First of all, I have a cold sore, so it's getting difficult to concentrate on making music. But, in the spirit of HD's ongoing commitment to excellence, I will endeavor to persevere.
Secondly, I am singing my ass off as we hurtle headlong into the final days of tracking. There are five songs left to go, and all of them are really hard in different ways. Still, everything is sounding so good that the vocal work becomes a pleasure. Since I quit smoking (1 year, 4 months, 3 weeks and counting) and have been abstaining from all intoxicants besides caffeine since the new year started (20 days and counting, though I'll probably crack my new expensive bottle of bourbon on Sunday night after the last track is laid down), I can feel a new strength and elasticity in my voice. My range hasn't changed much--I can maybe go a little higher now than before, or at least, I can hit the very high notes a little more easily now. The big difference is breath control. I'm pretty sure I can hear you snoring, so I'll lay off this subject, but for me, it counts as exciting.
In fact, I think everyone has increased instrumental alacrity this time around. Jeff's piano playing is really assured and dynamic, while his (vastly underrated) guitar skills have turned a corner as well--especially now that the guitar isn't the dominant instrument on most of the songs, he's able to play more nuanced rhythm parts. Which is not to say the album doesn't rock, of course; it just rocks smarter and more subtly than we ever have before. I'm amazed listening back to Merrymakers and King James, just how snotty, brash, and kind of obnoxious a lot of the songs are (not just the singing either, but the whole approach). I daresay that HD3--and no, that will not be the title as long as I live and breathe--comes closer than we ever have to sounding like ourselves, rather than a way we want to try and sound, or more accurately, a way we wind up sounding when we fail to make good choices... Not in terms of live vs. studio, but in terms of me and jeff and aaron as people. We're not a bunch of teenagers anymore. Well, I am. But those other guys are OLD!
Which reminds me: I am now the youngest member of Harvey Danger. You can call me The Kid.
And let us not forget Aaron, who has combined his bass-as-lead-guitar approach, which I daresay is the single most defining element of our sound, with more classic (and occasionally McCartney-esque) active bass parts on the piano songs, to say nothing of his impressive guitar work. Along with Michael's truly exemplary drumming, I'm very pleased to realize that our overall sound, or tone (as the guitarists of the world insist on calling it), has become very pleasing, where once it was abrasive. I'm surely tempting fate to say it, but the stuff we've done so far almost feels sophisticated.
In all, it's been a wickedly productive time. I'm still sweating the lyrics to a couple of these numbers (and one metaphor in particular), and am sorely tempted to revisit the verse melody on one song before all is said and done. I won't give details, of course; that would be telling.
One thing I will share, though, is the fascinating process by which a certain song (again, no names) has evolved in the past 72 hours from quasi-early-'70s-Stones-style stomper into some bizarre hybrid variant of Eno-era glitter pop (which was mostly based on the same basic late '50s r&b blueprint as the Stones, anyway...), new wave freakout, and classic rocker. I mean, the process was basically this: we added a bunch of weird keyboards to the intro and the choruses. But the way it all happened was one of the most exciting and collaborative moments in the history of this band. All of us in the room, trying ideas, keeping the good ones, encouraging one another, using the resources at our disposal and not getting territorial about instruments or pre-conceived ideas, and also having the respect to hang back, knowing when it's time to stop, etc... It was basically the way I'd always hoped things could happen in the studio. Major credit to John & Steve for fostering the environment, of course, but for me, the key was that no one ever said no. The song needed something, and it got something none of us would have predicted.
Which is basically the dominant theme of this whole project. Thanks for staying interested.