New Detholz! demo – “Napoleon Tex”

Greetings and welcome to Detholz! Mp3 Blog, Episode XXIII!

This week, another trophy to stuff and hang in the wood-paneled “Death to the Traitor” parlor: NAPOLEON TEX

Also, ignite the home fires! It’s cold outside!

1. SONG CONCEPT

Without going into to too much detail, this song was inspired by some things I’ve been observing lately at my church. I know, I know– that’s a subject Detholz! have done to death, especially on our “Cast Out Devils” record. In this instance, however, it comes from a place of deep sadness rather than youthful angst. I guess we’re all growing up… at least a little.

Many of the songs we’re writing for the upcoming “Death to the Traitor” album are caricatures — like “Piggly Man” or “Catherine Zeta-Jones”, for example (see previous posts)– and this one is no exception. In my fantasy world, I’m hoping to include a comic book with the record with back stories for this growing band of cartoon grotesques… Any comic book artists — any artist, for that matter– out there that want to take a crack at these? I’d welcome submissions of drawings of any of these characters– if you feel inspired, leave a comment with a link to a picture! I will hook you up with Detholz! party favors in return!

“Napoleon Tex” is a cruel, bloodthirsty outlaw from the Old West situated in a grand medieval cathedral who glories in torturing and burning Christian martyrs– a demon of sorts, the ultimate “Bad Dad.” (Another sunshiny paen to sweetness and light. Sorry, folks!) He is a parasite and traitor to needy people he pretends to protect– hence, the image of cannibalism. In large part, he is the embodiment of my feelings about church politics, and the current state of the American evangelical church. Don’t mistake me. This isn’t an angry song so much as a sad one, and if it’s included on the record will fit in the context of other songs that counter-balance (redeem?) this bleak outlook.

A few words about the lyrics:

“Montjoie Saint-Denis” is a battle cry that medieval French knights (is there any other kind of knight?) would utter before wildly waving their swords about and riding into the fray.

“Remember” is a partial reference to the Texan battle cry, “Remember the Alamo!,” which you may remember from “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.” It’s also a warning to those cross Napoleon Tex’s path — to remember what he is.

The “bitch in France” refers to Joan of Arc.

2. SONG COMPOSITION

Though I am very happy with the lyrics and the overall concept of this song, I vacillate on whether or not I like the music.

I view this song as a musical companion to “Millionairess” (see previous post), since the composition unfolded in a similarly messy, discombobulated manner– a real bitch to work on, from start to finish. Also, I decided not to show much restraint in the orchestration/arrangement so my poor laptop almost threw itself out of the window.

The journey began with the usual “repetitive bass line” I’ve been toying with of late. This one proved to be a real challenge to write melodies around, however, which surprised me since it doesn’t involve especially daunting intervals and is fairly consonant– lots of minor thirds. I really banged my head against the wall to come up with convincing melodies for both the verse and chorus, and I’m still not sure I succeeded completely. There is even another version of this song that goes in a totally different direction…. I was suffering from a little “type-B” indecision here.

The bridge section really stumped me on this one, too. I’m still not completely happy with how it enters– there’s really no glue between the 2nd chorus and bridge, it’s just plopped in there “cut/paste” style. Listening to it again as I write this, however, I guess that maneuver works in a “booty shake dance club” sort of way. It builds to a nice pitch in additive fashion as parts come in over the kick drum. Hmmm…

The bridge transition back into the verse, however, DOES work, I think. Writing the bridge yielded an alternate bass line that was a little easier to work with– I liked it so much I just kept it going into the 3rd verse and reprised it again in the “outro” chorus.

Speaking of which, the only section of the song I am satisfied with is the outro chorus, where the violins and oboes enter. With the addition of the alternate bass line underneath, and the inclusion of the “Traitor motive” (see previous posts), I think it all hangs together nicely in a rump-shaking, sad-clown sort of way. Speaking of the Traitor motive, you music nerds will appreciate that it occurs and then immediately REOCCURS in a different key in harmony. I was smugly self-satisfied with the size of my musical quill on that move!

I was also satisfied with how the “bossa” drum pattern was able to be sustained throughout and not be overly distracting or even especially “bossa”-like. “Bossa” is fun to say. Bossa.

The rest of the Detholz! responded enthusiastically to this one, but I’m still very much on the fence about it. Doughty Reader, we need your help! Like it? Hate it? Weigh in and make a comment– I really need your input here. Is this a keeper, or one for the bargain bin?

Tune in next Wednesday for more free music and another uplifting character sketch!

3. LYRICS

Montjoie Saint-Denis!
Montjoie Saint-Denis!
En garde!

Walk a bowlegged walk
Talk a swaggering talk
Shove a gentleman’s gun
In the mouth of your only son
Your only son

Break his jaw, break his teeth
Strip him down to the meat
Bring a casserole pan
Cook him up like a Son of Man
A Son of Man
Like we did to that bitch in France
That bitch in France

Montjoie Saint-Denis!
Montjoie Saint-Denis!
En garde!

REMEMBER

Draw and fire
Draw and fire
Burn with fire
With heavenly fire

Your cathedral is stained
With holy martyrs’ remains
Give a flick to your spur
Toss a match and burn
Burn them alive
The cowboy smiles
“Adieu, mon frer, adieu!”

Montjoie Saint-Denis!
Montjoie Saint-Denis!
En garde!

REMEMBER

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9 Responses to “New Detholz! demo – “Napoleon Tex””

  1. kebabdylan Says:

    on first listen, I like this one. it is a little convoluted (ala millionairess) but I like convoluted and its doesn’t quite have the silliness factor that parts of millionariess had.

    it’s also one of the more effective uses of the “traitor motiff”. on some of the songs that melody sometimes seems just thrown in. here its more subtle and evocative.

    the ghostly keyboard is a very nice.

  2. detholz Says:

    ‘Bab: “the ghostly keyboard is a very nice.”

    Thank you for momentarily affecting an Italian accent for that sentence.

    Yes, this one lacks the “Broadway” element that I think wrecks “Millionairess” and makes it into a silly, trippy junket through Munchkinland.

    To paraphrase Nigel Tufnel from Spinal Tap: “Wait’ll you [hear the next inclusion of the Traitor Motive]! Very provocative, indeed!”

  3. kebabdylan Says:

    …touch. a very nice touch. (i like to pause during statement to make them more weighty – that or imitating the french knights from Monty Python).

    I honestly think you need to revisit millionaress. I also listened to that one again recently and I really like about 75% of it.

  4. Elaine Says:

    While admittedly a party with vested interest, my two cents are resoundingly pro-Napoleon Tex. Lyrically, this is one of the more clearly disturbing songs of late–disturbing in a catchy, tightly-written kind of way, of course–and, although it does touch on some nasty subjects (reminding me, once again, of that time you ate our baby and blamed it on a dingo), I enjoy the bit of juxtaposition with regard to the pseudo-upbeat melody.

    Plus–and this is not to be taken lightly–it passed the all-important “will Elaine lose track of her place in the manuscript because the song is in her head?” test.

    It passed, by the way. My work is suffering.

  5. Jim Says:

    It does seem a little “Millionaires-ly” disjointed. I’m sure I’ll get used to it. It’s hard to think of what some of the full band versions of these songs sound like. I’m sure the whole band playing it takes a lot of the cut and paste arrangement sound out of it. Some really cool melodies going on. Give me a few days before I come back to rave about this one.

  6. detholz Says:

    ‘Bab: Well, I’m glad you get something out of it. Honestly, I’m not a big reviser– once a song is done, I almost never go back to it on my own. The band gave “Millionairess” a big thumbs down, so it will probably remain in carbon freeze forever, unfortunately.

    Elaine: I have noticed a number of dingos at Maplewood of late. Dingos I don’t recognize… Glad you like it, dear. Anything I can do to distract you from important tasks. It will be my sworn duty as your spouse!

    Jim: Yes, do come back and weigh in. Will it stand up to the multiple-listen test? How many licks does it take to get to the center of Napoleon Tex?

    The band would completely change how this song sounds– and if they take a stab at it, will likely rearrange it as well, since the composition isn’t as locked down on the demo.

  7. bp Says:

    It’s not exactly the “hit single” from the record or anything, but it’s definitely more than just a filler track. I think the final “yea” or “nay” on this one will come once it gets put in the context of the whole record. Then you will know, my young padawan.

  8. detholz Says:

    bp: Happy New Year… so have you vaulted over the precipice into the Magical Land of Fatherhood?

    Actually, I think you hit the nail on the head, bp. I have internal conflicts now when a song isn’t catchy enough, or doesn’t grab people from the get-go. But I think there is a place for a song like this one on a record– as a transition between stronger songs or as a “deep cut.” (Hopefully not filler!) Anyway, well said.

    To paraphrase an acquaintance of mine: “Once [you were] but the learner, but now [YOU] ARE THE MASTER.”

  9. choirgrrl Says:

    Hey, Jim, we’ve got to talk! I’m interested to know more about what you’ve been observing at your church. Let’s grab a beer sometime and discuss. What I was observing at my last church gig was some pretty cool stuff. I was really impressed with my fellow choristers and found them to be very open-minded. I expect to find nothing less at my next church gig. I’ll let you know…Until then, Peace be with you, my brothers!

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