LP: Machine Gune Etiquette by the Damned
2014 Drastic Plastic Records DPRLP54, 52 (?) out of 200, opaque red
Favorite Track: Smash It Up (part I and II)
I have a secret.
I am going to lower my voice so if you have trouble understanding me, please speak up. I know it is uncomfortable to be hiding in this coat closet full of leather and jean jackets. I apologize for having to wake you so late at night when you have many things to do tomorrow. The moon is a sliver tonight like the opening of some hidden passage.
My secret has been a long time coming. There is no point telling you about the waiting. You know how restless you get, how your hands and feet twitch with anticipation. You know about the bitterness when it is not there. You know about living unsatisfied day to day. Nights and days pass. While you are awake, they drag. You never seem to get any sleep. The next thing you know it is December and you have no idea how four months have gone by. Five. Six.
Hold your breath for a second. I do not mean to criticize but you sound like the summer wind blowing through a forest canopy. Somebody might here me and then I’ll be in trouble. You don’t want me to be in trouble because you don’t want to be in trouble yourself. We are in this together, right? Good. Now relax, yet listen. You know about my vast treasures that I sort in the magical vault in my mansion. I have given you a tour, no? Oh, yes, of course, just yesterday when you first arrived at The Sparrow Mansion. They are nice treasures, aren’t they? They are records. Things that used to exist on this planet before the Last Summer. Before we didn’t have to wear these shield suits and breathing apparatuses.
There is one record that is very special. You have a wife, sir? Five years. You love her very much, but I suspect it wasn’t a fairy tale. You didn’t just meet this stranger, fall in love, and live happily ever after, did you? No, I bet you had to wait. You had to wait, talk, fight, wait, break-up, wait, try again, didn’t you? Yes, we all do. Except for me. No sir, you are too kind. No, I never found the time for love. I was too busy treasure hunting. But as I was saying, there is one record that is very special. You could say that I love that record. I certainly waited very long for it.
There was a band called The Damned and they cut the very first punk single. Punk? It was a type of music: fast, aggressive, catchy tunes full of teenage angst, loneliness, lustful, politically charged. It was the first music to act as a mirror. In my youth, I learned all the bands and listened to them dreaming that I was born a couple of decades before so I could have seen them live. The Clash, The Misfits, Minor Threat, X, and the Damned. I said I heard every album. That wasn’t true. Some I had only heard one or two songs. Machine Gun Etiquette by the Damned was one of those albums. I had heard The Offspring cover “Smash It Up” and then found the original. Some time around college I heard “Love Song” and “Machine Gun Etiquette” but that was it. The rest of the album remained a mystery for no good reason. I could have bought or borrowed the album at any time.
Life is like that however. It keeps things a mystery for the sake of bewilderment. I started collecting treasures in university often at the expense of being able to take out girls or catch the local theatre program. And one of the albums I sought was Machine Gun Etiquette. I wanted to clench that puzzle in my hands, take it home, tear off the wrapper, gently place the record on the platter, and push play. Listen to the noisy solution, years of unanswered questions being fulfilled sonically. The urge became so intense I would have nightmares about it. I would wake up with fingernail marks embedded in the palms of my flesh.
Sorry. Just the house settling. I am new to Sparrow Mansion and I still fear the old secrets I have learned about the place. The skeletons in the closet, eh? Pardon my poor joke. Let out your breath. I will continue, but quieter and quicker.
I searched for the album for eight years before I gave up. I never ever saw it. I didn’t walk into the store and see a person buying it before I got to it like I did with the Cramps’ Gravest Hits. I didn’t see it for sale online. I didn’t find a copy not for sale or too expensive. It was as if it never existed. And I began to doubt. I can see in your face that you know what I am talking about. That eerie existential dread, that personal gloom. I bought many other treasures to hide the gaping hole in my heart and my collection. Time disappeared.
How long did you say you have been with your woman? Ah, yes, good. That is a good time to spend with a lover. Did you tell her that you were coming here? That you were just going out to see a fellow collector? Well, you didn’t mention Sparrow Mansion did you? Good, good. People say such unsavory rumors about this place. That my family tree is mad. Ghoulish. Misanthropic. I can assure you they are all queer fantasies, bored local talk. We are scientific with a touch of insanity (I cannot deny my grandfather staying in Arkham Asylum after the war) but that comes with our line of research. We just mind our own business is all.
Now back to business. I found Machine Gun Etiquette. I found it on a rainy November afternoon. I wasn’t even looking for it. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t read, and none of the potions in my laboratory were done brewing. Do you take walks? Yes, they are nice to clear your head. Or fill it. I get all my best writing ideas when I am on my feet. Scary tales, mostly. I never have a notepad on me though. What? Oh yes, back to the treasure. I found it in the basement of the Curiosity Shoppe. Behind some curios from the ancient land of Mu. I remember next to nothing at that until I was home quivering before my record player. The album was blood red. The blood had drained from my hands leaving them pallid like bones buried in the sand.
I pressed play. It was magical. The spell of my secret only served to increase the pleasure I received from listening to this punk classic. The unfamiliar songs were as good as the ones I had heard many moons ago. It is like being kissed, isn’t it? You do it every day, but you remember each one. But each one is different, new, surprising. And you never tire of it. No, no, you did not laugh so loud. I am not that punctilious. We can listen to it now. If you want to. You do? Good. Step out of the closet.
You didn’t feel the floor shifting, did you? My story that riveting? I take that as the highest compliment. Yes, Sparrow Mansion has many secrets and one of them is the floor plan can change. And now you can see one of the other secrets of Sparrow Mansion. Allow me to shackle your wrists. Music is best enjoyed if you are perfectly still. Hardly breathing. Not muttering your own noise. Let me chain your legs now. What are all these treasures? Well, of course, Sparrow Mansion would have a murder room.
You see, my secret has a secret.
I may have found Machine Gun Etiquette, but I have waited even longer for Damned, Damned, Damned. Having savored the penultimate pleasure of Machine Gun Etiquette, my patience has run out. I need Damned, Damned, Damned. I heard you own a copy, sir. A pristine copy, played only once. By your wife when she was waiting for you to return. She may be listening to it right now. You will not be returning.
Madness is scientific. I did not, however, lie. I am putting on Machine Gun Etiquette right now. Be still. Be silent. Let the music take you to the mystery.
Never mind my blade skinning your back.