Lyrics Ramblings

This blog entry sponsored by Ex-Lax.

One of the best things about The Layers fan club – not as, you might surmise, a combined personal ventilation and cudgelling apparatus* but a largely fictitious group of people based loosely on the real-life people that appreciate the band’s ham-fisted attempts to work their way from the anus to the annals of rock history – is that they’re a forgiving bunch when it comes to blog frequency. Let’s hope so, anyway, as recent entries appear to have been scheduled along the lines of a West country bus timetable.

Anyway, if your last copy of our newsletter has been traded for snout long ago and you’ve managed to avoid being shanked in the showers, here’s a quick update. In line with Mr Cameron’s new surveillance laws, we’d like to remind our deeply religious fans that today’s encryption scheme is #julyjihad and the supplies are in a gravel bin outside Oswestry.

In last month’s**  instalment we alluded to the gradual de-abstraction of Layers HQ and regular readers will be pleased to hear that there’s now a genuine physical structure somewhere in a top-secret location that will soon become the hub of our dread machinations. In line with our ‘no drummer, no drama’ policy, the construction of said retreat has proved no less stressful that the construction of the Bridge over the River Kwai but, following the ritual execution of the odd inadequate contractor, plans are back on track.

Infrastructural difficulties haven’t been enough to keep us from our core mission, however and there’s good news for those of you who’ve been waiting for new material as we debut two new offerings at this year’s boutique festival of choice for the discerning musical connoisseur, the Tetbury Fiesta: ‘Spin the B’ and ‘Dumb, Dumb Revolution’ will be revealed to the world with all the subtlety and poise of a meth-crazed stripper at Charlie Sheen’s ‘out of rehab’ party, along with the entirely re-worked version of ‘Is that Wrong?’. There’s more new material in development too so watch this space. Hopefully, not for another six months (ahem).

Anyway, should you decide to sing along to the new material, here’s one set of lyrics by way of sneak preview. Hope to see you all on Sunday.

Dumb, dumb revolution.

Seeking out some grand conspiracy of the information age

Illuminiati, Masons, lizard people: targets for your rage

Confounded in profundity, mocked by the empty page

Gold of your false economy just a gilded cage

Well I don’t like what they feed me

Want me to believe

Selling off our freedom

Wring us while we bleed

Pretty things on television screens, watch them bump and grind

If it’s not your flesh and blood, no pause to rewind

Labour in banality, fumbling of the blind

Captive of your fallacies, resigning of the times

Don’t like what they feed me…

Papers’ vapid Austentation, all porn and prejudice

The golden age you represent; remiss and reminisce…

Sense declining reputation: failed to learn your history

Now facing stern examination, how did it come to this?

I don’t like what they feed me…


*On the other hand, if you’d like such a device, embossed with our Lego likenesses, we’re quite happy to go into the commemorative instruments of mayhem market if there’s a couple of bob to be made…

**On the assumption that most of our fans have been in a medically induced torpor since January


We’re bringing ‘vex-y’ back…

Sometimes, you wonder where the revolutionary spirit has gone – not Layers fans, of course, who largely understand the term to mean ‘innovative liquor’ and know exactly where they’ve stashed the concoction of mouthwash, fermented tea leaves and stolen urinal cakes distilled in a copper bed pan ripped from the wall of their secure facility. It’s easy, though, to look at the rest of the population, labouring (briefly, between fag breaks and checking their Facebook status) under the yoke of their privileged oppressors and wonder why there’s not more in the way of revolutionary political movements, thrusting political debate, debunking of untenable dogma and… oh, yeah, that’s why.

Well, at the very least, you’d think there would be more rioting.

Here at Layers HQ, a search of recent compositions has revealed a mellowing of the rage that drove some of our early music and, whilst it’s nice to find that still small voice of calm from time to time, there comes a point to let the beast out of its cage.

To that end, one of the numbers we’ll be committing to a meticulously crafted wax cylinder in the high-tech hub of DB studios this autumn is ‘Tear You Down’ – a barbaric yawp to rail against those culpable for the manifold sufferings around us.

Trembling… terrible… hidden beneath years of vapid acquisition; knee-jerk hatred springs unbidden from your idle, heavy tongue… bereft of hope; your useless mission, the soul’s excision from the world that you sell to the young…

Fuck your reputation, I will tear you down. Damn your temples, I will burn them to the ground. Stand against me, I will bring you down, I swear – I will tear you down.

Feel me burn with hostile rage at this twisted, gilded mess you’ve made: the groping dullards – drunken, aimless… spectre of their youth still fading… but the lines of fate carved on your faces will not erase the words inside my head, they will not change.

Fuck your reputation, I will tear you down. Damn your temples, I will burn them to the ground. Stand against me, I will bring you down, I swear – I will tear you down.

Is our tongue still somewhat in cheek? Well, yes. It’s fun to play and, we sincerely hope, will be fun to listen to. We make music because we enjoy it. If there’s a serious side, it’s not the bald sentiment herein, rather our frustration that there are so few fora in which to vent one’s spleen and to truly challenge the status quo (and if we ever play the same venue, we will. They’re getting on. We could take ‘em…) that it wouldn’t matter if we were subtly joking or actively planning war. We’d still be ignored. Perhaps we need fans in high places instead of upholstered bedrooms.

Buy your MP a copy of the new album for Christmas. Win-win.

Layers out.


It’s a long, strange road.

If that starts the deja vu alarms a-clanging, it’s because it’s a phrase that’s slipped into a blog before. It’s a reference to a song that’s been a long time coming.

Yes, gentle reader, prepare yourself for a jolt that might even shake you from whatever medication they have Layers fans on in the Keith Richards wing of the home for distressed musos: we’re aiming to début ‘Bratislava’ at our upcoming engagement on 10th June. We were planning to give it an airing at the royal wedding next weekend but MI5 got wind of our plans and drafted a sternly-worded warning. Then sent heavily armed men to our houses and stapled said warning to our foreheads. Curse you, Twitterati.

Those of you who are unfamiliar with our past adventures (or who’ve successfully managed to blank memories of anything Layers-related through expensive counselling and painful electroshock therapy) may not know how the song came about. Ignorance can indeed be bliss but into every life a little rain must fall so here for fans, stalkers, insomniacs and the staff of GCHQ combing every byte of the Internet for security threats*, here for your amusement… well, at least a moments’ diversion from work/suicide plans/tiring Internet onanism** is the skinny on Bratislava.

Back in the Halcyon days of 2008 when the economy was still teetering on the edge like the bus in ‘The Italian Job’, diesel was less expensive than black-market human blood and Japan had a flourishing nuclear industry, The Layers set out to tour Europe in an RV that was slightly too long to fit into Lichtenstein in one go. Following a heavy lifting incident in Vienna (helping a nice elderly gentleman with some building supplies for a basement conversion) Roo hurt his back. This may be putting a gloss on it – this was no middle-aged tweak; bits of prolapsed vertebral disc were visible from space and we were left with no choice but to get Roo back to the loving arms of the NHS before some Tory dickhead dismantled it and sold it to Tesco. A trawl of the Internet revealed that the only real choice of flight required a trip to Bratislava at some speed and so, with all the grace and restraint of a blind demolition derby driver on a three day PCP bender, we headed off to Slovakia. Roo’s pain, physical and emotional, was all too palpable and the drive back to Vienna that evening was a more sober affair and in that reflective quiet, the germ of a song was born.

We were incredibly lucky on that trip to be surrounded by such amazing people. Not just the other guys in the band but the other musicians and CouchSurfers that we met – three years on and I’m still in touch with people that I met in that time and I count some of them as good friends.

That’s what Bratislava is about; bonds of friendship that reach across the world; being able to laugh with friends in dark times; trust and love and brotherhood. As a song it’s taken us a long time to do justice to and I think that the version that we play in June will be the third or fourth version and several iterations into that. Version 3.12 or something. We think that we have got it right, though and we hope that it’s worth the wait because it’s dedicated to some very special people – to Rupert for his courage, to Caleb and Paul for making hard times easy to bear, to Duke for getting us out of a jam and to all of the amazing people that we were privileged to play with and to in Europe. So here’s what we’ll be singing:

It’s a long, strange road filled with signs that I don’t recognise.
We bear such a heavy load hiding pain beneath a mask of smiles.
The road slides away below as the satellite counts off the miles –
it’s almost time to say goodbye

But what we’ve made will not break easily,
what we can’t say out loud is in our hearts.
What we’ve made is glimpsed in between
the spaces in the laughter.

Making room, there’s always space for one more at our table –
someone to keep time; to bear this heavy load of laughter shared.
You’re not alone at home: we’re reaching out across the miles to you –
it’s almost time to say hello again
hello again

Because what we’ve made…

So there you have it. If you get along to the gig, we hope that you’ll take that opportunity to raise a glass with us to all of the people that have made for some really memorable moments for The Layers.

Layers out.

*…which reminds me: factions alpha and gamma – the operation begins at midnight on Thursday, explosives and disguises in the third locker from the end, targets in code B in the small ads of ‘Bondage Knitwear Monthly’. Arise my people, death to the infidel etc…

**All three, if you work in IT.

Lyrics Ramblings

Magic Lantern Show

With apologies to friends who’ve read this – I thought it worth mentioning on the band blog as we’ve been working on this as a band and, all being well, we’ll be giving it a Layers début at a gig soon.

If you’re famous, fascinating or just fucking charismatic, you may be able to get away with telling the story of how you came to write the song. Once or twice. Most of the time your listening public would just as soon listen to the songs and if they want to know your life story they’ll buy your autobiography.

So I offer this in writing now so that if you give a damn, you can read it and I can spare you a minute’s rambling at a forthcoming gig.

In the sepia-tinted, stove-pipe-millinered days of my youth I had a friend whose girlfriend had fallen asleep at the wheel of a car and tragically suffered a fatal crash. He’d wandered by as I was presenting a radio show, seen me through the window and popped in. This wasn’t unusual as it was the habit of ‘Ranting’ Joe and mine to pick up a bottle of bourbon en route the studio and use it to render the coffee from next door’s cafe drinkable enough to keep us awake through our graveyard shift. Friends who knew this would often drop in to share a ‘coffee’ and an off-colour story.

On this particular evening, as I was flying solo and a little busier with the sliders, there was a lull in conversation where my visitor picked up the sleeve to the record I was playing and started reading the lyrics which were, as luck would have it, about losing someone dear[1].

I thought that this might trigger some sort of collapse but instead, in a calm and mildly amused voice, he started telling me how he’d been in town that day and impulse-bought a tee shirt that he thought she’d love, only realising when he got it home and laid it on the bed to fold and wrap that he was never going to get to give it to her. Then he drained his coffee (about 30% by vol), gave me a sad smile, got up and went.

There’s funny on-air stories and there’s that. If only someone had been listening it might have made great radio. Those particular radio waves are now 21[2] light years or so out into space.

An experience like that (plus a litre of coffee tending in increasingly large ratios to Canadian Club) will keep you awake at night and in the small hours of the morning that followed I had one of those cathartic lyric-writing moments that were sometimes the only thing, in those days, that would finally summon Morpheus.

The song’s called ‘Magic Lantern Show’ and we’ve been reworking it with The Layers. It became something that I found myself returning to, in the years that followed, when someone died; my Tralfamadorian ‘so it goes’. I wrote this post on my own blog originally because it just occurred to me that it was almost exactly eighteen years since a dear friend of mine had passed and I found myself playing and singing in the living room – this song just rushed back to me.

So I won’t bore you with the intro if you come to hear the song played but for all of my lost friends and because of when this thought hit me, especially for Jez: here are the lyrics to Magic Lantern Show:

Forgotten dreams… lost poetry,
pinwheel through the corner of my mind
as I sit, adrift in contemplation.
Unspoken words to lost love:
A magic lantern show
in desolation

Raging at blind Fortune
for snatching future seconds
but lost and impotent without you here.
Unstoppable, unmerciful –
time’s river thunders on.
Awake, to drown in loneliness and fear.

Not the purest of their priests
not the wisest of their teachers
could ever hope to bring you back to me
but not the darkest thief of night time
could steal the love we shared
could steal away our past from memory.

[1] For the curious, the song was ‘Afterimage’ by Rush

[2] At the time of writing. The year in question was 1991.

Lyrics Touring

Warm days and smiling friends.

On the face of it, the lyrics to surf trip couldn’t have been less appropriate than when we sang them at Green Man last week. A song about sun-kissed, carefree days at the beach… well, look a little closer, pilgrim. Surf trip is about surf trips with friends, not about surfing. It’s about being surrounded by people that you love and trust so that even if you fall off a surf board or set out across pointy rocks, you know they’ll catch you if you fall.

So as we trudged through the mud to get our gear to the stage, I was smiling because that is where I want to be, warm days and smiling friends. Laughter and new experiences shared.

Confronted, earlier in the week, with flood warnings for the festival, it would have been easy to be disappointed. The mood at our Thursday night run through was great, though. We’ve come this far and we’re getting used to… I was about to type ‘marching into the unknown’ – I think ‘shambling off, half-arsed, with no plan’ is a little closer to the truth. This was certainly much less daunting than driving towards the channel tunnel in our ubercampenbussen a few years ago.

Having a gig the next day, I was equally prepared to camp or not to camp. That was the question. The huge swathe of tents crammed together in the mud like a slightly festive refugee camp was enough to make up my mind. I was, however, looking forward to seeing Roo put up his tent. Roo was clad in wellies, shorts and a long waxed jacket – making him look like a really posh flasher. I imagined the imminent construction of his tent was going to resemble a Tourettes-afflicted country gent raping a hang-glider. I was denied this joyful spectacle when it took us so long to find Roo that he’d befriended a couple of families nearby and they’d helped him to set up. Roo and Jen had already charmed their new neighbours sufficiently to drag them along to the gig, so with the prospect of friendly faces in the crowd we squelched off in search of food and a stage to play.

This gig had come courtesy of the wonderful people at Geek Pop – do check them out when you‘ve a chance. We were greeted by the ever-smiling face of Hayley and introduced to the crew of Einstein’s Garden. It was a rather fetching little section of the festival and I imagine than in the sun, it would have been a little grotto of paradise. The other great benefit of the sun would have been that it would have taken a little stress off the Solar Stage, where we were about to play. A solar powered stage in the foothills of the Brecons, in August. Yeah, we know. Surely hydro-electricity would have been the way to go? We could have had a lightshow that would have been visible from space…

We’ve played more competently, we’ve played more fluently but it was still a decent performance, I felt. What mistakes there were seemed to go largely unnoticed by our small but perfectly formed audience and even though the quieter parts of the set were accompanied in a somewhat avant-garde fashion from the next stage along, there seemed to be nodding, foot tapping (well, splashing) and general signs from the onlookers that traditional festival gift for the unappreciated artist – the plastic bottle of piss – would not be winging our way any time soon.

There were some memorable moments: Caleb’s first solo, straining our sustainable power source to its limits, actually made me jump. Not as much, however, as the litre of cold water down Roo’s back in mid song made him leap sideways. What sticks out for me personally, though, was that for most of the gig, we seemed to be ‘in the moment’. It’s so easy, sometimes, to walk on stage, tune up and then disappear into a furious world of concentration and self-consciousness and then before you know it, it’s all over and all that’s there to tell you that you played a gig is a damp shirt and ears ringing from standing too close (within a kilometre) of Caleb’s amp. Last week, though, we seemed to be chatting, communicating and laughing together. I don’t know what the audience made of it but I had a whale of a time. I’m also fairly sure that I saw a whale swim past me one time.

The ‘above and beyond’ awards definitely go to Rob, for trekking out to see us; to Harry, for joining the band for ‘Kiss the Girls’ and most of all to Jen for managing to be president of our fan club, the drummer’s hot groupie and watchful mother simultaneously in a noisy swamp without her smile slipping the once. Kudos to you all.

Big shouts also to Hayley for the gig, to Ellen for organising us, to the technical and hosting crew of the Solar Stage and to the other artists that shared it with us. You’re all fab.

Another burst of kit-lugging, then a pleasant little interlude as we were permitted beyond the velvet rope for artiste’s catering, a hugely welcome, cosy meal in a warm marquee filled with laughter and chat.

Then home and my single sombre note of a wonderful day.

On the way home, being tailed by Rob, we were mere seconds behind an accident. The carriageway blocked by a serious collision, as we waited, more and more police, ambulances and fire trucks turned up. I’m happy to report that nobody was killed: I’ve learned since that a man was hospitalised with an abdominal puncture but no fatalities – although that was what we were gradually beginning to suspect as the wait continued. In an oddly complementary musing, as we waited, Rob and I struck up a conversation with a sergeant in the Welsh Guard, back from tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, I was struck by the abrupt and unnecessary tragedies that can snatch us from each others’ lives. Moments like that can leave me feeling transient, ephemeral – I was glad that I was standing with a friend. I felt anchored.

I suppose that pretty much brings me full circle. It was very much a Layers experience. Next year – more festivals, bigger stages and perhaps just a little sun…?

Layers out.


Let’s start as we mean to go on…

…note the ‘mean to’. In no way are we making bold promises concerning the frequency of blog posts from now on.

Here, though, for those of you who take an interest in our creative output, are the approximate lyrics for ‘Wasted’. I say approximate because like many of our lyrics, they are in a constant state of flux that can be partially explained by creativity but mostly by my inability to remember them…

Cast around for heaven’s scent, spurn the chances to relent
Gag the voices of dissent with every dollar that you spent –
With what you stole.

You have no recourse or excuse for the power that you’ve abused
Science might beguile and words confuse but now you know you can’t elude
The rising tide

Another wasted day, I see you fading away, it’s just a game you play
As you throw it away

Treat the future as a game, win the prize and shift the blame
And if gold is all you crave, ignore the wisdom of the age
Too late to save

You have no recourse…

Another wasted day…

Filling up the void inside, selling short and buying time
Trying to find a place to hide the evidence of all your crimes
But we are not blind

Mercury climbing, shadows rising, tides growing higher – I see you clinging to your raft of lies you hide your eyes but still deny the plight of Gaia as she cries

Another wasted day..


Let me point out, for the record, that I’m not a Gaia theorist (strong, weak or otherwise) but I do think that it makes a nice, poetic way to refer to the intersection of Venn bubbles of planet, flora, fauna and ideology. I don’t see a problem in stretching a goddess metaphor to a planet that does, in fact, nourish us both physically and mentally. It’s the incredible waste of those resources, physical and mental, that I’m trying to get across here: while time, money and expertise are so desperately needed in creating a better, sustainable life for all, the effort all seems to go on making more profit for a tiny subsection of society that doesn’t need it and can’t even use it except as a way of keeping score. What a waste – especially when, if you want my opinion (and if you don’t then why the hell are you reading our blog) there would be no bigger score in no finer game than saving the planet and its people from the rising tides of greed, lack of fulfilment, starvation, privation and, oh, yes… seawater.



Kiss the Girls

Yes, yes, it’s been a little quiet on the update front from the Layers of late. What can I say? We’re busy chaps, in demand.
One of the things that we have been busy with, however, is new songs. Next one to debut live (possibly even this Sunday if we’re lucky) is ‘Kiss the Girls’
In case you’re making a study of our lyrics for your English coursework or as part of a legal petition to have Neil sectioned, here they are:

Kiss the girls

Done up in glitter and her angel wings – high on tequila and adrenaline
You don’t want to know the things she’s seen, or be alone in places that she’s been
She’ll kiss the boys… and make them cry
Captivated in a single beat; the smell of perfume and the taste of meat
She might not drink your blood
But she’ll take your soul anyway

Pumped up to music from their mobile phones, full of Dutch courage, doused in pheromones;
But every evening ending all alone, ‘cos you’re the only one who’ll take her home
You’ll kiss the girls… and make them cry
But in the morning when you wake up there to the stink of spermicide and cold despair
And those blue pills that you take
Can’t take away that cold ache

They don’t need sports cars of a chat-up line, can smell a broken heart from half a mile
Just a cocktail and a knowing smile: three parts loneliness and one denial
They’ll kiss you once… make you cry
And you’ll have something to remember this, morning after pill or syphilis
And they’re not after blood,
They’re just misunderstood.


Different Footprints

Here we are, folks… for those of you that take an interest in this sort of things, the lyrics for Different Footprints.

The days are busy, being filled up with emptiness.
Occupied, always doing more to feel less.
Another packed day that she can’t tell from the rest:
pre-packaged Saturdays and crowded loneliness.

And she can still hear
his laughter ringing on the summer breeze.
She can still be
happy in her memories.
So happy…

Different footprints on the beaches where we played,
the castles washed away, the child inside remains
in the places we’ve come back to; the pilgrimage we made
to drink to absent friends, to all the rest of us that stayed.

We can still hear
his laughter ringing on the the summer breeze
and we can still be
happy in the memory.
So happy…

No one’s ever lost –
everything we treasured;
love endures:
we will remember.

We can still hear…


And yes, I realise that those of you who’ve chosen to offer analysis of our lyrics before will point out that it’s not the most cheerful of subject matter. No surprises there – but I’d like to say that this is not a downbeat song. It’s saying that even if someone’s gone from our lives, we can still celebrate the joy that they brought us. This is a song about joy and hope, not about missing someone. So there…


I have no mouth yet I must scream.

It seems more appropriate to post these lyrics now than when I wrote them, oddly. Not only has the music kind of come together – hopefully a sign that we’re gelling ever more surely as musicians – but also some of the topics herein have become more topical. Tonight, I notice, there’s a documentary airing that expresses some concern that our nation’s youth are obtaining their sex education from porn movies. Hmmm… I don’t see any problem there: we’ll just have a nation of young people who think that turning up to fix a washing machine is considered foreplay (an improvement on a lot of men, am I right, sisters? {whooping from studio audience}) and moustaches may come back into fashion. And perhaps there will be a funk revival.

At the same time, as we’ve gone from credit crunch to slowdown, to recession, climatologists have offered their bleakest warnings yet about the state that our rapacious pursuit of profit is getting us into whilst their voices are silenced beneath the weight of banality, ill-informed opinion and thinly-veiled racism that constitutes the vast majority of news in this once green and pleasant land.

So, as a savoury relish to this smorgasbord of despair, I present the lyrics to IHNMYIMS, as it appears on setlists. Enjoy.

I wish I had the strength of character to tell you how I feel,
wish you had the sense to look behind the censor on your screen,
when all I ask for is that we reach out for the things we see in dreams
but this machine is just too big: I have no mouth yet I must scream

Catch the stink of something rotten here-
Don’t you think you deserve more?
Can’t you read the writing on the wall?
Don’t you see that this means war?

I see your vacant stare at bodies locked together on your screen;
desensitised and listless – paralysed by your pornnui,
deafened by the sound of moaning – missed the tolling of the bell
while all this crap they’re selling you will drag you straight down into hell!

Catch the stink…

When every headline that you read is breeding something to abhor-
they’ve sold their principles, they’re not invincible, they are just whores.
Ignore the consequences? – Let them stretch the long reach of their hate?
How many innocents must bleed to feed the jackals at your gate?

Catch the stink…


Heart in a jar

Jennifer Sutton and her heart

I saw the picture above in the newspaper. The young woman is Jennifer Sutton. After having her life saved by a heart transplant, she donated her heart (the old one, obviously) to the Wellcome Collection to try to help raise awareness about her disease (restrictive cardiomyopathy if you’re morbidly curious)

I found myself wondering how that would feel. So here’s the resulting lyric.

Heart in a jar…

Went right out to the edge

’til I looked down at the stars

but they pulled me back again

and they put my heart in a jar

This phantom in my chest

measures out seconds that aren’t mine

this heart is quiet, still

resting peacefully, perfectly in time

Staring through the bottle

at the tangled knot of flesh

that kept me anchored to this world

that animated every breath.

This second chance – to dance in bliss

as lovers’ lips, the raindrops kiss

a snatch of song; the heart insists –

a second longer, the beat persists

Beaten insensate, like warrior drums

worn on the sleeve, carried to ignominy

ignored, misused, battered, abused,

surviving still, the poet’s muse,

tender beats such soft tattoos

the comforts of the live embrace,

fill up this empty, aching space

my heart, locked in its jar,

feels so much more,

feels so much…