civilian

With the 2021 release of Civilian – his sixth release and second true Louiston LP – Lou delivers his finest work to date, a tidy 8-song collection in which, true to form, his stellar guitar-play and words are the linchpin sonic focal points. Whereas previous projects dabbled in liberal instrumentation or straight-up loud-ass guitars (see: Duels), the presence of space is Civilian’s hallmark: half of the songs are largely striped of unnecessary distractions and guided expertly by Lou’s guitar and voice.

“In the past, I’d often end up with songs built in the studio that just didn’t translate when I played them live as a solo performer, which can be unfulfilling artistically,” Lou said. “Any good song should be able to stand on its own with just guitar and voice, and that was my approach with Civilian.”

Among the subtleties of modern American life addressed in Civilian: a parade of muted faces, just like yours, longing for fulfillment and meaning and enduring yet another weekday commute to jobs that provide neither (“Alt Cntrl Delete”); an inner sabbatical from the steady strobe of #content (“Going Away for A While”), and the acceptance of one’s individual place in the world – what’s so bad about anonymity? – amidst a culture hellbent on achieving notoriety and garnering attention at whatever cost (“Civilian”).

Listeners will note a somber undercurrent that belies this collection of songs, which Lou largely penned throughout the course of the three most tumultuous years of his life, this even before a pandemic swept the globe. Becoming a new father is as life-altering and tedious as it gets, but infinitely more so while gripped in a debilitating depression and ensuing recovery that erased all of 2019 and most of 2020. It was a vulnerable and disorienting time of enormous responsibility, crushing doubts, and misplaced identity (“Meditations on Modern Doubt”), further scarred by the loss of an old friend to suicide (“Classics”) and the collective anxieties surrounding the arrival and extended stay of SARS-CoV-2.

Only after seeking help in navigating depression and its distortions – a period soothed by genuine healing and growth – did the timid will to pick up the pen return. “Out From Shadow,” an exuberant ode to healing and Civilian’s most upbeat track, is the first such dispatch from Lou’s experience, and certainly not the last.

lyrics

Note: a version of this song first appeared on my 2009-ish EP, and I’ve been playing it ever since. I felt a version more in line with how I play it live was in order, so here it is and here, on this LP, it will remain.

Sometimes, I get a little winded, and I’m losing my head, picking up what’s left.

If summer is something of a rebirth, and fall’s a slow decay, then I fear the cold of winter.

I did my time I paid my debts, the endless stretch of chainlink fence and the masses crowding in …

Let’s run for it. Let’s get out while we still can. If you push then I’ll push too, we’ll get these wheels turning.

Where will we go? No one will know. Where will we go? No one will know.

I did my time I paid my dues, now I step in single file, filed under someday soon.

Let’s run for it. Let’s get out while we still can. If you’re in, then I’m in too, let’s keep this fire burning.

If we grow weary, we’ll shade beneath a daydream. Those boxcars of the Southern Tier come singing in my ears.

Ain’t young enough to matter, too old to make a move, I’m growing accustomed to that ordinary view. john doe in plain clothes. Civilian, civilian.

Those jitters you feel are your 20s being squeezed into a person you’d scarcely believe, then folded into the machine. Civilian, civilian.

Guess I ain’t the go-gettin’ type, conditioned to play it safe all the time, I head to bed with a million desires. Civilian, civilian.

Well, I feel my heart and mind giving out, think I might’ve fucked this up somehow. me, I’m always figuring shit out. Civilian, civilian.

That mask is cracked, another dream burned clean. Who I thought I was versus who stares back at me – just another nobody. Civilian, civilian.

Guess I ain’t the free-wheelin’ type. I ain’t the leaving, thieving kind. I think I’ll stick around for a few more miles. Civilian, civilian.

No, I ain’t the turn-and-running kind, though I’ve felt the urge more than a few times. I think I’ll stick around for a little while. Civilian.

There I am in the Book of James – I’m tossed like a wave. Got double-mind, got Thomas sight, I’m shook in all my ways.

You and I break bread again. We spill all the wine. The dark comes in with brightened strings, we sing into the night.

Now, now that I’ve arrived squarely in my 30s. Now, now that I’ve arrived, I toil in inertia.  I grit these rounded teeth. I’m stuck somewhere between who I was and who I should be. Honey, I’ll be right down as soon as I get this down. I’m feeling better now. Meditations on modern doubt.

There were sights that I wished I’d seen when my eyes were at their best.  But these vague forms and damn regrets, they’re as close as I will get.

Now, now that I’ve arrived squarely in my 30s. Now, now that I’ve arrived, I toil in inertia.  I grit these rounded teeth. I’m stuck somewhere between zero and infinity. Honey, I’ll be right down as soon as I get this down. I’m feeling better now. Meditations on modern doubt.

I don’t mean to upset you, or ruffle your tender feathers, but we’re owed an explanation, aren’t we?

Who did you become from who I knew back then? I think I would have understood those things we leave unsaid.

If you’re gonna be the one who tears our guts out, make it swift and clean. Life had all but laid waste to our insides anyway. oh, anyway.

So let’s talk compensation. Let’s iron out the works. These glinting, age-old memories are as elusive as these words.

So I’m staking out the thrift stores. I’m itching to get first dibs on your punk-rock t-shirts, all your old Strike Anywhere merch.

If you’re gonna be the one who tears our guts out, make it swift and clean. Life had all but laid waste to our insides anyway.

We’ll be nursing up at the Verona if you’re up to catch a song. Senneca’s got that fucker fed to play the classics all night long.

Here I come, here I stay, sun’s gonna color me night and day, I’m clawing out from shadow.

Dress me up in vivid hues, wreck a retina upon view, I’ve rendered out, out from shadow.

Pleasure to return to human form. I’m honored to reoccupy this frame. I slipped into apparition  – the well went dry and colors all bent gray.

Here I come, here I bleed, I’m gonna sing in every key. Struck mute for a season. Strung too sharp, fell face flat, the heart goes heavy when the soul goes black, but I’m back. I’m out from shadow.

God, this light is blessed. Don’t let despair say otherwise.

Ashen soldiers, pale nightingales, and I brooding and marooned in rooms 13 (1 and the 3), leveling concern upon our loved ones. It gets a little old.

Here I come, here I choose, I’ve arrived with my dancing shoes. Ghosts got no rhythm (only trauma). Static in the attic, voices at the door, finger snaps on the 2 and the 4, good lord, I’m out from shadow.

Good god, I’m out from shadow.

There’s too many fires, ain’t enough rain. I’ll take a glass a water or a tidal wave. Too much crazy, ain’t enough sane. Too many fires, ain’t enough rain.

Too many wolves in the storehouse, learning to talk both sides of their mouths, quoting Jesus and getting what you earned. Them thieves skipped town and the store house is burned.

There’s too many fires, ain’t enough rain. I’ll take a glass a water or a tidal wave. Too much crazy, ain’t enough sane. Too many fires, ain’t enough rain.

Too many prisons as factories – weed ’em through the system, collect the fees. Shutter the hospitals and reroute the line. Now patients are inmates, your illness the crime.

There’s too many fires, ain’t enough rain. I’ll take a glass a water or a tidal wave. Too much crazy, ain’t enough sane. Too many fires, ain’t enough rain.

Too many arsenals in civilian hands, lest you’re stripped of the freedom of killing a man. The pretense of mourning now a routine act. Hack them poles in half and keep the flags where they’re at.

There’s too many fires, ain’t enough rain. I’ll take a glass a water or a tidal wave. Too much crazy, ain’t enough sane. Too many fires, ain’t enough rain.

Sleep is more like an escape, and living’s about the same. Who tampered with the dosage? It’s pure entertainment, hollow fulfillment, where truth is but a matter of convenience. I’m checking out.

I’m going away for a while. If my body has upended, well wind me up and adjust my cuffs. Shove me toward my next meeting. I’m going away for a while.

I’ll wrap myself inside of the pages until all of my matter composes the glyphs and the serifs – Dickens’ guillotines, Jimmy’s nicotine, Kerouac and the merchant marine. I’m gone. I’m out to sea.

I’m going away for a while. If my posture ain’t how you’d like it, remove my hat and point me to the flag, so no one thinks I’m unpatriotic. I’m going away for a while.

If I go dark online, assume I’m having the time of my life in the roses in my mind. And if it seems my dreams are better than the real thing…

I’m going away for a while. If my eyes are looking hazy, gimme Nat King Cole and a top-coat. Leave me to my own Mayberry. I’m going away for a while.

Baby, I’m optimized. Leave me in my Mayberry life.

Birds on a line, city shine. Gridlock, the morning bell. Seize the day with dull blades, commuters in death gaze.

No one ever showed you this part. No one ever showed you the art of middle age, trailblaze funerals and birthdays.

No one ever showed you this part. No one ever pointed out the sharks.

I still seek meaning from new plans and old tendencies, these new schemes and my bachelor’s degree, Das Kapital and Marxist beliefs, these butter knives and needs.

Alt Ctrl Delete.

credits

Most of Civilian was tracked at my house on and off beginning in late 2019 through summer 2021, with additional tracking at Sunwood Recording and a little bit at Wilburland Studios.

I usually approach Louiston records with a stubborn allegiance to the DIY thing, but I’ve learned there are limitations to keeping creative projects so in-house. My ambitions for Civilian had outgrown my abilities, plus recording by oneself can get insular and lonely. So I reached out to some friends and former strangers to help infuse some fun into my mopey little recording process and elevate these tunes. I’m grateful to these musicians and friends, whose talents made this – in all honesty – the most fun record to make:

Chris Ploss of Sunwood Recording is all over this record. He contributes keys on “Boxcars,” “Civilian,” “Meditations on Modern Doubt,” “Classics,” “Out From Shadow,” and “Going Away for a While.” He also played drums on “Out From Shadow.” And if that weren’t enough, he mixed the entire record.

Joey Arcuri graciously offered upright bass and cello on “Classics” and “Alt Ctrl Delete.”

Mike Murray, a friend inside and outside the context of music, plays drums on “Civilian.” Mike’s contributions were tracked at Wilburland Studios, with Dana Billings on the board.

Rena Guinn lends her glorious voice to “Meditations on Modern Doubt.”

David McKinney – my next door neighbor and a hell of a dude – plays dobro on “Out From Shadow.”

Dana Billings mastered this record.

Tim Gera shot the photos and created and animated the “Out From Shadow” video.

big thanks

acknowledgements

Big thanks to: Lindsey and Ellis foremost for their love, support, and patience; my parents and grandma Theresa for welcoming and honoring my early interest in guitar, and then nurturing it with their encouragement and dollars; the rest of the DiPietros, Hernquists, and Fogartys for their support; my closest and dearest friends who’ve simply given a shit about the music I’ve made, in particular Senneca, Hurls, Alpaugh, Rals, Deals, Del, Snit, and many others; all the musicians and bands I’ve played with over the last 20 years, particulary those based in Olean, NY, Charlotte, NC, and Ithaca, NY. You were an inspiration whether you realized it or not; Terry Bellamy; Tim Gera; Jeff and Jamie McCaffrey; Nate Nasty; Mike Murray; Willa Vogel; Will Russell; Kevin Dossinger; fellow musicians, friends, and venue owners in and around Ithaca who’ve I shared shows with and/or who actively work to draw us together as a musical community, including but not limited to Andrew Alling, Rena Guinn, Chris Ploss, Scott and Nancy Adams, Ian Barry, Dana Twigg, and Liam Lawson; all venues and business owners in and around the Finger Lakes Region who support local musicians and who’ve let me play their spots; anyone who ever dropped some cash in my tip jar. I tried to thank you mid-song in most cases, but if I didn’t, this is your moment; you, for taking a minute to check this out.