Best Dead Masterpiece, Dissected by the Artist (Pt. 1)

Hello to anyone new who might lately have stepped into me… you know, like an unseen hole in the yard you sprain your ankle in, or a mud puddle that’s a little sloppier than you bargained for.

I’ve been meaning to start a series of posts exploring different conceptual elements of the upcoming album. I wasn’t 100% convinced I should do that, since it might be better to let listeners bring to it what they want without exercising control over that the way I do over, well, everything else. But I put a lot of thought into my artistic products (if you’re looking for “Well, I got stoned and thought it sounded funny”, you’ve come to the wrong place) and I analyze everything to a fault, so, what the hell.

The title’s probably a good place to start.

In college, a new inductee to our a cappella group (I’ll stop there a moment so you can push the puke back down) gave me a sort of art project, a big metal flower, that had magnetic poetry stuck to it. I would never actually have bought myself magnetic poetry, but work went into this thing, so I kept it for a few years. Finally, I got rid of the flower, but the magnetic poetry followed me from fridge to fridge. The pieces I preserved became fewer and fewer, until only a couple of my preferred evocative phrases remained. One of them, my favorite, was “best dead masterpiece”.

I never intended to do anything with that phrase except have it stuck to my fridge. But when, sometime in the middle of 2019, I realized that over the past decade-plus I had accumulated upwards of thirty pages of lyrical scrawling in various places – and that, as a probable lifer in an insurance profession by day, I needed to start making solo music again or bust – I had to figure out what title would sufficiently speak to the weird place I was in. When I last put out an album, though it doesn’t feel all that long ago, I was still young. Not that I don’t feel young now, but I have morphed into someone the outside world doesn’t SEE as all that young anymore. In that time, children have had their own children, the country has begun to wear its soiled undergarments outside its clothes, and there are waves and waves of new young artists who have not only arrived at the place I abdicated not so long ago, but completely blown past it with their talent, assurance, and uninhibited self-expression. What more could someone like me, a peculiar late bloomer, ever out of step with the context in which I find myself, contribute?

For a long time, I was convinced the answer was clearly “nothing”. Then, unexpectedly, a new voice began to materialize. It was exactly all those things listed above, with the accompanying bluntness, existentialism, anxiety, ambivalence, a perceptiveness that comes from standing back and quietly watching, maybe something beginning to approach wisdom (?). In other words, exactly what I am and all I know how to be. Also, a voice that didn’t seem much represented otherwise.

BEST DEAD MASTERPIECE. The idea that something can be destined for obscurity – which, in our parasocial, hyper-documented reality, in effect equals “dead in the water” – but still rich, intricate, water-damaged in a musty basement, there to be discovered by someone whose personal preferences or life experiences cause them to ascribe value to it.

Throughout the album, that phrase also takes on different meanings, from still life arrangements and their attendant connotations, to fallen trees made art, to an insect who met a bad end at the hands of humans with deep-seated issues – but those are topics for another time.

Till next time, dear readers – all 2-4 of you! – be well.

I wrote this outside and it was lovely. Remember to get your fresh air, kiddies.

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