Oversleepers International by Emperor XRelease date: November 1, 2016
Label: Tiny Engines
Straight facts first:
- Emperor X is an ex-pat American living in Berlin.
- He once sang a song to my dog.
- The German bio-medical complex saved his life last year.
- He’s a refugee running to the east, while the rest of the world is running west.
- He is in the middle, taking notes from the front.
- He is fucking on fire now.
‘Wasted on the Senate Floor’ is the first single from the upcoming Emperor X album, Oversleepers International, slated for release on the Tiny Engines label in early 2017. It’s a new level in the arc of Chad Matheny’s writing and quiet rage. I once said that that he was one of the most subversive American songwriters- and ‘Wasted on the Senate Floor’ shows that he’s back in the game- and not exactly fucking around.
I’ve seen and heard ‘Wasted on the Senate Floor’ evolve over the last couple of years in live shows, YouTube videos, and random SoundCloud drops. In a live setting, Emperor X is usually a one man show and this song is damn fast. Every time I’ve seen him play it he seemed to keep pushing it faster and harder- because he was trying to play a song he heard in his head. And American politics were very quickly going weird. There is some urgency in the song, as you might imagine.
On the upcoming release, Matheny decided to record the new Emperor X material as a “wedding band power trio” with Rudi Maier on drums and Sebastian Samsa on bass. This is a new way of working for Matheny. On his previous seven releases he has usually played most, if not all of the instruments. ‘Wasted on the Senate Floor’ blends his immersion in German culture with his post-punk-pop sensibility. Maier and Samsa rock like a Bavarian punk skiffle band- which is the perfect setup. The song cranks along and Matheny even has his OP-1 tuned to an almost accordion setting. It works. At one point he even yells, “Jig it up!”
On the darker side, ‘Wasted on the Senate Floor’ is a screed against the political class that has been re-elected so many times that they’ve become oblivious to the needs of their constituents or the world at large. Matheny spits out rhymes like a spiteful cynic. He is the most optimistic and sarcastic cynic that I know:
To get wasted on the senate floor.
She said, “Blah blah blah, I’m getting bored.”
Republican watchman from Virginia wraps his fist in a flag
to punch our lights out,
because we’re wasted on the senate floor.
Now you’re trapped because I locked the door,
and I’ve got this thorium-232 and I’ve got this microphone.
Both the beginning and the end of ‘Wasted on the Senate Floor’ sound very much like an Emperor X live show. At the beginning Matheny strums his 12-string electric, singing solo- until Maier and Samsa kick in. Hard. At the end of the song, as the band fades out, Matheny continues plucking a nylon string guitar- exactly like the live performances of the song that I’ve seen in the past. The singer is tired. While the cause might seem lost, there is no surrender.
‘Wasted on the Senate Floor’ was recorded “live” in a basement in Berlin and Matheny did overdubs, after hours, at Donau115, an experimental jazz club he helps manage. I fucking hate to use cliches- but this song has a “rollicking” feel, which triggered the earlier skiffle reference. Maybe because Matheny is freed by having a backing band, so he can really dig in to the lyrics. Maybe because Berlin has provided fertile ground in which he can now thrive. Maybe it’s that fucking oompa loompa line he’s playing on the OP-1. Maybe he’s celebrating another chance at life. Maybe he’s not railing against the political class- instead he’s imagining himself in the mix, in the trough. He’s putting Ecstasy tabs in the water supply.
The core riff of the song is simple on the surface, but it’s punctuated by Matheny’s engineering genius. Short snippets of reverse vocals, a killer guitar solo (a rarity on any Emperor X recording), and a galloping, bass-heavy beat. It hits you on the head musically and intellectually. At some point, the song is so dense that you run out of words to describe it- so the full lyrics are at the end of this piece. If you figure it out- get in touch.
If ‘Wasted on the Senate Floor’ is any indicator- Oversleepers International is going mark a new chapter for Emperor X. I just hope we don’t have to wait too long to hear it. ‘Wasted on the Senate Floor’ is on my Top 10 list for singles this year.
Wasted on the Senate Floor lyrics:
“We ran aground in the Phillippines interpreting what Henri Bergson means when he says life must be durational.
That feels 1,000,000:1. (We) collapsed in grace on the carpeting (and) trade missionaries set to bargaining. We have no use for tricky marketing. We make self-evident claims. We say, “Let the products sell themselves!” like the Minutemen said.
I start to shake when she stares at me. Our currency’s almost at parity. I’d try to talk, but apparently that’s not attractively tough. We tripped and fell when we formed a team. We fixed ourselves with fibrin soldering. Wait, I was wrong — that’s called fibrin glue.
We have enough to get wasted on the senate floor. She said, “Blah blah blah, I’m getting bored.”Republican watchman from Virginia wraps his fist in a flag to punch our lights out, because we’re wasted on the senate floor.
Now you’re trapped because I locked the door, and I’ve got this thorium-232 and I’ve got this microphone.
We’ve got bloody eyes but we’re feeling good, causing confusion in the neighborhood. Nothing protects us like an earmark could from bearing blows. The price is only what inflation pulls. The rules are strictly informational. We showed up late to the Exxon rave. We brought our products in tow.
Now we’re wasted on the senate floor. We put ecstasy tabs in the water supply.
Now we’re wasted on the senate floor. Let’s see who’s gay and who gets lonely when they’re wasted on the senate floor and the naval blockade gets struck down with no trade-off.
We’re wasted on the senate floor and we cast our eyes to the strobe out.
We got wasted on the senate floor.
Where did you find your brother?
Where did you take your sister’s side?
Where did you hide your sister’s side?