Join, Or Die.

Join, Or Die.

An Album in Protest

Doomscroller Folk Music


Revelations 3:16
"So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth."

Over the summer of '20 I spent time alone, thinking on my past and recognizing the deep cognitive dissonance I had cultivated during my upbringing as an evangelical Christian. The result was a collection of poetry and guitar that is an effort to unpack and repack my philosophy and be bold to say that burden which weighs so heavily on my heart. I have traveled to the wild spaces of my past and stand before you whole and new.

Join, Or Die demands answers for the spectres that haunt our adult life. From climate grief to Christian culpability in the oppression of the least, from nationalized slavery to the American Dream being based on ancient genocide and theft, this album journeys towards the synthesis of something once thought impossible: the actualization of justice in the modern age.

The following is an in-depth explanation of the thoughts and writings behind each song.


Track Listing:

1. The Great Harvest
2. God Says Clean Your Room (Or Else)
3. I Bet You Would've Called The Cops On Jesus
4. Mama's Woes
5. The Scorned Bride
6. Fraternity of Murderers
7. Be No Slave
8. Moral Ambiguity - Instrumental
9. Moral Androgyny
10. Exponential Revelations - Instrumental
11. Sacred Acres
12. Nobody Ever Wrote a Song Called Fuck the Fire Department
13. Something Impossible
14. The Boots Song (Bonus Track)


The Great Harvest

For so long I positioned myself between what I saw as opposing political forces. I would be the peacemaker, the one who listened to "both sides" and entertained the concerns of all. From this "enlightened centrism" I would synthesize the truth. Unfortunately, or rather thankfully, this place was untenable. One cannot exist between bigotry and acceptance. So I slowly began to pivot, raising my own arguments about the various injustices and plights of the oppressed. Each time I was met with "well what about...!" followed by some loosely relevant struggle that was meant to highlight my supposedly disingenuous intentions by ignoring that other societal ill.
Surprise! I've decided that my field is flush with fucks to give, and I can care about it all! My first stanzas invite the listener in to care about it all with me while recognizing that none of this is some novel idea that I've discovered. This wisdom and understanding can only be gathered through deep and quiet listening.

"Look ye upon the field in which I grow my fucks and see that it is lush
It is full of a bounty so fair if you pull up a chair such a harvest to share"

So begins the deprogramming. Years of off-color "jokes" that perpetuate stereotypes under the guise of humor, reframing institutionally racist ideas as "political diversity," discounting primary sources and stories of oppression as either lies or isolated incidents. Furthermore...


"Let those who have ears hear closely the tales of woe and shame and rage and pain
And know that the harvest is great, we will pick from the trees of our kin
Mash the fruits of their labors and drink freely again


Let the hate flow on through you and out once again
Let it drip through the farmhouse roof into the aloe that soothes your burns
As you learn and unlearn all the myriad ways that the world makes you earn"

Loving that which you once thought of other is unsettling. You must cultivate it as you would a fire in the bitter wind. Shielding and stoking it as if it were the only thing keeping you alive. On the other hand, we must recognize that like a light upon a hill or a pigeon in the city it must be common and indiscriminately shared.

"Let nothing diminish your love let it come from within or above let it be like a dove 
And by that I mean common like the pigeons who graciously shit on us all 

Let love fall right out of a clear summer sky let it land in your eye let it make you ask why 
Feel it run down your face and get stuck in your hair let the smell of it tell you you’ll always know where..."

With this deep, abiding, and indiscriminate love you will find yourself irrevocably immune to the whataboutisms, the "otherings" presented by billionaire-owned main-stream-media, and connected directly by the long familial lines of human history to each and every other person on the planet.

"...you stand with the other 
let the earth be your mother 
let all folks be your brothers and sisters 
let nobody cleave your heart from your gut and your mind 
turn your eyes toward the field and behold 

That the harvest is great
And we got plenty of fucks to give."


God Says Clean Your Room (Or Else)
(CW: Suicide, Climate Grief)

It has come to light that various fossil fuel companies had direct and clear knowledge and understanding that the continued burning of their products would bring about a distinct rise in global temperature. So they just... Spent millions (billions?) of dollars funding bunk science and conservative think tanks to hide this fact. Now they're poised to spend their immense blood-capital to "lead the charge!" into renewables? What a joke. This song highlights their lies.

No matter what we do or say 
We’ll never find a way 
To ever make them pay 
We’ll never breathe the air we 

Had as kids 
Cause no one flipped their lids 
As they so boldly did 
The worst thing possible 

They saw the signs and yet 
They placed a bet in debt 
And now we hold our breath 
And choke on early death 

Maybe someone from our generations will find the cure, but not before countless innocents pass and the weight of climate catastrophe drives some to madness.

Maybe the future holds 
Some deus ex of gold 
But I am early old 
And slowly growing cold 

I cannot possibly choose death. No matter if my words are lost to the aether or buried deep in the internet, I must speak and live this truth.

If I choose early sleep 
My love would surely weep 
So rail against the creeping 
Doom that haunts my dreams 

There could be justice still 
Before the children kill 
Or die and foot the bill 
These stanzas drowned by shills 

So turn the wheels of revolution. People see the destruction each passing year and blame it on the other team, but they are slowly waking to the fact that multinational companies are pulling the strings.

But I can’t simply stop 
These words are just a drop 
An ocean moving slow 
And so the story goes 

A simple seed is sown 
And let the ideas grow 
The fever pitch has blown 
As fires burn your home 

I've always loved the theme in the writings of Christ where he calls out "Let those who have ears." The ones who will listen will listen, the ones who will not will not. We will all pass from this old world and hopefully I will do so peacefully with the knowledge that I did everything I could.

Don’t let me kill the vibe 
I breathe am still alive 
Let those with ears arrive 
At truth poetically supplied 

We’re all gonna die…! 
Well… Someday, alright…


I Bet You Would've Called the Cops On Jesus

As an ex-vangelical I grew up listening to the preachers go on and on about the love of Christ and the freedom granted by his blood. Yet it seemed like that grace freely given was some sort of writ to oppress carte blanche and ignore the evils of this life "that would soon pass." This biting poem is an open letter to those calling upon the name of the lord in vanity to justify a worldly empire.

Heat, light, brilliant silence when we meet 
The finality and obscenities that leak out when you breathe 

So many lies and statistics shared by my Christian friends that were developed by a racist system, for the perpetuation of a racist system. Yet the contradictions pile up. Immigrants are simultaneously cunning and active criminals stealing your jobs, while at the same time they are so lazy?

Half truths fly like snow white weight over open fields we’ll never walk again 
An albatross dead but somehow flying home to warmer skies like 

Here we are, listening to your sermonizing, allowing people to justify their inner racist dialogues with love.

Wind, let it begin, feel the breeze caress your deepest fears 
And stoke the coal that lets your worship never face up to spitting in the face of your love! 

This is the worst part. These demagogues spew their rhetoric, asking the enslaved and oppressed to "turn the other cheek" while telling them to temper their fury. All while they drain their doves of peace and love to elevate and profess their respect for slavers and bigots. Woe unto those who uphold those idolatrous statues!

Drain your doves of blood to fill the sacramental cups and 
Raise a toast to respectable villains, such gentlemen all

And so the story goes, each generation is raised on these false mythologies of a just state and evil stereotypes.

Cause these weeds they grow such stilted beings
Dirty your feet and discover the meaning of speaking truth to power and just 

Yet each generation is given the choice anew to reject the falsehoods of our fathers and replace them with the truth and might of liberation and justice.

Breathe deeply in your final hours, dogwhistle us your funeral dirge
The Other denied will defy and decry and survive despite your evil words and all your 

Silence is violence, as true as if you drove the spikes yourself.

Heat, light and brilliant silence 
Shine like iron, piercing wrists and feet


Mama's Woes

Now we start diving into the awful meat of it all. Pillage the natural world at your peril, Mama is coming home soon...

The first stanza is all about how we take what we need but ignore the consequences or kill them and hide the bodies. This betrays our deeper connection with the world.

Steal her bones to build your houses 
Now she’s oozing in your drain pipes 
Kill her children just for trying to make it through these long nights 
Scattered footprints leaving traces 
Where you had no business being 
In the first place, as your own pace 
Cracks and screws the pooch 
Yea you’ve betrayed ‘em 
Yea you’ve betrayed ‘em 
Yea you done it now 

Yet we love to seek out nature and bask in her presence. Growing up I remember drinking from pure streams... Now I must filter and purify that which was given to me from the womb of the earth itself. We must cast out the very demons we summoned to give us riches or we will die for their presence.

Sip her for a tonic let her freshen up your weekend 
As the things you only dreamed of hit that spot that you been saving 
And come again and come again and drink beside her waters 
Bring a filter and a fire 
Cast the demons out you put there 
In the first place 
The demons that you put there in the first place 

Finally I liken the whole business to cleaning your room by shoving it all under the bed and ignoring the mess, hoping mom won't check... But she will.

And oooooooh 
She’s coming home soon 
Better clean your room for real this time 
She’s at the door 
and she ain’t smiling


The Scorned Bride

This is one of the oldest songs on the album. Originally this tune focused on my desire for relationships and how I felt burned, but then I wrote the second stanza and realized it was much more about how the violence we inflict on the world will be returned to us tenfold.

When I was a young man I played with fire 
And for a time, the flame it danced bright in my eyes 
But then my greed grew past desire 
And how that ember swiftly flies 
And as I shivered in the wreckage 
Of what I thought was promised land 
Start pointing fingers but then I realized 
The torch was always in my hand 

The scorned bride will give back tenfold 
All that she receives 
She'll flip tables and drown the masses 
If it'll bring her some reprieve 
Quiet and with method 
Does her vengeance strike the land 
You might follow and be forgotten 
At her wrathful hand 

She gonna melt your heart with a fearful gaze ain't seen nothin' like it in all of your days 

When I was a young man I played with fire 
And for a time, the flame it danced bright in my eyes 
But then my greed grew past desire 
And how that ember swiftly flies 
And as I shivered in the wreckage 
Of what I thought was promised land 
Start pointing fingers but then I realized 
The torch was always in my hand 

She's gonna melt my heart with a fearful gaze ain't seen nothin' like it in all of my days 

Finally I close out the song with recognizing how home is wherever you are.

Well I've traveled far and I've traveled near and ain't nowhere ever felt more like home than here


Fraternity of Murderers

"There's no kings or queens! We're all equal under the law! Buy something! Pay no attention to the growing pile of black bodies. They'd have been fine if they just complied."

Nah. Fuck that. Fuck the police. All my homies hate the police.

I'm especially proud of the line "chickenshits on replay" because aren't they?

They told us regicide 
Was a lie 
We should try 
Buying high 
Something nice 
Never let the news cycle get you down 

So we got 
New jeans 
Muffled screams 
Heard a shot 
Better not 
Make a scene 
An ever present bystander kinda thing and damn 

It’s just another name 
We’ll forget 
Racking up a grief debt 
Never let 
The other’s pain 
Inconvenience you in any way 
Cause no matter what I say I swear 

This fraternity of murderers seems to be 
Here to stay, chickenshits on replay, barely punished drawing pay 
Murderers keep telling us 
We’re in the way, always gotta play their games

Never thought I’d see the day, no way to live down the shame 

So let’s get 
Live streams 
Like laser beams 
First amendment on the scene 
Doing fine 
I got time 
Put your scruples on the line 

Be checking in 
We’re all kin 
So why the hell you stopping him 
We’re tired of it can’t you see so get your hands up offa me you 
Murderers who seem to be 
Here to stay, chickenshits on replay, barely punished drawing pay 
Murderers keep telling me 
I’m in the way, always gotta play their games Never thought I’d see the day, no way to live down the shame 

24-hr news cycle bringing up every possible thing to discredit victims (who are innocent until proven guilty) is disgusting.

These talking heads keep digging up and punching down ain’t surprised a bunch of clowns motha-lickas giving cops the reach around

Jesus was a person of color killed by the state.

Boot leather never musta tasted so good 
Yea boot leather better taste so good 
Cause 
Front pew on Sunday 
Praise the state on Monday


Be No Slave

When I first wrote this tune it was in the first person. I was upset about the wages I was being paid (historically some of the lowest since the great depression), upset about the locks on my education set by conservative professors, upset about poor folks overseas being paid virtually nothing.

Then I did some soul searching and am making a conscious effort to decenter myself in the conversation surrounding oppression. That energy is still here, but this song is dedicated to my black brothers and sisters who have had their lives ruined by this country's system of mandatory minimums, targeted community harassment, and general reticence to look back on the deeply racist history that has kneecapped the development of black wealth.

No man should be a slave 
Not even for twenty days 
Or a dishonest wage 
He should have his say 

The 13th amendment didn't outlaw slavery, it just nationalized it. Now we have private prisons that are able to directly influence our government, keeping a steady supply of slave labor in our economy.

Keep stoking that fire, believe 
Something beyond what those judges can see 
Justice should always come free 
The 13th ain’t what we need 

No man should be a slave 
Not to make your license plates 

Imagine using the Bible to justify making a seed-bearing plant illegal. (Genesis 1:29)

The book says to cultivate the seed 
And despite your lust and greed 
The world has seen your deeds 
Watergate’s just the first levee 

Now we have people saying we can't make big moves because it's "divisive" and somehow we have to compromise with people who have driven a knife deep into the back of our marginalized communities...

But so well did you fix their chains 
While spouting some moral claim 
Societal growing pains 
And not your ancient shame 

No man should be a slave! 
Not even for twenty days 
Or a dishonest wage 
They should have their say


Moral Ambiguity (Instrumental)

This tune is a sound-painting, detailing the parallel between the outspoken disciple Peter and the evangelical church. Imagine if today's "hot" Christians were told they would betray Christ before the cock crowed three times? My guess is they'd call the cops and try and find that bird and silence it before they'd ever look inward and root out their own problematic habits.


Moral Androgyny

So much of my life I'd been misgendered (or so I thought) and always the reaction puzzled me. Why was it such an insult for me to be considered feminine? Now I've decided to own it for a while and turn inward and better understand what gender means to me or if I even want to keep hold of it at all.

"You look like a girl." 

Am I a pretty girl, to you? 

Does it matter, doesn't matter, does it matter...


Sacred Acres

All I've ever wanted was a small place to call my own, grow enough food to share, and offer respite to folks. Yet I cannot possibly entertain the idea of owning that which was stolen and even less so while people have so little. For now I have the secret corners of my heart.

Someday I’d like to own my own piece of stolen land 
So I’m saving up my money just as best as I can 
But every day it seems like someone asks me for my change 
And I just give it all away, never have my home on the range 

But I’ll always have the secret corners of my heart 
With those sacred acres I will never part 
And so when it all doesn’t go according to plan 
I’ll have a place to take it easy while I still can


Nobody Ever Wrote A Song Called Fuck the Fire Department

I was/am a very anxious person. As children we were drilled in stop, drop & roll and respect for public servants. So I built this hero complex around being the one to step in and save people were they absent. However as I grew up I realized the political power and oppression presented by police officers, of the dark and awful corners of history filled by violence against the most vulnerable.  As I watched the world I realized that if I was going to do that it would put me in the way of law keepers... And you know what? That's fine. I'm here for it.

Since I was small I always thought I’d have to 
stop drop and roll 
Brave the flames to save my mortal soul 
But little did I know 
So little did I know 

Surely I’d brave the flames to save grandma and sister 
Grab grandpas guitar and not worry about my blisters 

But never once did it occur to me 
To fear the men I might meet 
While running for my life


Something Impossible

An analysis of the history of our country reveals a challenge facing would-be allies: standing up against the very system that enables their prosperity. 

There’s no song I could sing to bring peace on earth 
But every day I try and 
Figure it out 

We must keep hope and strive for non-violent resistance. Despite what we've been told this has worked in the past and it will work in the future.

Every morning when I rise I try and dream a little dream 
Something impossible
A hopeful, peaceful scheme

Yet there is a determined resignation and stone-cold acceptance of the truth apparent in the way our world is running. No glad-handing politician or corporate sponsored sing-along is gonna fix this.

But it seems there’s no words could be said
Nor a hymn to be sung in perfect harmony
No number to take while you sit and you wait
No treaty to unbroken by the hubris of state

So we must reject the "reality" we've been given and substitute our own. There is no justification for the continued violence against our communities.

So I got no statement to give and no number to call
No way to remember the ones who gave all
No altar on which I burn up all our dreams
No probable cause for the evil we’ve seen

Now there is good happening. People are waking up. "What radicalized you?" is a common question being thrown around. Mothers linked arms in Portland, fathers showed up with leaf blowers against oppressive policing and historical racism.

So as sure as the silver that’s lining these clouds 
As sure as the chorus of coyotes howl 
As sure as the engines our fathers did wield 
As sure as the mothers arm in arm line the field 

Here we are! The wheel is and has been moving this whole time and it needs you.

There’s a wheel set in motion that cannot be stopped 
Though it slows and it hesitates and needs your weight behind it 

For so long I felt this rage against... Something? Now I have sat quietly and realize that my shame will fuel my activism.

So stoke a furious and fiery love that burns away your hate 
Let the clean and unclean things thrown into those flames 
Replace your shame 
So never again 

Someday I hope to write cute and quiet love songs and contemplative examinations of the natural world, but for now I must keep paying attention to the evil in our world and so should you.

May there never need to be songs sung to bring peace on earth 
Because it’s already here


So every morning when you rise, just try and dream a little dream 
Something impossible


Epilogue

So there it is. Thanks for reading all this. I've more songs in this vein coming. Hopefully I'll still be able to field performance inquiries despite or perhaps because of my rhetoric. Only time will tell. Stay strong.

In explicit solidarity,

Matt

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