With Tuesday night’s reveal of the track list for The Airborne Toxic Event’s new album Dope Machines, the countdown is officially on. We’ll have all kinds of coverage as the release approaches, but for now we offer up a random collection of musings stemming from this week’s announcement.
While You Were Sleeping…
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the announcement was how and when it dropped. For days I had been watching my e-mail inbox, the band’s official site, the Epic Records website, the Shore Fire Media website and other official sources where one might expect to see a formal announcement. I wasn’t expecting it to arrive in the form of a late evening tweet from Mikel, after many on the East Coast had already called it a night.
But then, it’s fitting, isn’t it? For an album that is all about the power (and the pain) of handheld technology, what better way to share the big news than to toss out an Instagram pic, sit back and watch it spread like wildfire? The announcement was as much a part of the art project as it was a promotional strategy. Clearly, the Dope Machines theme lends itself to all kinds of fun social media outreach. Incidentally, we’ve jumped on board that train ourselves with our #TATEDopeMachines vinyl giveaway.
There’s plenty to be intrigued about from the track names themselves. An informal poll that we conducted on Facebook and Twitter highlighted “The Thing About Dreams” as the song that fans are most curious to hear.
Of course, not all of the songs are a complete mystery. Here’s what we know from various sources.
Wrong: “The first single ‘Wrong’ merges striking synths and an electronic swing with an evocative refrain punctuated by a robust groove. It’s borderline danceable, but always chant-able. ‘It’s just about a guy feeling insecure,’ explains Mikel. ‘I wrote it at a time of massive upheaval in my life. We all have that moment. You look over everything and think, ‘I am an idiot!’ It’s not every day, but you wish you could start over. That’s the idea.'” (from The Airborne Toxic Event’s official Epic Records bio)
Dope Machines: “Simultaneously, the title track tempers a distinct guitar bounce with entrancing harmonies, making for a provocative and potent dichotomy. ‘You can interact with all of these dope hand devices, but they make you sort of dopey an hour later,’ he sighs. ‘You make music with them. They can save you from a heart attack. They’re little extensions of the things that make us fundamentally human, which is the desire to interact with one another. The machines are all of these things at the same time.'” (from The Airborne Toxic Event’s official Epic Records bio)
California: “‘California’ turns a spotlight on a different side of the Golden State from the perspective of a true native. All the while, it still boasts an unshakable refrain and intricate instrumentation. ‘I grew up in California,’ he goes on. ‘My parents were hippies, and I was born in the back of a VW bus on the beach. I was around everybody from Beatniks to gang members to kids who just emigrated from Guatemala or Ethiopia. None of this had anything to do with the popular image of what California is—that idea of palm trees and movie stars. As soon as you’ve got an idea of utopia, it begs a dystopia. It’s an idea of apocalypse right around the corner in a place that’s considered ideal.'” (from The Airborne Toxic Event’s official Epic Records bio)
Hell and Back: Having been released as a single way back in the fall of 2013 and being played live on every night of TATE’s fall 2014 tour, this track is very well known to followers of the band. Many fans were surprised to see it end up on the album after so much time has passed since it first surfaced. However, Steven Chen indicated early last year that there was a good chance “Hell and Back” would be on the next LP if it fit thematically and musically. Moreover, its inclusion is an astute marketing move, as the band looks to capitalize on the unexpected popularity of the song to entice newer listeners to check out the latest material. One question that remains to be answered is whether there will be any changes for the album version.
My Childish Bride: “For me, (songwriting) is like, I’ll hear something and be like, ‘Oh that’s cool! That makes me think about this, and so today I’m gonna write a song about this idea of how you project your innermost longings onto other people, and how there’s this dance that goes on.’ I’m writing a song right now about this idea called ‘My Childish Bride.’ And how you project what you actually long for onto other people as if they’re real, when they’re really just constructs in your mind; simultaneously they’re doing this with you, and so in a relationship, oftentimes you’re just in this orchestrated dance. And it can be sort of terrifying or it can be really sweet, and at times it’s really fucking sexy… it’s complex, right? And so I’m writing this song about this idea, and literally it started with a beat and a thing on an electric piano. And I was like, for some reason that just made me think of that idea. It felt kind of close. And I was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna write about this idea.’ And then I sort of wrote a stanza, and then I edited it, I’m not kidding, ten times. And I’ll just write and rewrite, write and rewrite, sing, sing, sing… ‘Oh that’s how I meant to say that, yeah!’ I just wrote this line today, I finished the song this morning: ‘And we stare at each other like a sister to a brother, like a pusher to a shover, like a secret to a cover, like a lover to a lover, under covers with the stereo on.’ (Sings) ‘With the stereo on…’ It’s kind of a stuttering beat…” (from Mikel’s May interview with Darren Rose Radio)
Something You Lost: Back in October, Mikel hosted a Facebook “Ask Me Anything” session, in which he identified “Something You Lost” as his favorite song from the new album (that day, anyway).
Though Dope Machines can already be pre-ordered through Amazon and other online retailers, the official pre-order window commences on Tuesday. We would advise readers to wait to see what extras, if any, are offered by various outlets. When Such Hot Blood was released, the TATE merchandise store offered up an immediate download of “The Fifth Day” as an incentive to order directly from the band. (The fact that the band receives a greater share of the proceeds when you buy it from their shop is another major benefit.) iTunes usually offers one track for immediate download when you pre-order through them, and they also frequently offer bonus tracks unavailable elsewhere. (Fingers crossed for “The Fall of Rome.”) So as tempting as it may be to snap it up from Amazon now, the better bet is to wait and see what Tuesday brings.
Anna on SNL
Anna Bulbrook never sits still for long. This weekend you can catch her moonlighting with Sia on Saturday Night Live.
What other song are we going to feature this week? It’s back to Lollapalooza for the second ever live performance of “Dope Machines.”
Glen is the founder and editor of This Is Nowhere. He’s grateful for an understanding wife and kids who indulge his silly compulsion to chase a band all over the Pacific Northwest (and occasionally beyond) every time the opportunity arises.