Bobtail Yearlings

Bobtail Yearlings

BandRockPop

Eclectic pop rock. We seek to revive interest in an older style of composition used by classical, jazz, and Tin Pan Alley composers—who wrote melodies and chords simultaneously as a single, organic entity—by offering a unique songwriting lesson plan that's free to download from our website!

Biography

It's a maxim growing further entrenched among today's rock music vanguard: "You need to get onstage and reach an audience... You can't just hole up in your room writing songs all day... Music has returned to its populist roots, and that's exactly how it should be." For California-bred singer/songwriter Bennett Lin, trained in classical music as a youth but also active for years in the Oakland cowpunk and post-rock scenes, the romantic image of a free-spirited band on the road was never at odds with that of an ailing Mozart scribbling out rapt visions at the piano. Certainly music belongs to the masses, but its history is also awash in posthumous praise for far too many pioneers rejected in their own time. Thus, being asked to choose a side—populists versus visionaries—seemed like a strange, needless ultimatum. Surely there's room for everyone to sit together peacefully... isn't there?

In the end, life chose for him. Devastated over the breakup of a six-year relationship, Lin abandoned the rigors of band duties to create a cathartic personal album of eclectic folk rock melded with world influences, performing all the vocals and instruments himself while exploring ambitions only possible for a lone composer mapping out the songs first in notated manuscript. (The complete scores are viewable and free to download on the band website: www.bobtailyearlings.com/scores.html) Fast forward to the present, and the finished album indeed presents a stark contrast. Unlike a pyramid of indefinite expanse slowly raised layer upon layer by collective effort, Yearling's Bobtail stands like a cathedral at once both supporting and resting upon its arches: irreducibly whole, as if sprung forth instantly and fully formed from the mind of its single architect. Channeling Hoagy Carmichael and other Tin Pan Alley songwriters, melodies serve not as mere afterthoughts laid atop endlessly looped four-bar templates, but define the very song structures themselves, paving uneven but scenic pathways for palm-muted guitars and mandolins to weave intricate strands of counterpoint around and across.

Raised by hard-working Taiwanese immigrant parents, Lin began his musical training early, studying piano and violin as a child, then picking up the guitar, banjo, and drums on his own. As the first release of the autobiographical two-album set, Yearling's Bobtail I details Lin's strange childhood leading up to the start of his first relationship, opening with the dynamic rhythms and fluid key changes of "Didi" (meaning "little brother" in Taiwanese), an acoustic folk number told from the perspective of his older sister. With melody firmly established as its foundation, the album ventures toward other stylistic genres. In "Ash Wednesday", wistful Arabic microtones segue into a polyphonic Renaissance motet, while the raucous "Good Night, Sita" finds a teenage Lin awkwardly dropping off his date after an unsuccessful evening, as the torrent of his unspoken thoughts—a stream of consciousness delivery in homage to modernist writer James Joyce—is jostled and mocked throughout by the syncopated thumping of a Motown beat.

Frenetic dual mandolins imitate the sound of Russian balalaikas over Lin's trademark Tuvan throatsinging in "Pchelka's Starry Journey", which uses the story of Pchelka and Mushka, twin dogs killed in the Soviet space program, as an allegory for Lin's relationship with his autistic younger brother during a bizarre and heartbreaking period of his preadolescence. Bullied at school while family life at home was disrupted by his brother's constant fits and medical needs, one day Lin received a letter by mail proclaiming him to be a "Beyonder": an alien being of higher intelligence disguised in human form. Though an obvious scam designed to cheat the gullible and discontent, its words were instantly taken to heart by the unhappy child, who began sending away his allowance money for the next two years while obeying the letter's instructions to stoically shut himself off from the world, or as he now describes it, "being brainwashed by some mail order cult." The song ends with Lin being sent to school officials on suspicion of drug use, hinting at the lasting effects of the traumatic ordeal to be manifested in the second album to come.

"Odin" showcases an innovative lyrical technique of Lin's invention known as "doublespeaker rhyme," which involves writing two different sets of lyrics that rhyme syllable for syllable throughout a song. ("...buoy bobs through sea serpents, shivering for shivs unsheathed..." // "...coin toss to be hers from shivaree towards shivah seat...") While evoking the inner discord implied by such words as "newspeak" and "doublethink" in George Orwell's novel 1984, the technique is also aptly named because the two voices, sung in harmony, are completely separated in the mix—literally, one to each speaker. Like a split screen in cinema, "doublespeaker rhyme" holds many uses as a literary device, such as blurring

Lyrics

Pchelka's Starry Journey

Written By: Bennett Lin

But F., that man is the worst nuisance on the beach.

Mother, woken from her nap,
hears a piercing scream and thunders,
"Why'd you hit your baby brother, when he so looks up to you!
Don't you remember days past,
when you wanted to buy a fortress
but your daddy couldn't afford it,
so you brought him into your room?

You stowed away beneath your captain bed.
We didn't hear a peep throughout the entire weekend!"

Poor Sam Peabody!

Oh brother, when all you know is bleat,
they'll catch you by your cape and beat you,
threatening never to release you till you learn to kick it back.
Feigning sick, I chanced to read
these words in a comic to me speaking:
"Are you tired of being the weakling?"...
I clipped and mailed the ad.

Soon send away offers were piling up high,
and then one day one came and made me cry and cry.
Red pouches unspent for years, at once counted and sent,
while all the weeks I waited, weighing those words in bold text:

"Are you a Beyonder sent down to be Earth-fostered;
do you often feel like a wanderer lost?"
But waiting for Goddard, our two impatient paupers,
Gogo and his Didi, sauntered off...
Till in hunger they were led into Huntsville and fed,
dragged to sled by hunter's belt and launched!

"Far from home and shaped like common men,
Beyonders bleed the most, their roots unknown to them.
We've received your fee, and per the tests,
you are indeed a seed from that nebular nest.
Is this too much at once? We're trusting mum's to be the word.

Beyonders pine for a love no mortals give,
one they'll find only once we build the mothership.
Your monthly tithe shall fund good tidings soon to come.
But till then, here's how you're to live..."

So thus we learned to act the dunce
as spies among the carnal fallen,
twin friars cast here in pollens from a star's placenta sac.
Braced for an earth stay unloved,
twits daily murdered for their virtue.
Mirthful, the merciless would hurt you,
as omerta turned their backs.

Stung by venomous vipers, our muted youths lapsed;
we knew the shortest cyphers are the toughest ones to crack.
But every hero has a heel, we'd realise, blind before the squad.
The only spies who get to feel love first unearth their own plots!

Mushing onward, Mushka's dragged by collar
to his slaughter under undying dawn.
Choked, he's soon a goner, no one heard his hollers;
this pack honours only the idiot's rod.
Next cabins come equipped with pentobarbitone syringe,
nothing too rich for glorious cosmonauts!

I'm sorry I bailed, Xiao Xiang, mush on...
I couldn't ditch my wails, I needed the pod.
"Kids say you're hopped on drugs, son.
With Mum we'll need a word."
Mushka, per their bargain, I can't ever return.

Willy the Cocoa

Written By: Bennett Lin

Hilltops gnashing dig out potholes,
the valley somersaults in tarred pavement mirage.
Hydrants burst as early worms work this dying coyote's jaw.
Swill pop poured from wayside bottle,
his pinhead in its shadow eclipsed in full.
Chilled cola's free with salvage sold...
licking lips he ends his stroll.

Oh, has Willy the Cocoa come
for our tins and our jars this week?
Saluting Mummy doing some haircutting to the sun
when suddenly baby shrieks...

As gap-toothed coma parts his forehead,
launching pair of seizures to the patch.
Willy ducks behind the porch steps and laughs.
Oh ma'am, I see your kid with whiskers,
he croaks, stroking creepers on his cheek,
And three years howling is the longest cowlick yet I've seen!

Prying X-ray spec'd, enraged at pages clawed,
a kick slams the bearded baby to the ground
with his tummy clenched, muffling baffled sobs.
Papa storms in roaring, Boy, are you proud?
You'd learn him good, when smarts he could've took
all went instead to this clever head of yours.
So to baby--to your brother--you'll say sorry for the world!

Killcrop dashing kicks up puddle,
soused loafers shouting 'tard payment is due.
Hit this witch with switch, whispers wind, to fix his switcheroo...
Milksop cornered into scuffle,
a sack-spilled glass swung sounds the past-noon toll.
Shelled skull has freed unsalvaged soul...
dripping Willy's stalkless bulb.

Oh, and August was the sawdust month
that saw this mulch soften asphodel.
Baby bluebonnets bloomed as new comics soon
lay forgotten amongst the mail.

But how marbleless, some reckoned,
being ever stuck in imp-runt age of mind!
Are you sick? I am seven, he'd reply...
And do we speak in winded whimpers
or squelch shreds of a summer gone,
ever conscious of days past forever wrong?

Such heavy fears, Mummy laughs,
for a cub not yet Webelos!
Son, seventy years and you'll be glad
to finally rest those creaking bones!
Life's like this quilt: patchy, then it fills...
In time with needle done, you'll write this book of yours.
Then to Willy, in the cover could say sorry for the world!

Bobtail's cover could say sorry for the world!
Oh, Bobtail's cover could say sorry...!

Ash Wednesday

Written By: Bennett Lin

O Catherine! My Catherine! our futile trip is done
where it commenced: in my bookless room,
Ulysses' tomb, surely buried she'd be!
First we laid Tourette's, next regrets,
the last day she rose up and left, hers the sole assent...
But saving herself strictly for marriage, or really from me?

Oh and for Catherine, St. Catherine of God,
I purge, with a dirge she'd deride,
with sadness, sad for what I am not:
a soul to share in her eternal life.

Oh Catherine, pressed for an opinion, sighed,
"My, what wit, man," putting down her Joyce,
with "Joyce" oblivious to the trump she just played.
Couldn't heaven, her heaven,
brimming over with smart boys, fit just one art boy
who tried but failed to win her heart poised with brains?

And as I pace, stranded here outside her Shelta,
in famous raincoat unknown to roam,
my girl in glasses went clear--my Tekakwitha--
for I lack the wit to spare a safe Algonquin abode.

Well yes, I faked this "X", I should confess,
using some old used cigarette.
"So you'd cheat your way into heaven," she might protest.
Well no, I know it's wrong, but I did burn my palms,
I guess that butt was still fresh.
Et Catherine vaut bien une messe...

On this sad day to mourn
us wretched souls cursed to be born,
a spark zips through my head to be
mistaken for Catholic with some smeared ash;
to wear it like a tragic mask.

On this Ash Wednesday morn,
in spreading mole my sickness borne
upon this head for all to see.
And maybe if Catherine sees, she'll ask,
"So where'd you attend Mass?"

Odin

Written By: Bennett Lin

(about "doublespeaker rhyme": each pair of lines that rhyme syllable for syllable are sung
simultaneously, with each voice panned hard to one speaker)

Mr. Odin died today.

Lights off, from your hiding place of retreat emerged.
By lot, once more trifling tref must reseed the earth.
This fridge's gallery in web's wake was strewn,
Indifferent galaxies instead stay unmoved;
silent poll of colours overused.
sigh and pull the covers over you.
This latest piece you drew with crayons least whittled...
In safest sleep, you ruminate on these riddles...

The house settled in sheets, you swing the iron screen.
But how dreadful indeed, do sweet dream's ichors seem!
By the alabaster balustrade,
Like a salamander shall await
baby steps inch towards crevice rays.
trading breath's bliss for present bane.

Then down stygian stairs,
And how stingy and scarce
through sickle-lit oriental streets.
proves shibboleth for these gentle means!
Raccoons rummage round some rubbish bags,
As you plummet down from couplets past;
till a rickshaw hiccoughs from grating cracks.
still, but missed bat mitzvahs come racing back.
You seek the dunes once deemed a haven
To dreams of whom does each one cave in
that was safe for a heathen...
as a slave for the seasons?

And if flutters with the fairest
And if summer trips to Paris
were just sins simply dreamt,
weren't just myths between friends,
could some bottled butterfly dream your whims instead?
would the rondel of her eye be stored in this neck?
What's more, if all you live for still die at the end--
But cored gifts fall to discord till lives acquiesce,
like Odin's ashes back from the Society,
by opened latches that come undone by undine--
which filled a chasm dug up underneath--
which spilled a basket among other things--
can that which kills a cat spare his home if spread?
a casket tilted back where its hopeless rests.

You researched a gleam
Your seizures of spleen,
to be a guard's whistle at your feet,
you see the jarred sibyl had foreseen
and brought your raft behind the yellow-taped grills
as not for wrapping by a cellophane sylph,
to stand onshore keen to drift if shark swarms withheld.
who cannot warm he who didn't impart warmth himself.

Buoy bobs through sea serpents,
Coin toss to be hers from
shivering for shivs unsheathed.
shivaree towards shivah seat
As roller coasters of waves comfort sighs,
has pulled your floater away from your sight.
you frame silhouettes of torn rides
You chase till dew sheds from your eyes
in your dim, lingering gaze,
with your beleaguered remains,
a victim of erosion.
amidst dustbunnies frozen.

Should you hide, or could you fight,
when your day to die has come?
Can a holed up hostage
pray for soulless solace and just play dumb?
But in time, wouldn't you find life is simply much too long?

But for a foetus force-fed, born preaborted,
Yet your defeat of tortoise, forced lead unthwarted,
your ouija board said, "Son, just hum along."
sworn feat aforesaid, doesn't come anon.

Though, no slave parts these seas,
Though, no grey starling's beak
then returns them as a buffer zone.
can reach urchins smashed from undertows.
The sudsy ocean shapes its padded bed,
But suddenly Odin's day is at its end;
which hitherto snubbed and spurned a wreck,
his litter to dust and earth was swept,
while mermaids smile past a guileless garden gnome...
while Thursday's child has a mile less far to go...

Good Night, Sita

Written By: Bennett Lin


"Good night," she says or should I should you refuse by a gutter gurgling then we'll choose either never live yet live on or to love first without once knowing love when cesspit dead ends for further speech are these stuttered sentences we speak for this kid wearing no decoder ring Dutch courage wimped out to going Dutch but even no sponge nor a barnacle minds swept in unchartable tides they just always know to pry for the innermost matryoshka's heart of gold inside till then crack up another doll to find the chrysalis unchristened to all who'd buy this aping jaw fixed to his skull swaggering down these barren exhibit halls but totems so revered when defined by ambrosia beers in time are seen with a focus grown clear and slowly the story erodes pidgin palaver exchanged can only transfer good faith hyped up like some disastrous play that starts with a lone ringing phone but even so just that it ever rang at all for if the tactic is to stall you're just ecstatic she called what this understudy sought from his number strutting on the wall we whine when first we got shunned then wise up and learn to shotgun last show's set still propped up so we'll breeze through our parts though each kind new ultimatum to his tribe left old and jaded the boy brave who cultivated brave rejection into art but died unfinished alas hotlines get busy just as thoughts slide to slitting wrists that hint of sampler cologne and a lass sniffing out these rote charms always rides in single go-karts as we wind an endless flowchart with every given answer a no and her veggie wishbone's short end in these clutching fingers of steel too untrusting to ever unpeel from a dummy steering wheel settled for hugging only curbs and having only tires squeal when boys who mope know the beauty of simply limping away blind as the chirping crosswalks guide where willows softly conspire when boys who cope only risk invites denied I sigh, "Good night."

Discography

Mermaids I Have Known, 2001; Yearling's Bobtail, 2006; The Bobtail Method for Composing Unique Pop Melodies (published book), 2008.

Set List

Thirty to forty-five minutes long. Current set list:

Pchelka's Starry Journey
Willy the Cocoa
Ash Wednesday
Constellations
My 100,000th Dream
Cloyne Party
Didi
Uncanny Valley Boy
Song of Miriam
Priyadina