Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Adult Tree

The Adult Tree (Extended Edition) – Liner Notes

* To celebrate ist’s 10th anniversary, we’ve been poring through the archives for each of our albums and EPs and compiling new versions, complete with the unreleased tracks, demos and rarities on which re-releases thrive. These will, over the next few months, be available on a “set-your-price” basis (okay, free to most of you spongers then) from the good people at Doing this, of course, means I’ve had to listen back to a lot of ancient history. (I resisted saying ‘istory’, aren’t you proud? Oh, damn it.) The following is the first of a series of what would be liner notes, if we could afford to print them. *

The Adult Tree
12” Picture Disc originally released by Pink Box Records, March 2001

Extended Edition available now from

The year 2000 was a big one for me… On the one hand, I finally shed off the psychotic religious upbringing with which I had been saddled for so many years. On the other, it cost me my marriage to do so. On a third hand, hopefully belonging to someone else, I ended it in a new relationship. The fact that there is now a fourth hand should lessen the surprise that I, largely due to the emotional weight of the first three hands, went a lot crazy. Yes, there is a medical term, but it doesn’t look as good with the word “bat-shit” in front of it.

How I found time to write songs, locate a band and record two entirely separate versions of this EP, I do not know. But I did, and through the kind offices of Pink Box Records – and the timely arrival of what would become the first line-up of ist, the second of these two versions was released in March 2001.

There were four songs on the vinyl and a naked woman in a tree on the cover. Now there are 13 on the official re-release, and 2 more, which, due to being covers, I shall give away exclusively to readers of this blog. Naked women are, increasingly, less forthcoming.

Here, however, are my thoughts on revisiting our earliest work.

Amnesia Cocktail

This song hung around for ages. If I had the patience to start rummaging through cassette tapes as well, I know there are at least two other solo versions that predate anything here. Unlike a song I will come to in a moment, I can see why I held on to it. The lyric is working hard – I’m still learning my trade – but it’s a decent stab at a character study. My love of terrible puns is much in evidence – I’d spent most of the previous year listening to Elvis Costello’s “Armed Forces” on a loop. Lines such as “She’s sitting on his lap and taking his dic-tation” are, at least, partly responsible for travesties like “But she won’t recall, that bloodstained wedding dress at all. Now she’s beyond the veil…Amnesia Cocktail.” Everyone plays well here, but I think it’s obvious on all four tracks that we’re still feeling our way both around the studio and as a unit – we’d only been together for two weeks – and as arrangers. It’s a start, although I do sound as though I’m singing through razor blades. (It was, in fact, a combination of nerves and whisky.)

Disadvantaged Kiss

This song was written in the declining days of my first marriage, for a certain someone. A certain someone for whom I was developing very strong feelings that I was never, ever, going to act on. The children call her “Mummy”. I don’t, ‘cause that would be weird. I still like this song – although it’s FAR too long. All my songs were far too long at this point, something I’ve consciously worked on ever since, which partially explains the brevity of “I am Jesus (And You’re Not)”. I always imagined Kiss in a straighter, more traditional country vein, but this was a band searching for its sound – which, of course, eventually turned out to be taking a little bit of everything and hitting it with a big stick. It probably wasn’t until the second (technically third, I suppose) line-up and Toothpick Bridge that we managed to get our hybrid country ya-yas out properly, on tracks like Headache and You Should Be Ashamed.

Little Insects

Let’s be honest. Little Insects is a shit song. And, worse still, this diabolically excremental song exists in about nine different versions, taunting me, because for some unknown reason, I wouldn’t let the damned thing die. The lyrics are rubbish, the riff is just wrong and I can’t even sing it in tune. The band gave it their best shot but there’s only so much you can do with material this poor. In the words of the Tenth Doctor, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Winter Coat & Whisky

This is my favourite song that we could never quite get to work. My ambition outstrips my ability, then as now. Lyrically, I like it, and the band bestow upon it more nice touches than it deserves. It is, of course, another speculative tale of adultery. (In some ways, they all are – hence the title.) I was, at this point, much better at speculation than action. I remember this being hellish popular at gigs. I even received an email a couple of years ago enquiring if we still did that one about “skiing and fucking”. To this day, I wish I’d called it that.

Bonus Tracks

Amnesia Cocktail (Demo)
Disadvantaged Kiss (Demo)
Moment of Release (Demo)
Little Insects (Demo)
Winter Coat & Whisky (Demo)

These five demos comprise what was, at one time, the first version of The Adult Tree. Recorded with previous Pink Box signing Kyoka standing in as my band, the recording was beset with problems, not least of which was the unavailability of the drummer, which necessitated overdubbing his parts last. Overdubbing drums over my timing: the horror, etc. At one point, I had hoped to build a band out of Kyoka’s remains, but after a while – distance and a particularly disastrous incident involving Yorkshire, white wine, Seroxat, hedges, windows and police dogs – it became clear that forming a new band was the way forward. The newly formed ist, quite rightly, pushed to re-record the EP rather than tour someone else’s work.

Listening back to the original versions, I’m struck by how much they don’t sound like ist. We’ve had two and a half line-ups of the band now, and very different animals they have been too, but these don’t sound like an earlier version again. It’s a guy in a room with some musicians. Good musicians, certainly, but they were a band - with a random Canadian foisting some songs at them. There are some lovely bits and pieces, to be sure, but it’s not yet ist. The Adult Tree will always be a bit of a poor, simple cousin in our catalogue, but it’s still where we cut our teeth. For Flash and I, it was the first step towards annoying the fuck out of each for 10 years.

Stranger still, a version of Moment of Release – which wouldn’t resurface until 2003’s Freudian Corduroy - also features. It’s too fast and too long, which is a nice trick on my part. The violin is lovely, but my God, the song goes on. I also don’t know why I would request quite so many cymbal swells, but it’s the kind of thing I used to do. (Used to? Hah!)

Little Insects? Still shit.

Apologia (Home Demo)

Still called “Fall Asleep” at this stage, this is me (with additional guitar by ist mk. I’s Chris Ilett/Jack Bomb) at home, laying down a newly written song, around the time my children were born. It does what it says on the tin, offering a musical apology for the oh-so-very many stupid things I had done while being, I think I mentioned, bat-shit crazy. I think this version – much simpler and slower than the eventual King Martha recording – has its charm. The sound quality is as dodgy as you’d expect. That’s what makes this a reissue!

Audrey Hepburn (Demo)

Written on a napkin and delivered with a gin-and-tonic. The subject of this song would continue – for better or worse – to influence and hijack my writing for some time to come. This song is why, briefly, she liked me. Elegiac on King Martha, it sounds much starker and sadder here. If you listen to both versions back-to-back, you have a pretty good picture of the relationship in question.

Sinning (Demo)
Psycho John (Demo)

Two tracks from our first post-Adult Tree demo sessions, the first an old song I had previously recorded with a previous band Wake and which was co-written with my Canadian writing partner Chris Bolduc. Sinning nearly made it to the Freudian Corduroy sessions before making way for newer ist-written material, although it was in the set for some time. As far as the demo goes, some nice playing, but the first note is really flat. That’s my fault. I was still figuring it out as I went along.

Psycho John was one of two songs (the other being Freudian Corduroy’s Boyfriend) charting a very strange relationship indeed. I hadn’t heard this in years and I have to say, one or two lines made me smile, if only for how much teenaged angst I’d managed to hold on to at 24.

Overall, The Adult Tree still isn’t our best work. It’s the sound of a band finding its feet and learning to work as a unit. But I hope you find something to enjoy in it, if only as a document of where we started.

Now to wade through the first full-length album… Oh, lord…

Blog only bonus tracks

Indoor Fireworks

In which I get my revenge on Elvis Costello for aiding and abetting my pun addiction by covering this song from King of America. Available as a free download here…


This cover of the classic country song, written by Leon Payne, closed our set for several years, becoming increasingly demented over time, and usually resulting in my injury. Originally recorded for the limited edition “The Unusual Suspects” EP. It was a very limited edition. I think there were five copies pressed. Download it for free here:


Blogger 家唐銘 said...


10 August 2010 at 22:33  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


13 August 2010 at 07:09  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

很精彩的部落格 期待你的繼續加油..................................................

15 August 2010 at 07:21  
Blogger 江仁趙雲虹昆 said...


17 August 2010 at 11:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


22 August 2010 at 08:56  

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