As is generally known, whenever I get some time to myself I tend to start thinking about Ozzy Osbourne. A few years ago I wrote about 3/4 of an album’s worth of songs about Black Sabbath and/or Ozzy’s solo career, some of which were on the Marsh Witch Visions EP. When I sent Owen Pallett a link to the songs I was working on for In League With Dragons, he noticed a bunch of other songs in the folder — stuff I’d meant to say “these were for something else” about, but didn’t. Those songs were probably going to hang out in that folder for a good long while or maybe never see daylight at all. I am a shark, I seek the blood-cloud a little further ahead.
But Owen announced, in our second conversation about Dragons, that “Passaic” was the single. I was pretty surprised by this — to me it felt like a 2/3 Robert Forster + 1/3 Syd Barrett‘s Opel sessions cocktail, music dear to my heart but not renowned for its chartbusting ways. Owen, however, heard the song more in the vein of “Talk About the Passion”-era R.E.M., stuff I only know in passing. Still, I was committed to having him call the shots on the arrangements, and curious about what he meant.
One pre-production session, one full studio session, some very intense mixing back-and-forths with the genius Shani Gandhi, and two tours later, the arena-with-lighters heart of the song has revealed itself even to me, who can barely find an arena on a map. Shani’s final mix takes at least 50% of the credit for the way that final chorus and outro now sound like the morning sun rising above a nameless rock festival’s trashed field somewhere east of Ohio in the mid-seventies, everybody drowsy and loving their situation, all vibes positive except the ones you haven’t accounted for yet.
Speaking of singles, Peter Hughes, on hearing “Get High and Listen to the Cure” — written for Goths, attempted in the studio sessions in versions that lacked the snap of this demo — felt certain this was the song that would make us a household name. I’m fond of the song, though I don’t share his conviction that it’s the Mountain Goats song the whole world has been waiting to hear. Should this release prove Peter right, I will be quite content to concede the point.