Exit Stage Left

January 26, 2009 at 11:08 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

canadaWhoever does the branding for Canada has done a great job. They’ve got a great national anthem and a pretty flag. They have mounted police in bright red jackets. And we Americans love to romanticize the place. Vancouver as Valhalla or something. From draft dodgers to prescription pill-popping senior citizens, there’s something for everyone. And a lot of us Americans like to use it as a threat-destination: “if [such and such] happens, I’m moving to Canada”–like we can run in there and claim sanctuary or forgiveness.

The popular trend of these threats certainly comes from recent elections and I tried to capture the sentiment in the song “Coast is Clear“. It was written sometime after the 2004 re-election of George Bush when many of us were depressed, convinced that things couldn’t get much worse. But these threats in most cases are pretty empty ones. As much as we idealize the Canadian Rockies and their clean water and their humane, universal health care, most of us would never really imagine moving into Canada. Most of us that live on the east coast of the US don’t even want to give up Eastern Standard time for our own West Coast, let alone packing it all up for the Great White North; we like the fact that Canadians are watching our tv shows. But we are nowhere without a good threat. Our country was founded on them. All change requires threats.

The song I wrote was intended to sound like a drinking song. Something that would sound good to bearded men slamming their mugs together. And so it was meant as a farewell celebration, a fare-thee-well, if you will. It’s one of the more schizophrenic songs I’ve written. The verses are this barroom barrage of imperatives–a “have one for the road” kinda thing. Scott and Craig did a great job of recording those acoustic guitars; there’s a good drunk quality to them. The pre-chorus, a term I use a little too liberally these days, tries to bring on the sentimental aspect behind the escape — and its musicality abruptly changes to match. All leading to a chorus that promises that this excursion is only temporary until the “coast is clear.” It’s almost like I couldn’t quite keep up the masquerade of the threat of leaving and so I have to provide some sort of stipulation for return. And so, nowadays, when I sing the song, with the image of Bush in his helicopter, leaving the white house forever, I don’t quite feel the same way. 

Part of me would like to think the “coast is clear” now–but I’ll reserve judgment for awhile. 

Because of its split personality, I’ve never really felt comfortable performing the song. I can only imagine what it’s like to listen to. But I’m sure that it’s sincere and for that reason alone, I’ve found it to be successful. It captures exactly what I feel from time to time: great indignation followed by great resignation. And I make no apologies for that. It’s what happens after a couple of beers.



  1. Dominic said,

    What a pleasure it was to read the thought process behind one of your best hits, man. I honestly have no idea how you manage to keep this one from falling to bits in a live setting. It sounds so wonderfully loose, even on the recording, that I feel as though its bottom is going to collapse at any second. You guys really keep it together at your gigs, but in my arms, this baby would fall and smash into little pieces. And I make no apologies for that. It’s what happens after a couple of beers.

  2. songsmith said,

    There are no apologies when it comes to a couple of beers. Most of us have both to thank for our even being here (apologies and beers, that is). I’m not sure what that means.

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