Just This Shy of Happy, the seventh full release from Flipping the Pig, and the first in over three years, is another grab bag full of catchy pop/rock oddities. Compared by listeners to artists such as David Bowie, Ween, Pink Floyd, Harry Nilsson, The Pixies, The Monkees, and Stephin Merritt, it just depends on which of the songs they're listening to.
This outing begins with the erratic glam pop Stop Until I Stop (shades of immobilizing paranoia as set to a Latin beat with some distorted guitar thrown in for good measure) and the bouncy "back from near death" acoustic singalong of Run With Everything. From there, we're taken through the electronic day job frustration, albeit in a humorous way, of Here's A Brain Teaser, the reflective loss during the piano and vocal choir melodies of Entrances and Exits, the lullaby waltz of Someday Again, the pulsating acoustic guitar picking escapism of City Behind, as well as the 7+ minute building dissonance of Antarctica. Bonus tracks, thrown in for good measure, include the humorous You Should Always Feel Guilty, which every child should learn and every adult should carry with them throughout this life of ours.
Song By Song:
1. Stop Until I Stop (2:26)
Acoustic and electric guitars, drums, piano, bass, vocals.
Warbled paranoid lyrics and a Latin beat of sorts. I was told it sounded like a "freaked out" David Bowie and Beck. I heard Phil Judd. Such is point of reference.
2. Run With Everything (2:06)
Acoustic guitars, drums, bass, vocals.
I snap my fingers like Davy Jones when I listen to this. Bouncy, singalongy, near-deathy, and lifey.
3. Gently Green (2:57)
Electric guitar, bass, drums, vocals.
Sung in a lower register, more guitars, pretty straightforward, except maybe for the chanting-like vocals. Mmmm...envy. Delicious envy.
4. City Behind (3:34)
Acoustic and electric guitar, drums, bass, vocals.
Acoustic finger-picking set to a pulse and plenty of echo. Thoughts of driving up north and getting away. "Up north" makes sense if you live in Michigan.
5. Just This Shy of Happy (2:40)
Electric guitar, vocals.
It just appeared. One of several titles kindly offered by playwright Randy Wyatt, about a fling I may or may not have had. Written and recorded in about two hours, which helps balance the songs that take 10+ years to write and record.
6. Here's a Brain Teaser (4:15)
Inspired by some, not all, day jobs.
7. I Tried (3:06)
Acoustic guitar, vocals.
Written initially for my friend Katrina Casmer's short film. No lyrics. Many voices. Dreamy. Sort of the beginning side to the song Brighter, which comes later.
8. Someday Again (3:05)
Acoustic guitar, vocals, piano.
Lullaby waltz. Goodnight.
9. His Future's Behind Him Now (3:47)
Electric guitar, keyboards, vocals.
I had an entirely different approach in mind for this one, more a standard guitar, drums, bass setup, but I kept it (for this album, at least) as is, awash in keyboards and guitars. It's a little (not much) slower than the version in my head. Inspired by, but not necessarily about, Lost.
10. Entrances and Exits (2:03)
Piano and vocals (with brief digital piano strings underneath).
Reflecting after a loss. File under "melancholy."
11. Antarctica (7:14)
Electric and acoustic guitar, drums, bass, vocals.
Acoustic guitars lead to tribal drumming leads to big chorus leads to odd time signatures noisy part and so on. This might be the longest song I've recorded. I'll have to check. It's primarily three chords, chock full of dissonance, and it gets kind of noisy, in a vocal harmony kind of way. Written while watching a documentary about The Peoples' Temple. Title #2 from my friend, Randy. It's not about Jim Jones.
12. Brighter (2:32)
Acoustic guitars, vocals, keyboard.
The dreamy pastoral end to it all. Two lines of lyrics. More choir-esque vocals.
13. You Should Always Feel Guilty (Bonus Track) (1:41)
Acoustic guitar, vocals.
Written for the Earth Day show by Colorado stand-up comic Jeff Wozer. Sing along. And feel bad about it. In a fun bad kind of way.
14. Live to See A Better (Bonus Track) (2:11)
Piano, drums, bass, vocals.
Also written for the Earth Day show by comic Jeff Wozer. I kept thinking of Leon Russell when I sang this one, though I've been told it leans more toward Randy Newman.
15. Fiasco (Bonus Track) (2:34)
Acoustic guitar, drums, bass, vocals.
Written for the theatrical performance of the comedy sketch show The Night of Things Occurring. Something told me to pretend to be Robin Hitchcock, so I obeyed.