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Stuck Inside and Variant Blues

Updated: Nov 3

Music in the Time of Coronavirus, Parts III & IV

Stuck Inside was originally intended to be a 5-song EP, but Mark and I continued to write songs during the pandemic, especially during the winter of 2020-2021, when the three of us--Mark, our producer, Mike Butler, and myself--were all working on releasing prior MTC releases: the single "Careful Now My Son" and the first MTC album, Sirens Go By.


There has been a delay with releasing Stuck Inside because Mike got a large influx of work during the spring and summer of 2021. It seems we weren't the only musicians working on music during the pandemic.


I almost moved away from the name "Stuck Inside" for the album because it didn't really fit the latter part of 2020 and early 2021 when the CDC encouraged being outside rather than stay indoors where the virus spreads more. "Stuck Inside" seemed like a better fit with the early part of the lockdown when most of us were afraid to leave the house.


I considered using the name of a central song on Stuck Inside, "Small World Abide," as the album name because it contrasts nicely with the title of my 2016 "best of" solo compilation, Big World Abide, named after the second song on my 2006 album Tethered to the Ground:

Big World Abide

(©2006 Anders/O'Bitz)


Santa's small world

Not just a white lie

'Cause we went to bed

So safe inside


How hard to say goodnight

Big world abide

Telling our lies of black and white

Safe Inside


God's got a list

He's checkin' it twice

Heaven's the gift

For those who are nice


But still hard to say goodnight

Big world abide

Telling our lies of black and white

Safe Inside


Not innocent fairy tales

Red is the sum of this black and white

Dealin' in good and evil

These believers they terrorize

You might hope our lies evolve

It seems, hardly at all


From the big world we'll ever hide

Not abide … say goodnight


They said it was just a little white lie

We were told before goodnight

These lies of black and white

Stories for kids to feel safe inside

These lies of black and white

To which we'll hold and for which we'll die


This song was inspired by Freud's 1926 book, The Future of an Illusion, where Freud argued that religion was an outgrowth of early fantasies of being protected by a strong father figure. This song is about how simplistic and childish ways of understanding our large and complex world spill over into beliefs, culture, and politics, especially within an American context. Learning to see and deal with a larger and more complex world is the challenge this song puts to those hundreds of millions who still believe in Santa in one way or another.


The song "Small World Abide" is a lament of our current global situation with regard to Covid-19, climate change, and the unfortunately efficient dissemination via the internet of right-wing hate and politics. The internet with its spread of right-wing ideology (the Santa or future-of-an-illusion form of political beliefs)--and even more so the global devastation of climate change and Covid--has made the world seem much much smaller to this singer-songwriter.


My hope is that the millions of Santa believers all over our world could try to open themselves up to the complexity of our big world and not be so selfish with regard to their more "otherwise" neighbors who don't share their simplistic, self-centered, and stupidly reductive beliefs.


Our world is ultimately very small (cf. my blog post, "'Earthrise' and Earth Rise") and so we have to learn to live with each other ... and do basic things like get vaccinated and wear masks during a global pandemic ... and stop burning fossil fuels with abandon ... and not be so extremely self-centered and reductive.


Many of the songs on Stuck Inside are about the extreme self-centeredness and pathological narcissism that goes hand-in-hand with Santa beliefs--being trapped inside yourself, stuck inside, and lost at sea. This is why I decided to stick with the "Stuck Inside" title over the "Small World Abide" title. Also, the MTC covers show Mark and me inside imaginary apartment buildings.



Variant Blues is a continuation of these themes ... with my latest anti-Trump song, "Far Gone," being the central song on the album for both me and Mark:


Far Gone

(©2021 Anders/O’Bitz)


Such a showman

More pathetic every time

Lacks a soul

Yet believers stand in line

So very old

Yet such new times


Oh believe that we’re so

Far gone

Oh believe that it’s so


Hate’s the strongest

Fuel for this fire

And we know

Delusions blow it higher

So very old

Yet such new times


Oh believe that we’re so

Far gone

Oh believe that it’s so

I need to go

I need to go

Can’t stay here anymore

No


Believin’ these lies

Will keep us down

It keeps these grifters

Up off the ground

Why keep them up

Off of the ground

Off of the ground


We divided up 21 songs by style and ended up with eleven edgier songs (usually electric-guitar-based) on Stuck Inside, and ten songs that were more singer-songwriter (our traditional style) on Variant Blues. Both albums are full of songs that try to capture something about these times of a global pandemic, climate change, and the rise of new forms of very old right-wing ideologies. Some through references to history, some with references to the poet Emily Dickinson, and others that are more directly about these troubled times we live in.


We had hoped to go into the studio to finish these albums during the spring and summer of 2021, but the Delta variant kept us all at home. These two albums were done almost completely remotely--90% remotely--with regard to the three principles: me, Mark O'Bitz, and Mike Butler, our producer.