I’ve always liked TV shows that are set in the real world but have extended fantasy sequences inside characters’ heads. When I was younger, Rugrats turned a pile of tires in a garage into the Grand Canyon, while Doug was full of imaginary alter egos, like Smash Adams and Durango Doug.
I only realized recently that shows like Spaced and Community were doing the same thing for an older audience, turning paintball into a spaghetti Western or turning urban England into a zombie apocalypse.
It’s not literal fantasy—there are (almost) never any zombies or cowboys or secret agents in the “real world” of those TV shows. It’s dramatic shorthand. Because you can’t just say what’s going inside a character’s head, these shows use the language of imagination and pop culture to illustrate it. It’s like the famous creative writing advice: “Show, don’t tell.”
I said in a blog post that Nausea In The Valley Of The Wine was the Cannonball Story’s version of a “White Album,” but it’s really more of a Spaced album or a Doug album. It’s an album full of songs about dirty fridges, grade-school crafts, and watching stuff on screens. It’s also an album full of outlaws, punks, and a vampire on a skateboard. It shifts genres frequently but is grounded in the mundane, blending fact and fantasy, and combining the absurd with the everyday.
(Yes, if you were wondering, I did just BS a concept onto an album that wasn’t written with one, English-major style. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true!)
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Sometimes I worry about overexplaining an album before I’ve even released it… then I remember how much time I spend reading about music on Wikipedia and Genius. So if you’re the type of person who reads liner notes and online band histories, here are some song-by-song annotations:
“My Blue Crayon Is Getting Dull”: Partly a-portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-young-grade-school-art-student and partly an attempt to write the type of metaphor Willie Nelson would use.
“TV Probably Won’t Rot Your Brain”: Every punk band has a song about how much TV kills your brain. Obviously, they didn’t have HBO. This is a more sensible song for well-adjusted humans who watch average amounts of television.
“Hey Whiskey, Didja Miss Me? (Cover)”: This is a cover song, but the original is by a fictional band I invented.
“White Macaroni Elephant”: The only song I’ve ever written and recorded under the influence of alcohol. A song about the ultimate unwanted gift. Those two facts may be related.
“Straight Outta Sonoma”: Straight autobiography. Every word is truth.
“The King of Ice Cream”: Straight nonsense. It almost made it onto the last album under the title “Luis Buñuel,” but I was too afraid someone would ask me stuff about Luis Buñuel, like how to pronounce his name.
“Oh Don’t Even Pretend You Don’t Know What I Mean, If You Know What I Mean”: Drugs, man. (Not actually. I’ve just always wanted to write a song where the concept was “Drugs, man,” so I invented a new drug language.)
“Nausea In The Valley Of The Wine”: One of the few songs where the title came first (a take-off on the studio Ghibli film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind). It’s the thematic (and physical) center of the album.
“That Guy At The Illuminati Who Believes In Partying”: A sequel to “That Guy At The Party Who Believes In The Illuminati.” The lyrics are about 90% real conspiracy theorists I’ve met and 10% made up.
“Expired Things In The Fridge”: Semi-fictionalized ode to a fridge at 604 Stewart Ave, Ithaca NY, c. 2012.
“I Saw The Film A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night”: Semi-fictionalized ode to watching stuff online. (The fiction is that I’d never watch a movie on Netflix just because it had 3 stars.) Song title inspired by a Sun Kil Moon song.
“The Indian Disco Part Of YouTube”: Nonfictionalized ode to the stuff I will make you listen to if you give me your computer at 2 am on a Saturday.
“Let's Go Tubing On the Susquehanna (Except Don't Actually Because There Are Dangerous Low-Head Dams)”: Inland surf music. Listen to that subtitle, though, everyone! Even river rescue experts have trouble with low-head dams!
“Burritos & Sherry”: If you saw the basement where it was recorded, the “too many things” chorus would make perfect sense. The last third of the song is completely literal. The earlier things, like the parts about the trumpet and Richard Scarry, mostly just sounded nice in the rhyme scheme.
“Kiyoko Battles Her Less Inhibited Alter Ego In What May Or May Not Be A Dream Within A Dream”: Loosely inspired by a certain Flaming Lips song and by the work of Satoshi Kon and Haruki Murakami. “Kiyoko” continues the tradition started on Purple Rose of ending with something proggy and vaguely Japanese.