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Blister Steel

by Roselit Bone

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about

A pandrogyne cowboy, mascara smeared, guns blazed out, lies drunk under a starless sky. A young boy sits under a blasted tree with a bone and a wire, numbed by a nameless catastrophe. White-robed dancers leap and crawl around a fire, celebrating a hungry god that was once a brand name.
It’s hard to listen to Roselit Bone’s upcoming release, Blister Steel, without creating movies in your head, without bleak and beautiful images invading your consciousness. It’s a deeply immersive record – one that leaves you changed.

A native of Southern California, Joshua McCaslin formed the band in Portland, Oregon in 2013: first as a duo with drummer Ben Dahmes, then a trio, and eventually a 9-piece ensemble of flute, trumpets, pedal steel, accordion, violin and more. Josh himself is a triple threat: a versatile and accomplished guitarist, a powerful writer of vivid nightmare-poetry, and a singer unique in his ability to croon like Marty Robbins, bellow like Nick Cave, and scream, grunt and wail like a defiant, wounded animal.

If 2014’s self-released debut Blacken & Curl set the tone, Blister Steel refines and expands it. Josh’s lyrics are crueler and darker, the arrangements bigger and more ambitious, the vision and scope blown up into a panoramic, foreboding landscape that looks disturbingly familiar. The grandeur of Mexican ranchera and the innocence of Hollywood’s singing cowboys belie a savage, dystopian take on hot-rod rockabilly, surf music, Tex-Mex, and post-punk. The ten-piece band moves deftly from seething minimalism, to lush countrypolitan walls of sound, to unhinged noise.

On the title track, nimble minor-key fingerpicking weaves through what sounds like a choir of Benedectine monks until horns break like a red sun over the song. Josh’s vocals throughout showcase his range: operatic keening, moaning, whispering, screaming – warning of a vaguely terrifying figure:

“What I saw down there, I do not know/but I know that it was real/the king came drifting through the snow/with eyes as blue as blister steel.”

On “Glint” a Latin bassline whirls us across a deserted dance floor. Rimshots echo against the walls. Shards of Barry Walker Jr’s pedal steel fly like shrapnel as the song hits its ferocious, orgiastic crescendo. “Leech Child” is a lonely waltz with tremulous electric guitar and flautist/vocalist Valerie Osterberg’s harmonies woven through spaces as empty as the Oregon desert, with lyrics that might describe a future cult in a world drained of hope. “Tie-Dye Cowboy” adds a moment of levity – an homage to the cosmic cowboy scene of the 1970s – while “My First Name” sounds like a lost track of primitive rockabilly as Joshua exhorts and shouts like a preacher who moonlights as a bareknuckle boxer. “Where Our Light Casts Doubles,” casts a hazy spell of 1950s balladry, even as Joshua sings of being a “cold motherfucker” taking a walk through the hills to escape his lover and her “snoring, shitting dog.” Beauty and ugliness are inseparable on Blister Steel.

The vision of Roselit Bone is not an easy one to stomach. It’s a world of abuse, violence, environmental and personal degradation. It’s a world that closely resembles our own, and if some of Joshua’s lyrics about nightmarish authority figures precede the current political catastrophe, it makes them all the more remarkable. If Blister Steel is the canary in our coal mine, it sings a dark and beautiful song.

credits

released June 2, 2017

Credits:

Joshua Charles McCaslin - Vocals, guitars, percussion, glockenspiel, engineering, mixing.
Don Ankrom - Bass on tracks 3 & 5.
Ben Dahmes - Drums.
Victor Franco - Guitars, backing vocals, percussion.
Faith Grossnicklaus - Violin.
Daniel Gruska - Trumpet, saxophone.
Andy Manla - Accordion, wurlitzer, piano, organ, percussion, backing vocals.
Matt Miller - Trumpet, trombone.
Valerie Osterberg - Flute, percussion, backing vocals.
Justin Rutz - Bass.
Barry Walker, Jr. - Pedal steel, mandolin, dobro, percussion, backing vocals.

All songs written by Joshua Charles McCaslin except “Tie Dye Cowboy” by Barry Walker, Jr. and Joshua Charles McCaslin and “Like So Much Garbage” by Victor Franco and Joshua Charles McCaslin
Artwork by Violet Aveline

3 & 5 recorded at Vallis Labs, Corvallis, OR.
2, 4, 7, & 9 recorded by Matt Drenik at Get Loud, Portland, OR.
1, 6, & 9 recorded at Taylor House, Portland, OR.
Mastered by Gus Elg at Sky Onion Studios.

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Roselit Bone Portland, Oregon

“’Blister Steel’ is a runaway success … an unnerving set of booze-soaked, blood-curdling hellfire hymns that sound like very few other bands anywhere”
—The Portland Mercury

“Like Marty Robbins meets The Cramps, or a Goblin sountrack to a spaghetti western, ranchero fantasy meets greased up country in a magical reality.”
—American Standard Time
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Track Name: Blister Steel
BLISTER STEEL

I would not mind the sight of you,
would not mind the slaughter
Would not mind the drowning, no,
but the thrashing in the water

You do not know the trouble, man
You cannot feel the fire
I cannot breathe from my own face
and I’m living in the wires

What I saw down there, I do not know
but I know that it was real
the king came drifting through the snow
with eyes as blue as blister steel

When he passed by my window
my ears flattened, my blood curdled
though you and I would call him home
as boys in magic circles

When he comes there is no wonder left
He stares coldly as a dancer
You grit your teeth and hold your breath
and bargain with the cancer

Kneel before the silent prophet
of the new red god
Jawless, tongue clicking
against his wet wooden mask
I’ll be smiling like a new mother
or a mongrel dog, as I
drool through the fingers
of his hot gloved hand
Track Name: By The Glint Of Your Horns
GLINT

I drew you my demon with his skin of veins
symmetrical and delicately arranged
He’s a map of a perfect Earth
His mouth is a hole, his eyes are holes
He’s got needle teeth and his lips are all swole
He’s a map of a perfect Earth

Hang him up on your lime green wall
next to the Virgin Mary and a wolf-fur stole
and a painting of us, for what it’s worth
Next to the kingfisher caught in a dreamcatcher’s web
and the spider who hasn’t caught anything yet
and a painting of us, for what it’s worth

I’ll drive you down in a lightning storm
I’ll drive you down by the glint of your horns

I’ll drill myself deeper into the corner of this room
my fortress of cat piss and black mold and doom
while the world outside is glistening
The animals will crash against and shit in their cages
the day that I let them out and learn to feel my age
Yeah, the world outside will be glistening

I’ll force myself out onto the young and flowered Earth
to capture the lover that I’ve chased since my birth
the lover I’m to die for
I’ll call her Katrina or Krystal or George,
He who sleeps in the gutter and walks on all fours
the lover I’m to die for

I’ll drive you down in a lightning storm
I’ll drive you down by the glint of your horns

A broken old man and his dessicated whore
she’ll cough up tar while we fuck on the floor
She sings just like a bird
My skin will go clear, my teeth will turn yellow
I’ll call out your name in an explosion of spittle
Yeah I sing just like a bird
And one day I will call you up before the final battle
you’ll clutch the receiver as I shake my death rattle
and you’ll know who had the last word
Track Name: My First Name
MY FIRST NAME

I never broke my nails on the skin of your back
when I was clawing my way to the top
when you were chewing through piles of the rotten dead
and sucking 100,000’ of cock

You’ll never find your way back home
but I’ll find a home for you
for you old friend, my sad old friend
you’re not much but you’ll have to do
and you can call me when you get here
but don’t call me by my first name

There are figures in the shadows of the seeping mist
that find you choking on your sorrows and the smell of piss
They’ve got some money for you, and a job for you
Because even dogs have life growing on their shit

I’m in the tap tap tapping of a blind man’s cane
I’m in drip drip dripping of a newborn babe
I’m in the oilsmooth handle of the gravedigger’s spade
I’m in the sucksunken cheeks in a doll’s face
and you can call me when you get here
but don’t call me by my first name
Track Name: Leech Child
LEECH CHILD

My leper hands never learned to pray
finger serpent weave and weft
They hold no kiss for to blow your way
nor hold to slithering death, o Mary
In the ashen stillness of the day
I’ll send to you my best, o Mary
as though you could choose not to stay
Animal god printed on your dress

My eyes will open about a third of the way
to view your sickly new leech child, leech child
Served up on a silver tray
no machine instinct of a thing born wild

I guess you’re doing the best you can
with a glorified ulcer and bad damn luck
with your bloviating, pinkened, half of a man
creamy and shapeless and too drunk to fuck

Naked with faces pulled over their own
and animal blood smeared on their breasts
They’ll show you a god buried down in the stone
a god that will let you repay your debts

Naked with faces all covered in fur
cutting through the grasses toward your prairie home
They eat the flowers, then they eat the birds
but the hills are not haunted here in Oregon
Track Name: Where Our Cast Light Doubles
WHERE OUR CAST LIGHT DOUBLES

I walk out far into the hills
where your snoring, shitting dog can’t disgust me
‘til I can’t think of one woman I’d like to kill
out where even the birds don’t sing at me

With your eyes glossed over with bad dreaming
and mine trying to adjust to the light
you threw my clothes at me and started screaming
I gave up trying to love you tonight

We love in the places where our cast light doubles
but we live in the spaces between
Late at night, I go out walking round the eastern hills
Someday I’ll come home a new man

I know I’m a cold motherfucker
It may be ‘cause I spend so much time outside
But I ain’t no mouth breather, I ain’t no sucker
and I’m only ashamed of my pride

We love in the places where our cast light doubles
but we live in the spaces between
Late at night, I go out walking round the eastern hills
Someday I’ll come home a new man

Up where there’s owls and lost dogs and new shadows
and the air smells like pine tar and honey
Where the grasses hide snakes or dead girls, for all I know
or men with short knives that want more than just money

We love in the places where our cast light doubles
but we live in the spaces between
Late at night, I go out walking round the eastern hills
Someday I’ll come home a new man
Track Name: Tie Dye Cowboy
TIE DYE COWBOY

He was hollowed out and glassy eyed,
hadn’t slept in seven weeks
out where the flycatchers never sing a hip note
and your thoughts die gasping, trampled in the doorway of your skull
He began to see faces in the shadows,
and as he looked at his children
he saw shadows in their faces
so he unhinged his jaw and swallowed them all,
sewed his skin back on, and walked off into the Sonoran sunset

He’s a tie-dye cowboy, looking for some ganja
and mama he ain’t coming home to you
The stars will shine like diamonds and the snakes will all stop biting
when his technicolor odyssey is through
Track Name: Riders On The Wall
RIDERS ON THE WALL

Riders on the wall and on the moon under the water
the pines all creaky cracky and the ducks all quicky quacky
in the ripples of reflection of the amber lamplights glowing
soon we will be riding on the sun

I got too drunk and I got in a van
with an old roommate and another bad man
Shrank into my seat as they smoked cocaine in silence
It wasn’t much of nothing but it felt a lot like violence

I thought of a lady with her eyes on me
thought of what my mother and my sister would think
Thought of me as a little boy watching cartoons on TV
thought I shouldn’t think so much and took another drink

Now I’ve got a new woman and I’m gonna treat her good
Gonna act just like I think that she should think I should
but I can’t be near the water without going for a dive
down among the liver failures and the suicides

Riders on the wall and on the moon under the water
the pines all creaky cracky and the ducks all quicky quacky
in the ripples of reflection of the amber lamplights glowing
soon we will be riding on the sun
Track Name: Only Falling Sounds
ONLY FALLING SOUNDS

The first night after she left me
I was paralyzed with guilt and worry
as the clock struck 5:30 (am)
the walls began to bend around me

A man can shiver for just so long
before the roof starts falling down
I would give her another song
but I hear only falling sounds

I hear only falling sounds, and your faces are veiled in shadow
There’s a big white snowy owl in the branches by my window
There’s a rumble in the ground, there’s a whisper in the willow
But from here under my pillow, I hear only falling sounds

The second night, I tried to eat
something sour or something sweet
as the crows out in the street made their advances
Well, I guess I took my chances
as the snow fell all around
Made my nest in winter branches
now I hear only falling sounds

I hear only falling sounds, and your faces are veiled in shadow
There’s a big white snowy owl in the branches by my window
There’s a rumble in the ground, there’s a whisper in the willow
But from here under my pillow, I hear only falling sounds
Track Name: Just Lie Still
JUST LIE STILL

You took me where the grass was greener
so I could get some sleep
now I don’t think I’m feeling better
and I just want to leave

My memories are all tied to ruin
my smile weighed down by doubt
I’m walking through a darker world
now that I know there’s no way out

My brains is broke, my heart is hardened
I’m told it’s not my fault
and maybe I’m just sleeping somewhere
like a sparrow when the rain falls

There’s peace in the valley, there’s gold in the hills
there’s a heart in my chest, you can hear it if you just lie still
Track Name: Like So Much Garbage
LIKE SO MUCH GARBAGE

Did you throw me away? Yes you did, like so much garbage
But you didn’t know there was a way
to tread lightly on my world
and if loving you was easy, I’d find another woman

In your arms, I feel safe, though only you could do me harm
Only the warmth of your embrace could melt the frost of your distaste for my world
and if loving you was easy I’d find another woman

I am a mountain of sorrow and grief
but babe, you can’t move mountains
I could turn over a new leaf
but all that lies beneath is just the
brown and dripping, rotten world

Well, the sun never came up today
I’m still waiting for you on the bathroom floor
But if daylight won’t show your way back to me
I don’t wanna see the daylight no more

Did you throw me away? Yes you did, like so much garbage
But you didn’t know there was a way
to tread lightly on my world
and if loving you was easy, I’d find another woman