Someday someone somewhere is going to invent a bomb which will destroy every human and animal within a certain radius, its blast radius, while leaving structures and plant-life intact. It'll look something like a slow blue wave -- and after it splashes through the center of city after city, total surprise, on a cold October morning, the Enemy (with a capital E) will arrive by the busloads and will walk around picking out new houses. Whole families of them. These will be foreign people, people whose customs we could never hope to understand. They will speak to each other in a strange language and will use indecipherable criteria to select their new homes. What color is the car in the garage? Is there a dog dish out back? What brands of electronics are in the house? What kind of alcohol is in the refrigerator? They will look at the clothes -- how fat or skinny were the people who lived here before? Is the glass of the bathroom window bubbled? Their incomprehensible daughters will carry stuffed animals floppingly around by the arms. They'll wear little black pea coats. And somehow, this will all be very orderly and organized. Kin tells me this.

He tells me it's good to meet me, and that he sort of likes my work; he thinks he gets it. Who's on guitar? He'll have to listen to the whole album someday. That song. That song they play on the radio. It's not bad. Then he shrugs.

But the thing is, we deserve it. We deserve to be destroyed, replaced by the Enemy (with a capital E), and then forgotten. Ours is the most decadent culture in the history of mankind. Worse, it's pointless. It's okay to be decadent if there's a point to it, but with us, there isn't. Maybe forty years ago. But now we're just these vacant creatures. "Fuck it," he says, "fuck it." He tells me that this is going to happen sometime within the next 15 years.... Unless we create this bomb first, and use it on them. He stands beside a cooler full of white ice.

But he's not advocating that. We'd have to be monsters.

Then he goes onstage with his band and sings the balls out of 26 songs in front of 45,000 people. Hour after hour. Sometimes he loses the tune but he never loses the mission, and the audience is a living thing, and it loves him.

Greenhand get to that holy place.

Kin and his ringlet-haired Alabama guitarist Matt Klez, they're shooting off showers of sparks. The set is spacey, spaced-out, slow, but Kin's singing is David Bowie-theatrical and Matt Klez is fire. The rest of the band are the rhythm, they're the keepers of the beat. They're good, but they're not Kin and Klez. I don't even know their names. Kin and Klez are blue metal, hot chrome, the air in your throat. I see women out there crying at the beauty of the music.

From somewhere in the darkness behind the stage, past the scaffolding, I get out my cell phone and call Prewitt at the hotel. Roadies move around. There's cable beneath my feet, thick as rope, half-buried in high grass.

"Can you hear this?"

The music crushes out the sound of his reply, if he makes one.

"Are you hearing this?"

***

When I get back to the hotel Prewitt sits down and plays me a riff he's been working on. It sounds something like an arpeggio air-raid siren. It's dark, filthy, full of tension. I open the balcony door and let in the sounds of the city.

"the Enemy," I say, naming the song, "capital E, lowercase t."

I get out my acoustic bass. I come up with a lyric that goes --

won't give me the time of day
who cares about you anyway
when you have disappeared away
I'm gonna move into your house

It's not Walt Whitman, it's just.... Me and Prewitt: working on the song until four in the morning with the balcony door open.

If Kin is staying in the room -- penthouse, really -- right above us, and if the noise of this song snakes out into the night like the scentsteam of a cartoon banquet, an S-shaped sound, and worms its way into an open window, or an open balcony door, and into his ears, it's an accident. We don't mean for this to happen. We're not looking for any attention from you, Kin. That's the last thing on our minds; we're just trying to work. What are you talking about, that's laughable. I respect you? And all? But that's laughable.

I scribble notation. The room is full of white flowers and black furniture. I realize I'm singing slowly, in a falsetto voice. The air conditioning keeps kicking on and off. I'm starting to sound like him.

***

I autograph a copy of High City and have it delivered to the penthouse. I imagine that I'm Kin, hearing it for the first time. It's full of geometry, very Phil Spector, very David Gilmour. It's fluid. It's high-note, low-note. But it's full of hooks. And the cover is blue and black. As Kin, I appreciate the deeper meaning of that cover. As Kin, I say to myself, These guys are terrific.

***

On the second night of the Carnival Pop Festival, as we take the stage (our turn), I'm thinking High City is better than Greenhand's last record. But tonight we're mechanical. We disappoint ourselves. The lack of transcendence concerns me. Oh, of course we're good -- being good is never the issue. We are who we are. But we want synesthesia. We want synchronicity. We want levitation. And we don't get it.

When they cheer, a brume of heat floats off the audience and furls onto the stage, a heavy invisible fog at our feet. It's comforting, but not enough. We come closest when we surprise them with a cover of a Greenhand hit from six years ago called "Snow." They go crazy when they hear Prewitt playing its first Mutron-hued tones. I was nineteen the first time I heard this on the radio. I sing it the way Kin sang it, hitting his weird glottal stops. Adopting certain affectations.

I want his attention so bad.

When we walk offstage we're sweating, we're punctured, hurt.

I'm saying, "Shit."

Prewitt says, "Don't sweat it, don't sweat it," and he wipes himself with a towel.

"It's the apocalypse," I say.

He laughs.

"That set is going to be legendary," I say.

This stops him. "It's going to be forgotten," he assures me.

"I'm talking about the set Greenhand played last night. It's going to be legendary. And we came out and just deflated. Shit, man."

Prewitt grabs me and hooks my neck with his forearm.

"Forget it," he says.

Online, NME calls us manic, but they seem to mean this in a good way. With them, you never know. They refer to us as "Americans" four times in three paragraphs.

A bootleg of our cover of "Snow" shows up on a couple of Greenhand fansites. The quality sucks. You can hear people talking over the music. They are foreign; their words are strange, indecipherable, incomprehensible, orderly, organized.

Prewitt and I hang around Carnival Pop for four more days, but Greenhand have gone back to Bridesbury.

***

One day the Earth is going to run out of oil, or its natural resources will be in some other way depleted, and then it will be incapable of sustaining certain kinds of life: Machines. Machines are alive -- they're just domesticated alloy animals. But they need fuel to live, it's their food, and without it they'll die slow deaths, go back into the soil from which they (even they) came. Over hundreds of years they'll sink down into the strata. Their frames will be pockmarked with rust and decay.

Future civilizations will uncover these remains and wonder: Jesus, God, what kinds of monsters were these? They'll be looking at twisted spindles of glass and steel. They'll gather the pieces together like bones and try to imagine the shape of these things. What did these monsters look like when they had muscle, skin, fur? Jesus, God. They'll do drawings, and try to figure out where such creatures would have fit on the food chain.

In the ocean they'll find sunken oil rigs. In the mountains they'll find the remnants of coal mines. Without the framework to understand the purpose of these things, society will create elaborate mythologies to explain their existence. This will be thousands of years in the future, when everything that is now has been forgotten.

Except for the cities. The cities will remain. The people of the future will live in our houses. They'll build fires on the roofs of highrises. They'll swim in rivers that once were subway systems. But they won't be able to comprehend the presence of the machines. Kin tells me this.

It's nice to talk to me again. We never really got a chance to say much, the first time. Hey. The weight of the future presses down on him. Knowing these things is a burden. He wishes he didn't know anything. So, tell him again -- who? Who was that on guitar?

"Prewitt," I say, into the telephone.

"He plays cleanly."

"What about Jupiter?" I ask him.

"Jupiter," he says, "don't make me laugh. We haven't been to the moon in thirty years. We don't have the balls to go to Jupiter. Listen," he says, "the baby's crying."

I'm at my house in Long Beach. I say, "Just a second." And I turn on the television. I'm not sure why I do this.

Then I ask him if we can release our recording of "Snow" as a b-side. And I rant about the poor quality of bootlegs. I say, "It sounds like they recorded it onto a cell phone. I'm sure they didn't, you know, I'm sure they got it on DAT, but it sounds completely terrible." Then I bait him. I say, "You've heard it."

Kin says to me, "You could go through the label for this. It's just publishing."

"We don't want to do it," I say, "without your okay."

There's a pause, during which I do hear something that sounds like a crying baby. Kin says, "The baby's crying. I've only got a second." Comes up with, "Listen, I think it's important for you guys to develop your own identity. You don't want to release a song of ours. We're poison. Your new record is outselling us three to one. It's a big success. Right? I think I saw the video --"

He won't tell me it's good. The lead single is "the Enemy."

I bait him again. "That doesn't mean anything, sales. Your record is incredible."

"It's shit," he says dismissively. "We've never recorded anything good."

"Have you heard --"

"Do you hear that? This is one sour baby. Crying his eyes out. You can hear that, right?"

I say, "You were so good at Carnival Pop."

"That word," he says. "Good. It's such a shit word. But thanks."

"How do you maintain that --"

"You don't want to keep getting compared to us. I think it'd be best if you distanced yourselves from us. Best for everyone. You don't want to use a song of ours, you really don't. Believe me."

He won't say he doesn't want us to use it.

I touch my forehead and go, "You'd have made a good salesman."

I take it from the fact that he hangs up on me, he's appropriately offended.

I sit down at the piano and write a song called "The Weight of the Future" while thinking about Kin. Then I write another one called, "Sour Baby," which isn't about anything, really, but it's got a nice frame for Prewitt to hang some guitar stuff on. Then I write another one called, "Machine Land." And the music is discordant, dystopian. Already I can see the throughlines of an album. Each song is faster and angrier than the last.

The Weight of the Future, I'll call it.

One of the lyrics goes --

hear me,
hear me,
hear me,
hear me,
hear me,
hear my voice

I get on the phone with Prewitt and together we conceptualize a video about busloads of people arriving in an empty, wrecked city, moving through neighborhoods, carrying suitcases, picking out new houses. We talk about little girls in pea coats bouncing on beds. We talk about mothers and fathers turning off televisions and stoves. We talk about cars crashed into abandoned store fronts.

***

In Long Beach, when you're up all night writing songs, the morning comes upon you quickly and hurts your eyes. And you realize you're hungry. The morning is damp. The windows are sprinkled with mist.

Instead of eating or closing the blinds, you sprawl upon army-olive sheets and put on Greenhand's album, the one yours is currently outselling three to one, and you listen to it, and you open yourself up and just ache at its brilliance. You see Boschian white figures, Bakshian red skies, little collisions of colors.

It's the hugeness of slow sex in a small room. It's putting your fingers on the ribs of someone starving, feeling the warmth of their skin. It's water, evaporating. Spit in your face. It's virtuoso stuff. God damned masterpiece. The sizzle of hot iron.

It's better than anything you'll ever be able to do.

You have to put it this way. You have to use the Second Person. Wouldn't be able to sleep if you didn't.

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