A Good Read A Good Listen and a Good Drink: Justin Courtney Pierre

It’s a simple yet sublime pleasure, and just thinking about it can make you feel a little calmer, a little more content. Imagine: You bring out one of the good rocks glasses (or your favorite mug or a special occasion tea cup) and pour a couple fingers of amber liquid (or something dark and strong or just some whole milk). You drop the needle on the jazz platter (or pull up a blues album on your mp3 player or dig out that mixtape from college). Ensconcing yourself in the coziest seat in the house, you crack the spine on a classic (or find your place in that sci-fi paperback or pull up a biography on your e-book reader). And then, you go away for a while. Ah, bliss.

In this series, some of NTSIB’s friends share beloved albums, books and drinks to recommend or inspire.

Justin Courtney Pierre is a man of many bands, though perhaps best known as the front man for Motion City Soundtrack. This is Inside Out, their most recent single:

Live at Break: Motion City Soundtrack Performs Inside Out

And this is This Is For Real from Even If It Kills Me the song (and album) I listened somewhat obsessively back in 2008, after I burned my life down and then didn’t quite know what to do afterwards:

Motion City Soundtrack - This Is For Real

Ok that’s kind of not true. I knew what I wanted to do afterwards, which was sulk in basements listening to My Chemical Romance at high volume. Apparently I needed Gerard Way howling about being not okay in my ear in order to admit to myself that I was also not okay.

But I also knew I couldn’t sulk in basements forever. It Had To Be You, also from Even If It Kills Me, was the flip side to the misery, my reminder that I had done the right thing, burning my life down, and my glimmer of hope that I might someday want to invite someone to get wrecked on pop-tarts and sex and see the Taj Mahal:

Motion City Soundtrack - It Had To Be You

Pierre’s other band is The Farewell Continental Group of North America, and when not rocking out, one of his many other projects is being co-host of a podcast called Book Narcs. It is with great pleasure that I turn the floor over to him to tell us about one of his favorite books, records, and drinks:

A Good Read

One of my favorite books of all time is Jerry Stahl’s Permanent Midnight. It is an unapologetic look at the drug fueled life of a broken man, the author, as he spirals toward extinction while trying to hang on to various television writing gigs, a wife, a kid, and what little sanity he has left. It is fucking beautiful. It is the only drug book I’ve ever read that doesn’t glorify the act of using. It is all open sores, teeming with things that squirm, and late night heart attack panic frenzies – but funny. Real funny, you know, if it’s not all happening to you. Somehow he makes you laugh and want to throw up at the same time. It’s one slow plunge of brutal truth after another.

I originally discovered this book after seeing the movie based on it starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. I thought, “that was fun, I should read the book.” But the book was WAY darker, and sadly, far more relatable than the film. True, I never stuffed black tar heroin up my ass while standing on my head to help facilitate the ingestion process, but I did spend a large part of my life nearly dying in an effort to chase the high and quiet my mind.

At the time I read this book I was drinking heavily, with amphetamine filled evenings peppered throughout the work week, which may account for the beer stains, the stab wounds, and a good deal of dried blood on the last 5 pages. There is redemption, however, for the author of the book, and I suppose even a little for me. He survived to tell his tale after literally washing off his own vomit and feces with somebody’s garden hose during the LA Riots of ’92, kicking the habit alone in a shed for several days – reborn with purpose. I found this book at the right time and it spoke to me. It said, “You do not wish to end up here. You will not fare as well as this.” It took me a few more years, but somehow I made it out of my own dark and endless nightmare. Thanks, Jerry.

A Good Listen

One of my favorite albums of all time is The Flaming LipsClouds Taste Metallic. In the fall of ’95 I moved into a cold sub-level apartment near Dinkytown in Minneapolis after a failed college attempt. Simultaneously, I inherited an old record player from my uncle and a set of ancient speakers, but no stereo to marry the two and provide sound. I also owned a VCR but had no television. I would pass the time listening to movies on my headphones (this is how I discovered the same sound was used for both the roller-coasters in True Romance and the fighter jets in Top Gun). I also listened to records this way, sitting cross-legged on the frozen tile floor, consuming copious amounts of Mountain Dew and ephedrine for days at a time.

I had liked The Flaming Lips ever since my friend Nick brought them to my attention in high school when Hit To Death In The Future Head came out. I also quite enjoyed Transmissions From The Satellite Heart when that came out, and working backwards got into In A Priest Driven Ambulance as well. But it was Clouds Taste Metallic that splattered my brains all over the wall (well, that and the ephedrine).

This album is like Japan. To me Japan is this insane mixture of past and future; incredible history and tradition mixed together with Minority Report type technology. Every intersection in Tokyo is like that movie Alex watches in A Clockwork Orange – total mind fuck. Clouds Taste Metallic is like that. More to the point… There is an excellent array of ear piercing and off putting sounds interwoven through the magic that are these incredible pop songs. This is a great sounding record, but it hurts a little to listen to – you have to work for it, but it’s worth it. Wayne Coyne is not the greatest singer, but his word choices are nearly always brilliant.

I used When You Smile in my wedding because it is the most beautiful love song I have ever heard. EXAMPLE: “When you smile… all of the subatomic pieces come together and unfold themselves in a second.” Does that not so perfectly describe what it is to be in love? Or take Christmas At The Zoo, a song about a guy who tries to free the animals at the zoo on Christmas, but they tell him to beat it because it doesn’t mean anything unless they can free themselves. How do you come up with an idea like that? My 3rd favorite track on the record has to be Evil Will Prevail, a seemingly happy sounding song with soul-crushing lyrics, the chorus of which goes, “with loving hands knowing evil will prevail.” It ends on the saddest of whimpers.

I have no idea if I am selling you on this record or deterring you from ever listening to it. It stands the test of time for me and will always remain the high water mark to which all other albums are compared. I dare you to give it a listen and hear for yourself.

The Flaming Lips - When You Smile [Official Music Video]

A Good Drink

Being a sober guy, my favorite drinks tend to be either water or coffee, the latter of which being the last drug, and I am holding on to it with all I have got. But I will throw into the mix my go-to drink for social gatherings or a simple and refreshing treat: Club Soda and Lime.

If you are a sober cat who misses that feeling of a drink in your hand, this works pretty well. It feels like a drink but isn’t one. If you are a sober cat who is easily triggered by sense memory, I’d stick to 1:00 a.m. ice cream binges and 12 packets of sugar in your morning coffee.

I can’t stand bars for several reasons, but if ever I find myself in one I get a Club Soda and Lime and nurse it for hours. Usually you can get them for free if you tell the bartender you are the sober cat. Additionally, for anyone addicted to soft drinks and trying to get off that, this is a pretty good substitute. But you may want to up the ratio of limes to liquid for the first few weeks, until you get the hang of it.

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