If I forget it, you'll remind me again.

The first line of the first song on Bluetip's first album is "Fuck this shit." That, to me, is a symbol of quality. I bought said album, entitled "Dischord No. 101" after its catalog number, on a whim, having found it used on vinyl for $3. I don't even remember when this happened--it was sometime in the late 90s, I'm almost sure. In fact, I think it was the fact that "fuck this shit" was the first line on the lyric sheet that led me to purchase it. I knew it was dudes from Swiz, and that it was supposed to be more like Quicksand than Swiz--though that turned out not to be true--and I'd also heard that it was decent, but nothing earthshaking. So I brought it home because it was cheap, and then barely listened to it, for a long time. However, I got around to giving it a close examination at some point, and was blown away by how good it actually was. Even still, it took me another several years before I ever checked out any more of their albums. And now, prompted by a sudden (and not completely random) desire to hear Jason Farrell yell "Fuck this shit" all over again, I'm dragging them back out and realizing that, once again, it's been years since I heard them.

Really, I'm just listening to the first two Bluetip albums, "Dischord No. 101" and "Join Us". There are more Bluetip albums than just those two, but the later material seems a lot more polished and less expressive of the emotions that embody what's great about the first two Bluetip albums. So really, when I listen to them, I always feel like the greatest part of what drew me to Bluetip is missing. They sure aren't going to scratch the particular itch I've got right now.

Because see, it doesn't just begin and end with Jason Farrell's disgusted cry of "Fuck this shit." That line represents the thesis statement of "Dischord No. 101" as a whole (and, to some extent, that of "Join Us" as well), but the rest of the album does a wonderful job of fleshing out this thesis, until you can understand exactly where Farrell's coming from. It's a place I've been plenty of times--that place you're in when you look around you at your life and can't decide whether to laugh or cry. Farrell doesn't really do either, though; instead, he vents his frustration, spitting venomous lyrics overtop of driving rock n' roll songs with plenty of distortion and loud/quiet dynamic shifts that do a great job of underscoring how fed up he is. It's like he's realized that he's a trainwreck, and that events in his life are spinning out of his control, mostly due to bad decisions that he made without thinking about the consequences. Rather than use the voice he's given to minimize his own transgressions, though, or at least try to justify them, he chooses to be straightforward and up front, to acknowledge his fuckups without blinking. And he hates what he sees, so much that he spends both "Dischord No. 101" and "Join Us" contemplating giving up completely, walking away from his entire life and hitting the proverbial reset button. Check out "Past Tense", track two on "Dischord No. 101": "Could we just take a break and sit right here for a while? Because I can't shake the feeling that you're more real than I could ever be." He follows this with a repeated outro: "If it's all right with you, I think I'd like to skip the lickety, and just split." It could be a bad pun if it didn't hit so hard.

There's a reason this shit is hitting me hard right now, though, I can't deny it. I definitely have my days (my weeks, my months) where I can't see myself as anything but a trainwreck. I stumble through my life fucking everything up, blowing off my job, writing half-ass bullshit or not writing at all, making a fool out of myself in public and pissing off my friends, meeting new people and creeping them the hell out... all of it. I don't drink, and there are definitely references to beer on these Bluetip albums, but other than that, this stuff could be about me. "If I Ever Sleep Again" is a particularly resonant song, with its references to insomnia mixed in with vague, unspecified regrets. "This messy, off-the-mark shit won't cut it," Farrell sings, and then a short time later, asks a cutting rhetorical question: "What good is someone who can't even sleep right?"

I haven't said much about the music Bluetip makes, and I don't want to minimize its role in their overall greatness, but honestly, it's hard to talk in too much detail about it. Their songs are, as I said, driving rock n' roll, mainly midtempo riffs that keep things moving along at a good clip but never do anything to really knock you for a loop. They do their job, and they do it well. Trying to talk in exhaustive detail about Bluetip's songs is just as tough as trying to do so about songs by, say, The Rolling Stones. How much depth can you go into about a really great, really simple rock n' roll song?

Well, but there are a few of these songs that stand out musically just as much as lyrically. "Sweet Superior", from "Dischord No. 101", might be my favorite Bluetip song, precisely because it combines outstanding lyrics with unusually good music. It starts out with a slow bass intro, which turns without warning into a riff that's slightly slower than Bluetip's average speed and is composed of ominous-sounding chord progressions. For the first half of the song, the alternation is between the verses and a sort of bridge, with the build to a chorus being hinted at a couple of times. However, they just keep dropping back into the verse. Meanwhile, Jason Farrell is singing about crappy nights at bars and things getting out of hand: "Goddamn my eyes get so bad some nights. Can't seem to stop words coming out so ugly and unsanded that the hint gets handed down." His friends tell him he's funny when he's drunk, but he knows that there's something else behind their laughter. And he knows that the problem is his. "Let's not joke around: Addiction. Hit the kitchen and settle into it, because eight is far too late to get started." As he sings this, the music picks up, finally heading for some sort of chorus, then drops out completely as Jason starts to scream: "What an unzipped sloppy FUCK I'VE BECOME." The music slams back in with the only real chorus the song has, as Jason sings: "I propose a toast to Sweet Superior! Every stupid thing I've said I'm living down." When the chorus ends, the music drops back to the subdued quiet of the bass intro, and the rest of the song trails off that way. During the relative calm, we're left to ponder what "Sweet Superior" even is.

I haven't talked as much about "Join Us" because I haven't had it as long, but one thing I have to give it credit for is that it contains the single most overt acknowledgement of trainwreck status in Bluetip's entire oeuvre: "F-". This song, barely two minutes in length, is another of the few Bluetip songs on which the music takes a more active role in the narrative. There are great driving rock riffs here, as on pretty much all of their songs, but the music interacts with the lyrics in an unprecedented fashion. The song begins with Jason talking over no music: "I was gonna invite all my friends tonight, but I think I ran out!" He starts playing a guitar riff by himself, still singing, and the band slams in behind him at the end of the first measure. Usually, even if Bluetip lyrics are written in a manner that flows more like prose than poetry, they're sung conventionally over the music, but on "F-", Jason dispenses with all of that and delivers the verses as if they're a running commentary. "I've got nowhere to go, so I've been staying over at Dave's place," he says--Dave being Bluetip's rhythm guitarist. "This fucking city makes no sense to me," he continues, and as he finishes the line, all of the music stops. Jason pauses for a second as if he's been caught unaware, then goes on with his narrative: "...aaaanymore, so this is a formal apology going out to everybody involved." When he stops speaking, the band comes back in, and this time they play a much more conventional verse and chorus, with Jason singing rather than talking. But he's still telling a thoroughly fucked up story: "This weekend I swam through three friends like loose change through a gumball machine" is the only line I can clearly make out, but it sounds like he's admitting to using friends and creating ugly situations that don't need to exist. Then at the end of that first chorus, it's back to the spoken narrative. He says something about someone using his face as shorthand in an "alphabet of hate", and again, the music stops completely, other than random guitar string noise and ringing cymbals. After a second, Jason speaks up again: "But I'm learning, and I know F minus stands for FUCKER." And bang--the whole band comes back in again, for another run through the verse and chorus. After the chorus, a bridge builds up to the big climax of the song, which is a huge anthemic singalong... sorta. The lyrics put a twist on that anthemic quality: "F minus stands for what I know I am--A FUCKER!" Well, at least he's honest.

There are other great songs on these two albums that I'd love to dig into--I am sort of appalled that I haven't even mentioned the first album's "LMNOP", or "I Even Drive Like A Jerk" from "Join Us"--a song I was once listening to when I narrowly missed getting into a car accident that would have been my fault. Frankly though, I'm getting a bit sleepy, and I just want to mention one more thing before I stop: the last lines of "Tangle", which ends "Dischord No. 101" (ok, it doesn't, actually--a joke country song called "With The Lord As My Witness" does, but I never listen to that one). The song is a condemnation of Jason Farrell's seeming inability to avoid unhealthy relationships. "I get tired of getting ridden and gotten rid of; I swear to never entangle again" is a gem from the middle of the song, but it's the last two lines that I identify with the most. The next-to-last line, which is repeated several times, sounds awfully familiar: "Bastard, or best friend--I don't think I was given any sense to tell between them." But then Jason starts into another thought that he never finishes. "All these things that get in my way..." he says, and repeats that line several times as well. It's as if he's saying that he'd like to get these things out of his way, but he's not even sure he can recognize them at this point, let alone do anything about them. All he can do is lament their existence. It's a shitty situation; it's the kind of situation that you contemplate and find yourself unable to decide whether to laugh or cry.

Bluetip - Nickelback
Bluetip - Sweet Superior
Bluetip - Tangle
Bluetip - F-