I, but they weren’t written until mid-2017. His words make up most of the second verse and about half of the middle-eight.
This is the last song we wrote for the album and the last one to receive a title. We started jamming it in 2015. Like switchmiXXXer, the title comes from an off-hand comment Matt made one night in September. We’d planned a lot of stuff the following month, and so he said, ‘We’ll take it easy tonight, because we’re going to have a big October’. Then it became a catchphrase. We’d refer to long drinking sessions as ‘hunting for Big October’: a nod to the novel The Hunt For Red October. The lyrics were written in New York in March 2017 and recorded in a single take a couple of months later.
It’s a bit of a daft song, really, and I suppose that if this album narrates a life story, as it’s supposed to do, then this is the awkward adolescent part. But it’s very good fun to play, and quite catchy, and it works well live. There’s some odd phrasing in the rhythm of the lyrics and it isn’t deliberate, but we kept it because we liked it. The ‘pulses once, twice, then dies, from beat to thin flatline, as I played once or twice, once upon a time’ part was written by Matt and sent to me over text message. I received it when I was sitting outside the studio waiting to go in and record the demo, and I didn’t have time to work out exactly how I wanted to sing it. Another in the long list of happy accidents.
The Young Canadians have a song that contains the line ‘let’s go to fucking Hawaii’ and I thought it’d be funny to write a song about Hanley, the city centre of Stoke-on-Trent, where Matt, Tom, and had I spent many debauched nights gigging and drinking. It was meant to be a joke song, really, in a similar vein to Dirty Shirley, and it was going to be the bonus track for the album. But then we came up with the riff in the middle, and the ‘let’s… all… go… to… fuckin Hanley now!’ refrain that accompanies it, and it suddenly seemed too good to be relegated to ‘secret track’ status. Lyric duties were shared by Matt and I, and he wrote and performed the Sleaford Mods-inspired rap at the end. We enlisted the help of friends and other bands passing through the Riff Factory to record the chant with us. The ‘Oi, dickhead!’ at the start was not scripted – it was in fact directed at Tom, who’d made a sarcastic comment to me, through the headphones, just before I started singing. It fit the lairy tone of the song, so we kept it.
This started out life as something similar to SSRI from the first album, but then we started playing it in half-time and we realised it worked much better as a slow groove. Apart from Wheatfield With Crows, which was a stand-alone song at first, these were the first lyrics completed for the album – they were written in Edinburgh in February 2017. It took us ages to work out what was missing from the middle section. In the end, it turned out that all we needed was a tambourine.
We first jammed this in 2014 and pretty much made it up on the spot. Tom’s responsible for the bonkers syncopated bit after the second chorus which still blows my mind every time I hear it. It’s no secret that we’re greatly influenced by Jamie Lenman, and this track is a stylistic nod to the first disc of his Muscle Memory album – so much so that the working title was Lenman1. The lyrics were the last to be written for the album. I’d saved them til the end because I thought they’d be the most difficult, but they came together very quickly once I started. Along with switchmiXXXer, it’s the song that sums up and ties together everything on the album. switchmiXXXer had already been given a name, so this became the title track.
Some songs take ages to get right and to arrange, but the music for this was written in a matter of minutes. Tom and I recorded a demo at his house in 2013 and, apart from one short section being cut and one short section being added, it never really changed. It was inspired by Martin Grech’s Guiltless and it’s intended to be a counterpart to Bleeding Heart Commentary – the other song that bookends the album. We put out a studio demo version in late 2014 but some of the lyrics were rewritten in 2017. On the very first home demo, during the instrumental section in the middle, Tom and I can be heard having a conversation since the vocal mic was still recording. That’s what inspired the layered-up voices on the middle-eight in the finished version.