the lines are open

by The Close Readers

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There's a chorus here which goes:

Time’s a machine and we all got stamped
Time’s a machine and we all got hammered

Then the song ends:

But what was given, we can reject
And what ruled us then, we can escape
Let's all escape!

But how? How do you get from the situations the song describes, or the ones you, dear reader/listener, might find yourself in, to that precious escape? Not sure. But then maybe this is one reason why I love making music. You can state a gap, an uncloseable gap, a gaping gap, and then invoke a sudden solution, shout it out or croon it, croak it, whatever, over the guitars, and if it's got a sense of style (ha!) and purpose (hey!), some rush of urgency, then somehow, possibly, for a moment, the gap is gone. Two of the heroes of this record, both fiction writers, managed to close that gap for longer than a moment: Barbara Anderson and Nigel Cox. In neither case did it look likely that they would end up with the lives they had—namely ones in which they got to make art. Let's all escape!


released November 12, 2014

The Close Readers:
Damien Wilkins: vocals, acoustic & electric guitar, keyboards
Luke Buda: electric & acoustic guitar, keyboards, backing vocals, & piano on ‘Good Evening Family’ & ‘The Ballad of Tarzan Presley’
Craig Terris: drums, percussion & backing vocals
Tom Callwood: bass on ‘Kevin’, ‘Ask Me Anything’, ‘Wolf’, ‘Tarzan Presley’, ‘Ernie Abbott’, ‘Past’
Andrew Bain: bass on ‘Barbara’, ‘Issue the Women’, ‘Hardcore’, ‘Good Evening Family!’

All songs are written by Damien Wilkins

‘Kevin’ is a poem by Bill Manhire. (Used with permission – thanks Bill!)
Thanks to Mike Corcoran for lead guitar on ‘Ask Me Anything’
‘Issue the Women’ adapts a line from an unpublished novel by Megan Doyle Corcoran. (Used without permission, then permission granted – thanks MDC!)
Gratitude again to Felix Bornholdt for the piano on ‘Kevin’
Love & thanks to Maree Brown for the surprise backing vocal on 'Ask Me Anything'

Recorded at The Surgery, Wellington. Engineered, mixed and mastered by Brett Stanton

Cover photograph by Peter Black from his book the grass is awfully green



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The Close Readers Wellington, New Zealand

Formed in 2010, this band records the songs of New Zealand fiction writer Damien Wilkins.

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Track Name: Barbara
I’d like to celebrate the life
Of Barbara Lillias Romaine
My favourite naval wife
The great novelist of pain
And sinking and gasping
And rising again

Don’t want to do this by the dates
She was born a couple of times
The first might have been a mistake
But what you live through you can
Shine and revise and disguise
And create again

All the nice girls are in trouble
Cos they’ve grown so impossibly tall
They’ve forgotten to be humble
As they run to the door
And out into the world
And not a single word can stop them now

Let’s consider the mighty sea-horse
Whom she first met at Portobello
Finds some vertical growing seaweed
To wrap its end around and say farewell
Or see here
I mean you - hello!

All the nice girls are in trouble
Cos they thought about their lives
And they started sharing novels
In their heads was a fire
That burnt off all the lies
Warmed them inside and left them steamy!
Track Name: Ernie Abbott

It was a Monday that’s all
March 27th 1984
Who’s left their suitcase in the middle of the floor?
Some people got no idea at all
Ernie Abbott liked a clean and uncluttered hall
He walked the floor

We were sixteen, my girlfriends and me
Our typing course was in the building out the back
Lunchtime we saw it sitting there temptingly
Pale green case with a collapsible handle
Who would notice if quietly we reached out and took it for a walk

‘77 Ernie made it into the paper
Posed with a cauliflower protesting the rise in prices
Vice President of the Caretakers and Cleaners
And the government were shafting the workers again and again
White rags were poking from the suitcase
Was that what stopped us lifting it
and lifting ourselves from this earth, like Ernie Abbott

Hey Ernie I walk past there every day
27th March we celebrate my wife’s birthday
Hey Ernie they’re still looking for the guy
And in our hearts you are very much alive

It was a Monday that’s all
March 27th 1984
Who’s left their suitcase in the middle of the floor?
Some people have no idea at all
Ernie Abbott took pride in himself and wanted pride in this world
Track Name: Good Evening Family!

Take the green lift to the 7th floor
Check out the window, enjoy the elevation
Follow the green line on the shiny floor
Nod at the nurses at their station

Here’s the room it’s 29A
The curtain’s closed so you wait
For just a moment then you push on through
(No one’s interested in you)
You’re not interested in you

Good evening family!
Where did you spring from?
It’s a lovely evening
Just a little windy
Don’t mind my blathering
I’ll watch you sleeping
And when you’re good and ready
What say we all
What say we all
What say we all

People say, Look at those tiny hands
And look at those tiny feet
They say she looks a lot like you
And when does Dad get his feed?
One of the other mothers leaves the room
Hard to believe that’ll be us soon
Hey I’ve cleaned the car for you
(No one cares about the car)
Time stopped and then it

Good evening family
Ba ba ba ba ba ba ga ga ga ga ga ga
You’ve stolen my language
It’s a lovely evening
It’s a complete mystery
Are you both warm enough?
I feel like a furnace.
What say we all
What say we all
What say we all
go home
go home
go home
Track Name: Kevin
Track Name: Wolf

When we first met we were fifteen
You came to our house to cook and clean
My mother never left her room
Bottles of Coke under her bed
You did your work and never complained
I said don't you sometimes wish you were dead

You said, I'm not a real girl
I'm a wolf inside
Come on and smell my breath
Come on and touch my fur
Let's go to the woods and hide
I'll find you by your scent
And tell you where you went

You wheeled her out against her will
It rained on the flowers, it rained on you
You brought her home and cleaned her up
She said I'm going to call you my buttercup
You held her hand and rubbed her feet
I said don’t you wish you were asleep

You said, you’re not a real boy
You’re a wolf inside
I can smell your breath
I can touch your fur
Let's go to the woods and hide
You'll find me by my scent
And tell me where I went

We’re not real kids
We are wolves inside
They can't smell our breath
And they can't touch our fur
Let’s go to the woods and hide
They won’t find us by our scent
Or tell us where we went
Track Name: Issue The Women

Issue the women with pitchforks
Tell them to meet outside the liquor store
Tie the men’s arms by their sides
Use the hoardings for a bonfire
And show them the flames
And read out the names
That are carved on the door
Track Name: The Ballad of Tarzan Presley

Get up at 5am
before the house begins
put in two good hours
breakfast and then a shower
kiss the kids and promise your wife
it’ll be all right

Berlin’s beautiful and messy
as the snow begins to melt
and you’ve written Tarzan Presley
soon the world will know

The agent rings at night
says don’t get too excited
you say you understand
but your feet are leaving the ground
you’re on your way
might happen today
or tomorrow

Pick out the Merc you want
from the place on your way to work
laugh with the jerk who says
Hey’d you forget to shave?
You’ve got a secret
You can hardly keep it
To yourself

Berlin’s open and it’s sexy
And the sun is almost there
You’re toasting Tarzan Presley
In a garden of German beer

Then the emails stop
They’ve put their hands in their pockets
You’re trying hard not to panic
Both sides of the Atlantic
Maybe you won’t get that Merc
You’ll have to work with that jerk
Your son cries out in the night
And you go to his side
What is wrong? What is always wrong
With this song?

Berlin’s dark and it’s ugly
And the tress drip down your neck
But you’re the author of Tarzan Presley
What else did you expect?

Wake at 5am
Start a new book then
Cos they’re queuing up
Fuckers don’t write themselves
Kiss your kids
And tell your wife
She’s your life

Berlin’s hazy and it’s distant
Did you ever live there?
In my copy of Tarzan Presley
You wrote ‘Happy days and see you there’
Happy days and see you there
Happy days and see you there
Track Name: Hardcore

Husker Du’s so loud
I can’t hear the engine failing
Driving to your house
Got a sense of trepidation

You tell me Bob Mould’s gay
You read it in the paper
But you say it in such a way
Trying to cause me aggravation

I say I don’t care who he’s with
Or if he does it upside down
Zen Arcade’s still a gift
it’s the record of our generation

So put on some Little Red Rooster
Get some words from Thus Spake Zarathustra
We’ll make another killer tape loop
Our group is good
Our group is strong
Our group’s the greatest
Group to come along

When you sat on the edge of my bed
Leaned back against the wall
Then you put your hand on my leg
I said, Boy is that all?
Boy, are you hard
Are you really hardcore?
Hardcore, hardcore, hardcore

Let’s put on some Minutemen
Cos we need a change of pace
You like Mike Watt’s laugh, George Hurley’s hair
And D. Boon’s surprising, lovely,
D Boon’s inviting, lovely
D Boon’s kind, inviting face
Track Name: Ask Me Anything

I volunteer in an animal shelter
I’m a qualified female welder
I'm a deck-hand on a dredge in this river
I’m in a line—for how long—for a brand new liver
I’m an Amish that left my family
I’m a hard-ass broken by the military
I’m in a lab working with perfumes
Tornado warning, will it come soon!

You can ask me anything
The lines are open
You can ask me anything
If you’re whole or you’re broken

I am a radio tower technician
I’m a bored young Norwegian
I’m 18 with viral encephalitis
I’m an ex-stripper, now work for private clients
I went to high school in Thailand
I dream of stairwells and unassisted flying
I am a doorman, last leg of my shift
I’m a pile of leaves if you get my drift

You can ask me anything
The lines are open
You can ask me anything
If you’re whole or you’re broken

I’m a contractor in Afghanistan
I have Polymorphous Light Eruption
I am a face drawn on a hand
I’m a line drawn in the sand

You can ask me anything
The lines are open
You can ask me anything
Cos I’m whole and I’m broken
Track Name: Past

Past caring past sharing past believing at all
Past the church we were married which is now a mall
Past the After-Hours we went to after your fall

Past sulking past crying past calling your name
Past the golf course sign: Develop Your Game!
Past the House of Knives and the Fishing Hall of Fame

Past lying past loving past spinning this top
Past the stains on the library steps that look like blood
Past the river and the sculptures made of mud

Time’s a machine and we all got stamped
Time’s a machine and we all got hammered

Past grieving past stealing past the RSA
Where they stroked your breast as you pulled beer
Pass the bucket past participles in my head

Past yearning past clinging past breathing a word
As the Assembly of God all got cured
And we retreated as they went forward

Past returning past reliving past mining the seam
Past the drive-in body-painting with icecream
On your birthday hanging yourself at eighteen

Time’s a machine and we all got stamped
Time’s a machine and we all got hammered.
But what was given, we can reject
And what ruled us then, we can escape
Let's all escape!